29 May 2012

Weighty matter

Another 6" woven, another half-turn of the cloth beam.

For the first time, I'm seeing a bit of wear on the warp yarns in the area where they are lashed to the shed rod. When the beam is turned and those points rise farther up the warp, I can clearly see a zone of slight fuzziness extending all across the warp surface. It's nothing to worry about, though, just the validation of my theory that frequent short advances are the best way to keep the fuzz factor down. Perhaps next time I shall advance after a shorter length of weaving. Since each half-turn of the cloth beam doesn't take up the whole 6" I have woven, I have a little extra web to take up anyway.

It's also time to lengthen the warp now. I've only done about ten weights' worth of lengthening so far, but I should easily be able to accomplish the rest tomorrow.

Here is one of those points at which I appreciate my tendency to cultivate repeatability in my movements. (Some would call it obsession or compulsion; I prefer to think of it as consistency!) Because of the way I chained the excess warp, I can maintain my same approximate weight arrangement by undoing the same number of chain loops in each warp hank. So far that's worked out really well, although I think I miscounted on one hank because the weight hangs lower in comparison to its neighbors than it did before I lengthened the warp. That will probably bother me sufficiently tomorrow, in the bright light of day, than it did around sunset today. I will likely undo that one and fix it.

But for the most part, warp lengthening is an automatic practice with a high repeatability factor. That means I can do it while there is pretty much any kind of background distraction: spouse, offspring, visitors, audiovisual media, it's all good. Perhaps I will be sociable tomorrow!

23 May 2012

The dance continues

(Warning: this one is very geeky.)

The piece is more than 25% woven now; last night we turned the cloth beam again. Another turn and it will be time to unchain and lengthen the warp.

Draw-in is now visible and obvious, since the recently woven web is now wound over a layer of previously woven web. It's about 1" narrower at each side now. I'm not worried about this from a construction viewpoint, because I figured in a 10% draw-in when I was making calculations. But it does mean the top corners of the chiton will have a slightly trapezoidal effect. Hopefully nobody will be looking at the top edge anyway.

During this recent period when I wasn't weaving on a regular basis, something happened to my understanding of the dance. I've now hit on a sequence that is a great deal faster than the previous ones I tried. I've just about doubled my most recently clocked speed for a "there and back again" pass. Now it only takes two and a half minutes rather than five.

Here's what I'm currently doing. I wrap the left selvedge, then put the penion through the natural shed. I use the comb to loosely beat the weft into place, still on the open shed. Then I wrap the right selvedge, and here's where it gets a little tricky. With my left hand I pull and hold the sinister (rightmost) shed rod. I place the penion on the natural shelf formed by the heddles. With my right hand I take the weaving sword and draw it through the countershed, clearing any sticky yarns. Then I put the sword under my left arm, pick up the penion, and put it through the countershed. I drop the first shed rod, move to my left, and repeat the process with the second shed rod. Then I move back to the sinister edge of the warp, drawing the tip of the sword across the threads as I go as if I were using a pin beater. This helps the countershed fall back into place so the original, natural shed is clear again.

I beat in sequence from the sinister selvedge. Holding the handle of the sword in my right hand, I put the blade in the natural shed at about a 45 degree angle to the fell, with the hilt nearest the fell at the selvedge edge. Then I lever the point of the sword upward with my left hand. When the flat of the sword meets the fell, I push up gently, just until I feel the weights moving. Then I step to my left and repeat the process. It takes from four to six such movements to cross the entire warp, depending on how the weft thread lies.

You'll notice here that in both passes I am beating from the attached toward the free end of the weft. This is a trick I learned while weaving rutevev tapestries. I usually use my free hand to adjust the weft tension while I beat in this fashion. Managing the tension in this fashion helps me produce cleaner, straighter selvedges with less draw-in than any other method I've tried. Beating this way adds some walking to the process, because it means I have to cross the loom (from dexter to sinister) twice: once after passing the second weft and again after I've beaten to leave the sword at the sinister end of the loom. However, the speed I gain by not having to manipulate the sheds as much more than makes up for it.

Besides, the weavers of the Classical literature all walked up and down at their looms. Next I should work on being able to sing as I go.

22 May 2012

1 + 1 = Too Long Away

I had a technical problem along about the time that family obligations spiked, which led to me eyeing but not touching the loom for a while. I'm back now.

The technical problem I experienced involved those selvedge yarns. While I had no trouble with their unspinning themselves, they did nevertheless loosen. The Navajo warp is so loosely spun that it slowly lengthened and eventually pulled apart. After I'd mended a selvedge thread for the third time, I decided to replace rather than repair.

First I needed a good replacement yarn. I found something at the local yarn shop that would serve: Kraemer Natural Skeins Eileen, a DK-weight merino yarn. It is tightly three-plied, soft but not at all delicate, and the appropriate off-white color of undyed wool. (After this project is over, I'll come up with some interesting way to use the rest of it; it's not a bad weight for nålebinding.) Instead of the two ends of Navajo warp per selvedge, I'm using two ends of this yarn per selvedge.

The second challenge was to replace the selvedge yarn. Using a tapestry needle, I tried threading one end up through the woven selvedges to parallel the Navajo yarn. The selvedges are in a wrapped technique (two additional turns of yarn between each pick), which means I had a lot of tiny weft loops through which to stick the needle. Standing on my little wooden stool and doing that was such fiddly work that I gave it up after an inch's worth. Instead, I anchored the new selvedge yarn around the warp beam, leaving a generous unworked end at the top. Then I weighted the new selvedges, put them where they belonged, and set the loom to rights.

When I remove the web from the loom, the first thing I will do is, as they say in the weaving magazines, "correct the errors." I'll start by threading that unworked end of each new selvedge yarn through the weft loops in a way that does not involve me teetering on a stool with arms outstretched leaning forward against thin air. (Tables are a grand human invention, and I wonder that we fiber folk do not make more use of them than we do.) Then I'll remove the vestiges of the old selvedge yarns. Then I'll fix any warp threads that have had to be repaired.

Oh yes, warp repairs. So far three warp yarns have broken. They all belong to one weight hanging at the back of the loom, i.e., they all come from the heddled back layer rather than the laced front layer. (I expected that broken warps would occur with the laced layer, which is secured firmly at a fixed point rather than movable, but so far that layer has held up beautifully.) The weight in question comes from the central point of the warp, the area where the two shed sticks overlap, the area I have to baby along with every change of shed. This area is subjected to more movement, stress, and displacement than the rest of the warp combined; it's not surprising that even this really high quality warp yarn is showing signs of wear. Fortunately, I have some experience fixing broken warps on my horizontal loom. The same principle applies here, so I'm not sweating it. If warps continue to break in that area, though, it could become a problem.

