Saturday, August 29, 2009


My apologies for the pictures with no text, I had a blogging goof!

Weaving 101: Checking Pattern

The last part of the pattern set up is called the "Tie Up" (not to be confused with tying on). The tie up is diagrammed in your weaving pattern, it's the little square box with X's in the corner (see previous post). It tells you which shaft of heddles to attach to which pedal, or treadle (tred-le). This picture shows the treadles. The white strings coming down are detachable and you use these to determine which treadle will operate which combination of heddle shafts. All that means is: it makes your pattern come out.

When you push on a treadle with your foot (these are under the loom by the way), it raises whatever heddle shafts you've attached to it. So if you were just doing regular plain weave (over-under-over-under), you would only need 2 treadles: one to raise half of the threads, the other to raise the other half. I'm doing a twill, so I have the 2 left ones for plain weave and the 4 right ones for the twill pattern.

This is what happens when I press a treadle: half of the threads are raised and the other half stay down. This side view shows what's called the shed, it's a nice open space for your weft thread to go through.

Checking the pattern is important incase you have a threading error. I had one thread out of place that I had to fix (I'll spare you the details). This picture shows a close-up with my weft thread after 2 passes through the shed. It's just plain weave and should be the over-under pattern.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Weaving 101: Tying On

Now that I've wound on all the warp length, I'm ready to tie the front ends to the front beam. Here the picture shows the ends after I've cut the loops, hanging ready to be tied.

Starting to tie on to the front beam. Always start with the outsides so that your beam is held out and won't wobble (it wobbles if you start in the center). Then move in to the center one group of threads at a time, alternating sides. The knot is the same as on the back beam.

Here all the threads are neatly tied across the front beam. Notice the tail length, it's a little bit long, but is easier to tie that way.

Lastly, check the tension of your threads. Tension is very important, so tweaking it until you're satisfied is important before you start weaving. The goal is to get all the threads with the same even tension. I always have trouble with the two side groups being loose, so I usually go back and tighten everything, leaving the sides for last.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weaving 101: Winding on the Warp

After all of the heddles have been threaded, the yarn can be tied onto the back beam in small groups. The back beam is a rod that secures the threads, but also enables them to be wound and unwound from the back. This means you can have your threads a lot longer than just the length of your loom frame.

Note how messy this looks, especially on the left side. The threads are all technically in order and going through the reed and the heddles straight, but once on the back side the order gets slightly mixed up when tying onto the back beam. This is not a problem, it is normal.

A close-up shot of how to tie the knot around the back beam. You take a group of threads, bring the group over the back beam, then split the group in half and bring the two halves up and around on either side of itself. Then just tie a square knot. This method will prevent any chance of the knot slipping when you put tension on the threads. (I tried overhand knots once--not a good idea!) It's important that your thread ends are all about the same length at this point, it will make the rest of the process at the front much easier.

Here is the whole loom just before I start winding. The ends of the threads are tied onto the back beam and pass through the heddles, then the reed, and come out the front. You can see there is quite a lot of length to wind on just lying on the floor, still in its warp chain form. When I start winding onto the loom, the thread will move onto the back and be wrapped around another rod.

Here I've started winding on. This shows the back with the threads all nice and orderly going around the second rod. You can see the handle to turn it around at the bottom of the picture. Also note the brown paper being rolled at the same time. If you don't use some sort of paper in between the threads, you'll have major problems. The paper keeps the different layers seperated. Notice that the threads look nice and not messy anymore; they're being spaced out evenly by the reed and heddles they pass through

Periodically when winding on, you have to stop and untangle the threads at the front so they can feed through easily. It was very interesting working with this set of warp chains. You remember I had three separate chains. Well, the group on the left (in this picture the one at the bottom), was perfectly straight--I hardly had to untangle it at all. The center group was pretty good, it had a normal amount of tangles, but nothing too annoying.

Then, the group on the far right (see the top of this picture, behind my hand), was so incredibly tangled and messed up that I spent way too much time fussing with it to straighten it out every few inches. The cause of this is some mistake in the warp cross when I sleyed the reed. It was all out of order and twisting around itself. So, take this as a prime example of the importance of breaking up your threads into different groups, and the importance of the warp cross. If I had one big warp chain and the whole thing was that tangled, I'd probably trash it and start over.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weaving 101: Threading the Heddles

Here is the weaving draft for the pattern I'm using. It's a Swedish twill variation from A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Davison. This book is a must-have for 4-shaft loom weaving. It's mostly overshot patterns, like this one.

I'm showing you the draft now because this is the first step where I'm using it in the loom set up. To thread the heddles, I follow the pattern of the top strip of W's and diagonals.

Heddles are these metal loops that raise and lower your threads according to the pattern. They sit in the middle of the loom, behind the reed, and are raised by foot pedals.

There are 4 shafts of heddles on this loom, and each thread must be pulled through it's own heddle on the correct shaft, in the correct order according to your draft pattern. This picture shows the succession of four threads in order, each on a different shaft, which will create one of the diagonals in the pattern. The view is from the back of the loom.

Here is a better shot of the threading in progress. You can see the reed at the top of the picture, which is the front of the loom. The threads pass through the reed, then get pulled through a heddle, and are placed out of the way on the left temporarily. To the right I have more heddles to thread. This is the longest and most tedious part of set-up. It's also very important to pay close attention to your pattern and try not to stop in the middle. I think it took me 2 1/2 hours to thread them all.

I'm almost done with set-up!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Weaving 101: Sleying the Reed

Sleying the reed, pronounced slay-ing, is a short step. The first part of putting the warp threads onto the loom. This is when you need the very important warp cross keeping all of your threads in order. All you're doing is putting each thread into its own slot in the reed. The reed keeps all the threads spaced evenly and also acts as the beater when you're weaving. This top picture shows the end result. (Note that I've tied groups together temporarily on the other side of the reed to keep them from coming back out!)

Here I'm using the sley hook to pull a thread through a slot. I apologize for not getting a close-up shot. I'm inside the office at Missouri Town, which explains the costume. I'll most likely be in costume in all the following shots.

Here is the basic sleying process: first, you take one of your warp chains (that you measured previously) and find the warp cross. Place the cross in your left hand with fingers between each of the four sections of the cross. This will protect it while you're working. Then you can untie your strings holding the warp cross in place, also untie the string at the closest end of the warp chain. Then you get to cut the loop at this end (scarey!). Now you have a lot of loose ends of thread only being held in order by your precious warp cross.

Next, to start threading the reed, take the top thread from your cross and make a small loop at the end. Then use the sley hook to pull the loop through to the other side of the reed. (You can make a great sley hook from a paper-clip by just straightening it out except for one hook at the end.)

One down, 300 to go! It took me about an hour and a half to thread 300 ends through the reed. Make sure to leave a generous tail hanging through the other side, and when you finish a warp chain, tie the loose ends together in an overhand knot to prevent them from falling back out of the slots. An important thing to know when you're starting this step: once you cut the loop and have the warp cross in your hand, there's no turning back. You really can't stop in the middle of this to get up and do something, like use the restroom or answer the phone. Which is another reason to divide the warp chains instead of having one giant chain. Once you finish a chain, you can stop and come back later if you need to.

Are these instructions making sense, or is it really worthless without step-by-step illustrations? I'm just curious.

Next step: threading the heddles, which determines part of your pattern.