Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fifth part of the Viking Weaving Saga

Sample weaving.
The sample weaving took place a the early end of the whole thought and weaving process - I was still spinning right from the greasy lock, thel and tog together. The yarn was nice and thin, the way I wanted it to be, not like sewing thread, but I was planning on weaving it at 10-12 ends per inch (5-6 ends pr cm), so it wasn’t exactly heavy weight either.

I have a small Dorothy LeClerc table-loom, four shafts which I threaded up with a 6 inch wide warp, 1 meter long, in order to weave and investigate the texture of the finished cloth. Questions like: How does the cloth feel once it is off the loom and can relax a bit? How much shrinkage would occur once the cloth was off the loom?  and how much shrinkage would happen when initially fulled (washed)? How much extra fulling would be necessary or wanted?? The list went on and on, there are so many delightful points to remember and be aware of when weaving.

Experience #1: Since I had chosen to not wash the skeins of yarn I had spun from the thel and tog before I dressed the loom, I learned a good deal about......... sticky yarn - for although the density in the reed wasn’t really that intense (12 epi/ends per inch) the yarn still had lots of little greasy ‘arms’ sticking out, striving to hold on to each other. This meant that changing the shed for each weaving pick was a bit of a pain.

Experience #2: Having read about an exquisite piece of fabric dating back to the Vikings I was all eager to try to incorporate this weaving technique into this particular piece of cloth. This meant that I had spun some of the yarn with an Z twist and some of the yarn with an S twist. The warp had been made with 6 strands of Z twist and 6 strands of S twist alternating over the 6 inches. In theory when weaving it I would have 6 picks of Z twist yarn and 6 picks of S twist yarn alternating also in the weft. Supposedly the fabric will turn out with a subtle beautiful checkered surface created by the opposing twists.
Experience #3: To start out I did plain weave for several inches to get a feel for what the warp felt like, and it was sticky! Next I kept persevering and did several inches with 6 picks of Z twist alternating with 6 picks of S twist yarns.

I was having a hard time seeing very clear results, the checkers were not exactly super visible and I was feeling discouraged. Also the fabric was very open and looked very much like a web. Much more practice and possibly a much finer yarn and denser set in the warp is necessary to see this technique clearly.

Experience #4: The last thing I decided to experiment with was doing a simple twill.
In a plain weave the thread goes over under one thread all along the shed and on the way back it goes over under the opposite threads.
In a twill the thread goes over/under two threads and so the weft can pack more densely. This also means that the fabric will be heavier and the gauze effect of the plain weave will disappear.
So I finished up the sample piece with some inches of twill  and took the whole sample off the loom, secured the ends with my sewing machine and plopped the piece in the bathroom sink.
And there it sat for a little while until I rinsed it out and dried it up and closely studied the fabric to see which part I liked better and felt more comfortable with.
I ended up choosing the twill which made the fabric denser and smoother looking inspite of the slight unevennesses in the hand-spun yarns.

Take note of the nice float, the lanolin in the yarn keeps it floating nicely until it has been dissolved by the soap used and the heat in the washing water.

Next time: Dressing the floor loom


  1. this is all so interesting. Thanks for posting such a thorough description of your process. Evelyn

  2. Evelyn, thanks for taking the time to read the post. It always amazes me how many layers you find in the process of planning and figuring out a piece of weaving, be it something you thought you knew about or something new and challenging. I am completely hooked, oh, no Warped, would probably be a better word.