Weaving

Warp and weft in plain weaving
A satin weave, common for silk, each warp thread floats over 16 weft threads.

Weaving is a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. The other methods are knitting, lace making, felting, and braiding or plaiting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling. (Weft or woof is an old English word meaning "that which is woven".[1]) The method in which these threads are inter woven affects the characteristics of the cloth.[2]

Cloth is usually woven on a loom, a device that holds the warp threads in place while filling threads are woven through them. A fabric band which meets this definition of cloth (warp threads with a weft thread winding between) can also be made using other methods, including tablet weaving, back-strap, or other techniques without looms.[3]

The way the warp and filling threads interlace with each other is called the weave. The majority of woven products are created with one of three basic weaves: plain weave, satin weave, or twill.[4] Woven cloth can be plain (in one colour or a simple pattern), or can be woven in decorative or artistic designs.

Contents

  • Process and terminology 1
  • History 2
    • China and Southeast Asia 2.1
    • Islamic world 2.2
    • Medieval Europe 2.3
    • Huguenot Weavers 2.4
    • Weaving in the American Colonies (1500-1800) 2.5
    • Industrial Revolution 2.6
  • The role of the weaver 3
    • Hand loom weavers 3.1
    • Power loom weavers 3.2
    • Craft Weavers 3.3
    • Wire Weavers 3.4
  • Other cultures 4
    • Andean civilizations 4.1
    • American Southwest 4.2
    • Amazonia 4.3
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9

Process and terminology

A woman weaving with a free-standing loom (type of hand loom)
An Indian weaver preparing his warp on a pegged loom (another type of hand loom)
Patricia Hernandez Chavez and mother work on backstrap looms in Oaxaca

In general, weaving involves using a loom to interlace two sets of threads at right angles to each other: the warp which runs longitudinally and the weft (older woof) that crosses it. One warp thread is called an end and one weft thread is called a pick. The warp threads are held taut and in parallel to each other, typically in a loom. There are many types of looms.[5]

Weaving can be summarized as a repetition of these three actions, also called the primary motion of the loom.

  • Shedding: where the ends are separated by raising or lowering heald frames (heddles) to form a clear space where the pick can pass
  • Picking:where the weft or pick is propelled across the loom by hand, an air-jet, a rapier or a shuttle.
  • Beating-up or battening: where the weft is pushed up against the fell of the cloth by the reed.[6]

The warp is divided into two overlapping groups, or lines (most often adjacent threads belonging to the opposite group) that run in two planes, one above another, so the shuttle can be passed between them in a straight motion. Then, the upper group is lowered by the loom mechanism, and the lower group is raised (shedding), allowing to pass the shuttle in the opposite direction, also in a straight motion. Repeating these actions form a fabric mesh but without beating-up, the final distance between the adjacent wefts would be irregular and far too large.

The secondary motion of the loom are the:

  • Let off Motion: where the warp is let off the warp beam at a regulated speed to make the filling even and of the required design
  • Take up Motion: Takes up the woven fabric in a regulated manner so that the density of filling is maintained

The tertiary motions of the loom are the stop motions: to stop the loom in the event of a thread break. The two main stop motions are the

  • warp stop motion
  • weft stop motion

The principal parts of a loom are the frame, the warp-beam or weavers beam, the cloth-roll (apron bar), the heddles, and their mounting, the reed. The warp-beam is a wooden or metal cylinder on the back of the loom on which the warp is delivered. The threads of the warp extend in parallel order from the warp-beam to the front of the loom where they are attached to the cloth-roll. Each thread or group of threads of the warp passes through an opening (eye) in a heddle. The warp threads are separated by the heddles into two or more groups, each controlled and automatically drawn up and down by the motion of the heddles. In the case of small patterns the movement of the heddles is controlled by “cams” which move up the heddles by means of a frame called a harness; in larger patterns the heddles are controlled by a dobby mechanism, where the healds are raised according to pegs inserted into a revolving drum. Where a complex design is required, the healds are raised by harness cords attached to a Jacquard machine. Every time the harness (the heddles) moves up or down, an opening (shed) is made between the threads of warp, through which the pick is inserted. Traditionally the weft thread is inserted by a shuttle.[6][7]

On a conventional loom, the weft thread is carried on a pirn, in a shuttle that passes through the shed. A handloom weaver could propel the shuttle by throwing it from side to side with the aid of a picking stick. The "picking΅ on a power loom is done by rapidly hitting the shuttle from each side using an overpick or underpick mechanism controlled by cams 80-250 times a minute.[6] When a pirn is depleted, it is ejected from the shuttle and replaced with the next pirn held in a battery attached to the loom. Multiple shuttle boxes allow more than one shuttle to be used. Each can carry a different colour which allows banding across the loom.

