Warped to Weave

No doubt early weavers had no tools other than their hands with which to work, but I bet it wasn’t long before they figured something out that would allow them to be more efficient.

img_1395Perhaps it was something as uncomplicated as a frame loom that allowed warp, vertical threads, to be attached. The skills may have been more advanced, but something very similar to this was used to weave those beautiful tapestries that were mentioned in the last post.

img_7604The same construction for what we call upright looms continues in use today. In this country, they are often associated with Native American weavers who create stunning blankets and rugs.  Incidentally, this concept influenced the construction of my first loom which the hubby made of 1″ pipe and notched 2×2’s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes the body serves as a loom.  Here the warp threads are held in place by the foot, and the weft (horizontal threads) is manipulated with the fingers to create intricate design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn other cases, the warp is tied at one end to a dowel  or stick and secured at the waist to keep the threads taut. To create design, the warp threads are lifted and lowered with the fingers and small shuttles carry the weft threads across.  Who knows how far back such techniques go?  What is fascinating is that with all the changes that have made weaving simpler, some cultures continue ages old process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the 12th century, much of what we know about weaving, including the introduction of a floor loom, had evolved.  Floor looms allowed the weaver to sit on a bench and operate pedals with the feet.  Keep in mind that weaving is the interlacing of warp and weft threads and at least two separate warp threads are required. In this photo you can see that one set of threads stays down while the other is lifted up.  Weft threads run between the two and, in its simplest form, that is how all threads are laced together to become fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the years, floor looms became bigger, often with more harnesses allowing more complicated designs.

2During the Industrial Revolution came the most significant change.  The jacquard loom with flying shuttles was introduced thus starting the highly mechanized production of textiles in place today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile many people think handweaving is women’s work, morocco-777in some countries it is man’s work, too.  I like seeing men have a sensitivity to threads and a sense of pride in making beautiful fabric.

img_1271Yes, over the centuries weaving has changed, and the people who weave by hand are becoming fewer and fewer.  Whenever I see the remains of an old loom I find myself wondering at its history and wish it could tell me the story of the person who once worked on it.

 Now that you have some insight into the history of weaving and the apparatus that make it possible, next up is a visit to my studio.  I hope you all join me there.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

A Little Bit of History

For some time readers have asked about my weaving, so as I am pretty much housebound these days, this seems a good time to write about it and weaving in general.  Let’s begin with some background that I hope you find interesting .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid you know that that the only surviving being that has been weaving longer than man is a spider?  History suggests that man discovered early on that lacing reeds, grasses and twigs together provided items such as clothing, shelter, vessels  and sleep mats that made life more comfortable. So it is that weaving is said to have preceded other skills such as pottery making, metalsmithing or glass blowing he/she eventually developed.  Knowing something of the history of weaving makes me very proud to continue this ages old tradition.

st-petersburg-191As time passed, weaving became not just practical but an art form.  Skilled weavers were held in high regard among royalty who frequently appointed them to court positions.  Here, weavers created beautiful tapestries that were used for decorative purposes as well as taken to battle where they made encampments more like home.  Often tapestries were prized spoils of war.  Thankfully, many survived various ransacks and have been preserved so that we might enjoy and marvel at the work done by hand in another time.

Now, here’s a little tidbit that may be fact or fiction.  Christopher Columbus’s father was one of those court appointed weavers.  As a youngster, Columbus was an apprentice, and it is thought that his dislike of weaving resulted in his going to sea.  The rest is history!

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While weaving is a respected tradition in other cultures and patterns are passed from one generation to another, in America it is less so.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly on in this country, hand loomed fabrics were for clothing and bed linens made of wool and cotton spun and dyed by the weaver.

FranklinSlaveholders often had an outlying shed where women and children spent their days weaving fabric for necessities.  

Today, much of what was once handwoven is produced by machinery which contributes to the scarcity of weaving in developed countries. However, language is peppered with references to weaving.   We speak of the tapestry/fabric of life, the threads that bind and tales/lives woven together.  A woman who spun yarn and remained unmarried became known as a spinster.  On an on it goes, but I’ll leave it at that today and come back later with a fascinating look at looms.  

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