Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weaving 101: Preparing the Warp

I'm starting a new weaving project and I thought it might be nice to post the step-by-step process. (I suppose this could be either really interesting, really confusing, or really boring to different people, so be forewarned!) To explain the project, I have to give a little bit of background story first.

This summer I've been working part time at Missouri Town 1855, a historic site with old buildings and a few reenactors (nothing fancy like Williamsburg). I was hired to help mostly with the livestock (you guessed it, scooping poop) and with maintaining the gardens (weeding). But when it's too hot to work I get to dress up and interact with visitors and demonstrate things. I've been doing a lot of spinning, which I needed the practice. So, they found out I can weave. They have a loom that some donator bought, a nice new loom. Nobody has done anything with it. Would I like to do something with it?

Hence my project is born. I knew I did not want to make a boring rag rug (if you've ever been somewhere like a renaissance fest., it seems like everyone's making rag rugs.) So I thought I'd make an overshot coverlet. I'd read about pioneer women in Appalachia weaving them and so I knew they'd probably be a fit for the time period.

So here is a picture of my yarn, the white for the warp and the blue for the weft/pattern. It's a 3/2 perle cotton, which means it's one of the thicker weaving yarns and it's got some sheen to it. I get all my weaving supplies from The Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS--I highly recommend them for supplies and help.

The first thing to do is measure the warp on my handy warping board. (Actually the first thing to do is all the mathematical calculations for how much warp and weft you need, but I'll spare you that part.) The warping board has these pegs spaced a yard apart so you can measure anywhere from 1 to 10 yards on it. This is not the only way to measure a warp, but it's the way I was taught.

I needed 300 ends of warp that were each 5 yards long. So I stood in front of my warping board and strung the yarn on for 5 yards and counted in twenties to 100. (I would recommend traditional Irish music for this activity--it gives a good beat and keeps you from getting bored.)

Here is a very important picture: the warp cross. It is the only thing keeping your strings in order, instead of in a big-huge-giant-awful mess. As you are measuring the warp onto the pegs, these two pegs at the top are close together and towards the beginning of the length. You always go over one, under the next and then opposite on the way back (yeah, that makes no sense I know)--it's pretty much a figure-8 concept just on a larger scale. Even if other stuff goes wrong when you're setting up the loom, if you still have your warp cross then not all is lost.

Here I've finished measuring 100 ends and before I can take it off the pegs, I've tied it several times with a contrasting string. This prevents it from getting tangled immediately, but more importantly, see how I have tied around the warp cross and just before and after it to make sure it doesn't get lost. If you don't tie anything else, tie the warp cross!

Here is my warp chain, just taken off of the pegs by starting at the bottom looped end and crocheting it onto itself with your hand as you slide it off of the pegs one by one. This helps keep the yarn from going crazy and it makes it a lot shorter and more manageable. Since my warp cross is tied securely, I can pull it right into the crocheted part. Because I needed 300 ends, I made three of these groupings of 100. Take my word for it, divide up your yarn unless you're doing a belt or scarf or something really skinny.

This whole process took me about an hour. When I wove 8 yards for my skirt out of really fine yarn, it took a lot longer. My next step is to start putting the warp onto the loom, which I have to do at Missouri Town. So check back for the next installment of weaving 101, and I'd love to hear your comments/questions.


Ragnhild said...

every time i come to read your blog, i gotta chant to myself 'no, i don't need another hobby' - i love to see your awesome creations!

Christy said...

Haha, that's what I say to myself when I read other peoples blogs too!