Sunday, November 27, 2011


The weaving of textiles is another of the more ancient crafts of mankind, and another of those essential to a pioneer society. Its origins are lost, along with those of many other crafts, in the deep shadow of Time. Simple fabrics are made by weaving threads in and out across a layer of other threads at a right angle. An obscurity has fallen over the details of this once common process today when the average person has little or no contact with the means by which his cloth is manufactured. Also, it is a far cry from the miraculous efficiencies of industrial weaving to the simple methods of the hand loom. Yet the mysteries of warp and woof, heddle and shuttle, are not very profound and may be easily understood. The warp is the lengthwise threads. These must be the strongest and are usually of a better type or grade of thread than the crosswise threads, called the woof, or weft. A loom is a frame upon which the warp threads are vertically stretched. These threads are passed, at top and bottom, through tiny loops of string or wire on small pieces of wood, called heddles, which resemble minute piano keys. At the top of the loom every other heddle is attached to one crossbar, while the intervening ones are attached to another. Thus, when one crossbar is pushed out every other thread is separated from its neighbor. When the other crossbar is pushed out the action is reversed. In weaving this permits the easy separation of every other warp thread so that the woof thread, attached to a shuttle, has merely to be tossed through the intervening space, after which the separation of the warp threads is reversed and the shuttle is passed back again. The above process is for the weaving of simple, unpatterned textiles. When patterns are desired, more than two sets of heddles are necessary, for threads of different colors. The foot-loom, with various pedals to work the crossbars, thus leaving both hands free to manipulate the shuttle, came in the early 17th or late 16th centuries. To produce still more intricate patterns the draw-loom was invented. This was a method whereby the many sets of heddles were operated by cords which were pulled by a skilful small boy who had to swing about precariously, monkey-fashion, atop the large loom. Read on!

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