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Weave Away

posted Feb 24, 2011, 1:07 PM by Mary Powell
With the warp threads separated, I can put a weft (sideways) thread in place. For convenience, the warp thread is wound on a spool or bobbin.

 The bobbin spins on a shaft inside the shuttle, allowing the thread to unwind with very little resistance. This style of shuttle is called a boat shuttle.

 The flipped up ends help keep them from catching on warp threads. Traditionally, shuttles were made of dogwood because it doesn't splinter. This shuttle was handcarved by my friend Michael out of spalted maple. It might not be entirely traditional but it is beautiful.

With one treadle down, I slide the shuttle between the two layers of warp.

A line of thread unwinds behind it.

I catch the shuttle on the other side and pull it out of the way.

Then I grab the hanging beater bar (or batten) and swing it towards myself, so that it thumps against the fabric.

Remember the reed that sits in the batten? In addition to spacing the threads, it packs the weft against the previous weft thread. Then I switch treadles, and beat again. By switching treadles, I bring the bottom warp up and the top warp down, crisscrossing them and locking the weft in place. The second beat packs the weft more tightly and lets the reed comb the warp threads, just in case any of them stuck together.
Now I throw the shuttle back the other way, beat, treadle, beat. And repeat. Each pass of the shuttle (or pick) lays down one thread. This fabric is ten picks per inch. After a while you get into a rhythm and learn just how hard you have to throw the shuttle. Too hard and it flies across the room. Too gentle and it stalls in the middle. Beat too gently and the fabric is floppy. Too hard and you waste energy. On this big, heavy loom, I use leg and torso muscles, leaning back to beat and sideways to throw, rather than use the more easily fatigued arm muscles.