Our finished handwoven denim is more of a work of art than a practical textile. It is woven in a 3x1 right hand twill with selvedges that span 20 inches wide, 5 yards long. The warp yarns are 10s organic cotton yarn dip-dyed in an organic, fermented indigo bath in Portland, Oregon. The weft yarns were the same organic cotton, only un-dyed. The entire piece was woven on a table loom lent by the Seattle Swedish Cultural Center, with assistance by Lisa Janssen.
The piece feels softer than normal denim, due in part to the looser weave of a table loom (vs. mechanized loom), and the softness of the organic cotton yarn. We should wash it so it shrinks up and becomes tighter, like denim. But the drape is so rich and fluid that it seems almost a shame to put it through the brutality of the laundry machine. So for now, we will let our hand-loomed denim sit in its fresh-off-the-loom glory.
Lessons learned from our denim weaving process:
1. Tie your hanks right before dyeing.
Failure to do so will result in a knotted mess that you will either have to throw away or spend months and months untangling.
2. Weaving on a table loom is a compromise.
Because the textile that comes out of it will never be as strong or as durable as one woven with the strictness of a machine. Let's face it, it's human, it's fallible. On the other hand, handwoven denim has all the slubbiness, the irregularities that create interesting lines in the material, and a richness of pure color that you wouldn't be able to find in a factory setting.
3. Make sure your heddles are threaded properly.
Any slight glitch in the threading will create a very visible run in the denim that disrupts the overall aesthetic. Re-threading a heddle is time consuming, effects the rest of your weaving process, and creates a weak gap in your fabric. However, going through this process makes you really appreciate how talented the folks with the nimble fingers at the back of the power looms in China and India really are.
4. Keep your warp yarns even and straight.
The weave will bunch and twist in certain places otherwise.