Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Spot the deliberate mistake (OK - mistakes)

(and no, it's not just that I forgot to turn the flash off)

So: the looms. I have two - they are both small vintage child's looms, both cost under a fiver (inc. P&P) from ebay as well. I've only tried one, but it works really well, a lot better than I was expecting! The one in the picture is a Spear's loom, size 2. I've also seen Spear's looms in sizes 3 and 4, but they tend to be more expensive and a lot rarer; the bonus is that they're wider though. The size 2 is about 5 inches wide, and can apparently make lengths of up to 5 feet.

The other loom has a different type of heddle (the thing you thread the warp threads through to raise them up and down). It looks like it won't work as well as the Spear's one, but it should be better for using with my handspun, since it's a pain just to get double-knitting wool through the holes in the Spear's heddle, and my handspun is not yet consistently that thin.

I could barely wait to warp up the Spear's when I got it on Monday. I used some random acrylic in my stash, planning to make a pair of slippers, using up all the black yarn in the pictue above. Yep, that was mistake one: I used up all the yarn on the first slipper; it only occurred to me half-way through the actual weaving that to make a pair of slippers I'd have to make two - doh!

Mistake two was starting to weave at the wrong end, so I couldn't roll the fabric up - doh again! I actually ended up un-weaving all that I had done, and redoing it from the right end. It really doesn't take that long; well, compared to knitting a comparable piece.

And the fabric. Well, it's purty! As you can see it shows the warp and the weft, so I'll be able to do tartan designs. It's very sturdy as well, and smooth. I'm just so used to feeling knitted fabric that this is a nice surprise, but as it's rather stiff I'm not sure what sort of garments could be made from it.

Yesterday I warped up the loom for a skinny scarf, and today (so after weaving for about 2.5 hours in total) I thought I'd finished it... Only to find (mistake #3) that as you have to double over the warp threads I'd left this out of my calculations and made the blasted thing half too short. I've come to the decision to just make the second half separately and whip-stitch them together; I did intend to splice on new warp threads, but the idea of doing that 30 times with acrylic non-sticking-to-itself yarn really really bores me.

It's all a learning process I guess!

As for me and weaving: well, it has never appealed to me before. Quite frankly, I just couldn't see the point. However, after talking to the re-enactor woman in Wales the other week I realised that weaving could well be a use for my handspun, given that I can't knit with it at the moment (the jury's out as to whether weaving causes pain BTW - I've been feeling tennis elbow in both arms today, but it may be the excess typing). Then after seeing the Roman/Dark Age re-enactor's warp-weighted loom I went home and read about looms, before deciding to just give it a go with a cheap little loom (although I already have two bead looms they weren't suitable - other than for scrap weaving - as I don't have a heddle, and really, you need a heddle).

As it is, it's enjoyable, and the fabric is created very quickly. However, I just don't know how many uses I'd have for woven fabric. We don't need any mats, cushions or wall-hangings, and there's only so many scarves you can have. I have a couple of designs for skirts in mind, but the width of the loom is rather constrictive. I'm planning to try some blackwork embroidery on the woven fabric too, which could be fun.

However, since I've spent the past week emersed in book 10 of the Odyssey, writing about Circe, I feel an ancient connection with all the women of the past who had to weave everything. Yes, Pallas Athena is the Matron of Female Crafts (in the myth of Ariadne she turns Ariadne into a nameless creature because I'm terrified of them but they make webs because Ariadne claimed her weaving was better than Athene's, or some such hubris), but most of the Goddesses weave. Athene is my Matron Goddess though, so she is especially special to me. Weaving is a common theme in ancient literature, and crops up multiple times in the Odyssey - especially with Penelope fending off the suitors by unpicking her weaving (she said she'd only marry one of her suitors once she finished a funeral shroud for her missing-husband's father) every night. I'm trying to work weaving's magical properties into my thesis, but might have to save it for a further paper.

'They could hear Circe within, singing in her beautiful voice as to went to and fro at her great and everlasting loom, on which she was weaving one of those delicate, graceful and dazzling fabrics that goddesses make.'

The Odyssey, 10.221-223
Penguin edition trans. Rieu



Blogger CL said...

LOL I'm doing the same thing - learning by making mistakes as I go. I hope to be able to use some of my handspun for weaving as well, but I'm not sure mine is strong enough to use as warp (I'm not that good at spinning yet).

As to one of your previous posts - if your weft & warp are equal, you will get more of a 'balanced weave' - you will see both sets of threads. If your warp yarn is bigger than the weft, you will see the warp, and vice versa.

Good luck to you!

6:32 pm  
Blogger The Sanguine Gryphon said...

You're inspiring me with thoughts of writing a little article of my own on needle-work in ancient mythology/literature. One of these days, when I find a little time. Speaking of the ancients and metaphor (which, ultimately, needle work becomes if it is to be at all interesting beyond filling a basic need to clothe), have you read Julian Jaynes' The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind? If not, be careful about picking him up while working on your thesis - I know he turned my whole view of the ancient world (and the human brain) upside-down.

PS What's your email? I don't know how best to respond to your comments on my blog, aside from commenting there after you.

9:20 pm  
Blogger TheKnittingBee said...

Woo - blogger is /finally/ allowing me to post comments! I've been trying now for two days!

CL: thanks for the hints re warp and weft :) I think there may also be a difference in the spacing of the warps? Since the weaving I did where the weft is all squashed up was done with warps spaced at least a centimetre apart. I used the same wool for both warp and weft in the pictures for this post, but on this loom the warps are much closer together.

Gryphon - I'll email you :) I did meet a girl at a conference earlier this year who was writing her thesis on weaving and spinning in ancient literature... I really should email her (she's been on my 'to do' list since about April!).

11:15 pm  

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