Saturday, 25 June 2016

Zen and the art of dressing a loom

Many people balk at buying fabric that costs more than 2$/metre.  It is only when you have produced cloth that you fully understand why it was the cloth for garments that cost so much in any historical period prior to industrialization.  Even with the power loom, dressing the loom is still a time consuming, back breaking process that is done by human beings.  Cloth becomes cheaper the more that is being woven at any given time, mostly because you only have to dress a loom once.

That all said, my weaving process is slow on purpose.  I do enjoy the set up process, but it does take a lot more time than I would like it to.  First I wind my warp, which really should be done in small sections when you are working with linen threads.  Otherwise they will find a way to twist up and tie themselves and the other threads in knots.  So my warp has been wound off in sections of about 30 threads each.  And even then, it was a bit of a mess to wind on the back beam.  Pierre and I got it done in one evening though, which was surprizing.  I am only weaving 5 metres this go around.  I haven't actually counted the number of threads yet...that scares me a bit.  The width is about 35 inches.  I'm using 1/12 weight linen thread.

Once we got it wound on the back beam, then I began threading the heddles on the loom.  When my loom guy came to set up the old lady, he asked me if I'd really need more heddles than what came with her.  I looked at the box and shrugged, I really didn't know.  Well, I can safely say now that yes, I will need more, because I am out.  In order to thread, you stand in the loom, kinda hunched over the harnesses that hold the heddles, and you carefully tease one thread at a time from the mess in the back and thread it through the eye of the heddle with a hook.  The heddle hook is my go-to tool for dressing the loom, I'd rather use it than the reed hook when I get to that step.  I have a reed hook.  It's a good luck charm in my handbag.  I never actually use it.
So I've gotten to about 200 threads towards the end and am now making new heddles so I can continue threading the rest of the warp.  Each thread heddle is slip knotted to the top bar, then two little knots are made at the height of the heddle eyes, then the bottom is tied to the bottom bar of the harness. This eats up a crap tonne of time. I watch BBC renovation shows on youtube while I work. Or Tales from the Green Valley.

You know what people hate about sewing?  It's having to haul out all your gear, and then crawling around on the floor to cut out a garment, then just being able to sit down to sew when you have to tidy everything up again so you can get supper on the table.

This is what making thread heddles is like.  So I took yesterday off and just enjoyed the holiday of Saint-Jean Baptiste.

Once I get the heddles threaded, then I will thread the reed...and only then I can start weaving.  That part won't take me very long at all in comparison.

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