Yesterday was KASF (Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival, an SCA event dedicated to all things artsy) and I had the very great pleasure to share my display space with some of my most favorite people from the northern part of the state, who I hardly ever get to see. We're all apprentices, and all interested in the same things though with a focus on different time periods and geographic regions, so it's always fun to talk and see what we've all been working on. We're also at different places in our skill sets and research, so it's fun to share sources and help each other out.
Besides, there are only so many people in the world who would get it when you mention that you want to eat a lot beets sometime to see if that really will turn your cloths pink, and not only that but then make plans to try it out with you.
Anyway, I'd been mulling over my Perugia towel project, and one of the women had what may be a solution to the very slow and tedious process of picking up every single blue pattern row with a pick up stick! And it might actually be period! Opphampta weaving is something she's been doing on her drawloom, but you can do this on a 4-shaft loom like mine with a set of tie-up sticks and a sword. The idea, as far as I was able to gather in looking at the book while at the event, is that you tie up the draft for the pattern section on these supplementary sticks behind the sheds using string heddles. The sticks rest on the warp while you weave the plain weave sections in whatever pattern you are doing, then when it is time to do you damask or opphamta pattern, you pick up the appropriate sticks, slide in the sword to create the shed, throw you contrasting weft, and proceed. No more picking up each row and counting out each row by itself! Yay! Still slower than plain weaving but a whole lot faster than the other way of doing this, and totally within the skill set of the people who wove the original towels. I suspect this will work better for the more geometric designs, which is what I want to do for now anyway, but it could be set up to work for the more complicated patterns too.
I also got a copy of a whole book dedicated to the cotton industry in Italy from 1100 to 1600 lat week, which I am very excited to start reading. So far I've only thumbed through it, but it looks like it's well researched and should be an interesting read. Since cotton was used in these towels, it will be useful to know more about where it came from and how it was produced as I write my documentation. I'm also hoping to find out how else cotton might have been used during that period. From my thus far very limited understanding, it was fairly expensive stuff, but it was cultivated in parts of the Mediterranean. And interestingly, according to Marion at The Curious Frau, who is one of the most knowledgeable people about late period German costume out there, cotton was used to make those fun German headdresses that look like a doughnut stuck on the back of your head.
After all this, I still really wish I had an 8-shaft table loom to do some sampling on. Oh well. If anyone would like to buy me one...or failing that if you see a good deal on a used one that is somewhere on the east coast, do let me know!