This diamond twill fabric will be made into garb for our family. I started by warping the loom with a solid blue warp, threaded as a broken point twill. I then wove a sample using every colour wool I own in the same size, so everyone in the family could choose their preferred weft.
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden view-mode-fulltext"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even" property="content:encoded"> <p>Weaving has a lot of jargon, so for readers who are unfamiliar with these terms I'll define shed, so you don't think I'm talking about a building to store things in. :) The Shed is created by raising some shafts/threads and not raising (or in some cases lowering) others. I weave primarily on countermarche looms, so for the rest of this entry I will refer to raising and lowering shafts. The shed occurs when some threads are up and some lowered, this is the place you put the weft yarn and is the crux of weaving, without a shed you can not truly weave, the debate over the accuracy of this statement is left to those who wish to engage in said debate.</p>
<p>The perfect shed is a wonderful thing, but can require a lengthy journey to achieve. The perfect shed (right) is one where all the lifted warps align with each other and<img alt="" class="Image img__fid__24 img__view_mode__media_preview attr__format__media_preview" src="http://thepurplelotus.org/sites/default/files/styles/square_thumbnail/public/20150118_152916_0.jpg?itok=CUOQtERk" typeof="Image" /> all the lowered warps are even with each other and plenty of room is created for the shuttle. As stated earlier, you can weave with sheds in which one set of threads is higher or lower than others, but this is not ideal.</p>
<p>You can make due with less than perfect shed, but the perfect shed takes enjoyable weaving to the point of sheer euphoria! There are many reasons weavers should take the time to achieve the perfect shed. The number one reason is not the extra pleasure you get from weaving with the perfect shed. The perfect shed, , makes weaving more efficient and consistent. When all the threads align and there is plenty of room, the chances of mis placing the weft are very small. The perfect shed takes away any doubt as to whether the weft thread is going over and under the right threads. When I am confident in my weaving I weave with much less tension in myself and my warp, this leads to much more ideal results.</p>
<p><img alt="" class="Image img__fid__25 img__view_mode__media_preview attr__format__media_preview" src="http://thepurplelotus.org/sites/default/files/styles/square_thumbnail/public/20150118_152847.jpg?itok=80OGBaJx" typeof="Image" />This is why I encourage all weavers to take the time when you first buy a loom, or set up a loom for a new structure, to look at the shed and make the necessary adjustments to achieve perfect sheds. Yes it takes some time to go through each sequence in the treadling and figure out why are the threads in shaft 1 higher than those in shed 2, should I raise shed 2 to the level of 1 or lower shed 1 to the level of 2. I can tell you that taking the time to evaluate each treadle (or treadling sequence on a table loom) is well worth it. You will enjoy your time weaving more, your end product will be far less likely to contain errors, and it's just good practice.</p>
<p>Yes it is more problematic to have uneven threads in the base of your shed, but I do find having the threads in the top and bottom of the shed makes a difference in my enjoyment and accuracy in weaving. Ultimately the choice is up to the individual, but I would ask all weavers to check their sheds, if you have one that is uneven just once take the time to adjust it and see if it makes a difference to you. If it does great! If not, that's fine too.</p>
<p>This blog entry is by no means a comprehensive research paper on the use of cotton in any time period. It is a compilation of my recent thoughts on the use of cotton in period and a possible explanation for the common misconception that cotton fabric was not in use in the Middle Ages. I was also recently met with surpise when I discussed cotton as a yarn which was available to some weavers in the Middle Ages. Cotton was not commonly available to European weavers, but even Europeans had access to <a href="http://www.thepurplelotus.org/search/node/cotton%20type%3Aextant_textile">cotton fabric.