Weaving 101: Handweaving Fun on a Table Loom
Before any of our products can be manufactured and sold, they have to be designed and sampled. This process is incredibly labor intensive, but it's also exciting and rewarding. Our mill currently has looms set up for 3 different types of weaves: matelassé weaves, terry weaves, and general blanket weaves (also called dobby weaves). How we go about the design process ultimately depends on which weave we're working with, and what our end product is going to be.
For both terry and matelassé styles, a design is first created on the computer and then test woven on one of our large jacquard looms. Terry and matelassé are "compound weaves," meaning that they have a complex structure. Because of their complexity, we jump straight from conceptualizing on the computer to sampling on the production loom. To read a little more about these weaves, check out our FAQ section here.
In contrast, our blanket styles are made of simple weaves that can easily be replicated on a small hand loom. This is where the fun really starts! When creating a new blanket, we weave small sample pieces by hand on table looms before sending final patterns to our production looms downstairs. This way we can work out any problems on a small scale, and make decisions about texture and color without wasting extra time and materials.
Any handweaver will tell you that preparing a loom for weaving takes a lot of planning. Although each person has their own methods and tricks, the main process remains the same. Here we have a basic overview of the process, illustrated with a fun rainbow warp!
1| Making the Warp
First, all the warp threads for the project are measured and counted out on a warping board.
2| Winding the Warp
Once the warp has been created, it needs to be wound onto the back beam of the loom. This can be a little tricky-- the key thing to pay attention to is an even tension across all threads. Weavers have developed a lot of different techniques to make this process easier, especially when working by yourself.
3| Drawing in the Warp
After the warp is securely wound onto the back beam, each thread is brought through a metal or string eyelet called a heddle. The heddles sit within metal frames called harnesses, which rise (or lower) during weaving. These elements work in combination to determine the pattern in the finished cloth.
4| Sleying the Reed
The reed is a long metal strip with small, vertical slats that is attached to the loom's beater. If you've ever seen people weaving, the beater is what is used to pound weft threads into the woven cloth. After each warp thread is brought through a heddle, it is drawn through a corresponding slat in the reed.
5| Tying into Front Apron Rod
To be able to weave smoothly, the warp must be held under a tight and even tension. Collections of threads passed through the reed are tied onto the front of the loom to create this tension.
Finally, the part we've all been waiting for! It takes a long time and a lot of patience to set up a loom, but the results are well worth it. The possibilities are endless!
We hope you enjoyed this brief overview! If we haven't scared you off and you're interested in learning to weave, there are some ways that you can get started without a lot of fancy equipment (or frustration). Frame looms are easy to build yourself and are excellent to learn on. We love this tutorial by The Weaving Loom, "Create Your Own Frame Loom: No Tools Necessary!!"