Filed Under (Weaving) by jennyk on 23-07-2004

Tonight we got the band attached to the warp beam. Click on photos for close-ups, as usual. First, we had to work out where to position the band. Then we used the ends of the TW warp to tie it to the beam – under tension, so longer than 15″ again.

Next, I sewed it on, with Elizabeth’s help (Rys was also helping by being cameraman). We found it easier to sew it on without worrying too much about the tension, adjusting that at the end. In the next photo, as I am tying off the end of the sewing cord, it has already been tensioned and the stitches lie straight.

We discussed sewing along the band again but this time going all the way around the beam with each stitch, just for added security. Some of the attached warps shown in the Hoffmann book have this, others don’t. However it was getting late and we all wanted to eat, so we decided to leave it for this evening. Elizabeth will decide tomorrow whether to do the extra sewing. If she does want to do it, it should be easier to do alone than the first row of sewing would have been, as the band is already held in position.

While we were there, we took photos of the mockup WW loom which Elizabeth made at the start of this project to help us all understand the principle of WW looms. Small versions of those pictures don’t work, so click the description for the front view, back view and a close-up of the lovely stone weights. We would have like to use stone weights for the real loom, but we couldn’t get enough suitable ones, so we will be using bags of lead instead.

Filed Under (Spinning, Weaving) by jennyk on 21-07-2004

Well, that got your attention, didn’t it?

Actually, I don’t think we will be having an orgy on Saturday at the Open Day at Silchester, where the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum is being excavated, but I hope it will be fun anyway. As I mentioned last week, the Berkshire Guild will be demonstrating Roman weaving and spinning, or at least doing our best to do so. We will be weaving on a warp-weighted (WW) loom, tabletweaving (TW), and spinning using spindles based on whorls found on the site.

I hope to get a chance to spin there, but my main involvement is with the tablet weaving. I’ll be demonstrating TW on the day (using ‘authentic’ wooden cards if I can finish them in time, plastic ones if not), but I have also been weaving the starting band for the WW loom warp. [If you aren't interested in the more technical details, skip to the pictures near the end.]

Later, WW loom warps were made over a cord which was attached to the top beam, but in the Iron Age and Roman times they were made by weaving a narrow band with a long fringe on one side which formed the WW warp. This serves to space the warp threads, which the later simple starting cords do not.

When I had read about these bands before, I had assumed that they would be woven with an ordinary weft and that the WW warp would be a supplementarty weft, but reading the ‘bible’ on WW looms, by Martha Hoffman, I found that the WW warp is the only weft used. The band warp grips the weft (= WW warp) well enough to stay in place while the warp is mounted on the loom (at least for wool, I don’t know how well it would work with silk).

Some of these bands are plain weave, but the majority seem to have a twisted structure which suggestes that they were made by tabletweaving. Some could possibly have been made by manual warp twining, but there are some wider borders for which this would have been very unlikely. A tabletwoven starting border with tablets still attached has been found in Spain in a 5th century BC grave, so we know the method was defintely in use well before Romano-British times.

I’ve been collaborating with Elizabeth, a very skilled tapestry weaver who has taken primary responsibility for the weaving, Janet who is producing the weights, and her friend Ken who has built the loom for us. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the loom yet, but I will be taking lots of pictures at the event and hope to have them here by Sunday (if I’m not exhausted), and there will be pictures on the guild site too.

My task was to produce the warp for the loom. We didn’t want to use a fine warp as that would make it harder for visitors to see what we are doing, so we decided on a well-twisted 2-ply wool yarn that will weave balanced plain weave at 8 ends (threads) per inch. Because of space restrictions our loom will only weave cloth about 24″ wide, but for this first attempt, our warp will only be 15-16″ wide.

The WW warp ‘fringe’ needs to be about 6 foot long and as consistent as possible. It is created by pulling loops of thread through the TW band, so I needed some way of measuring the length of those loops without having to keep walking across the room. The pictures below give an idea of how I set it up – as usual, click for a larger version.

Here is a better picture of the band and ‘fringe’ in progress.

I found it much easier to weave the band than I had expected. The biggest problem is that using the same yarn for the band and the WW warp and beating in the usual way for tabletweaving gives a warp spacing that is too close for plain weave. We had already decided that we didn’t want to weave twill as that would require multiple heddle rods (if you have no idea what a heddle rod is, later posts here or on the guild site should have a proper explanantion of the construction of the loom). I found just pressing the weft into position with my fingers once I had turned to the next shed was enough to give the right warp spacing. If we decide to weave twill for the second Open Day (yeah we might be that crazy!), I’ll probably need to beat that band in the usual way.

The next stage of warping will be to attach the band to the top beam. Elizabeth and I are meeting to do that tomorrow evening, so I may have a report (and pictures) on Friday.

Filed Under (Ramblings) by jennyk on 18-07-2004

Yesterday, we played hookey from packing to visit the guild Dyeing Day, held at a member’s home. Our excuse was that we needed to meet up with some of the others involved in the Roman demo. While we were there, we got cuddly with some of her beautiful guanacos (members of the llama/alpaca family with wonderfully fine spinnable coats, only 18 microns thick).

Unfortunately the camera batteries ran out before they came across to make friends, but here are the best of what we did get. Click on the thumbnails for full-size versions, as usual, and use your browser back button to return here.

First, the boss of the herd .. well he thinks he is, anyway, and the third picture shows him about to spit at the upstart collie who was teasing him from outside the fence.

One of the breeding females. Rys thought she was going to spit at me, but she was actually very friendly.

… and another female …

… but my favourites were the crias (the youngsters). Two were particularly friendly. They cuddled and snuggled and rested their heads on our shoulders, and breathed in our faces (no, not ugh … lovely sweet breath) and tried to suck our T-shirts and … well, they were just adorable.

Unfortunately, one of the friendly crias is a male, and his lack of fear and espect would make him dangerous as an adult male, so he will have ‘the snip’ in a couple more months.

Filed Under (Weaving) by jennyk on 15-07-2004

backup, backup, backup …

… and the story of this moral is that my c: drive got corrupted last week and I lost all the data on it, and no, of course I hadn’t been good enough about keeping backups. I think I’m saddest about losing pictures of projects which I gave away or sent to exchanges over the past couple of years. I was better about things like my mail archive. Fortunately, some of the project pictures are here or on my web site, so I can retrieve those.

Anyway, if you have been reading this looking for fibre content, sorry, there isn’t any, except that our guild is involved in 2 Open Days at Silchester, a local Iron Age/Roman archaeological site, demonstrating Roman textile production. We are currently deep in the research stage. This evening, I’m going to inspect the progress in building our warp-weighted loom. I’ll write more about it over the next couple of weeks, or give an URL to the guild page on it when we get that done.

Meanwhile, here is another site about Calleva Atrebatum , as Roman Silchester was known.