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.  :-)