How To Weave Kente
The procedures for general kente weaving are based on the following; designing, yarn preparation, warping, raddling, beaming, heddling, reeding, tie-up, and weaving.
Preparation of the yarn for warping
Yarns for kente weaving are purchased on hanks and these are wound onto ‘‘duaduwa’’ literally known as bobbins to the required yarn length by the help of the ‘‘ɛntene nnua’’ also known as warping mill.
Warping of Yarns
Warping is the process whereby many long yarns are put together to form the yarn that run lengthwise in a woven fabric. This is done on a warping mill or warping board. But the most frequent and traditionally used one is the warping mill. The next process will be to build up the warp after securing the figures for the number of warp ends and total number of hanks needed for the warp. According to SOURCES, initially primitive weavers drove pegs into the ground and moved with their warp yarns to and from these pegs till they obtained the total length and number of ends required:
Presently, the traditional weavers of Adanwomase still practice this system of warping which has been identified as one of the most difficult and cumbersome task. To avoid this hectic task, different methods were introduced. These new methods involve the use of the warping board, warping frame, and the warping mill which assist in three different ways. They assist to align the warp yarn in parallel formation and support them
with the characteristics crosses that every warp needs to avoid the problems of entanglement in the warp during weaving. For longer warps the warping mill will be very necessary. When warping, the warp yarns are guided by one of the weaver’s hand while the other hand turns the warping mill in both clockwise and anticlockwise directions with the weaver remaining stationary.
With the crosses still maintained, the warp threads are spread into the dents of the raddle according to the width desired. The raddle helps the weaver to know and obtain an approximate width of the warp to be woven. The top of the raddle, unlike the reed is removable and when the warp ends are placed in the dents, the top is capped on the teeth to prevent the threads from falling off.
In traditional looms at Adanwomase, after raddling there is a heddling through the ‘‘asanan’’ and later through the ‘‘asatia’’ before reeding; the ends of the warp yarn are then secured with the ‘‘ayaasedua.’’ After securing the ends of the warp with the ‘‘ayaasedua,’’ the other ends of the warp are stretched over the warp carrier or the warp roller and then stretched further away from the loom and then secured with the ‘‘ntwesuo.’’ The ‘‘ntwesuo’’ is made up of wooden board with stones as loads on the board.
In the case of conventional looms or the improved version of the traditional loom, the beaming proceeds raddling. Beaming is the process whereby the long warp is stretched taut and rolled or wound onto the warp beam on the loom. In beaming the raddle together with the warp threads are tied into the slay board of the loom. The warp ends are then stretched taut by two to three persons from the front of the loom where the weaver sits and one or two persons use their fingers to comb or dress the threads to remove any entanglements. The warp threads are then rolled unto the roller making sure that an even tension from those pulling is maintained to avoid any slackness during weaving from either the selvedge or any other part of the warp.
The warp is rolled evenly unto the warp roller and at the same time tension is maintained. When the entire warps are almost rolled up to the warp roller, the few inches remaining at the raddle is cut off and loosely knotted front of the raddle. The top part of the raddle is removed and two flat shed sticks are pushed to the back roller to maintain the process. After all these, the warp threads are ready for heddling.
After heddling all the yarns are then ready to pass through the dents of the reed. The reed is fixed in the sley and tied to make it firm for the reeding process. With a reed hook, each heddled yarn is threaded through each dent. In reeding, it was observed that the selvedge of the fabric is reinforced with more warp yarns than those in the main fabric. This is done by doubling the selvedge yarns in the dents. When all reeding is done, the loose knots are untied and a section of the warp is drawn.
This is divided into two halves, one in each hand, then passed under the fly rod of the cloth beam, then over it and under the two warp section. After reading, equal tension is applied to the warp for easy shedding.
This is the tying of the treadles and lams to the heddle frames to facilitate correct opening of the shed for weaving. A strong cord and a switch knot or a non-slip knot should be used for the tying. The lams and treadles have series of holes along their length and the tie-up is done according to the design to be woven. The tie-up cords should be of equal length to provide proper opening of the shed.
The treadles are made to hang evenly and parallel at the same height from the ground within the easy reach of the foot to create a very good shed.
The framework of an Ashanti loom contains thirteen pieces, named as follows:
The four posts, 1,2,3,4, called Kofi Nsa nnua ie Kofi hand sticks, Kofi being a personal name generally implying that the person so named was born on a Friday. The lower longitudinal support 5 and 6 are called ntoho, and the upper supports 7 and 8, which are generally notched, are known as nsantwerewa (i.e. Small hand steps). The cross front bar(9), over which lie the warp threads, is called oponko dua, i.e. The horse stick; the rear cross rod (10) the ayase dua, i.e. The belly stick (our breast beam) ; around this rod the cloth is wound. At the end of this rod, and on the right hand of the weaver, two holes are bored, into one of which a wooden rod (13) is inserted leading from the cross bar (9). This enables the weaver to take a turn on the breast beam or ‘belly stick’ (10), and slip the rod into one of the holes and so prevent the pull of the web from causing this bar to revolve and thus slacken the warp.
After all the processes above, various weft colours are used on the warp to identify the appropriate colours to be used either for the plane weave or design weaves before the actual weaving starts.
The main weaving of the kente cloth starts after passing through the above processes. According to Opanin Kwasi Boateng, old kente weaver of Adanwomase, there are two types of weave. These are plane weave which makes use of a pair of ‘‘asatia’’ heddles and the design or the double weave which uses a pair of ‘‘asanan’’ heddles. According to him, every apprentice or beginner must undergo the weaving of the plain weave before the design weave.
There may be other new techniques involved in addition to the above processes which were not provided in this study but at the moment these are the processes that were observed by researchers.
Securing the crosses and creating chains
After the total number of warp ends has been obtained the crosses should be properly secured before removing the warp from the warping board.
To preserve the crosses, care should be taken in the course of removing the warp from the warp mill. They are preserved by passing a string through the openings created by the various pegs of the warping mill. To remove the warp, first remove the first peg, and then pass your right hand through the opening created. Grasp a length of warp and next is to draw your hand through the opening made by one’s wrist.
Continue to grasp short pieces and pass your hand through the loop till the whole warp is exhausted. At the end of the process the long warp mill look short and handy in a form of a chain stitch. It can also be done by trying along the length of the warp in short pieces to prevent entanglements. After warping, it would be observed that the weavers secure the crosses and bundles at interval along the warp length. They continue to roll the warp length to form a ball with the crosses forming at the end of the boa