“How long does it take to weave…..” is the question I get asked the most and the answer is a little complicated.
Here are the steps I take every time I go to weave. The time varies with the breadth and scope of each project.
Planning, Calculating, and Warping
This is the starting point for each project. I have to calculate how much yarn I need for each project based on width and length of the item and how thick the yarn is that I am using. I have a spreadsheet that helps me with this. Then I compare it to the draft (pattern) I am using and adjust the number of threads. I also work to lay out the colors and I use a weaving program on my iPad to help me see what I like best. After all of that I head to the warping board which helps me in counting out the number of threads I need and keeps the length of each thread the same. These threads, which go into the loom, are called the warp.
The next step is to “sley” the reed. The reed keeps the threads spread out at the right spacing and maintains the width I have chosen for the duration of the project. It also acts as the “beater” each time I put the shuttle through, delivering the thread (weft) giving me really nice straight lines. I use that gold hook to pull the threads through each slot on my reed.
The next step is threading the heddles. I use the other end of my gold hook for this!
Each heddle is attached to a shaft that corresponds with the pattern. Usually I thread one “end” (thread) through one heddle, but sometimes it can be more, like with the table-runner and placemats pictured here.
This threading is the “programming” part of the “fabric computer” (my loom). In fact, early on, different computer companies turned to weavers to help program the very first computers. They used similar punch cards in the big industrial looms that were used for those giant, room sized computers in the middle of the last century. Those punch cards deliver the instructions to the machinery and are still used in the industrial looms today!
At this stage I like to set up my peddles (treadles) which corresponds to the pattern and tells the loom which shafts to lift.
After I get everything threaded I tie on to the back apron rod which allows me to pull all of the threads that are at the front of the loom at this point, to the back, and creates the base of the tension required.
Once that has happened, I then tie on to the front apron rod and make sure my tension is even across the piece. I use rolls of shipping paper to separate the yarns as I roll them onto the back beam. This helps me keep my tension even as the yarn will stick together (and that causes a huge problem!).
Some weavers prefer to “dress” their loom going from the back to the front. This has a lot to do with the set up of various looms and what is easier for the weaver. For my loom, I prefer going from the from to the back.
Once everything is tied on I start weaving. I start by weaving in thick header thread which helps to spread the threads apart evenly (you can see the funny green yarn in the second picture and that is what that does). When I take the finished fabric off the loom I pull that thick thread out so you don’t see it. Once everything looks evenly spaced I start weaving in the weft thread I have chosen for the project. For this design I use 2 different types of threads in my weft – I use a thick cotton and a very thin cotton and alternate them. In one of the pictures above you can see that I have written out my treadling sequence (the peddles I will push down) which I will follow for the duration of the project.
As soon as I finish weaving I take the fabric off the loom and I wet finish each project in ways that are appropriate for the fiber I am using. I iron the fabric and then finish the hem of the item by hemming (sewing), braiding, twisting or tying knots. It all depends on what type of item I am working on! I then fold or roll the item up and tie it with a bow so it can head off to its new home!