What is Weaving?
Weaving is the art of interlacing yarn (threads) to make a piece of fabric called a web. The lengthwise yarn are known as warp threads and the crosswise or filler yarn, weft threads. The warp is strung under tension. Yarn used for weaving may be of a umber of fibers, wool, cotton, silk, metallic, plastic, synthetic threads. Frame or ground loom are usually used for weaving and are either horizontal or vertical.
Surely one of the very oldest crafts, no one knows the remote ancestors who invented weaving, though many nations have ancient legends and folk tales about the origin. Historians believe the first weavers wove mats and baskets out of rushes, grasses, bark, or tree branches.
The early Greeks credited the goddess Minerva with the invention of weaving. One of the better-known myths concerns Arachne, who boasted of her weaving skill. When Minerva warned her against her boastfulness, Arachne ignored the warning. So Minerva challenged her to a weaving contest. Minerva wove designs showing how mortals had been punished by the gods. And Arachne wove pictures of some of the gods' love affairs. This so enraged Minerva that she tore Arachnes's web and turned her into a spider. The Asante Bonwire Kente weavers of Ghana credit the spider for showing their first weavers how to weave with the help of a web woven between three trees (in Figure 1, the three nails on the ground loom represents the three trees).
Figure 1: A young boy in Asante Bonwire, Ghana, weaving on ground loom.
The earliest illustration of a ground loom appears on the side of flat bowl (figure 2) dated 4000 BC, found at Badari in Central Egypt, and now in the Petrie Museum University College, London. It shows the warp stretched out between two beams.
Figure 2: Horizontal ground loom depicted on a bowl from Badari, Egypt, c. 4000 B.C.
Petrie Museum, University College London.
Warp threads may be kept under tension in a vertical position by supporting a bar at each end with uprights, either on forked posts or lashed in position with ropes. The tension is produced by gathering groups of warp threads together and attaching them to weights in such a way that they hang just above ground level. This is known as the warp-weighted loom (Figure 3) and appears in illustrations on Greek vases from the Sixth to Fourth centuries BC.
Figure 3: Warp-weighted loom made in Boeotia, Greece. C. 450-430 BC.
What appear to be loom weights have been found in other archaeological sites in Egypt, but there is no other evidence to show that the warp-weighted loom was used there in ancient times. The vertical loom that did exist in Egypt, where a second bar takes the place of weights, appears in many wall paintings of the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1900 B.C.), and shows weavers sitting at looms (Figure 4) which are similar to the tapestry and rug looms of today.
Figure 4: Vertical loom as depicted on walls of tomb #104, Thebes, Egypt. 18th Dynasty. c.1450-1425 B.C.
The Navaho Indians of North America still use a simple vertical frame loom made from two upright posts with horizontal bars lashed to the top and bottom.
The simplest loom, with a wide distribution throughout the world, is neither horizontal nor vertical, but something halfway between the two. This is the back-strap, or body-tensioned loom, where the warp threads are wound around two bars and lie at an angle of about 40 degrees. The far one is attached by a cord to a tree or post, and the near bar fitted with a comfortable strap to circle the weaver's hips. This style of loom ranges in geographical location from eastern Asia to South America .
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