What are the steps to produce a fabric on a hand loom?

metier a tisser

Making a fabric from a simple spool of yarn may seem very abstract to people who are not familiar with weaving techniques. This is why, through this article, I would like to share and tell as simply as possible all the preparatory steps necessary to create a handmade textile. 

What is called « warp » in weaving are the threads which are positioned vertically on the loom, and which also serves to determine the direction of the fabric. 

Before weaving, it is therefore necessary to determine the desired weaving width, its length, and the density of the textile that will be made (will the fabric be transparent, light, airy? or thick and dense ?). 

Once these parameters have been determined, the preparation of yarns starts with warping. 

Step 1: Warping

The tool used to achieve this first step is the warping machine : a wooden frame to which handles / pegs are fixed at equal intervals. 

The chosen thread(s) will then be unwound one by one and tensioned on this frame, to ensure that they all have the same length, and each of these threads will have a specific position. This step can take several hours depending on the density (number of threads per centimeter of weave), the width and the length chosen for the piece. 

Once warping is finished, the warp is wound on the back of the loom onto a roll called « warp beam ».

Step 2: threading the heddles

Then follows the tedious threading process, which determines the the woven structure of a fabric and the way the threads will interweave. 

Weaving looms are always equipped with frames, the number of which varies (minimum 2, up to 24). Each frame is itself equipped with heddles, which function is to guide the yarn. 

Threading consists in inserting each warp thread with the help of a hook, one by one and in a very precise way into the heddles. This step requires a great deal of concentration, as any mistake can considerably modify the desired pattern or texture effect in the weave. 

Step 3: threading the reed 

It is the work that follows the heddle threading. 

A weaving reed has multiple functions: it is used to distribute the threads across the width of the fabric, it determines the spacing between each warp thread (density). It also compacts the weft after each shuttle passage, and it acts as a guide for the shuttle during its trajectory between the threads. 

Threading the reed consists in passing each thread between the reed teeth using the same hook used for threading, and in a specific order. 

All that remains to be done is to tie the threads at the front of the loom, on a metal bar. 

The weaving can finally begin! 

The whole process of preparing the threads can take up to several days of work, and requires carefulness, concentration, and… a lot of patience! At each stage of the creation of a fabric, mastery of the technique is essential to the achievement of a perfect finished product, and it is essential to pay very close attention to it.

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