Learning fo Weave 2: finishing the Warp

The loom is warped, and off I went to weave. The first few inches of a new project are woven with some thicker yarn to spread out the warp thread. Then it is time to start weaving some sample patterns. The way my loom is sleyed was very simple: 4 shafts connected to 4 threadles (like pedals on an organ). From right to left, you sley the warp strings in a very simple order: 123412341234. When you press the right “pedal”, all “1” strings lift, strings 234 stay on the bottom, and the weft thread goes in the space between. This in turn creates a binary color pattern: the 1 positions on that particular row show the weft color, while the 234 positions show the warp color.

Let’s play on this: press 13, then 24. You get a basic weaving pattern every child is familiar with, it is called a “tabby” weave. Ok, let’s go to the next pattern: 12, 23, 34, 14, repeat. You get a twill pattern. Never heard of it? Well, take a look at the jeans you are wearing! Top to bottom it is hard to see, but if you turn it sideways (or sit with legs crossed), you will see a stair-pattern of the weft marching over two warps in each row. The read-and-black pattern in the image below is a variation on a twill pattern. This sampler shows just 7 of the 52 basic 4 shaft patterns I could use to practice. As you can see, I also played around with different weft colors to see what I liked.

The mathematicians and physicists of my readers, remembering tensor operations from advance quantum mechanics, may start creating patterns now. Given 4 shafts, the possibility of raising either 1, 2 or 3 shafts in any order, how many patterns can you create? It is absolutely astounding.

This is not the end of it. We are talking a simple 4-shaft loom here. Now imagine attaching each foot pedal to either one, two or three shafts. And while we are at it, why stay with four shafts, let’s just go to eight shafts. Two colors only? This would be too easy. We can change weft colors easily for a striped pattern. But we can also warp with different colors. Or paint the warp strings, either while they are off the loom, or painting on them while they are on the loom. Combinations of shiny and matte yarns. Different yarn thicknesses. Materials: cotton, wool (merino, cashmere, alpaca, buffalo, angora …), bamboo, paper, even metal … Mind-boggling opportunities.

I am forever spoiled. Walk through any apparel store, or look at the commonly sold household linens. The fabrics these mass-produced clothing and household items are made off are unbelievably boring. BORING. This just is not my kind of fashion. I like color, drape, texture, variety. Any authentic folk dress has more spice and creativity to it than what you can find at the best store at the Stanford Mall. I’ll tell you something: you want to express who you are, bring your unique soul and taste to light by the way you dress? Start creating your own. Get into the fiber arts. It is fun, creative, challenges your mind, and immensely rewarding. I’ll gladly help you get started.

I almost forgot to mention which patterns I chose for my beginner’s table mats. Even though I liked the black and red, I chose the off-white weft color because it would fit best with my existing furniture and china. Each of the 6 mats will have a different zig-zag weave pattern. Yes, there are more than 6 ways to weave zig-zags, and they all looks slightly different. Didn’t I tell you store-bought, mass-produced stuff is BORING? Why zig-zags? Well, I just liked the weft dancing back and forth across the warps, but also I have a good friend from high school who used to teasingly call me “stupid ZigZag” (Dummes Zickzack!) when I got a chemistry question answered faster then her. I think I may weave you a second table mat set as a gift, Simone 😉

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