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.)