Sunday, 7 December 2014

Weaving Vadmal I - Getting started

After years of staring miserably at my empty loom, I finally decided what I needed to get weaving again: set deadlines and external pressure. That might not sound like much fun, but when it comes in the form of a parttime, wool-themed weaving class, it is! At Grebbestad folkhögskola they have such classes and in February this year I enrolled in one called "Vadmal & Tweed". 

The purpose of the class was for each participant to weave a woollen fabric, full it together with the rest of the group at a traditional small-scale fulling mill and then sew something wearable out of it. The class also included trip to the Outer Hebrides (hence the "tweed"-part of the title). We all worked at home on our own looms, but met up every other month to share our progress, talk about looms, wool and weaving, and plan the trip to Scotland.

Being me, I naturally decided to weave a medieval style 2/1 twill and use the fulling mill experience to finally get myself a properly finished fabric. And make a late 14th century dress out of it. No surprises there. The yarn was a really lucky find on Tradera (Swedish version of EBay) - 6 kg of high quality weaving wool (yarn number Nm 6/1) for approximately €8/kg!!! Normally, it would have cost at least ten times as much! Having worked with wool of this thickness before, I knew it works rather well for 'medieval' fabrics. I once used it for a fabric with the same thread count as the mid-14th century cloak from Bocksten, but this time I planned for something more along the lines of the cloth used for the Bocksten tunic. The yarn used in the original is spun differently for the warp and weft; the warp is z-spun with a higher twist than the s-spun weft. My industrially spun yarn was all z, but that was OK since not all medieval fabrics have mixed spinning (although it was rather common). Sometimes it's a good idea to add some twist to modern warp yarn to get a more medieval look, but I wanted to get started with the actual weaving and simply decided that my yarn was 'good enough' as it was...
Obsessive Sampling Disorder - Yarns: Natural dark grey, natural light grey and burgundy wool yarn, with a nice mix of soft and slightly coarser fibres, especially in the undyed yarn. I chose the light grey yarn for the warp and the darker grey for the weft
These days, the word vadmal has a rather specific meaning in Swedish. It's considered to be a heavily fulled fabric in which the finishing process has more or less completely obscured the actual weave, usually a tabby. It almost (but not quite) looks like felt, is quite thick and pressed, but not shorn. In medieval times, however, vadmal basically referred to any locally woven woollen fabric, as opposed to the more exclusive imported stuff. Medieval vadmal could be thoroughly fulled like its modern counterpart, just given a light treatment or perhaps none at all. The fabric I wanted to make belonged to the 'lightly fulled' category; a fabric of medium thickness with a nice drape. I made a tiny sample to help decide how many threads/cm I would use...
Obsessive Sampling Disorder - Sett: Even small samples have their uses. Any sample is a good sample. Did I mention that I love samples? This one has 7 warp threads/cm which also was the sett I chose for my cloth
The whole process of setting up the loom and beaming the warp was rather uneventful. My weaving hiatus may have lasted for six years, but once I got going everything came back to me.
Warping. I don't own a warping mill. Luckily, I work next door to the Textile School at the University of Borås and can borrow theirs
Using a raddle and water bottles as weights to beam the warp. It's quick and easy, and I can do by myself without assistance. And the warp always ends up completely even!
Heddling with coffee. A slightly risky undertaking. Note to self: get a cup holder for the loom
Technical details:
Type of weave: 2/1 twill
Yarn: wool Nm 6/1
Sett: 7 threads/cm
Width in loom: 97 cm
Total number of threads: 680
Length of warp: 12.6 metres

2 comments:

Cathy Raymond said...

Glad to see you working on historical stuff--and blogging about it--again. Best of luck with this project.

Panth said...

Wow. That's super-impressive. I can't wait to hear more about this project!