CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Speaking about Weaving

Our craft is very, very old and has a language of its own.  The terms we, as weavers use have a very specific meaning.  The language we use in the non-weaving world sometimes appears in the weaving vocabulary.  It’s interesting to see how many there are and how different their meanings are in both worlds.
First, there is warp.  The rest of the world sees it as a twist or a curve in something that was flat or straight.  For us it is the threads that run the long way in the cloth, either horizontally or vertically through which we interlace the filling or weft, in a balanced weave (half and half), a weft faced weave (think Navajo rug) or warp faced structure (think repp rug).
warped record (remember those?)

warped record (remember those?)

An apron to my great aunt Ida was something she put on over her dress to keep it clean while cooking in the kitchen.  For us, it can mean that but is more likely to mean the cloth that connects the woven cloth to the cloth beam.  These are mostly made of canvas, and in general, the stouter the cloth is, the better.

apron

apron

We make a cross in the warp as it is wound to keep the warp threads in order.  A thread that runs straight from front to back is shorter than one that moves diagonally across the loom, so the cross keeps not only the order of the warp but helps maintain the tension because all the threads are the same length and follow the same path from the warp beam to the fell.
cross

cross

Fell is another word we use in a special way.  For us, the fell is the interface between the woven cloth and the unwoven warp.  Every time we add a pick, the fell advances by the width of the weft.
he fell!

he fell!

A float for us is not a very decorated platform pulled along a parade route, nor the thing out in the lake that every kid in camp wants to be able to swim out to climb aboard.  For us it is a thread that goes over or under two or more threads.  Floats may occur in either the warp or the weft direction.  But they are not to be confused with a skip.
float

float

another float

another float

Your heart may skip a beat, you may skip breakfast (in general, not a great idea) or you may skip to the mailbox if you anticipate a love letter.   Our skips are not good news: for us, a skip is a thread that floats over two or more threads when it wasn’t supposed to!  For me that means there will be needle weaving to correct it.
skipping rope

skipping rope

Lease means the legal document you sign when you agree to rent a property for a specific length of time, you may get a new lease on life if something good or encouraging happens to you, but to us the lease is the same thing as the cross.  You may put sticks or rods in the lease to hold it in place while you thread your loom and they are called lease sticks (what else?)

 

A quill to outsiders is what people used to use to write.  They would use a pen knife to cut the end of the long feather at a slant to form a point that would be dipped in ink.  Primary and secondary feathers made the best pens.  For us, a quill is something we use to carry finer wefts in the shuttle.  They are made by cutting a long-ish oval (4 to 6″) and winding it firmly (from the short side) around something like a pencil or a dowel.  Just before the end of the oval is caught, if you put the end of the weft yarn under it, you can wind the quill full without worrying about how you will get it to stick.  I have seen folks tie the end around the bobbin, quill or pirn which is a waste of time, in my opinion.  If you hold the end of the weft against the quill, bobbin or pirn with the tip of your thumb and wind across it firmly several times, the weft will wind on nicely.  At the end, the trailing end of that load of thread just pulls out of the shuttle; a knot brings the shuttle to an abrupt halt (it may cost you a selvedge thread somewhere down the line because each time the shuttle hangs up in the shed, the threads are stressed.)
quill

a quill could sign a lease

Shuttle is a word we run into more often now than when I was a little girl.  You will catch a shuttle bus to get from the airport to you car, astronauts use shuttles to get from earth to a space station, tatters use a shuttle to make tatted lace.  Of all of these, the tatters’ usage is closest to our own.  Our shuttles carry the weft across the warp; a tatting shuttle has thread wound onto it for making the lace.  Like the bus at the airport our shuttles go back and forth, but always a much shorter distance!
shuttle

shuttle

A shed is an out building that may contain gardening equipment, a shelter for the dog, or a place to store things that we without attics or basements don’t want to get rid of but don’t need every day (think holiday ornaments).  Our sheds are the openings made in the warp for the shuttle to pass through.  Very simple looms, like frame looms, will have primitive methods of creating the shed: The weaver’s fingers or a stick with cord wound around it with one warp end caught in each loop formed when the cord is wound.  We call this the heddle stick.  When lifted, each thread passing through one of the loops is lifted to make a shed.  Sheds can be made with more elaborate equipment; a rigid heddle loom has vertical sticks set into a frame so that each stick has a hole in the center and the sticks are far enough apart that the warp can pass between the sticks.  This frame is lifted to create the shed.  With two rigid heddles, plain weave is a snap.  If you are willing to use more rigid heddles and/or pick up threads here and there with a shed stick many structures are possible but not as easily as on a floor or table loom.  The sheds on one of these looms is made by having some threads in the warp rise while the others stay at rest (a jack loom) or go down (a counterbalance loom.)  On a jack loom the frame, shafts or harnesses are lifted by pushing down on a treadle; the remaining warp ends stay down.  On a counterbalance loom pairs of shafts are connected to the other pair of shafts; a treadle is tied to the shaft you want to depress.  The other shaft rises by a system of pulleys to create a shed.  These looms usually have just four shafts and structures where two shafts are lifted and two go down work best.
To make a shed where three shafts are pitted against one special modifications must be made.  A countermarch loom leaves less to gravity: all shafts are tied either to lift or to be pulled down.  Two treadles cannot be depressed at once because two different sheds make a conflict: a shaft cannot go up and go down at the same time.
shed

shed

A temple is a place of worship or contemplation, but for weavers it is a device to keep the woven cloth the same width as the warp in the reed.  It works by defeating the tendency of the warp to narrow as it is woven.  Most temples can adjust a few inches to the desired width.  There are sharp, metal points on the ends that go into the cloth just inside the selvedge and close to the fell.  Some weavers use them all the time and others rarely if at all.
temple

temple

And then there is tabby.  For the rest of the English speaking world it refers to a striped cat, but for us it means something quite different.  For us tabby is what we call the plain weave pick that is woven between pattern wefts in overshot, summer & winter, crackle and monk’s belt (a subset of overshot).  That definition is the most correct even though many weavers use that term to describe plain weave cloth in general.

George, Sharon's red tabby kitten

George, Sharon’s red tabby kitten

 Therefore, we need to be careful how we speak around non-weavers if we want to be understood.  Actually, that isn’t a bad idea around everyone!
Sharon lives and weaves in Salt Lake City.  She and George live in an 1886 adobe Victorian  house whose maintenance and repair keep her busy.  Her gardens are growing nicely. Sharon can be reached through her website – sharonalderman.com