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Posted by Marla Mallett on December 31, 1998 at 16:30:42:

Daniel and all:

Here, in answer to a question about my reference to WEFTS CROSSED BETWEEN SHEDS, are some drawings that show how weavers have done this. It is such a distinctive weaving practice that I think we should look for this detail in our rugs whenever possible. It may or may not ultimately prove to have diagnostic significance. Since I have found crossed wefts in some NW Persian rugs that I presume are Kurdish, it seems relevant to the current discussion. Here's the process:

The weaver first inserts a pair of wefts in an open shed, one from each side of the rug. (See the on-the-loom drawing below.) These wefts meet somewhere in the center of the warp, where the weaver brings both yarns to the front surface, out of the shed together. After everything is beaten into place, she changes the shed and re-inserts the yarns in the new shed. The wefts cross as each is carried onward in its original direction.

This practice provides a ground weft yarn to carry upward around the end knot at each selvage, strengthening the edges slightly. Chinese weavers even developed unique attached selvage constructions to use in conjunction with this practice.

When Near Eastern weavers have crossed wefts in their rugs, they have done so primarily to save time. When two weavers work together, each can lay in a weft from her side toward the center, beating it into place from the rug's edge inward, toward the loose end. When the shed is changed, the two weavers exchange weft yarns, reinsert them in the shed, and continue. The two people can simultaneously wrap or interlace selvages on their respective sides. It is efficient since one person need not always be waiting.

If you would like to determine if the wefts in a rug cross, there are several features to investigate. It is easiest to look for actual weft crossings. On the back of a rug, if you carefully follow a pair of wefts, you may find a short float where one weft has crossed two warps to jump upward. If you stick a pin through the rug at this point for a marker, on the front you will find a corresponding float where the second weft makes the crossing. These floats are scattered randomly so the rug is not weakened. These are easiest to see in Chinese Ninghsia rugs, so I've marked several such floats in the example below.

The yarns may cross as shown in the drawing below, however, so that one weft binds the other. The binding weft on top makes a sharp diagonal or vertical turn. This feature is more difficult to detect, but is the one I've found most commonly on south Persian rugs. Floats that cross three warps are usually just errors--skipped warps--and are not a sign of crossed wefts.

Occasionally crossed wefts appear in rugs with three weft picks between rows of knots. In such examples, we find not only ordinary crossings between each row of knots, but on alternate rows we find wefts that jump upward over the row of knots also. To do this, weavers bring their wefts to the surface in the center of the rug and leave them dangling while they complete a row of knotting. Then they insert these weft yarns in the new shed, where each continues in its original direction.

Another clue to detecting crossed wefts is dependent upon the weaver's choice of yarns. In several South Persian, NW Persian Kurdish, and Anatolian rugs that I have examined, it has been easy to see crossed wefts, since the weavers used leftover materials and in some places the two wefts were of contrasting colors. In such pieces it is possible to follow a pair of wefts and see clearly where the two change positions. Their sequence can be checked in an area near one SIDE of the rug. If weft yarns are red and brown, for example, and alternate red-brown, brown-red, red-brown, etc., we can assume that these wefts cross in the middle. When such sequences are found on Göklan Eagle-gul rugs, for example, we can assume that those pieces have crossed wefts. It is important not to check this sequence in a rug's center, since the crossings are erratic there. We usually don't need to bother looking for crossed wefts in rugs with deeply depressed warps. I've only found them in one such Chinese aberration.

I'm eager to know where anyone finds this detail, and so will appreciate it if you let me know. Have a Happy New Year hunting for crossed wefts!

Marla Mallett

Marla Mallett's Web Page

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