Saturday, March 18, 2006

Weaving: Now where were we?

I sort of left you hanging didn't I? Sorry about that... actually, not only haven't I been blogging, I've been spending precious little time weaving. I really have got to get my priorities in order!

I have spent a few hours weaving and have about half a towel to show for it. It took a little while, but I've gotten to that point where the pattern is familiar and I've established a rhythm... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When we left off, I had finished threading the heddles and sleying the reed. The only remaining steps are to remove the raddle, tie the warp to the front apron rod, tie up the treadles, weave a short header, wind some bobbins, and then weave, weave, weave!

After removing the raddle, I folded up my loom and moved it to its new home - my spare room, formerly know as "Leo's room" (yes, my cat had a room, or I should say his stuff did) and before that as my "sewing room". It is now my "weaving/sewing/craft room" - yay! Folding and unfolding the loom with the warp on it was horrible. It can be difficult for one person anyway, but not having done it in a while made it worse. While trying to fold it, I did something wrong, forced it, and managed to crack the back beam. The crack is small and I think (and hope) superficial, but it was enough to convince me that I needed a place to permanently set up the loom rather than folding and unfolding it repeatedly.

So, after I got the loom situated, I finished up the last few steps. Tying the warp to the front apron rod is pretty much as it sounds - you take small clumps of the warp and tie it to the rod. Because it is so important to have even tension across the width of the warp, this is an iterative process. You continue to adjust the knots until the tension in the warp feels (lightly pat the warp with an open hand) about the same all the way across. This is one step that I do differently from how I learned in class. Deborah Chandler recommends in her marvelous introduction to weaving, Learning to Weave, that you use square knots and tie the first half of the knot and then make all your adjustments before tying the second half of the knot. This works very well. It's also easier and saves wear and tear on the warp as compared to the way I had been taught.

Here just the first treadle has been tied up

The next step is to tie up the treadles. On my loom, this is really simple - I have nylon ties hanging from each shaft and I just need to attach the proper ties to the various treadles. For this pattern I am using four treadles and it happens that each lifts two shafts, though a treadle could be used to lift just one shaft or it could be used to lift three or more shafts.

After the treadles have been tied up, you're essentially ready to weave. There is just one problem - because the warp has been tied to the front apron rod in clumps, the spacing is a little funny. But by weaving a few rows with something heavy - like strips of fabric or clothesline - the warp will become evenly spaced. Now you really are ready to weave!

I usually use something called a floating selvage to ensure that the edge of the fabric is properly interlaced, regardless of the pattern. This is a warp thread on each edge of the warp that is not threaded through a heddle. When you throw the shuttle you always enter the shed by going over one of the floating selvages and exit by going under the other. You can see them in the second photo above - they "float" above the other warp threads since they are not held down by a heddle.

To weave you step on the proper treadle(s) to raise the shafts, throw the shuttle, release the treddle(s), beat the weft into place, and repeat. When you throw the shuttle you lay the weft at an angle so that it doesn't pull too tightly on the edge of the fabric when it's beaten into position. I usually give the weft a gentle tug towards me after each beat it to neaten it up a little.

I should be zipping through these towels at this stage, but as I said earlier, I just haven't been spending much time weaving this week. I intend to do something about that... starting tomorrow!


Stephanie said...

I'm really fascinated by weaving but there are no classes where I live and frankly, I do not have the space for a loom anyway. This was a really interesting post. I enjoyed reading it even if I did not understand everything!

Rosa said...

This is amazing! I do know what you mean with "rhythm." I think that's why I couldn't get into my pysanky this year...too many days inbetween.

I truly can't wait to see your towel when you're finished. Wow.

Cathy said...

Hi mm - there are many ways to weave and many sizes of looms. One kind, called card weaving (which I haven't tried), doesn't even require a loom. I admit, though, it is much easier to learn if there's someone to show you!

Hi Rosa! Sorry you haven't enjoyed your pysanky this year - looks like you did manage to finish a few really nice ones though!

One towel is done and I've started on the second. I won't have any of them off the loom until all six are done though - so it will be a little longer yet. :(

Anne said...

Cathy, they're absolutely gorgeous! Oh, I want to learn how to weave.. my husband's aunt has two huge looms in her basement - she makes rugs, mostly - maybe I could convince her to teach me.. :)

Cathy said...

Thanks so much Anne! If you could get your husband's aunt to teach you, I'll bet you'd be hooked in no time! I'd love to try weaving a rug sometime, though my loom isn't really suited to that kind of weaving (I think you need a bigger, stronger loom). I think I could do something on a small scale though - oh, there are so many things to try!