Friday, March 21, 2014

Fine wool fabric from warp weighted looms

Those old timers made nice fabrics.  We see small samples of fabric where the were protected from decay by to toxic effects of metal buttons.

I see the fabrics, and I ask, "How did they make them?"  What tools and skills did they have?

The archaeology field reports say they had loom weights, and the published papers go on to conclude that they actually had the entire loom.  :  )

OK, but was that loom used for that sample of fabric, or some linen or hemp or nettle or other material that has been lost?  Hard to say.

The fabric was traded great distances, so they made a lot of that fabric, and were really good at it.  Did that sample of fabric come from that set of loom weights, or did that set of loom weights support another trade network, or was that loom used for a local product that was not traded?

So, I sit there and I look at the picture of that Bronze Age stone floor with its little piles of loom weights, and I note that no Bronze Age organic artifacts were found in the structure.  The user's manual for the loom was missing. There was no artwork, no jewelry, no potsherds, and no fabric samples. The fabric samples are from a grave of the same period, but many miles away.

And she wants me to prove that they had sectional beam and tension box.

I had spin some replica yarns.   I trie them on various approaches to warping, and I come away with a new appreciation for the skill of the weavers of that sample of fabric.  It is easier if I block the yarn, so I worked on blocking the yarn for a while (months),  but that changed the nature of the fabric. 

There are only so many ways to warp a loom.  One can take a sample of proposed warp and see how it behaves with each approach to warping.  If there are several approaches to warping that work with that single we cannot say, they likely did it this way or that way.  However, if there seems to be only one way that is plausible given the technologies of the time, we can say they likely did it this way.

Do I care how they made that fabric? No, I just want to make fabric that is as good or better.  Is this a scholarly journal? No!  Am I being paid for my research? No.  I just want to reverse engineer a way to make fabric as good or better.  Along the way, I am going to announce my conclusions and observations.  I am going to throw out any ideas that I have.  And I think like Sherlock Holmes.

By a process of reverse engineering and elimination, we get to warping the loom with a sectional beam, tension box, and bobbins.  This is for a fine wool warp, not silk, not linen, not hemp, and not nettles.  My understanding is that only way to get the fabric that I want is to use unblocked singles.  So, I need some way to keep the singles under tension at all times.  If they get loose for a minute, they are likely to tangle, and if they tangle, they are likely to break, or at least burn daylight as I untangle them.

Data and  lack thereof

Note discussion of  Body Wrapping 3 on page 26  et seq of  

And note the discussion on Roman and Greek art related to weaving on pg 33 of the same text.

Note that Roman looms do not survive, but that the Romans are presumed to have had 2-beam horizontal looms because of some of the fabrics that do survive.  However, these are not mentioned by any Roman authors, and the first depictions are in the middle ages.

Note discussion of Roman looms and lack of documentation at  page 552.  Note the problems with the draftsmanship on one of the depictions as finished cloth appears where we would expect the warp weights to be. This is pretty typical of art and technology. 

If we look in; The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Volume 1, we see on page 121 that an advanced type of loom (horizontal, 2- beam) was in Germanic Europe as early as the Sixth century.

What we do not have; is good documentation of that South Asian loom that made Body Wrapping 3 above.  What we have is a very fine, very early fabric from some loom in Southern Asia for which we have no description or depiction. The depictions of Egyptian looms are all of weaving linen.

Let us return to the excellent depiction of Telemachus and Penelope in front of Penelope's loom. It was done 1,100 years after the Trojan war (and time of Telemachus and Penelope) . Hardly a depiction of current loom technology.  And, we note that the loom contains an extra beam to hold extra warp. That extra beam was a prototype of a sectional beam.  By its nature, the beam can be divided into sections and yarn wound on each section. They were making carts and know how to make axles, rotating wheels, and beams.  

 If it is the traditional loom that Penelope would have used in the Bronze Age, then it is not likely the loom in use in Classical Greece at the time of the depiction. If it is the loom in use in the Classical Greek Era, then it is not likely the loom used in the Bronze Age. This is not what I would call good contemporary documentation of a loom.  So it is with the other Greek art related to weaving.  Basically we have a gap in western loom documentation from the Middle Kingdom to the Middle Ages.

That is exactly how I would make a vertical, weighted-warp loom.  I would wind the warp on a back beam, and run each thread through a weight and  and tie it to the top beam.  Then, I set my beam holding the extra warp behind the loom with the weights hanging down to provide tension. Then, I could wind finished cloth onto the top beam, and unwind additional warp from the additional beam.  The weights do not even have to be tied to the warp, but can slide along the warp providing continuous tension to keep the warp on both sides of the weight from tangling. Do I need to make you a model of such a loom?  

