“Philippa, who was rarely favoured with the more dramatic ailments of this world, had a head cold of historic virulence. ”
One of the many reasons I love Dorothy Dunnett, for writing a heroine who suffers from a prosaic cold. I suspect Harriet Vane is, through long line, descended from Phillipa Somerville (though in literary history the opposite is more likely).
There has been progress today, but here it stops until the cold and the fogginess it brings are gone. Mistakes in placing the heddles are disastrous. Each warp thread gets a heddle, but (in this case, and in most cases in tapestry) the heddles are split between two bars. It is essential to pick up every other heddle for the first bar, then the alternating heddles for the second. Make a mistake midway through, and you have to go back and start from the point of the error. Fail to catch the error before you begin to weave, and it’s even worse. It is, without doubt, the most fiddly moment in tapestry warping.
I used a weaving sword and my little shed stick to lift every other warp thread, in preparation for placing the heddles, and I lost track of the number of times I had to go back redo this after making mistakes. Astigmatism makes this process hard enough, but astigmatism and cold-induced mind-fog – not a good combination at all. I believe I have it correct now, but I am stopping till I am clearer.
I’ve completed one other step. On a loom like this, to make it possible to weave a long length on a smaller loom, the warp threads are doubled around. They do not run from the top of the loom to the bottom and back again. They run from a warping rod in the back, over the top and around the bottom and onto the warping rod, then around the warping rod, under the bottom, and back to the top. This leaves one set of threads in front and one in back. The set in front are the ones on which one weaves. Every so often the warp is advanced, with the woven section shifting down and around to the back of the loom, and some of the back threads moving up and around to the front. It can be very distracting to see the back threads when trying to weave on the front – silly and horrible errors can result – so I hang a piece of black fabric off the back of the loom, just in front of the back threads. It has to be removed and replaced whenever the warp advances, but it’s worth the effort.
There’s a metaphor and a meditation in that, too, somewhere, but it’s time for another nap under a warm cat compress.