As I’ve discussed in prior posts on weaving, I’ve been working on learning the Cricket loom, a rigid heddle loom.  I have successfully taken the fabric off the loom and it is now a table runner in my dining room!  It’s exciting.  It turns out that weaving is only part of the tale…
Once one is finished weaving, the finishing process is critical to the success of the fabric.  My instructor says that an unfinished weaving is like an unbaked cake.  You can finish by pressing or washing (or both); we finished mine by steaming it with an iron but not pressing it flat (in order to not crush the weave).

This is a picture of the front of the loom, with the breast beam.  The threads are tied on now, and are prepared for weaving the ‘header.’  This is a part of the weaving that will not be used in the final fabric, and will pull the warp threads into alignment.

The flat plastic grid that the threads are pulled through is called the heddle.  In this loom, which is a rigid heddle loom, the heddle is moved by hand up and down.  In a four-harness loom, the heddles are controlled by levers and springs (which will make more sense when I get some pictures up on that topic, later).

This view shows the header, which is woven in white, and the beginning of the weaving.  If you recall, I wove a color ‘gamp,’ which is a sampler piece that shows the properties of the weaving.  A color gamp is to show how the colors interact; a texture gamp shows the various types of stitches.  I decided to do this one in the colors of the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), as well as brown, black and white.  This would let me see how each of those colors interact with each other.

My instructor suggested I use shades of each of those tones, which is what I did.  It made an interesting effect in the weave.

Here is a top view of the warp with the threads coming through the heddle.  You can see that there is a hole in the center of the heddle, as well as gaps in between, and one thread comes through each.

These are the red tones as they’re woven on.  I like the plaid effect as they get woven.

This shows the cones of yarn waiting to be used.  My gamp is made with wool that’s spun especially for weaving.  The weight is a good deal lighter than knitting yarn (about a lace weight), and a lot stronger to withstand the repeated beatings it takes when in the warp.

Another view of the red tones, with the warp extending off to the upper left of the photograph.

Closeup of starting the orange segment.  This is what’s called a ‘plain weave,’ which is where every other thread of the warp is lifted and the weft is passed through.  Other patterns can be made by moving the warp differently, but those patterns are easier on a harness loom because the heddles can be controlled more precisely.

This is another view of the weaving, where the heddle is brought toward the weaver to ‘beat’ the threads into the warp.  It’s a meditative, repetitive action:  pass, beat, pass, beat.  Depending on how hard the weaver beats the fabric, it will change the density of the weaving (which we’ll see later on when I switched to a different fiber and  ended up with a weft-dominated band).

A close-up of the selvege.  The goal in weaving is to get a very neat edge, which I found is a lot harder than it sounds.  It’s composed of how you beat the fibers in, which can vary based on the mood of the weaver (and it’s interesting to see the differences from class session to session).

As you can see from the very bright orange band, above, the switch in fiber meant that when I beat it into the weaving, it REALLY packed down.  That stripe is VERY orange. 

Now we are moving into the yellows.  I like the rust tones in this section.

Interesting how the whole tone of the piece is changed in just a few stripes.  This section is much cooler and softer, because of the change in the color.  Again, you can see how much closer the current segment beats into the fabric, resulting in a more weft-dominated band.

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