Basic Sprang Moves - Foundational Skills in the Ancient Technique of Sprang
Curious about how sprang works? This post will just be about the basic moves that make up sprang, no extras, no looms or warping. If you are familiar with sprang but having trouble with the technique, this may help you to better understand the key moves. If you are new to sprang and have no idea where to start, follow through this post and see if it's something you want to try, then head over to my free Getting Started in Sprang tutorial and get started making a small sprang bag.
First, what does sprang look like when done correctly?
When done correctly, each thread should interlink with its neighbors in a zig zag pattern.
Keep in mind, this is what correctly done interlinked sprang looks like. Interlaced and intertwined sprang will look different. Lace sprang, where holes are created to make a lacey pattern, will also look a bit different.
For now, we are just concentrating on basic interlinked sprang, what it looks like and how to do it.
Interlinked sprang is very stretchy vertically. You can stretch it at least twice it's relaxed width and often more depending on your tension and yarn. Sprang will return to it's relaxed state when not being stretched. It is fascinating to play with and watch stretch and return to it's relaxed state.
Let's zoom in a little closer and take a look at a single interlinking.
The highlighted area shows a single interlinking. All of interlinked sprang is made up of interlinking threads. If you follow the path of any given thread you will see it interlinking with it's neighbors.
I have included two green threads in this sprang to make it a little easier to follow the path of the threads as they interlink.
The area between the two sticks is not correctly done interlinking. This is to show what happens when you do not perform the technique in the correct order.
Ok, so there about a million more things about sprang that I find fascinating that I would love to share with you, so before I get sidetracked, let's move on to the basic moves. I am going to walk you through the moves starting from an untouched warp.
Here is our warp all ready to go!
Note that good tension is a must, too loose or uneven tension on your warp can cause you no end of problems as you try to work the sprang.
So check and double check your tension at the start to make sure it is perfect.
When a warp is ideally tensioned, a single thread pulled up will snap back into place easily. All the threads will lay side by side neatly and have the same tension.
Too tight of tension is not necessarily a bad thing, but will be difficult to work, especially for a beginner.
The First Row
Here is the start of the first row.
With my left hand in the shed, I start by bringing a back thread to the front and then pushing a front thread to the back.
Going forward, I will refer to this as picking a back thread and dropping a front thread.
Use your right hand to keep the picked and dropped threads in place and separated.
Continue picking a back thread and dropping a front thread all the way across.
You will need to insert a shed stick to keep the threads in place, otherwise they will unravel.
Here, I have used a bamboo skewer, such as you might use for making shish kabobs on the BBQ.
Yea, sprang really doesn't require any fancy equipment!
Notice that all the threads that were in front of the top dowel are now behind the shed stick.
This first row I like to call a basic row.
Let's move onto the second row!
The Second Row
Here we are beginning the second row. If I made the second row exactly as I made the first row, then all my threads would just twine around each other and not interlink. Go back to the picture of the interlinking to see what I mean.
To start the second row, you need to pick up two back thread and then drop one front thread.
You will continue across the warp the same as the basic row, picking one back thread and dropping one front thread. When you get to the end, you will find that you have one back thread and two front threads. That is correct, pick one back thread and drop two front threads to end the row.
This second row I like to call the shift row, because by picking two threads you are shifting over that threads interlink.
By alternating between a basic row and a shift row, you will create basic interlinked sprang. These are the only two rows you need to know to make a myriad of patterns in sprang.
So, is that all you really need to know to get started making sprang? In theory, yes. In reality, you will make mistakes, it is just inevitable.
The most common mistake is not being able to recognize the difference between the basic and shift row and to repeat the same row by accident. I am going to show you how to recognize the two rows and also how to identify if you are doing the right thing while you are working a row.
Recognizing a Basic Row
First, I want you to be able to recognize what row you just completed so that you can start the correct next row.
You will look at the first threads on the right side of the work.
If there is one thread in front of the shed stick before the first thread to sit behind it, then you just completed a basic row.
In the photo to the left I have just competed a basic row and will now move onto the shift row.
Recognizing a Shift Row
If however, there are two threads sitting in front of the shed stick before the first thread to sit behind it, then you just completed a shift row.
In the photo to the right, I just completed a shift row and will now perform a basic row.
If you forget to check this and perform the wrong row (a shift row after a shift row, for instance) then there is a way to check while working the row.
Recognizing the Path of a Back Thread
If you are working the sprang correctly then a back thread will cross behind two front threads when you pick it up.
This will be true no matter what row you are on.
Follow the green thread in my right hand all the way up to the top dowel to see its path and recognize that its path crosses behind two front threads.
Note that I have already done the motion of picking up this back thread.
Recognizing the Path of a Front Thread
A front thread you are about to drop will cross in front of two back threads.
If you follow the path of the green thread in my left hand, you will see that from where it coming from behind the top dowel, it crosses in front of two front threads.
Note that I have not yet dropped this front thread.
I am not covering all the mistake you can make and how to avoid or fix them here. I will however mention one other common mistake, and that is crossing two threads so that you pick them up out of order. This usually happens when you warp tension is too loose or you are working with very small thread. I recommend using a large gage yarn, like worsted or DK until you are familiar with the technique. Also stop and look at your work often to spot any crossed threads.
Picking or dropping multiple threads when you were not supposed to is another common mistake. This mistake can be recognized by learning how to spot if you are correctly interlinking (what I show above).
For both of these mistakes, it is easiest to back track and fix the mistake or just accept the mistake and move on. There are ways to undo just the threads below the mistake and fix it, but I find the maneuver far too complicated and prone to further mistakes to be worth it on a simple project.
How to Work Sprang if You're Left Handed
Sprang is ambidextrous, which makes it easy to work no matter what. You can work it right to left, like we did here, or left to right. You can also work the sprang top down, as we did here, or bottom up. If you are left handed and the right to left is not working for you, try left to right.
If reaching over the loom to work top down is too strenuous, try working from the bottom up. There is no difference in the final piece.
How Sprang Grows
Here is one of the really interesting things about sprang; it does half the work for you! For every row you work at the top, a mirror row is created at the bottom. So as you work down the warp, it works up to meet you in the middle.
Any pattern you make on top will also appear on the bottom. This will become especially apparent as you progress to lace sprang where you can make patterns and designs with holes.
Once you have worked your sprang to the point that the two halves have grown towards each other and are near to meeting in the middle, you will find it difficult to fit your hand into the warp. At this point you can tie, cut or chain your middle meeting point to secure it.
This is the easiest option and the method I show in my full sprang tutorial. Simply pass a piece of thread through the shed, wrap it around and tie it off. This will gather the middle of your warp and works well if you are making a bag or circle.
The example here I sewed up and made into a cute beret style hat.
Chaining is the most common method for securing the middle as the chaining will stretch with the sprang. I will not show this method here, so look for a future post showi