</a> It was a luxury cloth in Europe, but it was available to nobles who could afford it. For those who have the time to read this lengthy post I will explain why! :)</p><p>I have been savoring the January/February issue of Handwoven magazine. Handwoven was a favorite of mine when I first started weaving, there were projects which I could weave following succint directions and achieve lovely results. This was great when I was a beginner, in the intervening years since I stopped relying on other's drafts, yarn choices (admittedly I often used the draft, but did my own calcultions to use yarns of my own choice), etc., Handwoven had lost much of it's appeal. I have conintued to subscribe more to support the magazine for new budding weavers than my own use. The Jan./February issue is a bit different, it focuses on cotton as a yarn and fibre. There are many articles about cottongyarn it's use and tips for finishing and an article about organic cotton yarn as well! </p><p>In reading the article on Cotton and it's place in the Industrial Revolution it occured to me, we, especially Americans, associate cotton with the Industrial Revolution. Yes it was during this time that cotton became main stream. Cotton was not commonly in use in many areas, because the process of taking the cotton plant, seperating out the wool from the seeds and I think, because we have always been taught to associate cotton with the Industrial Revoltion, people assume it was not viable as a yarn or fabric prior to this time. I admit I was amoung those who assumed after I had read about cotton fabric from the Sassanian finds (6th C. Persia), that it was only Egyptian Cotton that was period. Yes, I was one of those people who had several long discussions with Sir Clancy about cotton "not being period", well our conversations always revolved around normal cottong being the wrong cottong, but at the end of the day I was still wrong.</p><p>Please note, I never told him he should not wear it, I think people should be allowed to make thier own choices about how authentic their garb should be and should not be pressured into meeting other people's standards. We are all individuals and should be allowed to meet the level of authenticity we choose, or which meets our abilities at a given time. Eventually these conversations lead Sir Clancy to do in depth research into cotton cloth during the Middle Ages and it was Clancy who informed me Egyptian Cotton does not actually refer to cotton grown in Egypt, but rather a way of processing yarn that was started in Egypt in the early 19th C, I believe.<br />There are many methods of processing cotton mercerized cotton is very common these days. Mercerization refers to quickly drawing cotton thread through a flame, which gives it more the shine of silk. This is mainly what I have in my stash, but I look forward to aquiring some organic cotton making more samples with organic cotton so I can see the difference this process makes. Another common cotton thread is pearl cotton, I am not sure what is done to pearl cotton in the preperation process. Yes the common processes used to make cotton yarn today were not in use in the Middle Ages, but this does not mean spinners and weavers who lived in areas where cotton natively grows did not have access to it or use it. It means they used a different process from what industry uses today. Yes the tasks to prepare cotton manually are labour intensive, difficult, and require great skill, the same can be said for manually preparing and spinning wool or flax. Not having taken flax from plan to spun thread, I can not say how this compares. However since cotton wool has to be seperated from the seeds, stems and seed husks, it is likely that this is but part of the explanation as to why cotton was less common amoung European textiles. I also think we should keep in mind the practices or early archeologists, for whom cotton had become common place. Perhaps we do not find cotton textiles as often as silk, linin, or wool textiles, because early arhceologists did not find them fascinating and therefore did not take the same care with cotton textiles as they did with these more interesting fabrics.</p><p>We know spinners and weavers work with thread and fibre that are found locally, therefore in climates where cotton grows quite readily (I just read cotton is as easy to grow as tomotatoes, btw) spinners and weavers would have made and used cotton thread. Therefore cotton fabric would have been traded by these people to those who could not grow cotton. I am happy to provide a few references for those who would like to know more about cotton fabric in the Middle Ages. Again this was not the topic of this post, but merely my musings as to how this myth has permeated our society(ies).</p>
<p><img alt="" class="image-style-large media-image attr__typeof__foaf:Image img__fid__122 img__view_mode__media_large attr__format__media_large" src="http://thepurplelotus.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/Garders_0.jpg?itok=BHaPc1rL" style="line-height: 1.5; width: 192px; height: 480px; float: left;" typeof="foaf:Image" />A friend asked me recently if I ever weave with silk, my initial answer was no. Then I remembered a number of years ago I had woven a set of silk garters (lefg) for a friend and a silk belt on my rigid heddle loom, but it was not fine silk. I have seen a number of lovely silk weavings posted on Weavolution, which inspired me to order some more silk and in a smaller size. Around the same time, I noticed my notes on<a href="http://thepurplelotus.org/blog/jahanara/cotton"> cotton cloth in the Middle Ages</a> and began looking into organic cotton. I ended up ordering 12/2 natural silk, 8/2 unmercerized cottong and 10/2 organic cotton (which is so soft and wonderful to handle by the way).