With about a foot of weaving done, I have to say that I'm not entirely convinced about the theory of using two short shed rods rather than one long one on a wide warp. My experience so far suggests it's more of a hassle than otherwise. The central two inches of the warp display a much looser sett than the rest of the warp, which is not surprising given how much more manipulation it undergoes than the rest of the warp does. Since I'll be working in that area to rectify the broken warps, maybe I'll also be able to ease the sett a little closer, drawing from the surrounding area where the sett is (naturally) a little tighter.

On the other hand, perhaps if both the rods were pulled at the same time, as by two weavers working side by side, it might be a fine solution. But for one weaver working alone at a wide warp, I'm just not sure this is the way to do it. But then, that was the whole point of this project, wasn't it? I'm looking for proof (or not) of concepts.

31 March 2012

First turn of the cloth beam

After 6" of weaving, it was time to make the first turn of the cloth beam. At first 6" was just an arbitrary marker, the goal I set for myself to weave before turning the beam. But then I looked at this.

Here you can see the buildup of fuzz on the shed rod. The warp is casting off fibers as it moves up and down in the shed rod lacing. Because this is a very nicely spun worsted yarn there are not a lot of loose fibers to shed, but it's still happening. Partly that's because of the way I beat. When I weave on the warp-weighted loom I don't actually "beat" the weft, I simply put the edge of the beater against the fell and press upward evenly until I feel that I am lifting the weight of the loom weights. Thus I make gravity and the loom weights work for me rather than expending all that whomp-whomp-whomp upward-beating energy that feels good to do but doesn't have as even and satisfactory a result--at least, not in my experience. YMMV. But my method does shift the front shed's worth of warp up and down slightly through its lacing, which encourages this slight fraying and build-up.

So it seems to me that it would be a good idea to turn the cloth beam rather frequently, in order to give each section of the warp threads as short a time as possible in that constraining position against the shed rod. Although I didn't take a photo of it, I also noticed some slight fuzz buildup on the heddles. I expect that frequent turning will save the warp threads from wear in that position also.

This is a shot of the warp after six inches had been woven but before any turning of the cloth beam had taken place.

This is how the warp looks after the first turning. It was a quarter-turn of the cloth beam (which is square in cross-section). Next time I think I'll try a half-turn.

One thing I have noticed about this project: there isn't a lot of fibery fluff building up under the loom the way there usually is when I weave on a warp-weighted loom. I think that's probably due, again, to the superior quality of this yarn. So far, the only thing we've had to vacuum out from under the loom has been cat hair. Mercifully, my cat is entirely disinterested in the enticingly dangled weights of this project, but somehow his hair gets under the loom anyway.

27 March 2012

The honeymoon is over

One can only weave so long before a warp breaks. Yesterday I had a selvedge break, and today a regular warp broke.

The selvedge telegraphed its intention by stretching over the course of a day or two until the weight was resting on the ground. I used a pair of Navajo warp singles yarns for each selvedge. It's more loosely spun than I like, but it was the best choice I had. So now I know it's going to be troublesome and I can keep an eye out for it. I may wind up having to put some more twist into it to keep its integrity. It is, however, not unspinning itself; those warp weights are remarkably good at staying in place. It probably has something to do with those flat sides that snuggle up against their neighbors.

The regular warp break was due to a rough spot in one of my wooden tools. It caught on one ply of a warp thread and stretched it until it broke. I tried splicing the warp back together, but there wasn't much to work with and so I wound up knotting in a repair section. Luckily, it's on the back of the chiton.

I shall have to work on smoothing that rough spot down before it eats any more warps.

The good news is, I have six inches of woven cloth. That's an eighth of the project. There's a tiny piece of me that never thought I'd get this far, so I'm pretty stoked.

The next task is to even out the warp spacing in the woven cloth before reeling some of it up onto the cloth beam. This is a surprisingly easy task, readily accomplished by the pointed end of just about any tool. (I like the bone needle best for this purpose.) I can even do it with my fingers in the areas near the selvedge. But even if I can't get the warp distributed as evenly as I'd like, I'm not going to worry. Irregularities are inevitable according to what I've read. Particularly, Martin Ciszuk talks about his experience with the occurrence of "denser and more open warp areas" in his reconstructed weaves, just as he says are found on archaeological and ethnographic examples.

24 March 2012

Starting to get the hang of this

There is a noticeable area of completed web visible on the loom now; I've done one-sixteenth of the length. Along the way I've started to develop some rhythms, some ergonomics, what I think of as "the dance." Every different weaving project has its own dance steps, although there are families of projects just as there are families of dance steps.

This weaving project is a little bit more stately and elaborate than some, more a pavane than The Hustle. I'm clocking one pair of wefts (a There and Back Again, if you will) every five minutes. There is a great deal faster and easier than Back Again!

But there is plenty of dance floor left upon which I may become more proficient at these steps, as I hope I will. My speed already seems blindingly fast compared to how I was doing the same things last week.

22 March 2012


I need a copy of an article in an issue of Bulletin du CIETA. Unfortunately, that back issue is out of print according to CIETA, so I can't just buy a copy. And there's not a library within several hundred miles that has a subscription.

*drums feet on floor helplessly*

Oh well, back to weaving.

21 March 2012

Spinning fates and the Song of the Loom

I really want to go to this:

Spinning Fates and the song of the Loom: the use of textiles, clothing and cloth production as metaphor, symbol and narrative device in Greek and Latin literature.

A one day round-table (June 1st) at the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Textile Research.

It's a bit far to go for a day-trip, though. Alas.

19 March 2012

That was painful

After weaving an inch's worth of picks (24), I took a close hard look at what I was getting. The last inch of warp at the left (dexter) selvedge was weighted twice as heavily as the rest of the warp. This was due to my seat-of-the-pants call that two inches of warp was an appropriate number of ends per warp weight.

However, the texture of the cloth at that more heavily weighted edge was completely different from, and preferable to, what I was getting elsewhere across the loom.

It was a hard decision, and I dithered for a couple of days before actually doing it. But I elected to untie and redistribute the weights across the entire warp. I didn't have enough extra loom weights to do the whole thing at 12 ends per weight, though. I did have enough to use an inch and a half (18 ends) per weight rather than the two inches (24 ends) that I had on the loom originally. So I've re-weighted the entire warp.

Now I'm working on beating that first "inch" of picks more tightly together, because it measures somewhat more than one inch in length. The heavily weighted area measured something less than an inch; I will also try to spread out the weft in that section a bit so the density is the same all the way across the warp. I am hoping I have found a happy medium that will give me a nice texture of (mostly) evenweave.

I'm also happy that the weights are distributed completely evenly across the warp now. Also, because it is more firmly stretched the warp makes a different and more clear sound now when I strum it. I feel much more optimistic about the project now.

Back to work!