The rapier-type weaving machines do not have shuttles, they propel the weft by means of small grippers or rapiers that pick up the filling thread and carry it halfway across the loom where another rapier picks it up and pulls it the rest of the way.[8] Some carry the filling yarns across the loom at rates in excess of 2,000 meters per minute. Manufacturers such as Picanol have reduced the mechanical adjustments to a minimum, and control all the functions through a computer with a graphical user interface. Other types use compressed air to insert the pick. They are all fast, versatile and quiet.[9]

The warp is sized in a starch mixture for smoother running. The loom warped (loomed or dressed) by passing the sized warp threads through two or more heddles attached to harnesses. The power weavers loom is warped by separate workers. Most looms used for industrial purposes have a machine that ties new warps threads to the waste of previously used warps threads, while still on the loom, then an operator rolls the old and new threads back on the warp beam. The harnesses are controlled by cams, dobbies or a Jacquard head.

A 3/1 twill, as used in denim

The raising and lowering sequence of warp threads in various sequences gives rise to many possible weave structures: textile production went through profound changes brought about by the industrial revolution in the 19th century. At the beginning of the century in America, weaving was still done by hand, both commercially and at home. Most professional weavers were men who did their work for sale. Women wove items at home for family use. By the end of the 19th century weavers were simply mill workers who tended several water or steam powered looms at a time. The increased speed of production brought more textiles to the average farmhouse and renderd

Both warp and weft can be visible in the final product. By spacing the warp more closely, it can completely cover the weft that binds it, giving a warp faced textile such as repp weave.[10] Conversely, if the warp is spread out, the weft can slide down and completely cover the warp, giving a weft faced textile, such as a tapestry or a Kilim rug. There are a variety of loom styles for hand weaving and tapestry.[10]

History

Weaving in ancient Egypt

There are some indications that weaving was already known in the Paleolithic era. An indistinct textile impression has been found at the Dolní Věstonice site.[12]

Neolithic textile production is supported by a 2013 find of linen cloth in burial F. 7121 at the Çatalhöyük site[13] suggested to be from around 7000 BCE[14] with further finds from the advanced civilisation preserved in the pile dwellings in Switzerland. One extant fragment from the Neolithic was found in Fayum, at a site dated to about 5000 BCE. This fragment is woven at about 12 threads by 9 threads per cm in a plain weave. Flax was the predominant fibre in Egypt at this time (3600 BCE) and continued popularity in the Nile Valley, though wool became the primary fibre used in other cultures around 2000 BCE.

By biblical times,[1] weaving was known in all the great civilisations, but no clear line of causality has been established. Early looms required two people to create the shed, and one person to pass through the filling. Early looms wove a fixed length of cloth, but later ones allowed warp to be wound out as the fell progressed. The weavers were often children or slaves. Weaving became simpler when the warp was sized.

Girls weaving a Persian rug in Hamadan, circa 1922. Note the design templates (called 'cartoons') at top of loom.

China and Southeast Asia

The weaving of silk from silkworm cocoons has been known in China since about 3 500 BCE. Silk that was intricately woven and dyed, showing a well developed craft, has been found in a Chinese tomb dating back to 2 700 BCE.

Sericulture and silk weaving spread to Korea by 200 BCE, to Khotan by 50 CE, and to Japan by about 300 CE.

Islamic world

In 700 AD, horizontal looms and vertical looms could be found in many parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. One of the innovations of the Islamic Golden Age was the pit-treadle loom where pedals were added to operate heddles. The first such devices appeared in Syria, Iran and Islamic parts of East Africa, where "the operator sat with his feet in a pit below a fairly low-slung loom.". Islam required the faithful to cover themselves from neck to ankle, increasing the demand for cloth. In Africa, the rich would dress in cotton while the poorer would wear wool.[15] By 1177, it was further developed in Moorish Spain, where the mechanism was raised higher above the ground on a more substantial frame. The idea was adopted by Christian woollen weavers, particularly in Flanders. This became the standard European loom, it had the great advantage that the weavers hands were free to pass the shuttle, while the monotonous job of operating the heddles was done by the feet.[15]

Medieval Europe

The predominant fibre was wool, followed by linen and nettlecloth for the lower classes. Cotton was introduced to Sicily and Spain in the 800s. When Sicily was captured by the Normans, they took the technology to Northern Italy and then the rest of Europe. Silk fabric production was reintroduced towards the end of this period and the more sophisticated silk weaving techniques were applied to the other staples.[16]

The weaver worked at home and marketed his cloth at fairs.[16] Warp-weighted looms were commonplace in Europe before the introduction of horizontal looms in the 10th and 11th centuries. Weaving became an urban craft and to regulate their trade, craftsmen applied to establish a guild. These initially were merchant guilds, but developed into separate trade guilds for each skill. The cloth merchant who was a member of a city's weavers guild was allowed to sell cloth; he acted as a middleman between the tradesmen weavers and the purchaser. The trade guilds controlled quality and the training needed before an artisan could call himself a weaver.[16]

Weaver, Nürnberg, c. 1425

By the 13th century, an organisational change took place, and a system of putting out was introduced. The cloth merchant purchased the wool and provided it to the weaver, who sold his produce back to the merchant. The merchant controlled the rates of pay and economically dominated the