There is no reason in the world why a sectional beam can not be used with warp weights on a vertical loom to manage long warps when weaving bolts of cloth.  And, it greatly speeds the work.  It is how a professional weaver would do it.  No, it is not in the record, but it has been a thousand years since an industrial weaver has used vertical, weighted-warp loom technology, and we may have forgotten some things.  I expect a weaver's  loom to be constructed with the same skill as a miller's water mill or a blacksmith's trip hammer.  I see a weaver's loom as a capital investment that was expected to generate income for a very long time, and some care would be taken so that the weaver could work as fast as possible to generate as much income as possible.  I am not talking about subsistence weaving.  I am talking about a tool for a talented professional weaver turning out cloth that appeals to the rich and powerful, thousands of miles away -- as in Body Wrapping 3 getting to Egypt from South Asia.


Anonymous said...

Why are you so hateful towards others? When others ask you to back up your assertions you resort to challenging them? I also wonder at yor "reverse engineering" since you stop with what supports your theory. Have you tired any of the challenges you have put to others with respect to weaving? Or are you just angry that the academic world and the historical record do not agree with you?

Anonymous said...

What missing user's manual??? Do you actually think that looms of the pre-industrial/pre-mass-produced modern era came with user's manuals??? Even most modern looms don't come with "user's manuals." Your credibility as a textile historian is about as accurate a reflection of history as a trip to Disneyland.

I note, for the record, that you are, as usual, still making endless "samples" and more hanks of yarn, but you have yet to actually produce any real fabric on your 16-harness loom. I suspect you are in for a rather rude awakening in the near future should you actually attempt to warp and weave a substantial piece of fabric. And, no, we are not going to queue up and pay you to see a beginner's weaving, which is what you will produce, that is if you ever even get around to doing it at all rather than pontificating about it.

I also note that you only publish comments to which you can make a snarky reply and omit those where you are unable to respond, such as requests for credible proof (photos, citations, etc.) of your various assertions. Since this comment is a direct challenge to your self-appointment as the expert authority on "all things knitted or woven," I dare you to publish it in its entirety. I doubt you will, which will prove my point.

=Tamar said...

I'm interested in any pictures you care to provide. I have an armchair-reader's interest, as I neither spin nor weave, but I enjoy thinking about ancient fabrics.

Aaron said...

The classic picture is the Illustration on an Athenian skyphos found in an Etruscan tomb at Chiusi, Phenelope at her loom (Fig 31 in )

This shows that circa 500 BC, people were familar with the use of a second beam with a warp weighted loom.

This allows weaving finer woolens and provides a conceptional basis for the 2-beam horizontal loom developed in Rome a few hundred years later.

I am amused that the argument that has NOT been presents against my speculation is:" I work with fine wool singles all the time, and segmented beams are not helpful to to managing fine wool singles." From the lack of this argument, I deduce that the people who do work with such warps, recognize the discrepancy between the behavior of wool warp and the weaving tools found in history and archaeology.

Aaron said...

I fear my humor is rather like Stephan Hawking's - it falls flat in some circles.

My reference to the loom manual was poking fun at the people who said we had good documentation of the Roman looms. My definition of good documentation of a loom is the AVL Manual. The AVL manual is even better than the exhaustive and exhausting texts for textile engineers written at the beginning of the last century.

I tend to get caught up in lines of inquiry that are productive. Spinning has been leading to new and interesting things, while the weaving has bogged down into sampling to resolving a series of issues on my loom.

The weaving samples I am making are from mill spun, and no better than the fabrics that I see at the weaving guild's show and tells. They are trivial - only 250 ends, a few feet long, and I am working with a robust grist of 5,600 ypp/ 75 wpi. I started with 30 yards of this warp, and there are 9 or 10 yards of this warp left on the loom, but the reed/beater is off the loom so I can adjust the height of the beater, as it seems to have been modified for a non-AVL reed at sometime in the past. I see no use in moving on to trying to weave fine hand spun until I have a better understanding of the issues.

Part of the problem is that the loom is surrounded by bags of fleece. Spinning reduces the volume of this fiber. At 2,800 ypp the effect was visible and I could see the volume drop day by day. At 20,000 ypp, the daily change in volume is less. I need to do a lot of spinning to clear out around the loom.

I think pausing weaving to work out the accelerator was very worth while as it allows future warps and wefts to be produced much faster.

Hateful? Most of the challenges are personal attacks on me rather than thoughtful analysis of the technical issues. The experts and the academic world have repeatedly told me that things I wanted to do were impossible, and that I was even silly for even trying it, when I could look at history and see that such things had been done before.

Einar Svensson said...

You must read up on weaving and read what you cite more carefully. The horizontal loom referred to in your reference to Egypt was used for making mats. It was probably the type of rug loom still used in the rural Iran. It was not a two beam loom, but rather the warp was staked out horizontally on the ground and the weaver sat on the woven portion as he or she moved forward. They would not have made the fine fabric you imagine in such a loom.

There is even a picture of such a horizontal loom on the next page of your reference.

Aaron said...

Read on, they will discuss other looms.

Anonymous said...

You are not Stephen Hawking by a long shot.

Wool Blanket Grazalema said...

Wool fabric continues being the king!