12 March 2012

The dance begins

I've got almost an inch woven now and am tinkering with the process, the dance of it to see what I think works.

One thing I'm considering is tool use. I'm playing with a lot of different tools.

I have used a simple, blunt bone needle to help straighten out the areas where warp bunches together. That works really well, and it makes a pleasant sound that makes me think of the Homeric phrase of a warp "singing." But strumming the web between pairs of warp ends is laborious work, not something I expect should be part of the dance accompanying each pass of the weft. I am hoping that once the first couple of inches are woven there will be less of this kind of warp bunching.

On the other hand, the analyses I've seen of the period textiles indicate quite a lot of variation in thread count within a textile, with airier and more dense sections coexisting side by side. This isn't very surprising considering that the yarn I'm using, a 20/2, is at least double the thickness of many of the yarns from the extant textiles. My thread count and yarn size are not outside the historic range, but they are not representive of its finer end, nor even of its median. The yarns in the period textiles are so fine that they would have been even more likely to bunch than mine, I think. In fact, I'm guessing they would have had to be laced to the shed rod in groups rather than individually, just because there wouldn't be enough room on the shed rod for cross-lacing every single warp end on a warp with that high an epi (ends per inch) count.

I began by using my Anglo-Scandinavian pin beater but decided to stop doing that because it didn't match any evidence I'd seen for ancient Greek weaving. I usually use it more for weft placement than anything else, and my finger also works well for that task.

I have used my sword beater too. But it's a great hulking wooden broadsword that looks like the Norwegian whalebone sword beaters. It works wonders on twill webs. I've never found it as useful for tabby weaving, though; something shorter seems to work better for that. Also, as with the pin beater, I don't want to rely on it because it's not canonical.

So instead I'm using a flat wooden stick that is similar to the finds identified as beaters. The so-called beaters are narrow bone implements, not very long. I have a beautiful maple pick-up stick in about the right size range, although it lacks the hole drilled through one end that several of the bone implements have. I am not sure about the identity of those bone pieces as beaters; the beater shown in the Amasis lekythos is significantly longer than the proposed length of those bone beaters. Nevertheless, I'm willing to experiment with a tool of that size and shape to see what it tells me.

I'm also using a wooden comb. When I do tapestry weaving I usually use a light beater, and this wooden comb has been ideal for that purpose. I expect I'll be using it later when I get to the decorative bands portion of the chiton. Right now I'm using it to help me get a sense for how much tension and take-up I need in wefts. Using it is slow, but it's helping me learn a lot.

I expect that after two, maybe three inches of very laborious weaving I'll have evolved some sort of system that works and is reasonably paced. Right now progress is very slow indeed. Partly that's because the weaving has to fit around family life (in the dining room, which seems to be the center of the house), but partly it's simply because I haven't learned the dance. At any rate, I expected it and I'm not worried about it yet.

11 March 2012

As promised

Here is a photo of the whole loom. It's in a location that's a little tight, a narrow dining area, so it's hard to get far enough away from the loom to get a really good shot. But you can get an idea of how things look now. You can see I have the two heddle rods in use. (To give you some idea of scale: each of those rods is four feet long.) This arrangement is a little bit fiddly for one person to operate, and I'm going to have to keep an eye out for it. But so far it's working all right.

That white blob just above the heddle rod on the left side of the warp is the penion, the shuttle. It is a cedar stick (a cut-down arrow shaft) with a very large cop of yarn wound onto it. It is resting atop the string heddles between the two sheds of the web.

Here is a closer view of the penion. It is 24" long. I enjoyed sticking it into this spot because it made the loom look more like the ones on the Amasis lekythos.

The first four wefts are purple-dyed wool. They're the reason the shadow under the cloth beam looks so deep; that's actually part of the cloth you're seeing and not a shadow. I wanted them in there because there's a textile from the Kerameikos at Athens which has a tiny purple stripe right under the starting border. I didn't have any trouble selling this idea to ὁ πάτρων (Il Patron)! You can see the rest of the ball of purple wool on the ground under the loom; I haven't detached it yet.

That little dark spot at the center top of the first photo is a glass bead in the shape of an owl that I hung from the reinforcing bar (which is out of view at the top of the loom). You've heard of computer totems, the little toys and figurines people stick atop their computers and monitors? Bubo there is my loom totem.

06 March 2012

Unexpected progress!

Last night's meeting was cancelled so I had more time to work on heddles.

All the heddles are done, and the shed is clean!

I put in the first two shots of weft. Tomorrow I'll take a photo.

05 March 2012

Still slogging away....

Half the heddles are knit. I have a lot of obligations in the next 24 hours or so, so I'm not sure I'm going to get much more progress made before Wednesday. But I'm happy with my progress so far. The linen I chose to knit the heddles with is cooperating well, and the heddles are mostly very even. When you have to knit more than 800 heddles, you want a lot of consistency.

I am using the split heddle rod approach. Instead of one long heddle rod that goes across the whole six feet of warp, I'm using two, one on each half of the warp. I'm a little dubious about this approach since it's only a theoretical rather than a documentable approach. Still, it makes more sense than trying to operate a two-person sized warp and heddle rod all by myself without brackets, heddle rod supports, or anything else to hold the rod. From my experience weaving tabby on the Icelandic loom, though, I know it is possible to operate the heddle rod of a narrow warp one-handed while using the sword to secure the shed. I have tested and yes, I can move the current three-foot heddle rod one-handed. What a relief! I was afraid there'd be too much counterweight on the rod for it to be comfortable.

The fiddly part will be at the center of the warp, where the ends of the two heddle rods might overlap or bash one another. I'm solving that by making the dexter side's rod higher than the sinister side's rod.

Once the loom is entirely ready to weave, I'll post a full photo.

01 March 2012

Warp is weighted!

I have finished putting the weights on the warp -- all except for the selvedges, that is. Each selvedge is a pair of heavy single-ply wool yarns. I'm not sure they're strong enough to use a whole loomweight for each one, but I'm not sure what other choice makes sense. I want them to hang very straight and stiff so I can reduce the tendency to draw in while I'm weaving.

Here is one of my loomweights. They are terracotta, based on finds from the fourth century BCE in Macedonia.

And here is about half the warp, in the late afternoon sunshine. I opened the window to give more natural light for the photo, and the dramatic contrast made most of the photos useless. I kind of like this one, though.

Next up: heddle knitting!

29 February 2012

On to the loom weights

I have learned by doing. The first shed is completely laced to the shed rod! Now I get to turn my attention to those lovely loom weights.

To the best of our knowledge, loom weights aren't meant to be tied directly to hanks of warp. The holes through the weights aren't big and smooth enough to make that a reality. However, the archaeological record for this period and culture does reveal three possible methods for attaching loom weights to warp. All three involve a mediating attachment between the hole(s) in the loom weight and the warp hank: metal rings, sticks, and loops of string.

