The Basic Steps In My Weaving Process
Some weavings can be simple and fast,
mine are not. To begin to visualize a time-
line of my work one must look at the steps
of the process.
Weaving involves two groups of threads.
The first, called the warp, are attached to
the loom, held under tension by it, and
then raised and lowered during weaving. The other threads are called the weft.
Each one of these threads is woven into the fabric, line by line.
In my process, I may have several thousand threads in the warp. The measuring or
warping of those threads can take 1-2 intense weeks to make. If the threads are to
be dyed, then this happens next and can take 1-4 months depending on the size of
the piece and how detailed the imagery is. After the dye is painted onto the
threads, the materials are steam set, rinsed, and prepared to go on to the loom,
taking about a week to do.
To dress the loom is to attach the threads to it. Each individual thread must be put
into its own heddle: a small strip of metal with a space in the middle, like the eye of
a large needle, into which one thread goes. This can take from less than a week to
just over two weeks. I tie all the threads to a long round beam on the back side of
the loom and wind them around it. Depending on the length of the warp and how
smoothly the threads wind on, this can take 1 to 8 weeks. Next, all the threads are
pulled individually through the spaces of a large comb like object called a reed.
Then I tie the threads on to a beam in the front of the loom. These last two steps can
take 1 to 4 days depending on the width of the piece and the complexity of the
spacing of the threads.
The weft must be prepared before I can weave it in. If the piece is dyed then the
weft goes through some of the same steps as the warp. Groups of it are wound off
and dyed. The dye must be set and then the threads are unwound and made
ready to be woven. This can add from 1 to 5 weeks onto the process.
The time it takes to weave varies greatly depending on the width of the piece,
complexity of the weaving, and the size of the materials being woven in. If I am
mainly weaving sewing thread sized materials into an 8 foot wide piece of fabric,
I may only weave 1/2 - 4 inches per hour. A one foot wide piece, woven with one
continuous weft, could be woven at a rate as fast as one half yard per hour.
When the piece is completed, the ends of the fabric need to be secured keep them
from unraveling. I usually sew a hem on the cut edges. Also, some time must be
spent in creating the structure that the piece will be hanging from.
The process is very long and involved. It can be intimidating at times, but usually it is
extremely rewarding. At its best, it feels magical to watch the process produce this
unique fabric that cannot be made any other way.
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