Many Ways to Weave

27 March 2017

When I have started people weaving on a backstrap looms, I start them with a narrow warp that doesn’t require any sticks. Once they can do plain weave, warp-faced, I show them how to make a pick-up design with  paired floats. Laverne Waddington has a good description of this process on her blog.  Mostly we use our fingers and maybe a popsicle stick to beat the weft in place. There is just a shed loop and heddles and the pick up is done either with fingers or a large needle.   Here  in Oaxaca a large needle is a common tool for pick up.

Here in Oaxaca de Juárez, the capital of Oaxaca state, a group meets weekly to weave.  This year every one has been working on narrow warps and either plain weave or paired float designs.

This technique is used here in Oaxaca by the indigenous people who live on the northern coast of Oaxaca.  Here I have not seen many narrow bands woven in this technique but  wider cloths with multiple design bands are common.

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photo by Karen Elwell. I think these are natural dyes.


photo by Karen Elwell

We went to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca on Saturday to register for a backstrap weaving brocade class in April given by a woman coming up from Carranza, Chiapas.   Bonfilia Bautista Tapia from Pinotepa de Don Luis, was finishing a workshop on  this paired float technique and she and her students were weaving away.  Here is a picture of her loom:

It is very interesting that she has a second set of heddles and a second shed rod behind the usual ones used to do plain weave. Both of these extra shedding devices deal only with the red warps in the design band; the shed rod has all of the odd numbered pairs over it  and the second set of heddles raises the even numbered pairs. Here is a close up so that you can see the pairs of red warps going over the second shed rod and the sparse green string heddles are around the other pairs of red warps within the design band.  One usually uses a second weaving sword   when using the second set of heddles/rod, but I don’t see one in the photo maybe because she doing plain weave at this moment.

Here on this student loom  you can see the second smaller sword. It is right behind the plain weave string heddles.  It looks like it still has the warp pairs he picked up to make the bar design he just wove.

two sets of heddles/shed rods and two swords are visible here

All of these lovely woven critters are made on 25 pairs.  Here is some more student work with enough detail that you could make the same designs.

And one more photo of a fragment of an interesting critter woven in this technique, the brown is hand spun brown cotton, coyuche,  that has been grown here since pre-hispanic times.

And yes, there are 5 pick floats in the bars between designs.

So there you have another way to weave paired float designs  using pattern heddles and shed rod.  Might be especially useful when doing multiples of the same design.



Warp-faced weaving

23 July 2012

I have been studying warp-faced weaving in its many forms these past few years. The number of commercial yarns that are appropriate for this kind of weaving are very limited-crochet cotton #10 is it. This weaving needs strong, smooth yarn with twist, the more the better. Used to be that pearl cotton was good too but recently it is spun much softer and fuzzes up with use.

I have been studying the rebozos of Mexico( see this for a discussion of meaning of the rebozo today) and thinking about ikat. But I need a yarn to weave in a warp-faced cloth so I thought I’d try Tencel 8/2.
Inspired by this rebozo
 I see that it is two colors, striped with a center panel in a paired float pick technique that I have woven a lot. The elaborated fringe treatment, macrame, is not in my skill set. This seems doable in black and white. I wrapped some stripe patterns

Some are quite satisfying visually, I think that I’ll make the edges black and the center white so I’ll rearrange the stripes. Also the little Harrisville 4H/4T loom only has about 600 heddles. At a sett of 60epi to get a truly warp-faced cloth I can only weave a 10″ width. OK, 10″ is fine for a trial.

Here it is on the loom:

The tencel is behaving well, the sett seems good on the loom.  The pick up pattern is charted here and is easy to do.  Because of the floats there is slightly less take up in the central patterned panel that in the body of the web.  After I had woven about a yard I had to start compensating with extra sticks at the back beam.  I put on a little over 3 yards of  warp hoping to get a nice long scarf– this is basically a sample , I don’t know what to expect in take up  in percent, I do expect it to be a lot.  When the apron rod came over the back beam I could no longer compensate to the difference in the pattern panel and had to dive up weaving a bit before I wanted to.

But the size is nice, 10″ x 80″ plus fringe.  The appearance did not change much when I wash it but the hand did soften.  It is very sensual.  No,  it won’t pull through a wedding ring but it does have a nice sheen.  Here are some photos of the finished scarf;

And here you can see the drape and the other side of the pattern panel where the motifs are white.

And lastly the fringe end without any macrame.

The The piece is very satisfactory and I believe that I can use this tencel for and rebozo with ikat stripes.