I considered using metal book rings for the romance of it. While they're not forged bronze, they're easy to work with, and I thought they might contribute to the warp making more of the kinds of sounds Homer attributes to a warp in use. But when I calculated the additional weight it would add to each loom weight, I changed my mind. Although these loom weights are in the zone for fourth-century BCE Macedonian ones, they're not quite as light as I had originally imagined. Accordingly, I don't want to add extra weight to them. Also, that many metal rings in the size I would need (at least 2") would be expensive. While I was willing to expend funds for high quality raw materials and authentic weights, it seemed less pressing to spend it on inessentials when other authentic solutions presented themselves.

I considered using sticks, but not for long. If I were working with a warp that was set less closely together, I would probably give that method much more thought. But it seemed like it would be the fiddliest of the possible solutions. Since this project is more a proof of concept than a masterwork, I thought it best to keep the fiddly bits to a minimum.

I wound up deciding on the third method, one I had long known and understood: the loop of string. This is the method I have used with the doughnut shaped loom weights and my Icelandic style loom.

So now I have to cut 120 pieces of stout linen cord, all the same length, and tie one to each loom weight. Fortunately, that's the kind of work I can do sitting down, perhaps while watching an old movie. I feel the need for a brief respite from all the hours spent standing at the loom.

Then will come the period of sitting under the loom, puzzling out the best distribution of threads per loom weight. Never a dull moment!

27 February 2012

Progress improving

Well, after I went and posted about how slowly this phase is going, yesterday I made a lot of headway. I credit the friends who came, brought amazing coffee, and hung out with me while I worked. The front shed is more than halfway laced to the shed rod now.

Here is a shot of the loom as it looks right now. You can see a lot of the front shed is now attached to the shed rod. You can also get a peek at the tumble of terracotta loom weights under the loom!

Here is a close-up of the front shed. It's a little hard to see because of the low contrast between the natural linen lacing thread and the pine closet rod. But if you look carefully you can see the cross of linen thread going over each wool warp end. At the right is the linen lacing thread that leads down to one of the two bobbins I'm using. You can also see that I've marked the shed rod in quarter-inch intervals.

26 February 2012

Slow progress

This job is slower than I hoped. I have laced nearly 40% of the front shed to the shed rod.

I'm having raw material failures: the fine, high quality Irish line linen singles I'm using as a lashing thread has broken about a dozen times so far. I expected some of this, since it's a singles; I'm suspending something from it. which gives it a tendency to unspin itself here and there and get weaker. But the strength, fineness, and smoothness of it still makes it a good choice. (Anything with a larger diameter would make the shed rod too crowded at the sett I'm using, and I didn't have a plied linen yarn of that size in my stash; I'd need something like a 70/2.) I just have to be careful not to leave the bobbins hanging for long at a time.

I'm also having equipment problems. The method I devised for doing the lacing depends on two hanks of yarn working reciprocally. I knew that simply using butterfly hanks would be a nightmare due to the long lengths required. Also, I wanted to be able to leave the work hanging so I could walk away from it at intervals. So for a while I was using those shuttle bobbins I mentioned previously. But I got tired of working with them because they tangled so easily. I went to the local string Mecca and purchased two large tapestry bobbins which are proving much less fiddly to manipulate. They only present one problem: their larger size and weight provide so much momentum that they tend to get tangled in the warp threads whenever I leave them to hang. Frustration ensues.

But I've worked out a method of handling and sequencing the warp ends that is not altogether unlike the way I handle threading a reed on a horizontal loom. As I work I try to remember that the more care I take with a warp in the initial stages, the less trouble it usually gives me down the line.

One can hope.

Next time I'll include a photo; I just haven't taken a good one of this stage of the process yet.

One nice point, though: ὁ πάτρων (Il Patron) stopped by yesterday. He got all excited to see the expanse of front warp that had already been laced, thinking it had been weighted already. The loom weights were on the floor under the warp, so at first glance it really looked like the weights were attached to the stretched-out yarn. It is so wonderful to see how active an interest he is taking in the process of creating this garment. I get a lot of additional incentive when I know that what I'm doing is helping someone learn. He is coming by again on Tuesday, by which time I hope to have at least some of the warp weighted so he can finally see those weights at work.

21 February 2012

The everlasting warping process

I'm now tackling the task that I dreaded. Out of every skill associated with this project, the only thing I hadn't actually done before was lash an entire shed of the warp to a stationary shed rod. I had no trouble figuring out how I wanted to work the lashing. It took some thinking to figure out how I wanted to keep it even: I decided to just go ahead and mark the rod. It took me even longer to work up the nerve to try it.

So first I began lashing the warp ends in groups of three. After an inch I got brave and tried groups of two, then finally tried lashing every warp end. I can do it! It's very fiddly at this sett, and the bobbins I'm using to hold my thread are less than optimal. I'm using 4" boat shuttle bobbins; I'd prefer using tapestry bobbins but don't have any.

I finished 5" of lashing and had to take a break because my eyes and threads were crossing so much! Instead, I finished weighing all my new loomweights.

The new weights range in weight from 193 to 224 grams apiece. Most of them (87 of the 120) weigh somewhere between 207 and 216 grams. There's one extreme outlier at 193 grams, and a nearly perfectly matched pair at the heavy end that I've earmarked for the selvedges.

I expect that lashing the shed will go somewhat like lacing the header band. Sooner or later I'll figure out a really quick, simple, ergonomically superior way to do it and it'll go smoothly. Until that point, I'm going to be pretty twitchy.

20 February 2012

Safely secured

This is the hard part of what I did yesterday. Here you see the header band laced through every four threads to a stiffening bar. The bar is resting on top of the shed rod, just for convenience of photographing.

Normally I use a dowel as my stiffening rod. But with a warp six feet wide, it made more economic sense to use lumber than look for a dowel that long, and so this time I have a stiffening bar. This piece of lumber is a 1x2, which means it actually measures .75" by 1.5".

Originally I began using a stiffening rod on the warp-weighted loom for two reasons. First, it gave me better control over the header band than I had simply by stitching it to the holes of my Icelandic style loom's cloth beam. The holes in such a beam are fairly widely spaced. The one time I tried to attach a warp only through those holes, the header band scalloped so alarmingly (more than 3") after I weighted it that I decided that must not have been how it should be done. At the time I hadn't seen any museums' attempts to solve this problem, so I was interested to find out later that other people working with the warp-weighted loom had solved it in a way similar to mine, i.e., with the addition of a stiffening bar.

I also intended my warps to be removable from the loom. The Icelandic loom was built as a teaching and demo device. I wanted to be able to warp it and then, if necessary, remove my working warp entire in order to take the loom someplace and warp it with a teaching warp. By putting the header band on a stiffening rod, I found I could easily remove and roll up an entire warp, weights, chained spacers, heddle rods, skilskaft and all, and set it aside for later if necessary.

