Perhaps you’ve already met my little childhood loom, which being tiny, though perfectly formed, has merely made me crazier to try a large weaving. Perhaps you’ve also heard of my friend Amy C Lund, the extraordinary handweaver. Amy is going to take us through the process of weaving a woollen rug on a loom in her Tiverton, Rhode Island studio. If, like me, you are mad to try even a simple bit of weaving, this will not help you calm down. It will inspire you to further heights. Hang in there.
Many years ago another weaver gave me a large quantity of wool rug yarn, some of which had become home to mice before I got it. Not having an immediate project in mind, not wanting to take the time to sort though it, I left it aside until recently, when I was clearing out corners of my studio and I had a loom set up with a bit of warp left to weave. So I gathered it all up and shook it all out.
With the warming spring days I found some time to give it all a soak, and set it to dry in the sun. It was a lot more than I would need for this project, but I got a sense of how much I had and what weights. Some of the yarn was thick and some thinner, some plied and some single strands. I did not end up using the darkest blue, but decided to use the two lighter shades with some gray on an ivory ground in a pick and pick pattern.
While the loom I used already had a warp set up, usually I measure out all the ground warp threads to the same lengths on a revolving warping reel or a stationary warping pegboard. The principle is that between threads wound between two points, A to B and back, become sets of 2 matching length threads. This is done for as many threads as needed for the density per inch and the width in inches of the project. The grouped threads are then chained and transferred to the loom. They are spread to the proper width and wound onto the beam. Consider the loom as a scroll from which the threads begin on the back beam, get threaded through the harnesses and tied to the front beam. As the fabric is woven it comes off the back and winds down to the front cloth roller.
Each warp thread passes through the eye of a heddle (similar to threading a needle) in a harness or shaft, which will then be raised or lowered. The order the threads are threaded, as well as the order the harness groups are raised can create a multitude of patterns. The simplest pattern is to alternate every other thread through the front or back harness shaft to lift & lower odd and even threads alternately.￼
Once the loom is threaded and the warp ends are tied to the front beam extension apron, the cloth is ready to weave. This requires inserting the weft or filler threads.
To start weaving the rug, I created a hem or header section of a tight weave before beginning the body of the rug. For this project, I chose to weave a pick & pick weft-faced patterned rug, which means alternating 2 color yarns so that one shows more on the even shaft and the other on the odd shaft, also resulting in a structure where the weft is condensed over the warp ground threads. Here, I alternated each section color with a ground color in a repeating pattern.
There are many ways to finish a rug, with tied fringe, twisted or braided, hemmed edges folded under, or in this case I rewove each of the warp threads back up into the rug (as if in a U-turn) for a flat finish.
You see? Such appealing possibilities. I am willing a loom to come to me, and a weaving teacher like Amy along with it. We would love to live with a woollen, woven rug. Visit Amy’s gallery and studio on one of your trips to New England’s coast – until then, content yourself with seeing her gorgeous work at her site and getting a piece of your own at her shop. Thanks Amy!