</p><p>When the orders arrived, I got very excited about weaving with all of these yarns. I started planning a <a href="http://weavolution.com/project/erica-j/mwssg-ch-2-sample-2">silk twill block project</a>, inspired by a Roman textile I ran across recently, and was going to use 3 colors, 2 in the warp and 1 weft. I ran out of the cone of silk at just under 2" of warp, so I had to use 4 colors in the warp. This change in plan made me wonder just exactly how much the prices compare for these yarns. Most weavers who do historical re-enactmet would site cost as the main reason they substitute cotton for silk. So I decided to put together a little comparison and put this to the test. I had ordered mini cones of the silk, so I could sample with a variety of colors and see how the colors interacting in a variety of structures. I had ordered 2 different amount of the 8/2 and 10/2 cottons. As there are 3 different weight to factor in, I calculated the cost per one yard of thread (total cost divided by estimated length on each cone). Here are those results:</p><p>12/2 silk $.05 per yard</p><p>8/2 unmercerized cotton $.005 per yard (yes the number of 0's behind the decimal point is correct)\</p><p>10/2 organic cotton $.01 per yard</p><p>Obviously the unmercerized cotton is the cheapest per yard, but I'm not sure how it compares to the historical cotton. Even unmercerized cotton is hard spun and often ring spun, processes that were not available in the Middle Ages. At first glance I though well 1 cent versus 5 cents isn't that much of a difference, we're talking pennies right, but is that a fair comparison. So I'll just start buying silk from here on out, then I thought about that mini cone that didn't even have 2 inches of warp on it. So I ran some more cost comparisons.</p><p>Yes comparing the cost of one yard is heading in the direction of comparing apples to apples, but does it go far enough? I decided it does not, because yarns of different weights use different setts in the final cloth and when you're talking about weaving 30" wide cloth this could be a big difference. So next I looked at the theoretical sett for each yarn and how many yards of yarn you would need to produce a 1" wide, 1 yard long piece of cloth. The cost for this scenario is:</p><p>12/2 silk $ .69</p><p>8/2 unmercerized cotton $ .10</p><p>10/2 organic cotton $ .34</p><p>So you might be thinking, yeah the silk is twice as much as the cotton, but 69 cents isn't much right, why aren't more weavers using silk? Well you need 30" wide cloth for a less than average sized person and even if you are being really careful about the cut you need at least 6 yards of cloth for a woman's dress. I used a balanced plain weave sett for these calculations. So if you are weaving a decorative piece that is small your cost for the materials isn't going to be much, so go all out and use silk! However weaving silk cloth for a dress you are likely going to weave twill, damask or satin, which for clothing requires more than twice the sett of plain weave. So the cost of materials alone for a silk dress using geometric construction (i.e. a method of construction that has very little waste) would cost you $290, about $40 a yard. For all those who have $40 yard to spend on materials and the hundreds of hours to weave a silk garment, go for it! But for those of us with less time and money on our hands, use silk for smaller projects and know that you are correct if you say that you substituted cotton thread for silk due to cost conerns.</p><p>I think this also reiterates what "kingly gift" silk fabrics were in the Middle Ages. If materials alone are $40/yard when we can ship via airplanes and mass produce thread, how much did this cloth cost without those advancements. If you have run across information on this topic, please do share it here!</p>
<p>I have log admired those fibre artists who only buy white or natural coloured yarns and dey all the colours they use. I have long said I would never be one of those people...well that might just change. We had to cancel the second half of our spring break plans, after our son was accidentally exposed to a child who had chicken pox. So rather than being out and about this spring break we have been homebound. I have been promising the students from my Raglan dye class 2 other colours and the webmaster of the Cambridge Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers Guild photos of dyeing for the website. I started by re-reading the relevent parts of The Dyer's Garden, Natural Dye Instruction booklet and Natural Color, over my morning coffee.</p><p>Dying is reletively simple, see <a href="http://thepurplelotus.org/basic-page/natural-dyeing-instructions">basic instructions here</a>. </p><p>I started with logwood, dyeing handspun wool from Rogned, and commercial yarn I promised to dye my students.</p><p>The logwood chips were measured at 50% of the weight of the wool when dry. I soaked the wool while the logwood was simmering for an hour. I let the dye bath cool, then added the soaked wool and brought to a simmer again. The wool was then carefully rinsed out and hung to dry.