28 May 2013

A Bit of Napkin History!

The napkin history I was originally thinking of included my own personal pieces of handwoven cloth. From the log cabin dishtowel that brought a red ribbon home, the twill in golds that has covered many a pie, the fun purple ones with spots of Atwater-Bronson Lace that are often folded, and protecting my favorite coffee cup from the tile, to the large, blue and red striped ones that have gone on many impromptu picnics, they have all been part of special times.

So I thought I'd check out a little bit of napkin history. And this is why I must weave napkins, they are fascinating. Did you know that the first napkins in use by the Spartans were lumps of dough, rolled and kneaded at the table? Each time I've covered a homemade pie crust with one of my pieces of cloth, I have, in essence, laid a napkin from one time, on a napkin of another time! This is something that truly amuses me.

Dough napkins were eventually replaced by pieces of bread for wiping hands on -- this only makes sense of course. Then onto napkins of table size, where you wiped your hands and mouth with the hanging edges, and into the late Middle Ages when the communal napkin came to be no larger than our modern bath towel! That's a lot of weaving.

And it doesn't stop there, by the 1700's there were napkin protocols! Some pretty funny ones, too.
A bit of napkin history.

So now, whenever I wonder which handwoven things make me personally the happiest, it has to be the napkin, a purposeful piece of cloth with a long and fascinating history. And I like to weave them.
Plying the weft for the last of the Picnic Napkins.

14 May 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have cloth!

And this is why I weave. I have pieces of cloth that I wove over a decade ago still in daily use. A dish drying towel that for the first 5 years of its life I thought was too nice to dry dishes with because it won a red ribbon at our County Fair, but today always have handy in the kitchen. There are samples of fabric that I've woven over the years, now used as coasters for drinks. And cloth napkins are everywhere... oh the napkins! At one point I was weaving 14 yards of fabric at a time for napkins.

A cloth napkin is a thing of beauty, a daily reminder of a quieter, more peaceful, less disposable time. A time for tea, and for luncheons, and for picnics outside where the cloth is large enough to wrap up cheese, and fruit, and some bread maybe.

This is the napkin that I cut off of the loom in time to give to Mom for Mother's Day. The verdict? She likes it!

And now onto weaving off the remaining seven napkins. This is the best part of weaving, throwing the shuttle and watching the cloth almost magically appear. I'll post photos of several napkins together next week. It is fascinating to see how different each one looks, yet is bound to its companions by the same warp threads.

The next napkin.

07 May 2013

Showing Up

If all else seems to be blocking you from posting, I recently advised a friend, just put up a cute dog photo. Show up. Here is my funny girl with an expression that I can't quite describe. It might be a questioning look, "Where are those napkins?" or maybe just a perplexed "When do we eat again?" It's hard to tell, but she is the best opener I've got today.

The napkins are now sleyed and threaded! This has been a much bigger deal than I expected. Stuff, life, and more life stuff just keeps getting in front of the loom. I know I only need to show up every free chance I get, and things will get done. I don't always do that. I have done it more this time than in the recent past though! That is also a pretty big deal. 

480 threads are in 480 heddles, and tied on to the back rod. Those threads will then wrap around the back warp beam, which will hold everything nice and even for weaving it all off. You'll notice from the pictures that my Texsolv heddles are color coded. That became almost too funny, when I realized what a mental mess I was going to be every time a yellow thread ended up in a blue marked heddle, and a blue thread ended up in a yellow marked heddle... then reversed! A yellow thread was in a yellow heddle, and a blue thread was in a blue heddle. I thought this is what stark raving madness must be like. 
But it is done! 

A close up of the madness. The plan is to start weaving tomorrow.