Sometimes we forget that cloth is the result of many processes, people and creatures. Picking up a shirt at H&M, or even a few yards of cotton from Fabric Land, hides all of the labour, knowledge, material and skill that went into making the cloth. The 50 Mile Coat pulls back the curtain on these processes.
After the Spinning Comes Weaving
To make cloth we have the option of either knitting or weaving. The 50 Mile Coat used weaving to pull together the warp and weft yarns our spinners made. As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, weaving is the process of putting the weft yarn (also called threads) over and under the warp yarns. Weaving can be done on simple looms that use nothing more than rope and sticks or on huge industrial looms that mechanize the entire process.
At the Guild we have a number of different looms, each offer particular advantages and disadvantages. Choosing a loom is very project dependant. What width of cloth is needed? What is the weave structure? How many harnesses are required to achieve that weave structure? The knowledgeable weaver takes all of these factors, and others, into account.
For the purposes of The 50 Mile Coat our expert weaver Karen and the Coat’s designer Jennifer, decided that the Guild’s 40″ LeClerc would be our best choice for making cloth that is 36″ wide and 8 yards long in a simple twill structure.
How Does a Loom Work?
A loom is an elegant technology that was actually a precursor to the computer. With a loom the weaver is able to manipulate and lift certain groups of threads while leaving other threads down. Recall our earlier post about Dressing the Loom where we discussed putting warp threads through heddles attached to harnesses. How the loom is dressed is determined by how the weaver wants to lift groups of warp threads.
Looms often use foot-pedals, known as treadles, to engage a harness and lift a particular group of warp threads. When a harness is lifted, a space, called a shed, is created between the warp threads. The bobbin with the weft yarn can then pass through the shed from one side of the cloth to the other. Essentially the loom simplifies the over/under nature of weaving by moving groups of threads up in unison and relieving the weaver of having to move the weft thread over and under each individual warp thread.
Finding this difficult to envision? If you’re still curious, come out to a Guild meeting! We’ll show you what all this harness/treadle/shed stuff means.
Weave Structure refers to how the cloth is made. In other words, how the warp and weft interact with one another via the loom. A weft thread could be made to go over one warp thread and then under the next, repeated throughout the width of the cloth. This over one/under one is known as plain weave.
Now consider how many different ways you could manipulate that over/under idea. Over two warp threads and under one? Sure! Over four warp threads and under three? No problem! The permutations are nearly endless as long as there is enough over/under to hold the threads together.
In the words of our expert weaver Karen, there is only rule to weaving: “you have to make cloth”.
Weave Structure and The 50 Mile Coat
The 50 Mile Coat was woven using a twill weave structure. A twill is one version of loom manipulation that makes cloth with a lot of drape, or fluidity. In a twill the over/under pattern of each row of weaving is off-set from the previous, often with a two-under/two-over pattern. Not quite sure what this means? Take a close look at your favourite pair of bluejeans. Bluejeans are woven using a twill pattern, which explains why they are so comfortable.
We Have Cloth
After all that spinning and dressing the loom, it only took our weavers a few days to hand-weave 8 yards of cloth. Needless to say, cutting it off the the loom was an exciting and triumphant moment.