There has been a lot of interest in sprang recently and the object of this article is a basic introduction for those of you who may have heard of it but not known what it was, or had read a description but were still lost. Peter Collingwood says:

"Sprang is a method of making fabric by manipulating the parallel threads of a warp that is fixed at both ends. The manipulation can take the form of interlinking, interlacing or intertwining of adjacent threads or groups of threads (see Fig. 1). Such structures do not require the addition of any other threads to stabilized them. The work is carried out row by row at one end of the war. As an inevitable result of the warp being fixed at both ends, corresponding but contrary movements of threads appear simultaneously at the other end."

Already we are in trouble! What that means is that the warp is fixed at both ends of the frame, that no weft threads are required to bind the fabric together, and that the fabric is produced from both ends toward the middle at the same time.

If you are still confused, look at fig. 2. It shows how three threads can be braided and how the mirror-image fabric is produced. Because of the construction, some type of fastening is used at the meeting line between the two halves of the fabric. It is the meeting line that enables us to tell a sprang fabric from interlinked netting or other forms of braided fabric such as finger weaving. The fastening can be a chained stitch or a separate piece of string functioning as a 'safety' to keep the two halves from untwisting.

Since sprang becomes easier by doing, let's build a sprang loom and try out the interlinking technique.

Get a 24"x30" canvas stretcher and nail or glue the corners to form a stable rectangle. This is the basis of your sprang loom. Cut off two ¼" dowels to fit inside the frame with about ½" left over on each side. (fig. 3).

Now look carefully at Figure 3 (letter A). Take a piece of heavy cotton cord about 6 feet long and fold it in the middle. Tie the middle of the string to the top of the loom as shown. Come down 3" and tie a knot. Come down 18" more and tie another knot. Knot the two ends of the string around the bottom stretcher, using a slip knot so that you can loosen it from time to time as the work progresses. Make an identically knotted string for the other side. Slide the dowels in as shown (Fig. 3, letter B). Now you have a finished loom. The only other things you will need are a safety string (a 40"-long piece of cord tied securely to one side of the frame and slip-knotted to the other), something to beat the sprang fabric as it is worked (a ruler will do) and some yarn or cord. Woolen yarn is good for sprang as the fibers of the wool stick together and allow you to keep the fabric tight as you work.

Because of the clarity of Collingwood's drawings showing hand positions, I have used them rather than to redraw others.

First you must warp the loom. Make a continuous warp by tying on end of the warp cord to the lower dowel and wrap the warp around and around the two dowels until the warp is as wide as you need it for your project. You will usually need an even number of warps, so if you start by tying the warp to the lower dowel and finish at the lower dowel. For this beginning project, keep the number of warps to 20 or less. (Fig. 4)

Now we need to set the safety spring. Tie it to the right support of the loom. Run the safety string over the first front warp thread and behind the first back warp (fig. 4a). Continue weaving the safety cord through the warp until you come to the other side. Secure the safety cord to the other support of the loom with a slip knot. (Fig. 3 letter C) When you look at the loom from the side, it should look like fig.4b. The place the safety cord goes through the warp is called the 'shed'. You will by untying and moving the safety string after each row of sprang.

Now we're ready to start. There are two basic rows in interlinked sprang. The first is called the 'plait' and the second the 'over-plait'. To perform the plait row, slide the fingers of your left hand through the shed so that you are holding the front warp threads (fig. 5). Pick up the first two threads form the back row of warp with your right hand and pull them to the front (fig. 6). Now, drop the first warp thread from your left hand and pick up the next back warp thread with your right one. Continue in this manner until you have only three threads left to be interlinked, two in the left and one in the back warp. Pick up the last back warp wit the right hand and drop the two from the left hand. With all the front warp threads (they used to be the back warp threads) now in your right hand, loosen the safety string and pass it between the back of your right hand and the back warp. Retie it.

The overplait row is similar. Again, put your left hand through the shed from the left side. This time pick up the first back warp thread with the right hand and drop the first front warp thread from the left hand (fig. 7). Continue in this fashion until you have completed the row. Then loosen and retie the safety string as before. With a ruler or weaving beater, beat the sprang toward the top and bottom of the frame until it is tight.

Continue alternating rows until the warp is too tight for you to work. When that happens you can loosen the tension strings at the bottom of the loom. Re-adjust them so you have some slack in the warp and then retie.

When you reach the middle of the fabric and cannot interlink any more rows, take a needle and thread matching the warp and chain-stitch (fig. 8).

To remove the sprang from the loom, take a large needle and some cord and run it between the warp threads and the dowel on each end of the loom (fig. 9). Now you can slide the dowels out and you have a flat sprang rectangle. Stretch the sprang and see the network pattern, and notice that when you let go, the elastic sprang resumes it's original position. Fold the rectangle in half and sew the sides together. Now if you tie the cords together on each side you have a drawstring elastic sprang bag (fig. 10). If you wish to use it for a pouch for small objects, you will have to line it with cloth. Otherwise you can just use it as it is. This is also a good way to make hair-nets. This is just a brief introduction to interlinking. The technique can be quite elaborate and can produce works of great intricacy.


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