Lamont tartan place mat, step by step, part 1

rweait's picture

This article covers my weaving process, for a recent project. I can't say that I recommend this method or these tools; I simply want to document them. I'm relatively new to weaving and I try something new with each project.

First, a look at a few of the tools I'm using.

Assemble tools

  • Yarn: in this case, 3/2 Mercerized cotton, in four colours.
  • Clamps: used to hold the raddles to the table used at one end, while measuring the warp.
  • Raddles: Yeah, so these might not be traditional. I built my loom to include raddles in the cloth beam and the warp beam. I only use the raddle on the warp beam. My raddles look like a bit of wood with nails placed in a line along one side. More detail below.
  • Wrap: I wrap a few turns of each yarn around some cardstock as a pattern. This wrap shows the half-sett for the Lamont #2 tartan.

Measure warp

For this project I measured enough warp for several place mats. I forget how long the warp was, but from the photos it was about five yards long. "Measuring the warp" means placing the correct length of each thread required for the warp portion of the pattern, in order, so that they can be put on the loom in a way that they are ready for weaving.

Mostly, this is an effort to avoid tangles.

My loom, in the foreground, has the warp beam closest to the camera, and the raddle is in place on the warp beam. The other raddle is on the far table, held in place by the clamps. To measure the warp, I walk back and forth placing a single yarn on one raddle and then the other raddle. Once enough yarn is in place to complete a block of a contiguous colour, I tie the loose end to the raddle, and start a new yarn of the next colour.

I don't know if other looms use raddles in this way. The few looms that I've seen don't do this. So far this method has avoided tangles.

The photo above shows the warp for this project when it was about half-measured.

I see from the photo that the threads on the right are sagging a little compared to the green and white threads. That isn't ideal. Ideally, each thread will be measured out to the same length and under the same tension. I haven't achieved that ideal yet.

Wind warp

Once the warp is measured, I wind it onto the warp beam. I used one full sett of the tartan, which includes each wide purple band. I extended the pattern with a partial sett of twelve more threads on each side.

I wind the warp onto the warp beam with paper between each layer of yarn. This is supposed to help keep uniform tension on the yarn. I try to keep a moderate and uniform tension on the yarn while I wind it onto the warp beam. When I don't keep sufficient, or uniform tension on the warp during winding, well, bad things happen. Tangles are bad things.

Sley heddles

Now that the warp yarn is on the warp beam, each thread of yarn has to be placed so that it can be lifted when the pattern declares specific thread should be lifted. Usually, each thread is controlled by a single "heddle". Preparing each thread in the correct heddle is called "sleying the heddle". I am not making this up.

The wooden-handled tool is called a reed hook, and with it I fish each thread from the warp beam, at the back of the loom through the correct heddle. Hypothetically. Or eventually. Sometimes they get mis-threaded. That can be more or less frustrating depending on how early or late I discover the problem. And it depends on the severity of the mis-threading.

The photo above shows the project when about half-sleyed. Half-slain? Er.

More about the loom. So, the heddle you see is a "rigid heddle" and it is composed of alternating slots and holes. The loom has four rigid heddles and you can just about see the top bars of each of the other three heddles in the photo. They look mostly the same as the one in front.

Ideally, each thread is sleyed in a hole in exactly one heddle. For this project, the yarn is sleyed in a simple pattern of 1-2-3-4, and over again from 1, until all of the threads are slain. Really? Sleyed? Slain? When a specific thread is intended for heddle #3, it is sleyed through the slot in heddle #4, then the hole in heddle #3, then the slots in each of heddles #2 and #1. And, also ideally, it should do all of that without twisting around or tangling with any of the surrounding threads. Sometimes this happens.

This photo shows the same project almost completely sleyed, but with an additional tool. No, not the coffee.

The coffee is a consumable. The coffee cup is the tool.

Also, once I sley a small group of threads I use a small slip-knot to hold them in place so they don't slip back through the heddle, undoing the tedious sleying process. No need to ask why.

Tie on

Okay, almost ready to start weaving.

The tension of the yarn has been an issue during measuring and winding the warp. Tying on allows us to further refine the tension of the yarn, in search of the mythical, exactly uniform warp tension.

A warp that is uneven in tension will weave unevenly. That isn't necessarily bad, but I'm aiming for uniform tension at this point in my weaving. I'm sure the experts use diverse tension in wonderful and creative ways.

Right. Tying on. Small groups of threads are tied onto the front apron rod, which is attached to the cloth beam. Each group is tied on in turn. Then each tie is revisited and checked again for tension. Then checked again because adjusting one may cause the others to shift.

I've found that now, after tying on, is an excellent time to recheck the sleying, by lifting each heddle in turn, and inspecting the yarn for tangles. I don't have photos of checking the sleying at this point because well, I learned this lesson later on in this project. There are no photos. You do not want to hear the soundtrack.

Weave waste

Now there are groups of yarn ready to be woven, but the yarn is not evenly distributed because they are tied in small groups. It is customary to weave a few strands of waste yarn until the threads are more-evenly distributed. That is what I've done with the white yarn above.

Start weaving

And now the weaving project can finally start. Here we go.

More, later, in part two. Add your questions or comments below.


Photos © R.Weait