Weaving is the process of creating fabric by interlacing threads. This can be a slow, time-consuming process. Each individual thread is placed by hand, both horizontally and vertically, in the cloth. Before you begin you need to know what you are going to weave (a blanket, a towel, a scarf, etc.), what yarn(s) you will use, and what pattern/texture you want (how you would like the end product to feel, look or perform). Once you have selected your yarns and your pattern you are ready to begin weaving.
The process of weaving is the same whether you are creating a scarf or a large blanket and involves the following steps.
1. Winding the Warp
Before you can begin weaving you need to wind your warp. This is done using a warping board or a warping mill. The warp threads are the lengthwise threads of the piece to be woven. The width of your finished piece and the sett of your yarn (the number of threads per inch) determines the number of warp threads you will need.
A cotton tea towel usually has 20-30 ends per inch (epi). You would need to wind a warp of 600 threads to make a 20″ wide towel.
A silk scarf usually has 36-40 threads per inch so you would need to wind 400 ends to make a 10″ wide scarf.
A woollen blanket or throw may have 8 – 20 epi depending on the size of yarns used. You would need 900 threads in your warp for a 45″ throw.
The length of your warp is determined by the desired finished length of the handwoven item plus take-up (the amount of extra yarn needed to go over and under the warp yarns), shrinkage and loom waste.
2. Setting up the Loom
Once your warp is prepared you are ready to transfer the warp to your loom.
- Wind the warp onto the loom.
- Place each thread into the eye of a heddle, one thread per heddle, on the appropriate harness as determined by your pattern.
- Using a sley hook, sley each thread through a slot in the reed as determined by the sett (threads per inch). Reeds come in different sizes to accommodate the number of threads per inch needed for your project.
- Tie the warp onto the front beam.
You are now ready to begin weaving.
The order that the foot pedals, or treadles, are pressed is determined by your pattern. Each time a treadle is pressed a warp yarn is raised or lowered. Using a shuttle a weft (horizontal) yarn is inserted into the gap created each time a treadle is pressed. After each throw of the shuttle a beater is used to place the yarn horizontally in the cloth. This action is repeated again and again until you have reached the finished length of your weaving.
The number of weft threads placed per inch can be greater than, equal to, or less than the number of corresponding warp threads per inch.