The making of cloth dates back thousands of years starting with coarse fabrics from grasses and leaves. A fine string or thread was made by twisting together and stretching out handfuls of plant fibers. With this development came the beginning of spinning, weaving, and hand stitching.
Weaving first started with narrow bands that were woven by hand, followed by the progression to loom weaving. Going as far back as ancient Egypt, weaving linen and spinning thread were important for personal household use and a source of income. Early American immigrants were known to weave. However, the Crusaders were first credited with introducing Europeans to the technique.
Materials: Your kit contains a hand loom, a shuttle and weaving thread. You might also need scissors and a yardstick or ruler for measuring and cutting. A darning needle is useful for hiding ends and adding beads. Use warp and weft material of appropriate weight for the frame and project. Jute and cotton yarn make great warp material as they do not stretch.
The definition of weaving is the interlacing of fibers together. In making fabric this is usually done by using one thread to go over and under another thread and is called a simple weave or basket weave pattern. Different patterns are made by how many weft threads, the threads used for weaving, are used to go under and over the warp, or the threads that are wrapped around the loom.
Evidence of cloth being made dates back from 7000 to 8000 BC, in Mesopotamia and Turkey. At that time wool was considered crude, linen was thought to be of the highest quality. Historically weaving was done primarily by men, in the 1600's, women married or single were referred to as spinsters because they were responsible for dying and spinning the fibers needed.
The first cloth made in America was linen, using flax that grew well from seeds brought by the new colonists. It took many years until enough sheep were imported to make wool in sufficient quantities. Early villages and towns had professional weavers who turned home spun yarns into cloth. Later traveling weavers worked the housewive's s spun thread into yard wide material. In isolated areas many made the complete project from start to finish themselves. Floor looms took up much needed space, weaving would have been done in the yard or porch in good weather, in a loft or a separate building called a loom house.
The first organized group of women called The Daughters of Liberty, were recognized as patriotic heroines. In 1766, their efforts helped end the Stamp Act and openly opposed the Tea Act in 1774. They were determined to make Americans less dependent on England by making goods that were being imported. This led to new American made fabrics called "homespun", constructed from short course fibers for utilitarian use. And linsey-woolsey, a more comfortable material for clothing that used flax, or sometimes cotton, as a warp thread, or base, because of its strength and wool the weft for the weaving material to make cloth.
Young colonial girls learned the craft of weaving on small lap looms. The beginners first learned to made a simple linen tape. By age 6 or 7, they were experienced enough to make shoe laces, belts, suspenders and hat bands or "ribands" , for decorative trim. Intricately patterned silk or woolen braids were made by adult women as sewing notions for household decorating and to trim clothing. The looms were often taken along on social visits.
The hand loom in our kit is portable and great for small hands, as well as being easy to use. Extra weaving materials and a shuttle, to carry yarn for weaving, are included.
Bookmarks and bracelets are quick and fun projects. Strips can be sewn together for many more uses. Beaded items can be made by threading beads onto the weaving yarn and using a needle with an eye small enough to fit through the holes. Large diameter seed or pony beads make beautiful bracelets
Weaving in China
In the 27th century B.C.E., during the reign of Emperor Huang-Ti, a disease began to destroy the trees in the royal mulberry grove, so the emperor asked his empress to study the problem. Empress Hsi-Ling-shi spent time in the groves and noticed that small white worms were devouring the mulberry leaves. The worms then would crawl to the naked stems below where they would spin silvery, white cocoons. According to legend, Empress His-Ling-shi took some of the small cocoons to her apartment for closer observation, and there one of the cocoons accidentally fell into a bath of warm water. As water was absorbed into the cocoon, the tiny pocket began to unravel revealing a delicate network of fibers. The empress pulled a small filament from the network and realized the fiber was a continuous thread, hundreds of feet long. In fact, one cocoon can contain a single filament measuring over 1,000 yards. With the discovery of the silk fiber, His-Ling-shi found the secret of acquiring a very rare and exquisite thread, one that could be used without first going through the spinning process.
As weavers in China began using silk in many of their elegant garments and tapestries, and later, as fabrics began to be exported, people outside of China became envious and somewhat resentful of the discovery. Despite the interest and curiosity of others, the process of cultivating silk remained a mystery and a well-kept secret to the outside world for over 3000 years.
Sealed tombs in Egypt's Nile Valley have brought forth fabrics dating back as far as 5000 BC. The predominant fiber found in Egypt was linen, a product of the native flax plant. A simple plain-weave pattern, an over-under stitch, was used for the construction of cloth. This plain weave structure was the dominant stitch until about 2500 BC. Wool was accessible in Egypt, as well, but was considered a fiber of the lower classes, namely, herdsmen and farmers.
Wool garments are rarely found in Egyptian tombs. In fact, Egyptian law placed certain restrictions on the use of wool. One such law forbade members of the priesthood to wear wool next to their skin or to wear wool into a place of worship. Cloth make from wool was thought to be crude and irreverent. Fabric made with cotton was much more acceptable and has been found in Egyptian tombs, but cloth made with linen was always considered the highest quality material and was used in mummy wrappings of the aristocracy.