I am weaving on a Schact table loom that’s been converted to a floor loom. It is an eight-harness loom, but I’m only using four of the harnesses. Unlike my previous project, which I wove on a four harness table loom, this loom uses floor pedals to control the raising and lowering of the heddles. If you remember, the heddles are what control which warp threads are up or down for each pass of the shuttle; this is what creates the weave structure (like, for example, a houndstooth pattern or herringbone).
For my Quesquemitl, which is a type of shawl and poncho, I am weaving a 2-2 twill: this means that 2 harnesses are up and 2 harnesses are down for each pass of the shuttle. Twills are characterized by movement, meaning that the patterns are created by something called a “twill circle.” This is in contrast to a balanced weave, like plain weave or basketweave. (If you made potholders as a child, that is plain weave: an equal amount of threads on the warp and the weft, and an equal weight to both.)
Here are some pictures that will illustrate what I’m talking about.
Here is a view of the fabric. The bottom two-thirds of the image is the actual fabric, and you can see the diagonal striping leading from the bottom right to the top left. This is the characteristic of the twill family of weave structures. Beyond the fabric, at the top of the image, are the warp threads waiting to be woven. The warp is a darker tonal family than the weft (the warp are the vertical threads, the weft are the horizontal ones); the combination of the two is surprisingly pleasing.
Here is a closeup of the same fabric, showing the apparent ‘movement’ of the fabric. This fabric is a 2-2 twill, which means two warp threads are up, and two are down, for each pass of the shuttle. For the weavers among you, I’m using a floating selvage for this project, which is a first for me; I like the edges very much. They’re a lot cleaner than my last project, where I didn’t use them.
Here is a view of the fabric unwound from the front beam; I included my hand in the shot so you can get perspective on the sizing. I’m holding this fairly taut; in the next image, you can see more of the drape.
It feels a little bit like denim, but much softer. It’s a rayon blend and I love it. As I weave, it creates a lot of fuzz; I hope that isn’t a property of the finished fabric after blocking.
As I mentioned earlier, the heddles are controlled on this loom by foot pedals. The cool thing is that the foot pedals are variable: you select which heddles correspond with which pedal. For my project, you can see there is an A, a B, and 1 through 4. A and B are set up for plain weave, and the 1 through 4 are set up as a 2-2 twill. That means that for each pedal, two heddles are controlled – this way, I just have to press 1 through 4 in succession and I have my pattern.
I’ll admit that was very difficult for me to grasp when I first sat down to weave on this loom; my instructor set up the heddles. The geometry of it just refused to penetrate my brain (I think it’s that old 2-D/3-D problem). But now that I’ve woven this project on it, and am nearing completion, it makes a lot more sense.
Here is a view of the back beam, for those of you curious to see where the warp goes. The left foreground shows the warp threads traveling over the back beam and down onto the roller. The gray paper is there to keep successive rolls of the threads from knotting across each other; each layer is protected by paper (or one could use clear plastic or even newsprint, whatever is handy).
This final image is the boat shuttle, so named because the bobbin of thread sits inside the shuttle on a peg. This allows the weaver to load multiple bobbins and not have to get up each time the end of the thread is reached. It’s taken a little bit to get used to how wide this loom is; my last project wasn’t this wide. But once I got the hang of it, it’s rather fun to whiz back and forth.