I was putting a warp on my loom today and began to ruminate about the words that weaving has taught me. (I have no idea why my brain does this) How did we get words like “heddle”. How about reed and dent. What is the origin of a “warp”. Where did they come from and why, oh why, do we still use them?
The latter question is simpler to answer. History. Weaving is an ancient art. It began (according to everything I have read) somewhere around the 6th-5th millennium B.C. The experts think it started somewhere in Asia with silk. I will have to trust them on that one.
But ancient history makes for tradition. And tradition is why we use the weird words. To me it feels like a different language. A way to discuss the making of fabric or cloth in words that all people who do that work will understand.
The words that we still use to describe parts of the loom are from the Middle Ages. For instance, a heddle (that is a metal rod with an eye where a warp thread is passed) finds its origins in the Old English “hefeld” meaning a chain. It is related to Old Norse hafald and the Middle Low German hevelte.
The word “warp” is defined as threads running lengthwise in a fabric. It comes (the etymology gurus say) from the Old English wearp, the Proto-Germanic warpo-, the Middle Low German warp, the Old High German warf, and the Old Norse varp. Some family tree for a little bitty word. (the threads in the picture above make the warp)
Today they are made of stainless steel. They come in a variety of “dent” widths. A dent is simply the hole created between the steel ribs. On this one no one seems to know if it came from the French for “tooth” or from the old English for hollow. Ponder that for awhile. It will make you crazy.
But right now I have to get back to my loom. The warp is calling.
I have a warbling warp.