Matilda la Zouche (matildalazouche) wrote,
Matilda la Zouche

White Wolf Fian: Warp-weighted loom re-challenge

Three years has come and gone since I created my Herjolfsnes dress and it is necessary for me to re-challenge to remain in the Order of the White Wolf Fian. For the re-challenge, I decided to make a warp-weighted loom and weave a piece of 2/2 twill cloth approximately 80 cm in width. Although I have read about them and seen many photographs and videos, I have never seen a full-size warp weighted loom in real life or used one. But, it's been a dream of mine. For this project I have been inspired by four main documents, Woven into the Earth, 2nd Ed. (book, 2009) by Else Otstergard, "Twill Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom: Some Technical Aspects," (article, 1975) by A. E. Haynes, "Shape of Things: Understanding a Loom Weight," (article, 2009) by Linda Martensson et. al., and Hammerum Girl, (video, 2015) by Museum Midtjylland, Denmark.

The overall approximate dimensions of the completed loom are shown in this schematic diagram, and the story of the making is below:

I wanted to make a nice big loom and install it in my home so that I could work on it thoughout the year. I began by finding just the right paper birch saplings for the cloth beam, shed rod and heddle rods. They needed to be as straight as possible. The shed rod is just a bit thicker (approx. 5 cm in diameter) than the heddle rods. After felling the saplings, I cut them to approximately 175 cm, de-barked them with a sharp knife, and let them dry before I sanded them smooth so that they would not catch my yarn.

For the uprights I needed something thicker. We have some sugar maple trees in our backyard and two of them were very sick and needed to come down. Perfect! Each had a straight section of heavy limb with a "y" notch at the top. I found a number of smaller branches with "y" shaped ends to use as the heddle bar supports. And, some thicker branches to use as dowels to support the fixed shed rod. I chiseled out deep grooves (7 cm in length) about 18 cm in from each end of the cloth beam so that it would rest easily on the uprights and not slide around.

Figure 2. The sacrificial maples. Nice for the loom, and nice for winter fires in our hearth.

One of my uprights had a branch on the side that made a lovely hook! I was happy to trim it down and keep it for hanging tools.

Figure 3. Don't cut off all the branches, some are very useful.

For the cloth beam, I also drilled a hole to insert a "brake" to lock it in place so that the weight of the loom weights wouldn't unroll the cloth.

Figure 4. The brake.

In order to find the optimum dimensions for the height of the fixed shed rod and the lengths of the heddle rod supports, I used a few weighted strings (and an extra hand or two would have been useful as well). The heddle rod support sticks each have a "y" at the end to hold the heddle rods in place when they are in use. The length of these support sticks is about 25 cm from the bottom of the "y" to the upright when it is inserted in the hole. Based on experimental work by Haynes, I created a middle stopping point in the top and bottom heddle rods. This mid-way point would be used to draw out a single layer of threads to the same plane as the threads on the fixed shed bar. In practice it's very handy and it minimizes the interference of the loom weights when these sheds are in use.

I decided to use dowels that I made from tree branches to hold the fixed shed in place. The dowels can be set into a lower set of holes about 40 cm form the ground, or a set of holes about 15 cm up from those as weaving progresses and the loom weights are drawn up.

Figure 5. Using a few weighted strings to determine optimum hieght for the fixed shed bar and the length of the heddle support rods.

Figure 6. A heddle support rod that can be used at the full- or half-position.

Figure 7. Weighted strings to help optimize the sheds.

The lowest heddle bar support sticks were set into holes in the uprights that measured 88 cm from the bottom of the upright for the lowest stick, and the second and third row of sticks were spaced out by 15 cm each, moving up the poles.

The assembled loom looked like this:

Figure 8. Everything is ready for weaving!

