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.