I don't intend this current warp, or indeed this loom, to be portable. However, I am so sold on the utility of the stiffening rod that I cannot imagine working a project without one.

It was, therefore, quite a delight to discover in the archaeological record an example of a header band that still retained stitching believed by the examiner to represent lacing to a stiffening rod.

19 February 2012

I'm a weaver, not a stitcher!

I'm at a boring part of the work now. First I am stitching the header band onto a stiffening rod. When I finish that I'll lash the stiffening rod to the cloth beam. Both these tasks are essentially needlework. I am, at best, an indifferent stitcher. Although I enjoy working on the occasional hand-sewn item, and I've even turned my hand to embroidery from time to time, I just don't care for needlework the way I care for most other forms of thread manipulation.

But I feel very strongly that the more carefully this particular task proceeds, the better will be the finished product. I've had problems with the equivalent of reed marks in warp-weighted loom textiles when I have cut corners in this phase of the work. In this case, I'm stitching the band between every set of four threads (two warp loops), that is, six stitches through the warp and around the stiffening rod per inch of header band. That should give me an absolutely reliable attachment which will keep the band from developing scalloping. The fine linen I'm using for the stitching is small enough to sneak between the threads without creating any holes that won't heal.

Over the years I've fooled around with the ergonomics of this task. Normally I am working with much shorter warps, and I have a slightly different set of equipment because I'm doing it in the field, on trestles set up under a pavilion top. Most of those established techniques won't work with the setup I currently have (based on home space limitations), and I need a different tool than a tapestry needle. So now I've fiddled around with setup, seating, tools, and zone of attack until I have finally found a method that works for me and is fairly quick. That's good, because the first foot of stitching took more than half an hour. The next four inches took another half hour. That's when I fell back, reassessed, and changed what I was doing.

Now that I can stitch an inch of header warp firmly in just a minute or so, I feel like I can settle down for a long stint of work. So now I'm going to set up some music to listen to and wade back into the fray.

17 February 2012

First photos

Here is a photo of a section of the header band and its enormous puddle of warp loops.

This closeup gives a better idea of the texture. This band was all hand-beaten, i.e., I did not use a shuttle or other tool, just my hand. You can see what I meant about the way the thread on one side of the header warp loosens. I'll be giving some more thought to that, and to my idea about twisting the warp threads in order to force that thread (actually, those two threads) back into place.

And this is for scale, so you get a sense of just how wide this little header band is. I'm used to making tablet-woven header bands, not warp-faced repp ones, and they've always been somewhat wider than this. Granted, the bulk of my header bands have been on teaching warps, which are intentionally at coarse setts to make it easier for people to see and manipulate the yarns.

Isn't it funny how the yarn goes from looking delicate in the first photo to looking coarse in the third?

More on warp stats

Well, I was right that my warping would get faster. I noticed after the first 18" or so that I had noticeably quickened. Near the end of the warp I timed myself again and found that it was only taking me 5:15 to do an inch of warp, as opposed to the 7:45 it had taken earlier.

I picked up speed partly because I found a better way of ascertaining how many loops I'd done. It proved impractical for me to count to twelve while I was doing the loops; instead I would stop and check, either by eye or by actually touching the threads, to see if the proper number were there. After I learned the most efficient place to look, I didn't have to touch the threads to count them, which picked me up some speed. I also got better at the peg-wrapping sequence. But mostly I think it was the mood music that helped, since the improvement in speed happened on the first day I began listening to music while working.

I timed how long it took me to advance the warp of the header band: approximately 1:30. I figure I advanced it about once for every six inches of band woven. So if I advanced the band warp about a dozen times that makes 18 minutes of advancing the warp.

I'm going to call that as an overall time of about seven and a half, maybe eight hours to weave the header band all by myself on equipment I'd never used in that way before.

As I was weaving the header band, my gauge slackened just a tiny bit. Where I should have finished with 72 sets of warp bundles, I have only 69. (Surely this number is the Cypriot's way of laughing at me, or perhaps blessing my patron.) That works out to be a sett of 23 ends per inch rather than the 24 I was aiming for, but I don't think that's a problem.

I'm more concerned about possible take-up, but I factored in a 10% take-up in both directions. My other warp-weighted loom experience suggests that there'll be a greater than 10% take-up in the weftwise direction, but I am hoping it won't be greater than 14% because then the garment might be too small to fit properly. And after all, my experience has been with weft yarns that were woolen spun, not worsted spun. As long as I don't get too much draw-in, the take-up shouldn't be a problem. That's what the big beefy Navajo warp singles yarn is for: chunky selvedge reinforcements to keep the web from drawing in markedly. And if the finished piece doesn't have a lot of draw-in and take-up, so much the better; it'll fit a little more graciously that way.

16 February 2012

Feeding my head

As I wove the header band, I found that it went faster if I listened to music. The music I kept coming back to again and again was "Mythologem" by Isirion (my favorite indie band). Several of the songs on that album have ancient Greek subject matter. I found the instrumental "Song of the Seven Sirens" put me in a very appropriate ancient Greek frame of mind. But I don't have a lot of other music that's relevant. Hmmm. I think it's finally time to acquire a copy of Eleni Karaindrou's music for The Trojan Women, which I hear is very good.

I've also been doing some reading this last week. My patron lent me The Last Voyage of Odysseus (Karen L. Carey, Ohio University Press, 1983) and Odysseus: A Life (Charles Rowan Beye, Hyperion, 2004). After I finished those I started rereading Phillip Parotti's The Greek Generals Talk: Memoirs of the Trojan War (University of Illinois Press, 1986), after which I'll probably take on his The Trojan Generals Talk: Memoirs of the Greek War (University of Illinois Press, 1988).

I've also found two non-fiction books I want to read. One is The Craft of Zeus: Myths of Weaving and Fabric by John Scheid and Jesper Svenbro. The other is Ann Bergren's Weaving Truth: Essays on Language and the Female in Greek Thought.

All this is in addition to the hard research I'm doing. And of course, there is always my red-headed traveler; I'm cherry-picking both the Odyssey and the Iliad as I go about this, just for the sheer pleasure of tracing his path. The fact that his path leads past so many looms is, well, part of the point of it for me.


Done! The header band is completely woven. It's just a smidgen shy of 72" long, incorporating 1660 warp ends: 828 loops plus four thicker ends for reinforced selvedges.

The yarn behaved very well. It's really strong but fine, smooth instead of hairy. I did not have any breakages, fewer than six tangles, and no knots that I could detect in the entire warping process.

