Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weaving Like a Viking

While getting ready to weave Linda's Shawl, I noticed another project in the same magazine (Handwoven, September / October 2009 issue).  It was for a set of six kitchen towels woven in unmercerized cotton in an unusual broken twill design.  Apparently, the draft was developed from a piece of 10th century Viking cloth. It's pretty and six towels?  That could fill the gift stash for a while, especially if I used a neutral warp and did three sets of two towels in different weft colors.  So I ordered the yarn and planned to warp it on the loom after I finished Linda's Shawl.

Between the time I decided to do this project and the time I actually started measuring the warp, I came across Madelyn van der Hoogt's video on Warping Your Loom. Warping the loom is right up there with visiting the dentist in my book.  I love it after I'm done, but I'm not fond of the process.  I've been debating getting this video since it came out, and I finally decided to give it a go.  I got the download version - possibly not the best idea as it's a l-o-n-g download and you don't have any menu or chapter select options.  But it's as close to instant gratification as a long download can be.  I watched the first part of the first DVD.

Holy cow!  I have SO been doing things wrong all these years.  My excuse is that I'm self-taught.  So I decided to watch the video through again and use her methods.  I admit, I approached it with a little trepedation, but I stuck with it and in the end?  A perfectly wound and tensioned warp and no tense me!  Warping has never gone so smoothly.  But that wasn't the only surprise.

Viking Towels on the Loom

As I sat down to throw the first shots, I did things as tentatively as I always do.  Open the shed, unwind some thread from the bobbin, throw the shuttle, catch the shuttle (this will become inportant later), fiddle with the selvedges, beat and change sheds in one smooth motion.  Using the first few inches to get used to how much to beat, I discovered that this pattern needs quite a bit of force to pack the weft.  That's not unusual - that's why they call it a beater.  However, something compelled me to try to see how smoothly and quickly I could actually weave. This is a tight weave that can take some abuse.  So I did.  And, lo and behold, it turns out that I don't need to be tentative at all.  I can see where a different shuttle design might be a good idea, but my shuttles work and I have them!  This project is just flying along, which delights me!

Oh, the thing about catching the shuttle?  It happened this afternoon.  I was weaving along when I threw the shuttle with my left hand and, thinking about something else no doubt, forgot to get my right hand up in time to catch it.  The poor shuttle came flying out of the shed, past the loom and hit the wall.  Fortunately, nothing seems any the worse for wear, but I obviously need to be paying more attention!
Viking Weave Detail
It's such a pretty pattern and seems simple...  until you think about the looms available to 10th century Vikings.  How they had the patience to do this kind of design when they had to pick up individual threads to do it, I don't know.  Of course, they probably weren't thinking about what might be developed in the future.

Linda's Shawl
Linda's Finished Shawl
It's done!  Linda's Shawl is off the loom, the fringe is finished, the ends are worked back in and the whole thing has been wet-finished.  It could probably use anothe ironing, but it's done.  It's very different from the same shawl woven in bamboo - much softer and more textural.  I'm pretty happy with it.  The selvedges aren't what I'd like and there are one or two mistakes, but it's so pretty, hopefully nobody will notice the defects.  I ordered enough Malabrigo Lace yarn in a dusty rose to make another shawl just like this one.  Although I may change up the pattern just a bit.  Such fun!


  1. Both projects are so pretty! (And, I won't notice mistakes). I think one of our spinner/weavers made the same or very similar dish towels, they are so pretty. I'm going to either have to stop reading your blog or start weaving, because I see too many things I want here. :)

  2. Muahaha! No, don't stop reading the blog. I'll teach you to weave when you're ready. I feel much more confident as a teacher now. We'll start you on one of those Cricket looms we have in the shop and then you'll become addicted, just like me.

    Come to the Dark Side, my child!!

  3. The viking fabric is fabulous, a very pretty design. Just to let you know, their looms had heddles, so they certainly weren't picking up each thread. xx