Weaving Old School

Today’s post is the first part of three chronicling a very special and unique experience I had while learning how to weave on a loom.  I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to a very rural area of China and study the areas longstanding tradition of hand weaving fabric.

The loom structure and operation can seem daunting at first, but it is actually pretty straightforward once you learn the basics.  All the looms were built by hand using wood from trees we chopped down ourselves!

The loom is built about 6 feet long and 5 feet tall and basically looks like a 4-post bed!  Here is a sketch I made for our blueprints:

Piece o' cake, right?

The basic point of the structure is to be able to stretch the thread taught all the way from one end of the loom to the other, creating the “warp” (the thread that goes the long way).  Then, through a series of strings and wooden dowels, two separate warp planes will be created, like two sheets stacked on top of each other. The two planes move up and down between each other with the push of a petal.  Each time the planes switch positions, a spool of thread passes through horizontally, creating the “weft.”  In this way, thread by thread, fabric is made!  Fabric is still made using this centuries-old basic principle, the only difference is that today, most of it is made with machines!

This is what the loom looks like from the point of view of the weaver.  The two hanging wooden dowels (labeled “reni”) are connected by string to foot pedals which switch the warp (planes of fabric shown vertically).  Each time they switch, the bolt of thread (labeled “sige”) is passed through horizontally.  The wooden rectangle (labeled “busi”) is like a giant comb for the thread and each time the weft is woven through the warp, the wooden rectangle is pulled down to push the weft in nice and tight.  You wouldn’t want a bunch of little, see-through holes in your clothes, would you?!

Here is a photo of the finished loom once it was built and threaded!

Front of the loom!

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll show you all exactly how this crazy contraption works and turns thread into beautiful scarves and fabric.  You’ll also surely get a kick out of my crazy weaving outfit 😀

4 responses

  1. Your explanations and photos are amazing.

    I wonder if that’s my scarf on the loom? Whether it is or isn’t, it’s still my most prized possession.

    Keep up the beautiful, dedicated and creative work.

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