So I made another one for use at home. It was considerably more difficult in some ways, but I got it finished today.
There was a fair bit of planing of the wooden blocks that form the clamps which hold the loom to the table, first of all. And once that was done, there was a fair bit of smoothing still to do with sandpaper and a little elbow grease. Eventually, I felt like the parts of the loom were suited to one another, and I got out the glue and screws, and assembled it.
I was more or less wrong. I think I assembled the spreader frame for the loom in the wrong set up, with the left riser on the dado on the right hand side, and the right riser in the dado on the left. Oops. On the one hand it’s not a huge deal, and on the other, it means that the finished product is also not as nice as I’d like. I also drilled the clamp holes on the spreader-frame a little too deeply, and I had to re-drill them quite a bit more shallowly on the other side. Sooner or later, I’m going to have to fill in those holes with pegs and/or putty, and have a presentable loom.
Next up came stringing the loom. There are tools which exist for properly stringing a loom, notably a warping frame. I didn’t think to build one because I didn’t know how important they could be. My bad.
Stringing the loom took most of the afternoon. I kid you not in the slightest. It took me hours to measure and cut all of the strands for this project from some silk I bought for a project like this, in Florida, when I went to visit my mother LAST YEAR.
And as I cut this lovely material, I realized — wow, even though I spent a lot of money on yarn for weaving two years ago, I still didn’t buy enough. It turns out that weaving is not only labor-intensive, but also expensive. And trying to do a project with seven colors of thread, when you really only need two or at most four, is an exercise in frustration and hideous overkill. SO much for making a tablet-woven band that celebrates the seven planets. How about the four elements?
Nope. Didn’t buy enough thread in the right colors. And I only cut myself with the scissors once, which is not bad, considering.
Still, the loom was set up and functional by dinner time. It is remarkably easy to mis-string even a single card and ruin your work, so I double-checked everything three or four times. And I still had one card, half strung with red (Fire) and yellow (Air) that was set up improperly which prevented me from getting started. And so I got started.
The thing about setting up a loom which I hadn’t counted on, really, is how little you know about what you’re actually going to get, until you start weaving. I had a brown and a green on the sides, forming a border. And my weft is a lovely blue hue. In between the brown and green borders is this complicated pattern of eight cards, set up with a strange set-up of yellow and red threads. I didn’t really know what I was going to get.
This, as it turns out, was what I was going to get. The blue is completely invisible, except maybe a dot on the sides of the inkle band. And that odd set-up of eight cards in the middle gives me right-sweeping diagonal bands of red and yellow. The right-hand border of green and brown looks different than the one on the left, because I transposed two cards in the process of weaving the first couple of inches. And there’s an odd jag in the middle of the band, which is where I experimented briefly with reversing the direction of the cards to unwind the warp threads. They have a tendency to tangle.
These threads are much thinner than the ones I put together to demonstrate weaving at school, and the resulting band is much more beautiful and ornamental as a result. Reading a used guidebook I bought online, I learn that I can ‘pause’ the work midway, and finish one section, and then start a new section — which means that I’ll be able to make bands to go on the sleeve cuffs of a robe, or around the collar, or over the shoulders. I don’t think I set up these strands to be long enough to do wrist bands for a tunic or robe, AND a collar, AND shoulder bands… But I think a pair of bands for a set of sleeves should be possible.
I think that, with some sort of a warping frame or warping board, to make it easier to set up the loom, I could really enjoy this sort of work. And the magician in me is enormously pleased, at last, to understand card weaving. It’s like I’ve suddenly understood computer programming at a deeper level, because I can do it with threads instead of 1s and 0s.