First, what will be the function of the cloth ? This determines the fibers (cottons, wool, rayon, silk, linen). Some fibers have more drape, others withstand light better, some yarns are warm, others are sturdier. Some yarns give a special sheen , while other yarns are very textured.
Function also dictates appropriate weave structure. This can be soft and drapey, or stiff and thick, and anywhere in between . Structure can be very complex, emphasizing detail . Simple weave structure can show off texture, or allow color interplay to be prominent. From what distance will the piece be viewed? How big must the elements in the cloth be for the best effect?
How big must it be? This will dictate, along with the weave structure and the yarn size, how many warp threads to measure and put on the loom. This calculation includes the length of the cloth and takes into account the shrinkage inherent in any handwoven material.
The fun part: color and texture. In what kind of lighting conditions will this handwoven article be viewed? If it's part of interior decoration , what other textures and colors are in the environment? Color mixing is an art unto itself and combining color with the effects of weave structure is particularly challenging. As with the painter, experience and the ability to predict outcome when experimenting are part of what make each piece unique.
It's at this point that I can start to wind the warp, measuring each thread so all are the same length and in correct order for the pattern designed.
Winding the warp onto the loom sometimes requires several helpers. Ensuring each thread goes onto the beam with the same tension as all the others, in it's place.
Threading is one of those times when you must accept the process, there is no way around it but through! Hours of pulling each individual thread through the eye of a heddle , the device which will determine this thread's place in the overall design. And the final threading through the reed, which maintains the width of the project, and with which the weaver places each weft thread precisely in it's place.
Once all is tied on, the "dance" begins: pressing the treadles to raise the groups of heddles which make the pattern, throwing the shuttle full of the weft thread, catching at the other side, and beating the reed to place the weft in place. Tromp, throw, catch, squeeze, tromp, throw, catch, squeeze, tromp, throw....
Almost done! Untie the knots, get that beauty off the loom! Will the ends be fringed, twisted, knotted ,or hand-hemmed? Sew to shape ,if needed. Now for a wash, not too hot or cold, just the right amount of agitation and time in the hand basin, towel dry and lay flat. Maybe a press with the iron.
NOW it is finished.
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