Double width weaving

(Jump to summary) The yardage I wove for my summer dress is for the main part of the dress – additional fabric is required for a bottom band, pockets and sleeves. The band in particular calls for wider fabric than my loom can weave – so what better opportunity to give a go to double width weaving?

Double width weaving is a specific instance of double weaving – and double weaving is in itself thoroughly fascinating! In short, it means weaving different layers simultanously on the same loom – each layer needs two shafts, so with a four shaft loom you can weave a maximum of two layers, with 8 shafts you can weave a maximum of four layers, and so on. The more the shafts, the greater the possibilities: for instance with 8 shafts you can weave a three layered fabric with two plain layers and one “patterned” layer with any four shaft pattern – an example is Jennifer Moore’s triplewidth tablecloth, published in the September/October 2015 issue of Handwoven Magazine, where the top layer becomes the centre-panel, in spot-Bronson lace.

I know that the standard way to weave double width cloth on a rigid heddle loom is with two heddles and two pick up stick. However first in my Covid-19 lockdown location I only have one pickup stick (ok, VERY lame excuse). And (ok, the REAL reason), I really enjoy using my three heddles, so three heddles are what I used.

Sources that I’ve found invaluable are  Jennifer Moore doubleweave workshop and her book (revised edition).

I was somewhat constrained in the threading, since I needed to use the full width of my loom – obviously you don’t want threads to cross. In short, the only threading that I thought was possible was:

2 1 4 3

So panic set in: all the sources I could remember of told you to use either odd or even shafts for the same layer, and to alternate threads in shafts – but here I had odd and even “shafts” one after the other!

Well, not a problem – Jennifer Moore, who is a real darling, replied to my panicky question saying that it should be fine, it is a threading used in Finnweave, and why don’t I check Rev McKinney’s “Weaving with Three Rigid Heddles”?

How could I have forgotten to check that out? Yes, it was all there!

I started threading from the right, and to fit all 4 repeats I put the last thread beyond the end of the reed, as a floating selvedge – which you don’t need here, as you are weaving plain weave. So here’s the threading:

Threading three heddles for double weave on the rigid heddle loom – threading keeps repeating all across, used “…” to indicate this

The top layer was on heddles 1 and 2, the bottom layer on heddles 3 and 4 (the latter stands for “slots in each heddle”). In Rev McKinney’s terminology, I have a “paired alternation”, with “warp threads for the two layers of cloth alternate in a xxyyxxyy series, where x is a thread for the first layer, and y is a thread for the second layer” (footnote 1 on page 17)

The order of lifts determines whether you have a tube or a double width cloth, and if you go for double-width, the side from which you enter the first shed determines which side remains open.

For a double width cloth I used the following lifts order:

  1. Raise I
  2. Raise I, II and III
  3. Lower III
  4. Raise II

Picks 2. and 3. work the bottom layer – these were thte trickiest sheds to open clearly, so I chekced each of these two picks by lifting the bottom of the loom -it does slow things down, but it saves the time to fix the floats later.

If you can’t lift the loom, another tip is to use a mirror underneath or to the side of your weaving, to check you have no floats.

It is really worth checking the bottom layer every so often, to make sure there are no floats. This way I did pick up and corrected many of them. I still had to fix two of them, but not too bad.

To manage the fold, I added two threads of a contrasting colour, one to each of the last two threads at the fold of each layer. I then pulled them out after taking the projecct off the loom. Washing and pressing made the fold barely visible, yay!

It is not that visible from the picture, but these two threads in contrasting colour go in the same slot as the last thread of the top layer and first thread of the bottom layer. If you are good with selvedges and/or have a temple, you don’t need this. Another way to address “bunching at the fold” is to use a nylon thread (e.g. fishing line) – no need to roll this one on the back beam, you will have it with a weight hanging at the back, as when you have to fix a tension issue with a warp thread. And here’s the fold after washing and pressing:

All in all I needed 700m of Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, a lovely blend of cotton and silk, in colourway 12/wine red

Warp ends: 320 (160 per layer)+2 threads in contrasting colour for the fold 
Sett: 10 epi, 10 ppi 
Width in reed:39cm/15.5”
Width off the loom before wet finishing: 71.5cm/28” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing: 67.1cm/26.4” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:68cm/26.7” 
Horizontal shrinkage: 4.9% 
Length of woven fabric off the loom before wet finishing: 89.5cm/35.2’ (excluding thread picks and header) 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing: 84.2cm/33” 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:87cm/34” 
Vertical shrinkage: 2.8% 
Loom waste:43cm/17” (20cm towards the front beam, 23cm towards the back beam)

Author: lovestoswatch

I used to knit as a girl, then hanged the needles for two/three decades, and now I’m back, and loving it! The photo is my version of Linda Marveng's Aki, the first proper project after "being born again". After getting back into knitting, weaving has also become my passion (with a little sewing to turn my handweaving into garments).

One thought on “Double width weaving”

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