That is one very big pile of yarn, over 13 ounces worth. Many of the bundles have unchained themselves most of the way due to that lovely smooth texture. It's really kind of a tangly mess right now. But I'm very excited and at the same time even more scared. The project is a little more real now.

Next step will be to secure it to the loom.

15 February 2012

Dropped/twisted threads

I've been looking at published work on an interesting topic, one that I've been wondering about for many years. It started because I was warping. Warping by myself is rather like yoga. The deliberate, repetitive movements foster a very thoughtful process, loosening all sorts of ideas to float to the surface of my mind.

I keep remembering how some of the textiles I'm using as sources display crossed threads where the header band ends and the web begins. Some of the threads aren't crossed in a regular fashion that would suggest intentionality or, perhaps, a technical reason based on loom type. It's quite possible they're crossed accidentally, perhaps due to inconsistencies in warping technique such as a loop being twisted as it goes over a peg. Or maybe the warp wasn't prepared with a cross, and it's an error introduced during the picking of the first tabby shed.

But as I wove the header band, I kept noticing something: the last warp thread on the fringe side of the band, i.e., the one right next to the textile's warp, tends to loosen up and drift away from the other warp threads of the band. I have been wondering whether those occasional crossed threads in the original textiles were placed intentionally, to help encourage that loose band warp thread back into place alongside its fellows.

That thought process isn't complete yet. But it set me to thinking about the crossing of warp yarns. That idea reminded me of the problem inherent in going from tabby weave to weft-faced extended tabby weave (the tapestry sections). The sett I'm using to weave the tabby ground weave is way too dense to allow me to weave the tapestry portions on the same plain tabby. Sooner or later, I would need to know some ways to manage that problem, and so I have begun to go through the relevant material in my library.

The piece I am planning is not like a Coptic tunic, with isolated inset tapestry elements. The tapestry sections on this piece go completely across the warp, with no flanking tabby weave to manage. Up until yesterday I'd been assuming I would be using a simple extended tabby like in the medieval cloth of ray textiles, i.e., shots of half-basket that alternate and are beaten down to become strongly weft-faced. In theory, that should work fine since, as with cloth of ray, the stripes go all the way across the warp.

But I see in the Coptic material two other types of solutions that were used not just on the isolated inserts but also on the full-width bands. One of them is, according to the literature, not possible to do on the warp-weighted loom. So now I'm considering various implementations of the other solution, the one that is possible to do on the warp-weighted loom.

I'm also looking for copies of more of the literature on the topic, which I think will require a run to the university library. One article, the de Jonghe one from Bulletin du CIETA, I'll probably not be able to get. I used to do my CIETA research at the Auerbach Library in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. (It was well worth being a Friend of the Library for access to their research library.) But there's no CIETA collection near me now, alas; the nearest one is five hours away. It's also been my experience that CIETA articles are not available via ILL.

Anyway, I'm definitely not finished thinking about this yet. The threads are trying to do some dancing in my head, part topology and part the dance that the threads always do when I weave. But since I don't know this dance yet, it's a little confusing to try and follow along with it. It's a good thing I have some more warping to do: I do my best thinking while I warp!

And yet more warping....

Sixty inches of header band/warp prepared now. Only ten more to go!

11 February 2012

More warping

I'm up to 40 completed inches of header band/warp now. I've had some problems with vertigo this week that have kept me from warping as much as I'd like, but it's coming along pretty well nonetheless. I should probably time myself again now that I'm somewhere past the middle of the band.

09 February 2012

Big chunk done

I've now done 28" of the header band, so that's more than a third of the warp prepared. It's starting to get faster, and I'm less sore than I was earlier in the week. It's all good.

Loom validation

Due to the requirements of this project, Greg and I knew we'd need a very wide loom rather than the more narrow ones shown in most of the ancient Greek depictions. Accordingly, we focused most closely on the depictions of the looms on the Amasis lekythos and Chiusi 1831. Although I believed the loom to be completely justifiable at the width we decided, I couldn't specifically document it the way I have been able to document so many other types of loom and textile projects. That made me just a little bit uneasy, not knowing exactly whether or where to draw that research line that means "beyond this is artistic license that might be flawed." But we decided to let the product of the loom tell us what the loom should be like. Since then I have tried to live with the niggling little doubts I retained.

That changed yesterday, after I received my copy of a book that's extremely relevant to the project. While the article I wanted the book for was disappointing in its general nature, other articles were surprisingly useful. One of them detailed an archaeological site from the correct culture and period where a gynaikon (women's quarters) portion of a house was found, including a row of loomweights between a pair of postholes. The postholes were for the histopodes (uprights) of a loom. It is possible to know something about the width of the loom from this find.

I was delighted to discover that the loom I am working on is right in the zone!

I always enjoy it when I find something after the fact to validate a project decision I've made. While it is always better to know before the fact rather than after, it's still better to know than not to know.

Technical difficulties sussed

We've figured out why I couldn't post comments on my own blog, and there's a temporary work-around until a more elegant solution can be implemented. It's a Java thang: I wouldn't understand. But I can comment now!

I didn't get any warping done yesterday. I hope to do better than that today.

08 February 2012

Technical difficulties

This is my first experience with a blogging platform of this type. I haven't worked out all the bugs yet, so you'll probably be seeing a few changes here and there as I tweak things.

Right now I seem to be unable to post comments on any Blogger site. I don't understand this, but I have help coming. Eventually I'll be able to respond to comments, so feel free to post 'em if you got 'em.

07 February 2012

Geeky stats post

I wove another 8" of header band today. Since I'm still sore from that fall last week, I've been doing it in shorter sessions rather than settling down to do one long session. This has meant the weaving setup has lived on my dining table all day today, but I'm good with that. I'd rather be able to come and go right now.

Have been having some equipment -- well, not failures, just problems. The improvised warping board keeps coming unclamped. I have shored it up with better clamps and some ties; that should keep it from slipping any more. The frame loom was giving me tension problems which made advancing the band warp slow and annoying. I worked out a different way to use the tension device, by adding a dowel to the process. Later on I will probably post a photo of the rig; there's still plenty of time for me to fine-tune it some more before I see the end of this warp.

I'm still getting gauge without thinking about it much, but this yarn is so fine I expect I'll probably be a couple of inches off by the time I get to the titular end of it. That's okay; I'll just add some more warp. I would like my calculations and gauge to be brilliantly accurate, but I'm willing to admit they likely aren't.

I thought I should probably time myself and see how long it takes to crank out the header band. I'll measure twice more: somewhere near the middle of the band and somewhere right before the end. Maybe I'll get faster at this after having done a yard or two of it.

