Friday, March 23, 2007

Wrapping (Warping?) Up Loose Ends

"March -- comes in like a lion, out like a lamb."
Boy, they weren't kidding. March, 2007 in the Pacific Northwest began with 6-12" of snow across the North Sound on March 1st. The next 20 days alternated with heavy rain and strong winds. Trees toppled, power outages abounded and flood warning were issued. This Thursday morning dawned to grey skies, and cold, driving winds as yet another low pressure area swept across Puget Sound. But neither rain, nor, sleet nor dark of night could keep our intrepid weavers from their posts.

By now, the class was now ready to warp the practice loom. Our random color choices had been previously alternated between warm colors and cool colors as we had wound our warp. After tying the cross and removing it from the board, Madelyn placed a reed on the table and we each took a turn sleying the reed with the warp with our color.
The sleyed reed was transferred to the loom. Madelyn explained that we were now going to thread the heddles via a draft. A quick lesson from Madelyn revealed that the hieroglyphics (runes?) at the beginning of all weaving patterns is actually the order for threading, tie-up and treadling.We watched as Madelyn divided the heddles and demonstrated the use of a sley hook. (I discovered weaving sometimes brings back memories of a Bruce Springstein concert I attended in my wilder days --- I have to resist the urge to jump up and yell "Speak English, please! I want to understand your message". There are soooo many new terms to learn.) As my tired brain tried to grasp the "simplicity" of the pattern, I thanked my lucky stars I was born in the 20th century. If I had to rely on my skills at warping a loom to clothe my family, they would be running around naked.
We were instructed to tread the heddles with our color. I quickly discovered that this seemingly innocuous activity requires a strong lighting source and good eyesight. Patience also is a plus. The warp threads seemed to develop a mind of their own when it came my turn to thread. The first two threads cleverly switched places when I was concentrating on threading the first heddle. As I untangled these errant fibers, two other warp threads quickly wrapped themselves around each other in a tangle reminiscent of a Gordian Knot. The next three threads seemed to behave themselves but then I ran out of heddles the right side of shaft #2 and had to slide extras over from left side. When I got to the end of my color, I should have been on shaft #2. But my last color was shaft #3 (&#?/%)! I slid the heddles one by one looking for an explanation--- and found it in the eighth heddle. The ninth thread had sneaked into the heddle with the eighth thread. I pulled #8, #9, #10 , #11, and #12 back out and tried again, trying to ignore that voice in the back of my head reminding me that the towel pattern I wanted to weave as the first project after I returned home called for 132 warp ends! If I had this much trouble with 12.......... All told, it took me 15 minutes to thread 12 warp threads. I sincerely hope it gets easier with practice.
Madelyn demonstrates front to back warping in class. The threads are stretched at the front of the loom to help separate them and keep them tight.........
.......then are tied up and the back beam and wound a few turns. Madelyn uses very smooth, sanded sticks to keep the threads from having much contact on the back beam. (Given that wool is prone to felting when given half a chance, this is a prudent step.)
Once the end of the warp reaches the front beam of the loom, the warp thread are divided into small groups and tried onto the front. An even tension across all the ties is the key to success. The treadles were tried up according to the pattern and a random pre-filled bobbin was placed in the shuttle.
Now, the truly amazing result. There was no (none, nada, zip!) planning as to color choices, positioning of the colors on the warp, weft colors, etc. This was practice. And yet, when the twill pattern began to emerge from the warp, it was beautiful.

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