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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:34 am 
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Dear All,

In my textile reading, I keep running across the word "warps" for "warp threads." I have been told by master weavers (in Canada) , and have read in Dorothy Burnham's Warp and Weft, a dictionary (also Canadian) of weaving and textiles, that the word "warp" refers to a set of lengthwise yarns in a textile/loom. I see that in the literature, the individual threads of the warp are often referred to as "warps". My sense is that this is incorrect and one should refer to "warp yarns" "warp ends" or "warp threads". As I see individual warp ends referred to as "warps" so very frequently, I wonder if I am wrong. :?

I would love to have members views/understandings of the definition of the word "warp", and what they think when individual warp ends are referred to as "warps". To me, the plural, warps, refers to several sets of warp ends.

I am looking forward to your insights.

Thanks,

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:03 am 
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Sandra

I wonder if there is a difference when it is someone who is an 'expert' of weaving writing/talking and when it is someone who has some knowledge but is not an expert. I would count myself as the latter. I think I use 'warps' and 'warp' pretty interchangeably without too much thought when I am talking about the many threads which make up a warp strung on a loom. I might specifically refer to one warp thread if this was relevant for pattern or specifically to identify it. I guess we tend to try and shorten what we say/write and so might use 'warps' when we mean warp threads. I don't think we often talk about several looms and their warps when there would certainly be confusion.

Perhaps we need forum member Marla Mallett to give us her opinion (as being the most experienced weaver I can think of who is a forum member).

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 Post subject: warps and warp
PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:20 am 
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Yes, you might wonder why I get all worked up about something so trivial, but I am doing a translation for publication, and I think it is important to get this right. I suspect that in the centuries when weaving was a common thing, people may have automatically known that a warp was a set of threads. Often dictionaries must change to adapt to how a word is used colloquially. I am wondering if we are that far along.... however, the Oxford of 2005 still has the warp (singular) consisting of threads (plural) etc ....

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:21 am 
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I've sent Marla an email but meanwhile had a look in her book 'Woven Structures: A Guide to Oriental Rug and Textile Analysis' pages 22-23
Quote:
'Warp yarns are those the weaver stretches on the loom longitudinally. Wefts are the yarns she interlaces crosswise. The term warp can refer to either a single yarn or to the entire set of lengthwise yarns used in a weaving. You should be aware that in handweaving and other textile literature, "end" refers to a single warp, "epi" to "ends per inch"...' (Marla's italics)

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 Post subject: warp
PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:26 am 
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Thanks for looking this up, Pamela. Might this be a symptom of altered meaning based on colloquial useage???

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:28 am 
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Sandra

I would never wonder that you are concerned to get something exactly right - I would expect nothing less of you! Just because terms are used loosely - if that is what some of us are doing - does not mean that a written text should not be correct. I was interested to see that Marla says that
Quote:
the term warp can refer to either a single yarn or to the entire set of lengthwise yarns

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:32 am 
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Sandra

You are sneaking in to post ahead of me as I type!!!

"Might this be a symptom of altered meaning based on colloquial useage???" - it might, but I don't feel qualified to say since I don't think I know where the technically correct and the colloquial begin and end when it comes to weaving terms!

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:18 pm 
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I have had a full response back by email from Marla Mallett today which she has kindly said I may quote from so, here I go, with my Marla Mallett hat on:
Quote:
Dear Pamela,

Since I had been teaching university textile classes and weaving for well over 20 years before writing my book on WOVEN STRUCTURES, I’m quite familiar with most ongoing terminology discussions in the field. There were, in fact, major controversies raging in the Oriental Rug community over terminology issues in the 1980s, and it was these, in addition to the prevalence of erroneous technical information in rug books, that prompted me to produce a technical publication for that community. Problems with proper identification of woven structures had made it difficult for many enthusiasts to describe and discuss West and Central Asian tribal textiles in an understandable way; this extended even to museum curators who were more often Asian art historians than textile specialists.