</p><p>I started a second dye bath for the remaining commercial cotton. I could tell the initial results were extremely dark, when dyeing yourself remember the dyed materials always look darker when still wet. I used the same logwood chips to create a second dyebath using the same method as the first, but this dye bath would be lighter for two reasons this was the second use of the same logwood chips and I would be dyeing a much larger weight of yarn in the second batch. Half of the remaining commercial yarn went in this dyebath and again simmered for an hour, was rinsed and hung to dry.</p><p>I made a third dye bath and also am soaking the logwood chips in some more water in a container to make a fourth dye bath. The second dye bath was exhausted after dyeing the rest of the commercial yarn, but I look forward to testing the third and fourth baths at a later date.</p><p>Madder</p><p>I had so much fun with the logwood, I decided the next day to use some of my madder. Note, both natural dyes used in these two days came from <a href="http://www.mulberrydyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12&Itemid=25">The Mulberry Dyer</a>, whom I highly recommend (page down to see their natrual dyestuffs. Madder is a bit more fiddley than logwood, so I read up on madder dyeing, again over my morning coffee. At this point my son started referring to The Dyer's Garden as "your tiny book". He's a cutie pie and the main advantage of dyeing during these days, is I could spend most of my time with him and occassionally check on the dyeing process.</p><p>The madder dye bath took two stages, as suggested by The Dyer's Garden, I measured out the same weight of madder as I had dry yarn, began soaking the mordanted yarn, and began heating the madder and water over the stove. I did just use our tap water for all this dyeing as we did not have still water around the house in this quantity. It is recommended that you not boil madder, but rather simmer it at 180 degrees. I do not have a dedicated thermometer for dyeing so I had to go with what the stove did, the results weren't great, but they weren't disasterous either. The first set of water was strained, the madder root was added back to the original pot, and was simmered/boiled again for an hour. I added this lot to the first and had enough of a dye bath for the two skeins I was dyeing, this time some hanspun from Julian and more of the commercial yarn from the dey class.</p><p>Again the dyebath was allowed to cool before putting the wool it, it was brough to a simmer and left for another hour. Our gas stove in the dye kitchen is not great, so it was sometimes a simmer, sometimes a boil and it went out once all together. The book also suggested leaving the yarn in the dyebath at least over night. This first lot was then rinsed and left to dry. The dye bath was kept and I expect I will put the wool back in to try for a deeper shade.</p><p>The remining madder was used for the same process and I dyed half of what was left from the dye class, but I will leave this set in the dye bath for an entire 24 hours after the heat was turned off. Genvieve donated a more than generous amoutn of yarn for the class, far more than we could dye in an afternoon over the camp fire. My attempt to control the temperature of the madder dye bath consistent over a gas stove makes me wonder at the obvious ability of medeival dyers to keep a consistent temparature for dyeing large quantiaties of goods over an open fire. It was definintely a skill to be mastered, though I suppose the same goes for cooks and cooking as well.</p><p>I am far from having a stock of all colours, or being an expert, but my lvoe of dyeing has been rekindled (pardon the pun) and I may yet someday only buy white or natural coloured yarn and dye my own palette. I still have a lot of commercially dyed yarn to use before I need to make such a decision! I invite all those who know me and are intersted in dyeing yarn, fleece, fabric using natural dyes to contact me. You are welcome in my dye kitchen any time.</p>
I belong to my local Weaving, Spinning and Dying Guild. Although most of us are weavers, there are a few, myself included, who are weavers, spinners and dyers. Though when you do them the order tends to go more along the lines of spinning, dying, and weaving...but that's for another post!
I actually learned to spin when I was quite young. I joined the 4H club, sheep are cute and so my mother became the leader of the Sheep Group. My parents also kindly bought me 4 ewes and eventually one feisty ram. Well as you can imagine you can buy sheep, put them in a lot, feed and water them, breed them and then what? Well being the group leader my mom bought a spinning wheel at an auction.
So when it came time to shear our sheep we kept our wool spent days washing it, even more days carding it and headed off to the spinning wheel. I don't remember anyone actually teaching us to spin, we just did it! I was maybe 9 or 10 so I thought our homespun was lovely. Though after a while I will admit I spent more time at the wheel treadling it with no wool than anything else, but I was a kid, you forgive me right?
