Having vented spleen in our last post about waiting for the phone company to install their next-generation equipment so we can get even the slower speed access we pay for (until our neighbors upgrade to the faster service, which all shares the same base bandwidth), we have to do something with ourselves when the DSL starts crashing.
As readers may know, the Unix Curmudgeon’s partner in life, the Nice Person, is an accomplished fiber artist–spinner, weaver, and quilter. As you may or may not know, there are strong connections between weaving and computer technologies. The invention of the Jacquard system of controlling multi-shaft looms 210 years ago, in 1801, became a foundation idea for data processing. Using punched tablets to control the weave patterns was adapted by Hollerith to electrically operate counters to tabulate the results of the 1880 U.S. Census. Punched cards were used for electronic data tabulation for the next century, and, in the early 1950s, extended to include not only the data, but the programs in von Neumann architecture computers. With the development of computer terminals and portable magnetic storage, punched cards became relics. Even Jacquard looms became controlled by computers.
So, it is natural for computer-oriented folk to migrate back to the beginnings, with hand-weaving techniques. A couple of months ago, the Unix Curmudgeon tuned up an old 4-shaft table loom and took a weaving class, producing an acceptable pair of placemats and matching hotpad. The final exam, so to speak, is to make a scarf, using our own selection of materials. For this, I chose to use one of our floor looms, a 4-shaft Gilmore, and to weave a doublecloth piece in Tencel (a silk-like man-made cellulose fiber) and wool. As with computer programs, the design takes a bit of time and calculations (I used the draft from a magazine project as a template, but the fiber mix and project size adapted to my idea); the coding and debugging (dressing the loom) takes a long time, and the testing (actual weaving) not so long.
Of course, a complex threading pattern, like a complex computer program, is inevitably fraught with errors. Some are caught in a “bench check” — visual inspection, and some only during testing, which often takes one back to the drawing board. In my case, the tie-on revealed a few sleying errors (threading errors in the reed, or beater), which also revealed what I thought was a minor threading error in the heddles–a thread on the wrong shaft. For this, I tied a new heddle and rethreaded a couple of warp threads. But, an inch or so into the weaving, when the weave structure became visible in the cloth, it became apparent that the “fix” did not fix the problem: all of the warp to the left of the misthreading were offset. At this point, the only solution is to unweave, reversing the treadling sequence and passing the shuttles in reverse order, until the warp, and rethread about 100 warp threads. Hey, this is just like writing a program, when you don’t have a clear grasp of the structure or simply make an error.
So it goes. Like quilting, weaving is a lot like computer programming. Design, built, debug, test, redesign, build, etc.
This, hopefully, will end up as a wool/silk (Tencel is a less-expensive substitute) aviator scarf.