I’m not sure what you mean by altered meanings due to “colloquial” usage. There is quite standard terminology in general usage among serious textile producers and scholars, while careless, non-standard usage seems the norm among people who may talk or write about textiles but who don’t have substantial technical, hands-on backgrounds in textile production. I’m not aware of any recent evolution in what is considered “standard,” or “proper” textile language, due to the adaptation of commonly misused terminology. Textile people tend to be pretty stubborn in this regard. Unfortunately, incorrect usage in popular literature is not limited to simple, relatively unimportant terms; the miss-identification of basic textile structures is routine.

As for the simple terms you’ve mentioned, I can comment briefly. I’ve never come across a problem with the term “warp” being used as a noun to describe either the entire set of lengthwise yarns that are stretched on the loom and held under tension while a piece is woven, OR used to refer to a single one of those yarns—either on the loom or off. Likewise, the plural form, “warps,” can be used as a noun to refer to more than one of these longitudinal elements—either on the loom, or in the finished fabric. It’s perfectly normal and proper, as is the word “wefts” to denote interlaced elements. This is standard everyday usage among weavers. The singular form can also be used as an adjective, as in “warp yarns.” It’s also proper to speak of “warping a loom.”

“Warp threads” is problematic however, as in most standard textile lingo, “thread” is a product used for sewing or embroidery, while “yarn” is the more proper term for a woven fabric element (even very fine ones!).

“Warp ends” is also seen as a problematic term in some quarters. This is a term used frequently by Western hand weavers, but strenuously objected to by some people in the field. It seems to have developed in handweaving literature along with descriptions of the process of threading a multiple-harness loom—i.e. drawing the ends of individual warps through the heddles and reed. Threading diagrams for complex weaves show the position of “warp ends,” and the term “ends per inch” refers to the “warp sett”—the number of warps in each horizontal inch across the warp’s width. It’s a bit difficult to understand the logic of the term when applied to primitive looms set up in other ways. In any case, it is definitely improper to refer to elements in any woven fabric as “warp ends.” Warp sett is of course a crucial factor to note in any fabric analysis, and may be listed as “epi” if desired, though to me, this seems a little silly when applied to Non-Western primitive weavings. (One might refer to fringe on a woven piece as the warp ends, but that is of course a different meaning and usage.)

All the best,

Marla

PS Quote this if you like…M"

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 Post subject: warp
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:00 am 
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Dear Pamela,

If there ever was a virtuoso email, this is it. Thank you so much for posting Marla Mallett's email, and to MM for writing it! I sense that I have received very sound advice, although I still have a niggle at the back of my mind because the master weaver in Canada had me change all of the "warps" in my book to "warp yarns".

I am quite struck by the comment about the term "warp ends" being a terminology especially related to the kinds of looms that actually have separate yarns drawn through the heddles. It makes me think of the literally dozens of terminological issues that have come up as I have tried to describe Batak weaving in which the English terms didn't quite match what was going on in Batak weaving. And yet to try to convey what is happening, one must use the English terms. Or a huge explanation for an indigenous term. This is a huge, huge issue. We have many dictionaries of weaving terms, but I have often thought that we needed explanatory dictionaries. Sometimes, often in fact, it just is not possible to translate a term. What is needed, instead, is a view of how the weaving proceeds as an integrated whole. For example, main weft and supplementary weft is a distinction that makes sense on a certain kind of loom. But with other kinds of looms, the more important distinction is how the heddling systems (more than one in the same loom) are deployed, and the distinction between main and supplementary weft is secondary (this is too complicated to explain in an email without it being horrendously lengthy and many diagrams, but I hope that the sense of what I am saying comes across). While complicated, this is nevertheless my favourite part of the study of cross-cultural weaving techniques: you become privy to the thought system invested in the techniques, and you get a sense of how the loom is perceived in the other culture. As Rita Bolland, former curator of textiles at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, always said, we must be very careful about what we are doing as development workers when we encourage people to change the equipment that they produce their textiles on. Weaving equipment is much more than a tool. Every artist knows that his or her artistic capacities and thought become shaped, to an extent, by the media and tools with which he or she works.

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