I decided that I would make a practice 2/2 twill warp, about 1/5 the width of the final piece of cloth, to make sure that everything was working correctly. I created the starting border and 4 layers of warp threads using the method shown in the "Hammerum Girl" video. The warp loops are drawn through and place on two separate fixed points (C and D). When you have made the number of loops at both fixed points that correspond to the number of threads that you wish to tie to each loom weight, you carefully snip the loops, keeping the two sides separated. This produces 4 sets of threads because you have two fixed end points. Then all four lengths can be individually braided up and fixed - ready to begin the next set. For this practice piece I made 4 sets of double loops, each loop contains 4 x 6 threads because I made my loom weights specifically to hold 6 threads.

Figure 9. How to make four layers of warp threads for 2/2 twill.

Figure 10. Each set of 24 threads (6 threads per layer) is about 3.5 cm wide.
Figure 11. Lovely little braided warps!

This may be a good time to talk about loom weights! I had practiced making a starter boarder with the wool yarn that I intended for this project. I knew that I had about 24 threads across my starting border for each 3.5 cm. Those 24 threads would be divided by 4 to give me my four sets of threads for 2/2 twill. So, 6 threads per 3.5 cm per layer. According to Martensson et al., I needed about 30 g of weight per thread for this coarse wool (fingering weight, about 400 m/100 g). I made each loom weight in a pyramidal shape, and their thickness is about 3.5 cm. I made 80 weights that were about 205 g when wet, and 195 g when dry. The air-dry clay (20 kg) was obtained from Potter Supply House in Oakville, Ontario.

Figure 12. Making loom weights in the open air; a lovely springtime chore.

Here is a photograph that shows the practice warp lashed to the cloth beam (I do need to drill many holes through the cloth beam to fix a future warp in place and keep it from sliding). You can see the 4 layers of warp threads, each a little bundle waiting for it's own loom weight.

Figure 13. Four layers of warps, ready for weights. Photograph by my daughter because I ran out of hands.

The heddles were knitted in this order: The back layer (d), closest to the wall was knitted to the upper heddle rod. The second layer from the back (c) was knitted to the middle heddle rod. The third layer from the back (b) was knitted to the bottom heddle rod.
Then, the front layer (a) was laid over the fixed shed bar.

Figure 14. Four layers of loom weights. Each chained across to stop the layer form moving through the one next to it when the sheds are being made.

Shed 1 is made by pulling the lowest heddle rod out 1/2 way. This is a rear shed and is comprised of (a+b)/(c+d).

Figure 15. Shed 1, lowest heddle rod 1/2 way out.

Shed 2 is made by moving the lowest bar all the way out. And, pulling the middle heddle rod all the way out. This is front shed and is comprised of (b + c)/(a + d). See how this shed naturally pulls out the top heddle a bit? That's okay, it's a HUGE shed, and very easy in which to lay the weft.

Figure 16. Shed 2, lowest heddle rod fully out; middle heddle rod fully out.

Shed 3 is made by closing the lowest heddle rod (as much as possible), and moving the upper heddle rod fully out. This is a front shed and is comprised of (c + d)/(a + b).

Figure 17. Shed 3, middle heddle rod all the way out, upper heddle rod all the way out.

Shed 4 is made by closing the middle heddle rod all the way, and closing the upper heddle rod 1/2 way. This is a rear shed and is comprised of (a + d)/(b + c).

Figure 18. Shed 4, upper heddler of 1/2 way out.

And, there you have it. Repeat Sheds 1 through 4 as often as you like for 2/2 twill.

Figure 19. 2/2 twill for practice warp.

I'm going to work on this little warp this week to create enough length for a few purses. In my next post I hope to show you some heddle knitting for the crazed (360 warps to knit) and a bit of weaving. Stay safe, wear your mask.

Else Ostergard, Woven into the Earth, 2nd ed. (Gylling: Aarhus University Press, 2009), pp. 53-60.

A. E. Haynes, "Twill Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom: Some Technical Considerations," Textile History, vol. 6, 1975, pp.156-164.

Linda Martensson, Marie-Louise Nosch and EvaAndersson-Strand, "Shape of Things: Understanding a Loom Weight," Oxford Journal of Archaeology, vol. 28, 2009, pp. 373-398.

Hammerum Girl, (video, 2015) by Museum Midtjylland, Denmark.
Tags: white wolf fian; weaving

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