Of warp and weft

As someone who sews, I came to weaving already knowing some basics about the structure of cloth. I knew it had selvedges (the neat edges of the cloth) and that the warp runs the length of the cloth, while the weft runs the width of the cloth between the selvedges (by-the-way that’s selvage if your from the USA).

When we talk about warp and weft, we actually mean warp threads and weft threads. You see when you weave you’re doing this:

diagram showing weft running through warp

The warp threads are held in place by the loom while the weft thread travels over and under the warp threads, first in one direction and then in another.

Warp and weft are at the heart of loom weaving, so it’s good to know how they “work”… And that they work the same way whether you are weaving a tapestry, a rag rug, or a fine silk cloth.

Advertisements

What is cloth?

Well, it’s a bunch of threads that are interlaced (passed around each other) so they can’t escape! I might be oversimplifying here, but really that’s it, and in woven cloth the threads are at right angles to each other in a sort of grid (as I talked about in my post on weaving).

[For a more graceful – and thorough – description of cloth, see the Wikipedia entry for textile. I really like how they put it.]

Depending on the fibres used (think cotton), how densely fibres are packed together (think high thread-count sheets) and how they are interlaced (again think sheets), will give you cloth that’s:

  • smooth/textured
  • stiff/soft
  • warm/cool
  • thick/thin
  • see through/solid

Another way to put it is that, the way the fabric hangs (the drape) and how it feels to touch and handle (the hand) are the result of a particular fibre (or fibres) being woven in a particular way.

In these images you have an ordinary cotton sheet and a cotton scarf.

image of cotton sheet
You can just see the a white envelope under the sheet
image of cotton scarf
Here the corner of the envelope is clearly visible under the scarf

Both are made of fine cotton thread, but one is much denser than the other. Because the scarf is less densely woven it is softer and has a lovely soft drape compared to the sheet. Why? A more open weave allows the threads to move a little.

 

Both of these cottons have a plain weave structure (simple over, under repeating), and this is one the two most common weaving structures. The other structure is twill, which I’ll come back to another time, but it’s important to understand that each structure gives the cloth certain characteristics.

Because I always start big (and repent later)

Now, if you read the post on how I chose my loom then you might think I’m a bit nuts. As a friend put it:

You wanted to make scarfs – which you already do – and ended up taking up weaving. In the space of a week.

Yes. Okay, so I might be a bit nuts when it comes to crafts. For example, my second knitting project ever was a long-sleeved, calf length knitted coat. It was so big that I used it as a blanket during the latter stages of knitting it. (But Mr Kaffe Fassett does know how to catch a knitter’s eye – see image above from the book Gorgeous Knits.)

So I can’t deny that I like to jump in, boots’n’all and just try everything. Usually all at once.

Though coat example might lead you to wonder why went from a project like that to knitting scarfs.

Simple answer is, I can’t wear animal fibres near my skin. Acrylics are less of a problem but still a problem, and for a long time cotton was hard to get in any colour not meant for children too young to go “yuk” at it.

Bamboo improved things, but tends to split. Ditto silk + expensive.

So, for some time now, I have bought yummy wools and knitted them for other people. This is still fun, but knitting is slooooowwww and, as years passed, I lost the desire to spend so much time on each project. Thus the looking for a faster way to make scarfs. Which led to the loom.

The other thing you’ll realise if you read the blog (assuming fromthiscloth turns out how I hope) is that, I may have only taken a week to decide to start weaving, but that was a week of overdosing on YouTube videos and sites about looms and weaving.

[Part of deciding to blog was realising I needed to order all the info I’d learnt in such a short time. I learn best through explaining things to others = blogging it.]

In case I’m misleading anyone into thinking I have craft learning superpowers (I’m picturing a knitted cape, are you?) I should mention that, I didn’t come to weaving from a place of 100% ignorance. As a sew-er, I know cloth and, as a seed-bead-er, I know (tiny) looms.

That left a mountain of stuff to learn, but it was a start.

What is weaving?

All woven things, whether it’s hair in a plait…drawing of a french braid

drawing of a kitted fabric

 

…wool yarn in a jumper…

 

 

…or metal rings in a chainmaille shirt…

close up of a basic chainmaille weave

…have one thing in common; they are created by passing something through/under/around something else, in a way that holds both somethings in place.

It’s that last part that really matters, because if the materials don’t hold together in the weave then you have a disaster.

In cloth the materials are usually woven by passing each thread under and over other threads like this:

drawing of plain weaveAnd they hold together in the cloth because they are sandwiched between each other, though if you’ve ever cut silk or rayon fabrics you’ll know smooth threads will try to escape the moment you give them a chance!

 

The other thing all weaving has in common is that, the end product of any type of weaving is affected by the thickness of the materials woven, how tightly woven they are and the materials used.  This is as true of cloth that comes off your loom as it is of the wicker basket a basket weaver makes.

How I chose my loom

So, how did I end up weaving? And how did I choose a loom?

The short answer to both questions is that I saw a review of a “knitter’s loom” and thought I’m a knitter, this must be something I can use.

At the time I was looking for a faster way to knit scarfs and the review suggested this knitter’s loom could do that. It also folded for easy and compact storage in a bag, so it wasn’t going to eat up space in my craft room. I was pretty much sold on it right then!

It wasn’t until I went looking for a price that I realised there were a bunch of other loom types to consider (the knitter’s loom is an Ashford product and they make a few other types too). I paused. I researched. I came back to the Ashford knitter’s loom.

I chose it for the reasons I’d liked it orginally – fast to set up, easy to store away, simple to use and a good size for scarfs – but along the way I learnt about frame looms, table looms, floor looms and many other variations.

So, I was lured in by Ashford’s clever bit of marketing (the knitter’s loom isn’t specially for knitters – it’s just a rigid heddle loom), but it seems like the right choice for me.

A knitters loom by Ashford

The adventure begins

I’ve created a lot of woven materials so far in my life, but it’s only recently (June 2015) that I came to what people usually think of when you say you’re weaving.

From This Cloth will be about my new weaving adventure and what I learn along the way, though it’s likely other “weavings” will sneek in from time to time!

As I start this blog, I am in just my second week of actual weaving…