By my 20's I had joined the SCA! One of my friends was offered his knighthood and many of the people in my household set out to offer what skills they could to help make the accouterments ever knight needs. I went to visit my parents and asked my mom if I could borrow her spinning wheel. She was delighted to see me using it again, we packed it up in my station wagon and after a lovely visit I went off home to the Ozarks with it. Well the wheel and I had a much better relationship when I was a kid and being an inexperienced spinner with a looming deadline (yes I was spinning for a weaving project so this is a pun) so I blame our issues on myself. I soldiered on with a few adjustments to the wheel here or there and we finally came to a workable agreement. I spun who knows how much wool, collected onion skins all the while. I eventually dyed my spun wool yellow with onion skins, and red with madder. Why onion skins? Because I couldn't find a definitive answer to what Vikings used for yellow dye, I was a young teacher and they were essentially free! I used this wool to weave a Viking 3 hole tablet weaving pattern, which is not for the faint of heart, and sent it off to those wonderful women who sewed Syr Tarl's cloak. I then had to take the wheel back to mom, as I was moving to England for my next teaching job and did not trust the international movers with my mother's wheel. I brought some spindles with me, but for some reason when I arrived, I decided I wasn't very good at spinning. I look back at the other things I had spun and wonder why I thought this, but again that's a horse of a different colour.
Fast forward to Fayre Raglan 2013, there I am innocently sitting at the Flintheath Encampment happy in my own world where weaving, embroidery and chasing a toddler occupy all my time not spent at work or asleep. In walks Constanza to teach her spinning class. I was not attending of course, I already knew I was not cut out as a spinner, well let me tell you not only can Constanza make a spinner out of anyone, but she will infect you with the love of spinning. This is a good thing, by the way!
Now it is spring, I own several spindles, have made my husband promise he will make more on his lathe, and even belong to Wild Craft's Spindle and Fibre Club. Today I started a Spinning Notebook in Evernote, and have plans to create a spindle inventory in Evernote to help me keep better spinning notes! I have also listened to all the Spin Doctor Podcasts!
So why is spinning so infectious? Or why did it keep coming round in my life? First I think fibre arts are in my blood, I don't think I could get away from them if I tried, my great grandmother was a weaver and I'm sure many other women in my family were before that. Second it really is relaxing, when you don't have a deadline looming! We don't have to spin and weave for our survival, we can do it purely for the pleasure. Yes in the beginning it is a very long process, but if you truly take joy in watching beautiful fibre turn into even more beautiful thread and then even more beautiful art, why would you want to rush?
I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly I have become proficient and efficient in my spinning. So it does not take me as long to spin a yard/meter of thread as it used to, but I'm not in a hurry to become a production spinner. I love watching the thread grow, seeing the colour interaction in space and gradient dyed yarn or even just undyed yarn. Something happens when you add twist to fibre that makes it beautiful and functional. There is a real joy in taking a raw material spinning it into your own thread and then making a piece of art from art that you made yourself!
So what words of wisdom to I have to in part of the budding spinner? If you live in Insulae Draconis grab Constanza or Catherine Weaver at an event and have them teach you to spin. Not only will you learn everything you need to know about spinning, you will also hear some great stories and have lovely conversations along they way. They are wonderful people. If you don't live here or know them, then buy Abbey Franquemont's Respect the Spindle Book and DVD. She is also an amazing teacher and will easily infect you with the love of spinning.
Spinners are kind caring people, like all textile artists. In my opinion textile artists make the world a better place. Well that's about all my musings for today, stay tuned for A Ram's Tale and further Drawloom Musings, yes there is something on the drawloom. :)
Those of you who follow me elsewhere will know I spent about a month traveling around the US. I did quite a bit of spinning while traveling, because weaving just does not fit easily in an airline suitcase. Yes there are looms that will, but i have leant those out or have group projects on them at the moment. You will also know that since my return to the UK I have been having a hard time getting to sleep at an hour which is normal for me! My toddler is a 5-6 am wake up kind of kid, so I need to get to sleep early. I find my mind very active between 21:00 and 0:00 these past few nights. One of the things I have been thinking about is spinning and, unsurprisingly, weaving.
Right: the yarn I spun on our way from Vegas to Salt Lake City.
