Weaving - Part 2

I've already talked about the planning and preparation for a weaving project. That's the part where you decide what you want to make, how you want to make it, how much of it you want to make and then you get the loom ready to weave.

The weaving part of the process is the most fun for me. The process in it's simplest form is tromp on the treadle, throw the shuttle, beat the beater. It's a wonderful three part dance that involves your feet, your hands and your whole body in the process of creating fabric. It's wonderful.

The yarn you weave with, the yarn that goes back and forth in front of you as you sit at the loom is called the weft.  It can be the same as the warp on the loom or different.  It can be a totally different yarn or just different colors.  It can be different fiber content and different thickness or the same.  The only thing to keep in mind is how the final fabric will be used.  You don't want to use a fine wool weft in something that will need to be machine washed.  A washable wool might be a better choice.

On a bad day all that tromping and throwing and beating can be oh so cathartic. It can also lead to a section of your weaving that is very tight - perhaps much tighter than you really want - so I need to rein myself in occasionally.

The weaving structure of your fabric is controlled by how you threaded all those warp threads through the heddles, how you tied up the treadles and finally the dance your feet do by stepping on the treadles in the correct order. The weave structure is similar to the walls and the floors of the architectural drawing of your house. But how that structure looks, how the home feels when you walk in, is controlled by the yarn and the colors you pick as you weave. 

It's an important part of the dance to step on the treadles in the correct order.  I must admit that I'm treadle challenged.  I can do a great job of stepping on the treadles but remembering the order can be difficult for me.  All it takes is the phone ringing and I've lost my place.  If the order is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 then I'm fine.  Or if it's 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3 then I'm fine.  If it's 5-3-8-2-7-6-1-8-5-7-3-1-4-5-2-3 I'm lost from the beginning.

The yarn that you weave with, the weft, is wound onto a shuttle.  This makes it easier to get the yarn back and forth across your warp as you weave.  There are lots of kinds of shuttles, made for different kinds of weaving.  A rag shuttle is perfect for weaving rag rugs, a rug shuttle is perfect for other types of rugs.  I love an end feed shuttle because it seems to work the best for the kind of weaving I do - mostly kitchen towels and facecloths using linen and cotton/linen blends.  There are also ski and boat shuttles.

Once you start weaving, you just keep weaving till you come to the end of your warp. Yes, you can take off some of your woven fabric before you get to the end of the warp but this requires tieing back onto the front beam.  This extra work is worth it if you are sampling.  Sometimes you aren't sure if the final fabric will be what you anticipate.  You can take off the first 12" or so and hem it and wash it and make sure you love it.  Then you can go back and finish the weaving or adjust the way you have dressed the loom to make it better.  I frequently sample if I'm using an unfamiliar yarn or technique.  If I'm doing another run of facecloths or kitchen towels and using materials I've used many times before, I won't sample.

When you get to the end of your warp - or when you are just totally sick and tired of this damned warp that will never end - it's time to cut off the fabric.


Once your fabric is off the loom, it's time to wet finish the fabric and make it ready to use or sell.  We'll talk about that next time.