Right now I'm grouping the band weft/warp ends in 12-loop bunches, one per inch. (That's a sett of 24 epi.) First I pull a warp loop through the header band as weft; I walk it to my dining room wall, pull out about another foot of length, and then return to my warping pegs. I wind the loop around the set of warping pegs in the assigned order, keeping a finger between the two threads so they're always in the right relationship. I change the shed, beat the band with a finger of my right hand, and pull the next loop. After I finish 12 of these loops, I change the shed again. I beat the last loop into the band, then pull out my measuring stick to make sure I've got gauge. Then I put my hand in the cross, separate the halves of the warp, and tie a slip knot in the front half of the warp. Then I chain the whole bundle to make it more manageable, then I toss it toward the other end of the table away from the weaving process.

That entire process takes approximately 7:45. It includes occasional adjustments of gauge or of the tension of a weft loop at the non-warp side of the header band, i.e., across what will be the top when the warp is put on the loom.

So at this point I'm taking seven minutes and 45 seconds to create one inch of header band/warp. Next time I have to advance the band warp, I'll time that and turn it into a geeky textile statistic too.

Because it's all about the geeky stats, right?

06 February 2012

How did I get here?

In 1966, the Summer of Love, I fell in love. He was much older than me, a crafty red-headed traveler, perpetually stymied in his attempts to get back home. His story fascinated me, not least because so many of the women in his life, including his guardian divinity, were weavers: Athene, Penelope, Kalypso, Kirke. Coincidentally, I had just learned to weave myself, on a tiny loom made of wood and nails. Tapestry weaving seemed so exotic, and I didn't know any weavers. Little did I know then that my introduction to tapestry weaving and the ancient Greeks would converge again so many years later, as I found myself contemplating the weaving of a textile inspired by historical Greek ones.

In the long stretch of years between the Summer of Love and now, I enjoyed a liberal arts education that included exposure to a robust Classics program. Although I didn't wind up majoring in Classics, I took classes with James H. Day, Robert Pounder, Walter Moskalew, and visiting professors John Barron, Sterling Dow, and William Bedell Stanford (with whom I was privileged to study the Odyssey for an entire semester). I also fed my interest in archaeology with classes in Biblical and Near Eastern archaeology with Robert Fortna and Walter Fairservis.

My love for archaeology never left me. Many years later, I used archaeological sources to find my way back to weaving, discovering and taking up a variety of ancient techniques. Although I focused on another historic time and location for many years, my early love for the classics also never left me. Always in the back of my head was that ancient Greek loom, thrumming and clinking to me like a siren.

When my friend said he wanted a garment properly made in the style of the ancient Greeks, it seemed impossible at first. But then I realized that I have working knowledge of every skill and tool that would be required; I simply had never put them all together before. Even if I failed utterly, I'd get to try something I've wanted to try for most of my life. Why not?

So now my friend is my patron, and I am exploring one of my most ancient creative interests. There is a significant research component as well, which just makes the project all the more exciting. The purpose of this blog is to help me keep track of how this project works out. If it works out well, my patron will have a garment special to him, while I hope to get a paper out of it somewhere down the line.

On schedule

Taking a break from warping. I've got the loom up, the warping rig set up, and three inches of header band woven. Only 67 more to go!

I had a little difficulty with the first inch of header band: I was so worried about beating too hard that I wound up beating too loosely. That first inch is over an inch and a quarter! But by the second inch I'd settled down into an effortless gauge.

It's tough warping by yourself when warping calls for transporting weft loops longer than 6' onto a peg. This is one part of the process that, no matter which historic practice I'm researching, is usually in the dark. I don't know how "they" did it, whether "they" is the historic Scandinavians and north Europeans I've been studying or the ancient Greeks whom I'm studying now. Hoffmann's work in The Warp-Weighted Loom, documenting how the Sami weavers wove header bands for their grener in the first part of the 20th century, is very valuable, but I'm not convinced that it represents a universal technique or even one that's relevant to studies of weaving 2300 years previous to it. Anyway, I long ago worked out a method for warping my Iceland/Greenland style loom using an upright tablet weaving loom (repro of the one found in the Oseberg burial mound) and an assistant. But right now I don't have an assistant, and I don't even have that loom any more. Instead, I'm using the equivalent of a warping board: several pegs across which the weft loops zigzag. I've already learned just how far I have to travel with each loop before bringing it back to begin wrapping it around the pegs. Fortunately, I enjoy such rote, repetitious movements for the quality assurance I think they produce. :-)

I'm using a small rigid heddle for the header band warps, and a small frame loom to manage the unwoven warp.

I'm continuing to use the method for separating and maintaining the cross that I learned in Hoffman. I find that pre-counting the threads now, during the warping, makes it easier to put equal numbers of threads on the weights later on. If I had weights that were not approximately all the same weight, that'd be a different problem. But this is the problem I have always had, and this is how I have learned to solve it. Accordingly, I am making a separate slip-knotted bundle of each inch of warp.

I need to put something under my band weaving area. Right now I'm working on the dining room table, which happens to be covered with a clean white cloth. I can scarcely see all the white yarn against the white tablecloth; I need a backdrop of some sort to help these old eyes.

Well, that's enough sitting. Back to warping!

05 February 2012

The loom is built!

It's much bigger in reality than it was in my mind, or on top of the car when we were bringing the lumber home from the store. But the ancient Greek style loom is mostly put together.

I spent part of today making a test warp to check gauge. I need to have some idea of thread count so I can make solid calculations of how much yarn I'm going to need. I discovered to my surprise that my natural tendency is to beat the yarn in the header band much more closely than is recommended for tabby setts in that yarn. But I persevered, fighting my usual tendency to beat really hard, and eventually got down to a workable thread count.

Tomorrow I get to finish putting the loom together and make a very long header band. Well, maybe start making the header band. I'm really not sure how long it's going to take me to make a header band for a project this wide, using techniques I haven't used often enough to be comfortable doing. I wish I could document having a tablet woven header band, but I can't, more's the pity. So I learn a new thing; that's part of the point of projects like this, right?

02 February 2012

Pretty colors

Sometime a couple of weeks ago I saw a photo of a header band being created directly on a cloth beam. I keep trying to retrace my steps, but I haven't been able to relocate that photo. I'm not going to do my warping that way, but I'd like to examine the context of that photo again.

I had a brainstorm today about how to handle the shed rod. Perhaps it was that fall on the stairs last Monday that leads me to look for simpler, less physically stressful methods of warping. I think this time I shall have to sit in a chair while I tie on loomweights instead of sitting on the ground as I customarily do.

Having worked out how I'm going to handle the header band, my attention has turned to appropriate dyestuffs. I'm researching what we know from archaeological contexts, historic documents, and literary references.

I am strongly tempted to take this opportunity to learn how to dye with alkanet, but I think I shall have to resist. It sure would be fun, though, to recreate one of the false purples from the Stockholm papyrus! Maybe next time. (And maybe by then I will have figured out just what "roasted Phrygian stone" is.)

