Friday, July 18, 2014

Warp-Weighted Loom Update #5: Making the Loom Weights

You know, there's a good reason to re-read some of the things I have lying around here. With my Spin-Off magazines, I typically use them as reference material once I've read them through once, and they're my go-to resource for pattern information (ie, going from unspun fiber to finished garment). But with all of my research into warp-weighted looms, it never occurred to me to also check out these magazines to see if it had mentioned anything in regards to these looms. As it would turn out, the Summer 2013 issue has such a mention.

As a reenactment and teaching project, the warp-weighted loom they used wasn't exactly like the kinds Iron Age peoples would have used...but it does give me some ideas about how to make a modern version. Iron Age looms built in Britain, for example, would have been made of hazel. The tree would have been about 4-5 years old, with a straight, sturdy trunk. They would have looked for a piece which had branch with a 45 degree fork near the top, then tried to find a second hazel trunk of similar proportions. After minimal trimming and drying, the loom would be ready for use. Well, there isn't any hazel in Korea, so I have to think and search a little longer to figure out how I'll build the structure. I'm not a carpenter, so perhaps I'll shoot for some grown-up Tinker Toys: pvc pipes.

While my brain grinds on that conundrum, I plan to make some loom weights. I was excited to learn more about how the spinners featured in the Spin-Off magazine made and set up their loom, but they didn't include such details. Now, sometimes it's easy to look at a simple tool and be able to make one just like it, and it does the job just fine. On the other hand, these simple tools have had a long history of use, so their ideal shape for the job they're intended for is fairly exact. With that in mind, I didn't want to spend time reinventing the wheel, so to speak, and a paper by Linda Mårtensson, Shape of Things: Understanding a Loom Weight, offered some help. The author created a series of experiments to test which kinds of set ups that Iron Age peoples might have utilized. This would help archaeologists determine the kinds of cloth people would have made when the only extant evidence are loom weights. Due to the experimental nature of this analysis, I have a well-defined starting point.

Iron Age Brits would use donut-shaped loom weights made of unfired clay. They were rough and clearly handmade, but I suspect they could make lots of weights at once if they wanted. There are some interesting details about the evolution of the loom weight as it traveled from Anatolia to Ireland, and you can read more about it in Prehistoric Textiles written by E.J.W. Barber (see below for full bibliography). The style of loom weight I'm going to attempt is the same style that Mårtensson used in one of her experiments, mainly since the dimensions and weight are also listed. This should make it easier for me to reconstruct the length of fabric she made, and hopefully it'll provide a safety net for the instance when I mess up (because I probably will). This is the paper clay I'm using:

My loom weights:
  • 10cm circle
  • 2cm diameter
  • 200g wet weight
  • 1-1.5cm hole
I'm shooting for a finished weight of around 160-180g, and 9cm by 1.8cm size of the weight. I made two weights to get started so I can make future adjustments as necessary. Two weights will help me figure out the average shrinkage for the paper clay. If this turns out as expected, I will need to make about 20 more of these weights in order to make a cloth 28cm wide. Whew.

So far, the weights have been drying for a day, but they still feel pretty wet. I should take some bets to see how long it'll take for them to dry completely. My best guess is that it'll take a full week. I should weigh them daily to actually know how long it takes. I'll post a follow-up on the weights when they're dry. I think I might spend another post talking about the history of loom weights (I'll take some interesting excerpts from Barber) since it's interesting from a weaver's point of view, but also from an archaeologist's point of view.

I've also updated my bibliography, in case you are keeping up with me:

Current Bibliography:
Albarella, U., Johnstone, C., & Vickers, K. (2008). The development of animal husbandry from the Late Iron Age to the end of the Roman period: a case study from South-East Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science, 35(7), 1828-1848.
Andresen, S. T., & Karg, S. (2011). Retting pits for textile fibre plants at Danish prehistoric sites dated between 800 bc and ad 1050. Vegetation history and archaeobotany, 20(6), 517-526.
Barber, E. J. W.(1991) Prehistoric Textiles. The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton NJ.
Degano, I., Ribechini, E., Modugno, F., & Colombini, M. P. (2009). Analytical methods for the characterization of organic dyes in artworks and in historical textiles. Applied Spectroscopy Reviews, 44(5), 363-410.
Frei, K. M., Berghe, I. V., Frei, R., Mannering, U., & Lyngstrøm, H. (2010). Removal of natural organic dyes from wool–implications for ancient textile provenance studies. Journal of archaeological science, 37(9), 2136-2145.
Good, I. (2001). Archaeological textiles: a review of current research. Annual Review of Anthropology, 209-226.
Joosten, I., van Bommel, M. R., Hofmann-de Keijzer, R., & Reschreiter, H. (2006). Micro analysis on Hallstatt textiles: colour and condition. Microchimica Acta, 155(1-2), 169-174.
Mårtensson, L., NOSCH, M. L., & STRAND, E. A. (2009). Shape of things: understanding a loom weight. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 28(4), 373-398.
Rast-Eicher, A., & Bender Jørgensen, L. (2012). Sheep wool in Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science.
Ryder, M. L. (1987). The evolution of the fleece. Scientific American, 256(1), 112-119.
Strand, E. A., Frei, K. M., Gleba, M., Mannering, U., Nosch, M. L., & Skals, I. (2010). Old Textiles—New Possibilities. European journal of archaeology, 13(2), 149-173.
Tomlinson, P. (1985). Use of vegetative remains in the identification of dyeplants from waterlogged 9th–10th century AD deposits at York. Journal of archaeological science, 12(4), 269-283.
Vanden Berghe, I., Gleba, M., & Mannering, U. (2009). Towards the identification of dyestuffs in Early Iron Age Scandinavian peat bog textiles. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36(9), 1910-1921.
Viklund, K. (2011). Flax in Sweden: the archaeobotanical, archaeological and historical evidence. Vegetation history and archaeobotany, 20(6), 509-515.