THE SETTING OF THE WEFT
Every handmade carpet is made of cotton, woolen or silk thread called the weft. The ends of the weft are the fringes. It is necessary to place the weft on the loom in order to weave the pattern of the carpet. But first we have to set the weft as it is shown in the picture.
On a sunny day of April 1994, in a small lane of Komotini close to the ‘Clock’ district, two polished iron bars were set up around which the cotton thread of the weft would be rolled.
Mrs Stavroula Kourafallou an old and very experienced weaver with the help of Stratos Economou , Helen Katsaneva, John Karamanolis and Sali started the procedure . The distance between the two bars was 6,5 m; since this was not an easy and everyday task, we measured the weft for two carpets 2,5m long.
Concerning the width of the weft, we measured it to be 1,65 cm; for this reason we made 588 parallel pairs plus a pair for the middle part of the carpet.
The thread was rolled around the bars forming the number eight (chain like).
The woman who rolled the thread around the bars forming a number eight had to have strong legs and must be fir because she would have to walk 8 kilometers (6,5m length X 2 times – 1 pair X 588 pairs). The two young men (standing) at the ends where the weft come around the bars, tied the pairs together in the form of a chain to keep the weft firm.
In the pictures we can see this tying called ‘chain’. The proper weaving of the carpet is secured with stretched wefts. The setting goes on and more pairs of the weft are rolled around the bars, the chain ties them together. The woolen thread is tied in the middle of the pairs that are the 295th pair so that the weaver would know the middle part of the carpet.
This point is very important when weaving the pattern. The strong cotton thread will be rolled around the bars in proportion to the pairs of the thread that are necessary to form the width of the carpet.
We put two strings in between the weft to separate the pairs. The first thread of the weft and the last one. Both constitute the pair around which the woolen thread will be rolled and which will make the knot.
When we finish the stretching and the calculation of the pairs, we take them out of the bars. In their place we put a thin polished iron rod to make sure that the thread will stay clean. Four people are necessary to stretch and straighten the threads.
Then we roll the weft around the rod or a long thicker cylindrical bar as you can see in the picture and we move it.
The loom is wooden. Its horizontal parts consist of two pinewood bars 4 metres long and 0,30cm in diameter so that the cylinders are straight. Both cylinders have iron rings with holes for the levers to pass through; the levers help us tighten the weft when it is set on the loom. The upper cylinder has straight hooks just like thick nails where we put one of the thin iron rods with the weft. The lower cylinder has a space of 3 cm in width and 6cm in depth where we put the other thin rod. At the edge of the space we can see two long, thick iron plates. Under the iron plates and along the space, we put nails to keep the thin iron rod firm since the weft will rolled around it.
The two straight wooden posts touch the floor slightly slantwise. Each of them has an iron ring to keep the wood firm. In their upper part, these wooden posts have a fork where the upper cylinder moves. In their lower part the wooden posts have two holes where the lower cylinder is set. The holes have a space between them to allow the cylinder to move. The middle part of the loom touches some special parts of the side wooden posts. The entire loom is set firmly on the floor, on the ceiling and has two posts put against the wall to keep it firm. It seems like a parallel construction.
Then we hung the bar with the weft on it from the upper cylinder. We set the pairs of the weft on the bar, in order. We measure the width of the carpet. In order to do this properly; we measure the length of the carpet and the space between the straight wooden posts of the loom. We leave the same space sideways. This is very important in order to have a straight carpet .
- The bar with the weft on it is set on the upper cylinder. The lever is put on the hole of the upper cylinder. Mrs. Stavroula who is in charge of the setting has started to roll the weft slowly around the upper cylinder. .
The weft is rolled around the upper cylinder to such an extend that the other end of the weft with the bar can get into the space of the lower cylinder. It will be nailed down to stay firm when the weft is stretched. In between the weft, we put two strings to separate the pairs; the front thread of the weft from the back one. Both make the pair around which the woolen thread will be rolled to make the knot. The two strings that separate the pairs will be pushed over the middle of the loom, close to the upper cylinder. We will put sword-like wooden parts the so-called ‘spathes’ between the strings and the middle part.
We can see the bar with the weft in the space of the lower cylinder together with the iron plates on the edges of this space. The red thread is to point out the middle part of the carpet.
The happy face of the weaver indicates that everything went well up to that point. We then proceed the tightening of the weft and the weaving of the middle part
We start weaving the middle part .The middle part consists of a wooden cylindrical bar 0,05cm put in the middle of the two horizontal cylinders and its purpose is to keep the thread of the weft straight during weaving. In order to weave it, we use a cotton thread that covers the back thread of the pair and is rolled around the middle. The middle part is necessary when weaving the carpet. We will stretch the threads over the middle and in this way the back threads will become front and they will make a gap which is called ‘mouth’. Then we bring across the weft two wide and circular wooden parts, ‘spathes’. By moving up and down the ‘spathes’, the threads cross each other through the thin and thick weft to make the knots firm.
The levers are set properly in the holes of the cylinders where the threads are tightened up .The weft is stretched so that we can easily make out the pairs of the threads. Its width is measured in order to start weaving the first lines.
The bar that holds the weft is fixed in the space of the lower cylinder.
We leave 10-15cm for the fringes and we start weaving the chain. We start from left to right.
We pass over one line of the warp which is a weft thread. We lift the ‘spathes’ and push the threads coming from the back, forwards . We get a similar thread across the second line and then push it down with a comb to keep the chain firm. At the sides of the weft or the webbing of the carpet, we tighten up the ends of the warp so that the chain will stay stretched and firm.
After making the chain, we weave 3cm-rug using warp thread made of thin cotton thread. The thread is straight while the ‘spathes’ face downwards and close to the middle. We have to be careful not to stretch the thread too much. The second thread is crossed which means that the ‘spathes’ face upwards and close to the upper cylinder. We push down so that it will be properly woven. When the weaving of the rug is finished, a cotton thread goes over the warp. First, we get the thick warp across and then we use a comb to push it down. Then we lift the ‘spathes’ to get the thin warp across. We push it with a comb and then we lower the ‘spathes’ and we are ready to start weaving the knots.
We tie up the knots of the carpet using a woolen thread consisting of two or three threads depending on the quality of the carpet. At the edges, we make the well-known webbing. We leave one or two pairs of the weft without knots and we weave a rug or we roll a woolen thread around. We pass over a warp but we can weave it with a warp as well, which is made of wool just like the rug over the fringes. We are careful that the webbing does not face backwards. After tying up the knots of the first line, we pass over the thick cotton warp. We push with the comb and then we stretch the knots with our hands. Then we lift the ‘spathes’ and push them with a comb. We use special scissors to cut the knots keeping in mind the thickness of the carpet. In order to obtain good results, we have to cut the knots in every line.
Setting the weft
Mrs. Kourafallou Stavroula
Weaver in Komotini
Text writer Mrs Christou Helen
Weaver from Ammotopos – P. Artis