29 January 2012

Goalpost planted

In his Works and Days, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod recommended that a woman set up her loom and begin her weaving project on the twelfth day of the (lunar) month. The lunar month was counted from the first sight of the new moon, just as it is in the Jewish calendar, rather than from the astronomical dark of the moon as is modern scientific practice.

Accordingly, I have set 5 February of this year as my setup day, as 5 February is the next occurring twelfth day of a lunar month.

Today we got the loom wood. The clock is ticking!

27 January 2012

Patience pays off

Yesterday the book I was waiting for arrived. It has more information than I had before (in the form of plates) but still doesn't tell me what I'd ideally like to know. So far my research has not turned up any subsequent published articles or chapters about this textile, although nearly 20 years have elapsed since the book was published.

I'm also frustrated to discover that a major article I'd very much like to read is in a rare book of proceedings not available to me here. It is, alas, happily resident in the library across the country that I used for 30 years. When I first started to do textile research in the 1980s, it was very difficult to find any information at all. The Internet has improved that situation a lot, and but publications are still very difficult to acquire if you're not explicitly involved in an academic context -- or not very well moneyed. It's at times like this that I tend to forget how much easier it is now than it was 25 years ago.

Today the yarn and half the loom weights arrived! Suddenly the project seems a lot more real....

24 January 2012

I am waiting patiently

I have loomweights, yarn, and a research book coming in the mail. All of them are in transit somewhere, none of them are here yet.

So while I was practicing being patient I spent part of today reading up on some ancillary material, not very likely to be overtly helpful but good to know anyway. Some of the period material I'm encountering can actually benefit from the light shed upon those very techniques by Mary Meigs Atwater.

23 January 2012

Research day

Today has been a research day.

I heard back from the museum. The person to whom my message had been routed sent me back a very pleasant and helpful response.

I found an article that I hadn't seen in any bibliographies, one which gives me a lot of insight into a find most of whose information was inaccessible to me. I just wish the plates were clearer, and that it had been written by a weaver. Still, I learned some really useful things from it that I will be integrating into the design phase.

I learned more about the ancient history of cotton. That's not mission critical for this project, but it was a related issue and I'm glad I understand it better now. Those of you who know me from other venues (she said, speaking to the as-yet-empty room) may recall my phrase about stomping cockroaches. Well, the popular history of the use of cotton around the Mediterranean is rife with cockroaches (i.e., unkillable pernicious false unfootnoted ideas) just waiting to be stomped. Now I feel like I have put on my StompyBoots and am ready for the next time one crawls out of the woodwork and needs to be squashed.

I also heard from my patron that the loomweights are done. So excited!

22 January 2012

Size matters

Today was the day to solve the loom size question. Mission accomplished.

First Greg and I sat down to work out the basics of how the loom should look and operate. That took some time because not all the period depictions look alike. We had to figure out a working set of assumptions based on our experience with building and weaving on upright looms. I'm pretty confident in the design decisions he made; after all, he's done this for me many times now.

Then I had to talk my patron out of expecting a piece three meters wide. I didn't confront the problem straight on, but took a more circuitous route. For one thing, I pointed out how wide all the looms were in the period depictions. Even the widest are not much larger than one person's "wingspan," as Greg put it. If there were ever a case of letting the correct tool lead us to the correct product, this will be one. But because I let the tool's innate logic speak for itself, I never had to hit him over the head (metaphorically speaking, of course!) in order for him to come around. Eventually, after he interacted with a physical sample of cloth in the correct size range, there was a very satisfactory meeting of the minds. So now he is commissioning a piece that is much closer to correct, Greg doesn't have to make a cloth beam so long it's structurally unsound, and I don't have to weave half again more cloth than I expected. It's all good.

Last night I acquired some more technical specs for extant textiles that include thread counts. I am really enjoying how the research process keeps turning up exciting facts that upend old assumptions.

20 January 2012

Another hurdle leapt

Today I ordered the yarn.

I'm using Jaggerspun Maine Line 2/20s. I'd prefer a singles, but for this proof-of-concept project I'm going to go with a proven high quality worsted yarn. Fortunately, the historical record includes examples of both singles and plied yarns in the warp.

Some of the yarn will require dyeing. For me, this is the most delightful aspect of a project. It seems to come easier to me than any other process, and it invariably makes me very, very happy to produce pretty colors. Decisions on the specific color palette will have to await a final decision on the patterning, but I am anticipating the palette will probably include at least three rich colors.

19 January 2012

Weighty matter

I just bought 60 loomweights. My patron is buying the other 60, so I will have 120 matched terracotta loomweights in a few weeks.

After all the years of hassle I spent trying to get a set of Viking Age ones, this seems almost magically easy: 40 hours from first contact to "they're drying so I can fire them." Wow!

Can't wait for them to arrive so I can share a photo.

18 January 2012

Shoring up the research

Right now I'm stymied on dimensions, so I'm working on other aspects.

Today I researched starting borders. I was delighted to discover something I've never seen before in my research. It's only a little thing, but it helps to fill in one of those "we don't know how they did that" lacunae, so it makes me happy.

I also contacted the supplier for one of the two yarns I'm considering. It's not currently available in the color I need -- still in production, but not in stock. Tomorrow the vendor is going to contact me to let me know how long before they have it back in stock. I've heard several people praise this particular yarn, so I hope I can work something out.

Tomorrow I'm going to start looking at selvedges -- or at least, look to see if there are any relevant selvedges.

This weekend Greg says he and I are going to go acquire what he needs to retrofit/remake the loom. Before that, we'll have to have a long talk about exactly how the loom needs to look and behave.

17 January 2012

How heavy is that?

Today I've been firming up my understanding of loom weights. I now know what weight range I need, approximately how many weights I need, and what I'd like them to look like. An interested potter has given an estimate for providing the set; hopefully that problem can soon be marked "solved."

Today I also found two documents on the web concerning the building and usage of an ancient Greek style warp-weighted loom. My previous experience weaving on the Icelandic style warp-weighted loom keeps me from from benefiting from beginner documents, and I have come to some different conclusions than the authors of those documents. But I spent a lot of years out in the wilderness with this research, so I'm happy to add their works to my little library.

The museum I wrote to hasn't written me back about getting photos of some artifacts. Other than that, everything seems to be perking along nicely. I've got two yarns to compare (I'm using commercial for this project), and I have plenty of thread count footnotes. If that one last book would arrive, I'd have enough research on hand to feel confident about making some of the final choices -- although they can be punted for a little while yet while I consider matters of infrastructure: to wit, the loom.

Hello, world!

The project I'm researching right now is so important that it deserves its own blog.  Accordingly, welcome to Athene's Acolyte, a blog where I hope to document my new weaving project.  For the next little while I'll probably be posting about my research into ancient Greek textiles.  Yes, that's a hint.  :-)