A Weaving Complete
This weaving was warped around Thanksgiving and I’ve had several blogs devoted to it, it looks as though this will be the last one, and on to more projects I hope. My weaving carried on until the space between the front warp threads and the back warp threads (Shed) was just too tight to weave properly. I was at the point where I had to remove the stick that held that space open. Still having the string heddles I was able to make a shed on my return pass, but eventually the shed became too tight for that as well, forcing me to remove my string heddles too. This is what we call the last mile, when we weave the last bit with a needle. At first I can weave an inch to an inch and a half with a needle. The weaving goes quicker than you might think. It certainly gives more control over weft placement. It also makes the weaving more personal. The act of physically weaving over and under and over and under one inch of warp seems more hands on than having a nice wide shed to throw a quantity of weft through. Paying attention to an individual inch of weaving makes you feel like you’re a part of the weaving.
Eventually the shed becomes so tight that weaving an inch is impossible. Every warp must be woven individually. Beating the weft changes from a “beat” to a “Pack”. Pushing the weft down, both to make room to weave and to match the beat of the rest of the weaving. At this point it makes no sense to stop even when its bed time. Pushing on to see your weaving through is the only option. You occasionally question your decision to use a continuous warp that gets so tight it makes this part so difficult to weave. Why don’t I just leave fringe at the ends and enjoy the comfort of a nice wide shed to weave in from start to finish? I have to remind myself that this is Navajo weaving, and this is part of what makes it so special, even though I share not one drop of Navajo blood with fellow Navajo weavers. When I can fit no more weft in for fear of breaking warp threads, it’s time to do my last four rows. These four rows are special, they are just like the first four rows. They weave over and under two warps at a time, the warp pairs, and help to cover them. Sometimes I will weave my last four rows, then remove the weaving from the loom and if I still see the warp peeking through, I will add another row on each end with a needle.
Once I’m done weaving, I will be certain that the weaving is tightened up as much as I can safely get it. I like to add steam to set the weft in its new position, that is it’s woven position as opposed to wound on a cone or pull skein. It relaxes the warp a tad and the weft, as it cools and drys it lays different and feels different. Its more cohesive, one piece rather than a bunch of strings going back and forth, over and under. The scales on the wool expand and reach out, then contract and tighten their grip, my weaving becomes one piece of fabric, it’s this final bending to my will that makes it my creation. I leave the weaving on the loom over night to cool and dry completely.
Cutting the binding and pulling those strings out removes the warp from the poles and the loom. This single act can feel the most rewarding. It’s cathartic and gives so much satisfaction. Just to see the released weaving pulling away from the loom, like its coming into the world for the first time. Even though the work isn’t done yet, it’s so close you can taste it.
When the weaving was started, there were end cords that were tied in a knot on each end, and selvage cords that were added and with a corresponding knot. These individual knots are untied, if I was smart I tied them loosely, but chances are good I’ll have to fiddle with them a bit. Then all four ends are tied together, and this forms the minimal fringe that Navajo Style weaving is known for. I love it, not that I don’t love a row of fringe on the end of a tapestry, but this finish is so clean and neat, you have to look at it and see how it’s done. This is when I’m happy I chose to continue using a continuous warp technique of the Navajo, I’m done with the warp. No more knots, no ends to clean up no weaving in of odd ends. I check the back, a relative term since this form of weaving is reversible. I check for skipped warps or weft floats and fix them by picking the float apart and weaving in the frazzled ends. If I see any warps peeking out at the ends I add another row of weft with a needle over and under pairs to cover them. This is usually why I question my decision of using a black band at the top and bottom. I’m happy with this weaving, I just need to find a wall to display it properly.
This weaving measures 33″ wide and 44 ” tall. I used a Wool Warp from Brown Sheep that I over-spun for strength. The side selvage and end cords are the black weft yarn over-spun and Navajo/chain plied. The weft is also from Brown Sheep, black, grey, red, white and blue are wool in the Lanaloft line, and the brown is 85% wool 15% mohair in the Lamb’s Pride line. The loom and batten were made by myself, loom was inspired by Mary Walkers plans. Weaving fork was made by Al Snipes. The weaving pattern was inspired by the area that I learned this weaving technique and was woven in respect for them and to remind me of this stark yet beautiful place.
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