December 9, 2009

Weaving is Weary

Six weeks ago, I started a loom weaving class. I had been wanting to learn how to use a loom for almost 4 or 5 years, and I found a cute little place near White Rock Lake that offered classes at a reasonable price. I signed up for a five week session which focused on creating a sampler of 12 different weaving patterns that when finished, could be worn as a scarf. Awesome!

So basically the way a loom operates, you have foot pedals that have different strings attached to them. When you step on a pedal, certain threads are lifted so you can pass your weft strings through easily with a device called a shuttle. Then you pull a metal comb (called a rake) towards you to tighten & push the threads into your woven piece. Step on a different pedal, different warp threads are lifted.

What I didn't anticipate was how long it would take to set up the darn thing. First we had to do some maths to figure out how long our warp threads needed to be. These are the threads that are threaded through the loom lengthwise. Then we figured out our weft thread length; the weft is what is woven through the warp threads. Next step was to measure out the warp threads, we needed 72 threads that were 72" long. Luckily they have a nifty doo-dad peg system to (somewhat) quickly do this.

After measuring and cutting the warp threads, we had to weave each string through the loom one at a time. But there are about a million little steps in doing just this part. Here's a summary: First you have to tie the threads to the loom, then you thread each one through this metal comb called a rake. Then you thread them through these metal strings that have a "needle eye" in the middle; the threads go through these eyes. Then you pick up groups of four strings and tie them to the back side of the loom. All the while you have to make sure that you keep your threads in order and do not let them drop or get tangled.

Oh and we are not ready to weave yet, nope. Next step is attaching the foot pedals. This part was frustrating for me because the strings that hold up the pedals were made of a metal chain. So I had to guess which link on the chain was the one that would bring my pedals to the same height. Also, you have to pull the chain up through a hole in the pedal, and of course you can't get a chain to stand up straight on its own, so I had to use a makeshift hook that a previous student had jimmied up. Thankfully, once I got the pedals right I was ready to weave! Yes! Only took me 8 hours worth of classes! And this is typical. Set up is very tedious. But once I was set up, weaving went pretty quickly.

I was determined to finish my project within the 5-week class frame, so I rushed it a little quicker than I would have liked. Apparently I did well anyways though because when I finished, the teacher rang a bell and the advanced students were saying I did well on my edging. Apparently that is a mark of a good weaver.

So now I have a scarf! I still need to soak it in a tub of fabric softener to relax the threads, but I haven't done it yet because I am still recovering from the set-up. I enjoyed learning how to weave, but truthfully, I do not think I will do it ever again unless I can find a loom servant to do all the set-up for me.

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