|SPINNING AND WEAVING |
Major elements involved in making cloth and were familiar processes in biblical times.
Spinning The threads woven into cloth were produced from raw fibers by spinning (Matthew 6:28;
Luke 12:27). Flax, or linen (Leviticus 13:47-48;
Hosea 2:5), and wool (Leviticus 13:47) were the major fibers used in the biblical world.
In spinning, raw fibers were pulled into a loose strand and twisted to form a continuous thread. A spindle (2 Samuel 3:29;
Proverbs 31:19 NRSV) was a slender stick which could be twirled to twist drawn out fibers caught in a hook or slot at the top. A spindle whorl acted as a flywheel for more efficient twisting. Spun thread was wound onto the stick. Sometimes, it was plied or twined, two or three threads being twisted together (Exodus 26:1;
Exodus 36:8,Exodus 36:35). The finished product could then be used for weaving (Exodus 35:25-26).
Weaving Weaving is the interlacing of threads to form fabric. Weaving was conducted on looms, devices designed to create openings (sheds) between alternating vertical warp threads through which the horizontal weft threads were passed. After each weft thread was placed, it was beaten against the previous one with a flat stick, thus firming up the fabric.
Three main loom designs were used in the biblical world. On a horizontal ground loom, the warp threads were stretched between beams pegged to the ground. This type is apparently referred to in the Samson story (Judges 16:13-14), as it would have enabled Delilah to weave his locks while he slept. When Samson jumped up, he pulled away the pin(s) of the loom (Judges 16:14) which secured the beams to the ground. In some vertical looms, the warp was stretched between two beams fixed in a rectangular frame. Work proceeded from the bottom of the loom, and the woven cloth could be rolled onto the bottom beam (Isaiah 38:12). This permitted the weaver to remain seated and to produce much longer finished products. Another type of vertical loom had the warp threads attached to an upper beam and held taut in groups by a series of stone or clay weights. Weaving was done from the top to the bottom, and the weft beaten upwards. Large numbers of excavated loom weights testify to the popularity of warp weighted looms in Old Testament Israel.
Stripes or bands of color were made by using dyed threads for portions of the warp or weft threads. Warp weighted looms allowed portions of the shed to be opened at a time, so intricate patterns could be made in the weft by covering small areas with different colors. It was forbidden, however, to wear clothes made of linen and wool woven together (Deuteronomy 22:11). Weavers apparently were professionals who specialized in particular types of work. The Old Testament differentiates between ordinary weavers, designers, and embroiderers (Exodus 35:35).
Daniel C. Browning, Jr.