Adventure in Drawloom Weaving Vol. 2 (Troubleshooting)

I am currently in the process of weaving a silk apprentice belt. The choice of weaving damask fabric was made because I have studied several extant damask pieces. Although most of the Sasanian textiles I have studied are samite. I have found one extant damask cloth woven in Syria just past the Sasanian Era. The drawings of Sasanian nobility wearing belts is more consistent with damask cloth than Samite cloth. More on this later.

The focus of this post is the process I went through in adjusting the shed for this project. I finished my last damask project in March of 2016 and then began a study of samite weaving. In April of 2017, I became Crown Princess of Drachenwald, thus starting a 9 month period of having far less time to weave than usual. I had just gotten the silk on my drawloom for my apprentice belt project but had not yet finished adjusting the shed. In my previous post, I list the steps required to weave on a drawloom. 

Last weekend, I finally had time to work on the crucial step of adjusting the shed, I have written previously on why a well-adjusted shed is so important. Weaving on a drawloom requires a perfect shed, if you do not properly adjust your shed, you can end up with 2 or 3 different sheds when you step on a single treadle. When I finally got back to this project, that is exactly what I found, step on treadle 1, 3 sheds, where does the shuttle go? The answer is nowhere, no matter which opening I chose, the pattern would not appear, this is because different threads are in the wrong place. So what to do?

First I worked on getting the lifting sheds to match the height of the raised pattern sheds. That got me down to 2 sheds. Then I worked on adjusting the sinking threads to be pulled down to the level of the resting sheds. This got me one shed....sometimes. Sometimes?! Why only sometimes?! Well, that is where I needed help. So I enlisted my husband's help because I can only see the loom from so many angles while stepping on a treadle.

Together we saw several things, the shed was slanted, that's weird, that wasn't happening last time, why is that happening?! We, of course, started with adjusting the height of the ground shafts, we got them level, I stepped on the first treadle and the ground shafts went back to being uneven! Hmm, at this point I got out Becky Ashenden's video (if you're following my posts on this topic, you will remember I mentioned this video in my last post, yes it is really that good!) and Oli and I watched it together.

This reminded me that you need to start adjusting your drawloom shed from the back. This means the first thing you do is check the position of the threads in the heddles.

1) Are the threads pulled down by the pattern shafts? Most of mine were, but somewhere not, so I adjusted the height of the pattern shafts to correct this issue.

2) Are the pattern shafts level? Yes, they were.

3) Are the threads resting in the bottom of the long eye heddles (which are placed on the ground shafts)? For the most part, they were, but we did readjust the shafts a bit at this point.

4) Are the ground shafts level? This was yet again adjusted at this point but did not stay level. At this point I realized that I had originally started adjusting my shed (over a year ago) I had apparently decided that I needed more weight on the pattern shafts and got exactly halfway through adding an additional lingo to the pattern shafts, this was pulling that half of the threads down more than the other. I took the additional weights of and reevaluated the path of the threads from back beam to front beam, the path looked fine, so this should be fine.

5) When the pattern shafts are lifted, do they all raise to the same height? This was not happening, so we adjusted some of the pattern shafts that were a bit low.

6) When each treadle is pressed do the lifting shafts threads to the same height as raised pattern shafts? This is a bit difficult to explain. When weaving damask on a drawloom you create a pattern by lifting pattern shafts, this creates a satin on the surface of the cloth, the shafts that are left down will create a sateen background. As treadles are pressed on thread in each raised pattern block is lowered to create the interlacement and one thread in each background block is raised to create the interlacement in these areas. Therefore you need to lift some pattern shafts and check each treadle. To achieve a good shed the treadles should lower a thread from each pattern block to be in line with the background threads that are left down, it should also raise one thread from each background area to the same level as the lifted pattern threads, thus creating a good shed. As we started the sheds looked good at this point. However, after a few treadles, everything went array again!

This is the point where we referred to the video yet again and no answer seemed to be in sight. I decided to leave the video on in the background to see if it sparked any new thoughts. Finally, we got the section where Becky talks about the different tie-up methods and loom arrangements. I had decided when I first set up the drawloom to use weights (see left, though the photo should be rotated the weights are hanging off the loom) to return each shed to the neutral position. This is not the most common method in the modern day. As I can not have an actual drawboy (a boy who sits on the loom and raises the correct pattern sheds for me), I have to make certain compromises from the Medieval methods. Modernly, most weavers use elastics to return their sheds to neutral, this is not at all medieval, so I chose to use counterweights instead as metals bars were wholly possible to have made in the Middle Ages. As this is not the most common method, even Becky's video does not spend much time on this setup. Becky does not specifically say which side of the loom her weights are tied on, finally, Oli noticed that her weights were tied on the other side. So back to the loom we went. Although the video says you should be able to tie weights to either side of the loom, this does not work. We took the weight off the loom and pulled equally on both cords, the shed did not return to neutral! We had identified the problem! So together Oli and I took the weight off the left side of the loom and reattached them on the right-hand side, voila! The shed returns to neutral!!! My problems were 99.9% solved! 

I have now started weaving my test pattern (more on this in my next post). Now that each shed returns to neutral, some of the previous adjustments need readjusting, but this should be last adjustments.

Also in the next instalment, what pattern am I testing and why?