Lots of people have asked me, “What is weaving?  What is it that you do? Do you make these?” and “How does that loom work anyway?

Weaving noun

the craft or action of forming fabric by interlacing threads.

I create fabric luxury fabrics using yarns of different sizes and colours mixed together which can also be fashioned into usable or wearable accessories (scarves, blankets, towels etc).

And yes, I make them. I weave them by hand on a weaving loom. I choose the colours, the patterns (which sometimes I also design but not always), I wind all of the threads into the correct lengths (the warp) and I put them on the loom (called dressing the loom). I weave the fabric and then I finish the fabric (hemming, washing, drying) and sometimes I then sew it into something entirely new such as a purse or a garment.

So how does the loom work? A weaving loom is a piece of equipment that comes in various sizes. They range from lap sized (Rigid Heddle Looms and Inkle looms) to table looms to floor looms. They can weave simple patterns (Rigid Heddle) to extremely complex Drawlooms or Jacquard Looms. Jacquard looms first invented in 1804 use a complex system of punch cards which enable unlimited design ability. Its technology is considered a precursor to modern computer programming. A similar system of punch cards to control patterns was used in IBM computer programming in 1944.

But no matter the size or the complexity there remain a number of similarities in the weaving process. Most looms are made of wood. If you look at the loom photo you will see that there is a large beam at the front which your threads (warp) will be tied to. Those threads are then placed through a reed which is a comb-like bar held in place by what is called the beater. Each thread then travels through a heddle which can be made of wire or string and then continues to the back of the loom where it is again tied on to a back beam.

But how do we create patterns while weaving? That all has to do with a few different things. The colours and sizes of yarn play a part. As well how densely or how loosely the threads are placed in the reed will affect the finished fabric. Do you remember the string or metal heddles? They are attached to shafts which can be raised or lowered in different combinations. The yarns are placed in a sequence and the order in which they are raised or lowered creates the pattern. So threading the loom is a vitally important step. It is amazing how one incorrectly placed thread becomes quite visible in a piece of cloth.  

While weaving the shafts are raised or lowered using different methods depending on the type of loom you are weaving with. A table loom uses levers, and a floor loom uses foot peddles which we call treadles. Each treadle is tied up to as many shafts as you wish lifted according to the pattern. The pattern will tell you what combination to lift and also in what order.

My new loom is called a compudobby. This means that instead of tying up the treadles to each shaft by hand (so that the correct one is lifted when I depress the correct treadle) the computer will read the pattern and lift the correct number of shafts every time I depress the treadle. The patterns are created using software that the loom reads from my laptop. I still design, wind threads, thread the loom, tie everything on and weave. I just don’t have to do so much heavy lifting. My loom has 24 shafts. Three times as many as my previous loom. This means much less wear and tear on my legs especially now that weaving is my full-time job.

I hope this makes weaving on a loom a bit clearer for you!

Thanks for stopping by!