During the Middle Ages, professional cloth making or weaving did not exist in most Scandinavian countries; weaving was a home craft and women produced cloth for clothing as it was needed. Iceland was the only Nordic country that exported large quantities of cloth to western and Central Europe. The fabric, wadmal, was the main export article of the country and was woven on simple, warp-weighted looms by Icelandic women.
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The warp-weighted looms was used for weaving in Iceland and Norway. In Iceland, this loom was used until the 18th century. Ordinary cloth, such as wadmal, a type of twill weave, was woven on this loom. In Norway, soapstone was used to weight the warp and in Iceland, lava stones were used. Soapstone weights have been found in Denmark and Sweden as well but not in the number that have been found in Norway. In other countries, loom weights made of fired clay were used.
The warp-weighted loom was constructed with two upright beams about 6 feet high that supported a revolving, horizontal beam from 6 to 9 feet long. When the loom was warped, a selvedge was woven and in turn sewn to a series of holes along the horizontal beam. The loom rested against a wall. Weaving began at the top, with the weaver walking back and forth, moving the weft through the warp threads. As the weaving got lower, the weaver sat on a stool and then the ground. Pieces as wide as approximately 9 feet could be woven.
The weaver used one to three heddles, a series of cords tied around each thread of the warp and supported by a long rod. A heddle would be pulled away from the warp, lifting the threads so that the weaver could more easily pass the weft through the warp. The more heddles a weaver had, the more easily she could weave an intricate pattern.
The shed rod was used to lift the warp threads for ease of weaving and would be used to assist in setting up the heddles. The weaver used the rod to lift whichever threads she wished to attach to the heddle, and when a series of threads were lifted, the weaver tied the heddle strings around the warp threads. The she-rod was also used in place of a heddle to lift the warp threads while weaving. This was a slower process but worked well when weaving small pieces of cloth or tapestries.
Beaters were used to push the rows of weft toward the top of the loom to tighten the cloth and straighten the rows. If this was not done, the weft would be loose and uneven. The beater was sword-like and made of iron, whalebone or wood.
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