For a long time, I have dreamt about weaving my own fabric for my clothes. After my little scarf project, I felt I could weave well enough to make fabric for my skirt. But if I was to weave skirt fabric, I could as well make a skirt for a national costume (this was before I started this whole Askola project). Well, it wasn’t so simple as it turned out my little loom was too small to weave a skirt. But renting a loom for such a long project didn’t make any sense. I could as well buy myself another, bigger loom. So, I did.
This loom is wide enough to weave 100 cm or 40″ wide fabric. It also folds down like this so that it doesn’t take that much space when not in use. Still, it is quite a big thing to have in one’s small living room!
Here is my YouTube video about the whole project:
Choosing the yarn(s)
Typically, during the early 19th-century, the warp would have been made out of linen. However, nowadays folk fabric weavers have mostly abandoned linen as it tends to break easily and needs constant moistening. As a new weaver, I thought it best to go with linen-coloured cotton yarn as well.
The exact yarn used in the weaving instructions is discontinued. Föreningen Brage sells similar wool but I first had to find the right shades that most closely match the little samples of the vest and skirt fabric I got with the instructions.
Warping and adjusting the loom for the weaving
Warping the loom took several days. There are 12 yarns per cm and that means 1200 yarns total. Every single yarn had to be threaded through its own heddle while keeping everything in order. Then I had to figure out how to connect the heddles to the threadless the right way.
As the loom came with old-fashioned linen cords, I decided to keep with them, since linen cord is cheap compared to the nylon cord that is used nowadays. Well, to be honest, using linen cords meant that my cords and knots slid and moved during my weaving and I had to stop once in a while to adjust my loom. It would have been much easier to use the modern method. A good thing is that the amount of adjusting I had to do, taught me well how the loom worked.
Paper straws work as spools!
I didn’t really like the spools weavers tend to make out of paper. They got easily stuck to my shuttles and that slowed the weaving down. Finally, I got this great idea of buying a bunch of paper straws. Each paper straw split in half gave two good spools that worked perfectly. I used my drill to fill the spools with wool which works just as well as an official spooling device. Still, I couldn’t imagine how much time it took to fill all the spools. I think I spent as much time doing that as I did weaving!
Then it was time to start weaving. At first, it felt difficult to achieve the required 32 yarns per cm density. Then I learned that to weave fabric that dense the warp had to be super tight and the weft loose. After a day or two I got the idea and the weaving started going well. I made the wide strips of colour slightly (5 mm) wider as I expected the fabric to shrink after I took it out from the loom. Finally, this was a bit too much and about 3 mm would have been enough for these stripes. I also noticed that sometimes I forgot where I was and pushed the wrong treadle. However, thanks to the dense satin weave, the mistakes only show on the wrong side.
The finished fabric
Here is how, after 2 months of weaving the finished fabric looked. The edges are not pretty but luckily they will be hidden in the final skirt and the vest will be cut out of the fabric. There were quite many places where the warp yarns broke during my weaving and those had to be woven in.
The recommended way of finishing the fabrics is to spray them with water and roll them around a tube to settle. I was so nervous for my fabric shrinking that I finally soaked the both fabrics in water, let them dry, then steamed them and finally rolled them onto tubes to settle when they were still slightly damp. A bit overkill perhaps but at least now I can be sure that there will be no shrinkin later and I also know that the colours won’t run. (Although, to have noticed colours running at this point would have been a disaster for me!)
Finally, I’m happy that I did this project. I admit that when I got to the vest fabric I had to struggle to keep up the motivation. Luckily, I had to finish the fabric in time to get some advice for the skirt and the vest before the last meeting of the course on the national costume making I was on. So, I had a deadline that helped me to push through the last metre or so.
Btw. If you are in the Helsinki region this weekend, pop into Ommel 2022 festival and check out the historical costume exhibition I have constructed. There are over 25 costumes made by the members of Societé Helsinki and I will be giving lectures and taking groups on guided tours to learn about the costumes we have made.
Thank you for reading and see you soon! Happy sewing!