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The technique of sprang differs from other kinds of plaiting in that the threads are held in tension between two fixed points. There are various ways in which this can be done but the two most common are on a portable frame or on a backstrap loom. The back strap loom is one of the oldest traditional methods of weaving narrow strips of cloth. The warp is stretched between two sticks, one is attached to a fixed point and the other to the waist of the weaver who controls the tension of the warp by sitting or standing upright.
In both cases the tension of the threads needs to be adjustable as the warp threads inevitably tighten and contract as the interlinking between the threads progresses. This is achieved on the frame by the use of warp rods slung between the top and the bottom of the loom. The two rods are held in position by strong cord with adjustable knots, allowing the tension to be adjusted.
There are a number of different methods of interlinking the threads in sprang. The basic technique is interlinking the threads in a single twist. The interlinking takes place at the bottom half of the warp and is made with a technique which consists of two rows, worked alternately, with the start of each row always on the right. Each row is worked by picking up the back threads in the correct order with the stick held in the right hand, and dropping off the front threads of the left hand. As each interlinking row is made at the bottom of the warp, a simultaneous row appears at the top edge. Rows 1 and 2 are worked progressively towards the centre of the warp.
Row 1 - Put your left hand into the shed in the warp so that the front threads are held in front of your fingers. With a stick in the right hand, pick up the first two back threads and hold them on the stick. Drop the first front thread from your left hand and slip it behind the stick. Pull the threads apart so that you can see them clearly. Continue across the row, picking up each back thread and dropping each front thread so that it falls behind the stick. Finish by dropping the last two front threads.
Insert a fourth stick into the shed of the same row and slide the top one to the top of the warp and the lower one to the bottom as before. These two basic rows are repeated alternately to form the sprang. On the fifth row the first two sticks you inserted withdrawn from the warp and reused in successive rows, and soon, always taking the sticks from the extreme top and bottom of the warp.
The sticks serve a two-fold purpose, enabling the threads to be beaten up and down after each successive row thereby maintaining the tension, and allowing mistakes to be rectified by undoing the rows - to do this remove all sticks from the current shed and undo by sliding the sticks from the previous row towards the centre which will undo the interlinking. Continue back to the mistake and re-warp.
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