I grew up in a house full of textiles. Between them, my parents not only wove, but spun, dyed, stitched, knitted; if it was textile, they did it. I was only five when I wove my first piece of “cloth”. I learned in the traditional way; I helped my dad set up and operate his loom. I don’t remember ever having a ‘weaving lesson’, it was just something we did. In fact, when I visited other peoples’ houses, it seemed strange not to find a loom or a spinning wheel… But of course, most people don’t. So, if you’ve never seen a loom before, read on…
I have three floor looms, a couple of small table looms, an inkle loom and a backstrap loom. The one I use most, though, is a floor loom, and it looks like this:
As you can see, it’s pretty big; measuring roughly six foot deep, five foot tall and three foot wide. The frame is wood, and it has six shafts. It’s the shafts that allow you to make patterns in your cloth or braid. Every woven item has threads going in two different directions. The warp is the threads that run the length of the cloth; the weft runs across it. The warp gives strength to whatever it is you are making. I mostly weave braids, and when you look at my braids you’ will mostly be looking at the warp threads; the weft is hidden inside.
The picture below shows a loom with the warp in place, ready to weave. Because I work with lots of different colours and in complex patterns, I usually work with more than one warp at a time. That lets me introduce colours quickly and easily.
I weave in all sorts of different materials, mostly cotton, viscose, silk and wool; the yarn I use depends on both the project itself and what the customer prefers. Customers like the National Trust will want to reproduce a specific braid (for instance) as closely as possible to the original; other customers will be more interested in creating a trimming that fits in with their scheme.