I was recently pondering my spinning and why it fits my life more easily now. As a working mom, it is far easier for me to take a drop spindle to work and do a bit of spinning on my breaks. A drop spindle is also easier to carry around while spending time outdoors with my son.
This lead me to ponder the transition of spinning, which was in ancient and early medieval times primarily women's work, to a male dominated profession. Well this is at least my current understanding. Admittedly I have not done the in depth research into weaving and spinning guilds which I have intended to do. However, it does at this time, make sense to me that while spinning was done on a drop spindle it would fall in the domain of women, who are in charge of rearing children. It is easy to understand how, particularly in Norse culture, spinning and weaving were tasks accomplished by women. In the morning while supervising the children, one can easily get out the drop spindle when the children are occupied and still be able to supervise them. It is also an easy and quick matter to put down your spindle to redirect your child's attention, pick something up for him/her, etc. Weaving is thought to have been done by every women in Norse villages. Each women could take her turn tending the village children and then have a turn at the loom. I have wondered if Norse children were all put down to nap together, so the women could tend to lunch, cleaning up, and possibly weaving.
We assume the children were taught to help with chores as soon as they were able, which was likely far sooner than they are now. Abby Franquemont writes that Andean children were taught to spin as soon as they could sit up on their own! I'm hoping to learn the trick of this form her next weekend! I would love to teach TAJ to spin. He loves watching my spindle and this past summer began to turn the spindle for me, though his method is a bit more batting the spindle than turning/flicking the spindle, we'll see what we can do.
Spindle from Wild Craft's Spindle and Fibre Club 2014
As spinning and weaving technology advanced and they became more mechanized and organized into guilds, it is assumed they became male dominated professions. Some of this may have been due to the prevailing attitudes of the time, but I think some of this has to do with the arts becoming less compatible with the rearing of children. I used to be a far more productive weaver. I had hundreds of hours to while away at the loom. Now those hours are spent with my son, who as previously stated loves to watch me spin and in fact weave too. Although he likes to watch me do these things, he does eventually want to help. He is able to help spin, a bit, but his intended aid and small attention span takes me away from spinning or weaving much sooner than I would on my own. I do not weave on a vertical loom often, mostly for tapestries which I intend to focus on eventually, but cloth always draws me back. Vertical looms, as we know were used by Norse weavers, are more easily left at any interval and picked back up. I can imagine Norse weavers with talismans which would be hung on the next heddle rod to quickly mark one's place. This is not so easily done on a treadle loom. I can simply stand up from my horizontal loom and walk away but unless I have left it at the starting point it takes a bit more time to figure out where I was when I left. So now we find ourselves back at the beginning, I spin more often now, because it is easy to do while also spending time with my son. I rarely however spin on my wheel. Anyone who has spent more than 5 seconds with a child will know why, if you have a child and a big spoked wheel turning round and round the child will stick their hand in the wheel. This will of course end in tears. Children are creatures of habit so to speak, and although they do learn, I'm not yet ready to find out how many times my son would stick his fingers in the wheel before he learned not to do so again!
So there you have it my thoughts on why, as spinning and weaving progressed they became more a man's profession than a woman's. I am happy that we all enjoy these hobbies together now. It is pleasing that they are predominantly women's hobbies now, but the men who join in are good crack and teach us just as much as our fellow woman.
As a working mother, I have to plan the time my son sleeps carefully. I spend every one of his waking minutes with him, unless I'm at work, there's an emergency, or a rare opportunity. Recently, I've been using GTasks to do this. But that's the boring big. My two main weaving goals right now are weaving the cloth bought by a friend and a research paper on cloth in Europe and the Middle East from the 1st to the 14th C.
As of today I have woven about 30" of 5 meters. I would really like to have this done by the time we leave for a week in Wales. I have 8 days yo meet this goal, which means 21" per day. See what I mean about planning? If I don't calculate things like this then I won't meet my goals.
My research paper will include samples of tye weaves discussed. I have most of the samples woven. I need to weave samples of the more obscure weaves. I am currently in the process of revising about 35 pages of text and tieing a cotton warp onto the failed linen warp, picture below. I can document both for taquete and samitum, but the peak of the pattern harnesses is not conducive for linen warps. Once I can extend my loom more linen should work. For now it's cotton.
Wish me luck getting tied on before we go too!