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Woven Latgalian blankets

Craftswomen: Olga Jokste, Reg?na Korovatska, An?ela Kuzminska at the weaving studio Indra

Weaving of the so-called "plank blankets (skalu de?i) is characteristic to the areas on the frontier of Southern Latgale, as well as Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus.

The weaving technique that involves planks (smooth pieces of wooden board) was used to weave ornamental fabricsdecorative blankets, bed covers. It is a fine technique that demands a lot of patience as arriving at a ready-made fabric happens slowly.

Equipment

Cotton and woollen threads, loom, warp frame, planks, technical drawing of the pattern.

The Process

It starts with an idea. Draw the pattern that you wish to create on graph paper and work out how much thread you will need. Create the technical drawing.

When you have calculated the number of treads you will need and the warp length, wind the warps around the base. You do it on a warp frame. When you have wound around the needed number of threads, remove the warps from the frame and braid them to prevent tangling up and to keep the sequence right. When the warps are ready, thread the heddles. "Plank blankets have four layers of heddles. Pass every thread accurately through the heddles one at a time.

The next job is reeding. Pass one or two threads, as you need, through the reed slot, making sure that the sequence is right, and all the heddles are properly passed through. You use the reed to adjust the thread density and blanket width. Then you may warp the loom. It is better if you have someone who can assist you. One person arranges the threads, the otherwinds the warps around the warp roller. When the reed is inserted back into the beater, tie up the warps. Then tie up the treadles. Two treadles are used to make plain weave, one is a pattern treadle. The loom is ready!

"Plank blankets are woven with four layers of heddles. The two middle ones create the base, the first and fourth create the pattern. Press on the pattern treadle. Use a plank to select the pattern warps. The coloured squares of the pattern get lowered, while the base threads remain above the plank. Now, turn the plank that is at the front of the reed. You have created a gap. Step out of the loom and go and work with the threads behind the heddles. There is a gap behind the heddles, place a plank there and move it in the direction of the heddle bar. Remove the plank which is in front the reed. Turn the plank which is behind the heddles. Raise the first layer of heddles by hand and place the second plank in the gap. Remove the first plank. Now return to the loom. Turn the plank which is behind the heddles by hand and weave in the pattern thread. After every pattern thread weave in two base threads by pressing on the treadle tied up to make plain weave. Turn the plank behind the heddles again and weave in the pattern thread. Continue with two base threads. Repeat it until a pattern square is created.

If the pattern is symmetrical up to the middle, run a string at the gap of every pattern square behind the heddles. When weaving the other side of the pattern, do not select the pattern by plank at the front, place the plank behind the heddles, raising the string and placing a plank. When the work is done, remove the blanket from the loom.

May it be beautiful and warm!

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