My proudest rigid heddle loom moment yet!

The full account of how the fabric came to be is here (sampling and main fabric) and here (fabric for bottom band, sleeves and neckband trim).

I used Sarah Howard‘s excellent dress pattern n5 (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer), and off I went!

The fabric was thick-ish, soI had to abandon pretty quickly my idea of making bias tape from the plain weave cloth. However I was able to use the selvedges as finished trim, so that I could fix the rough edges in the wrong side, and top stitch the neckband on the right side of the fabric. I used commercial fabric only for the pockets.

The fabric is lovely on the skin, fresh and soft (the yarn, Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, is an equal mix of cotton and silk, with the two fibres twisted together to give the yarn a heathered look).

I shouldn’t brag I know, but honestly I can hardly believe I did this myself!

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)

Summer waves on three heddles!

I am very much enjoying weaving with three heddles on my SampleIt loom, and although I already suffer from shaft envy and really need an eigh shaft loom, there is so much my 40cm Ashford SampleIt has to offer. So I embarked in another twill weaving – this time straight draft twill, but playing with colour. I wove yardage that will eventually become a summer dress. You can jump straight to the summary, or read on!

Goldilocks samples

I was unsure which pattern I wanted, so I started off with a sample – and did that turn out to be a good idea! Since I was using a sports weight knitting cotton yarn, the very lovely Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, I thought 10dpi would be the right heddle, and since I was going to wave a twilll structure, surely 12.5dpi was the heddle set to use.

Well, the first sample turned out stiff as a board – not sure why, maybe I did not have enough tension, but it came out quite compressed. So I thought I’d go for a second sample with 10dpi heddles. Well this was way too lose, really see-through fabric, so that was out as well. What to do? I tried again 12.5dpi, this time being careful not to beat too hard, and it came out just right – I like how the fabric draped, and the texture is just about close enough to be not see-through.

From left to right: 12.5dpi with hard beat, 10dpi, 12.5dpi with normal beat (or higher tension on the loom?)

The extensive sampling did dent my stash for this project, and so I had to make compromises on the background colour – though I liked it in natural best, I had to warp with the natural but weave with the grey green.

I also had to decide which pattern to use – so I folded the third sample so as to isolate the pattern:

From left to right: waves, bumberet, flowers

I did not quite like the Bumberet, and I feared that the flowers would be too large and visually “heavy”, so I concluded I’d have waves, alternating those with more blue to those with more red – I do like the resulting yardage a lot!

Yardage off the loom!

Warping woes

With a lot of odd ends, I decided to indirect warp. The consequence was that without a lease stick of the right size to attach to my back apron rod, I had to leash at both ends. Chaining was kind of allright:

I was using the rather lovely and soft Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, a knitting yarn which blends in equal parts cotton and silk. It really is lovely, but hans’t got much of a twist so rather springy tension wise, winding on was a challenge, and I considered giving up several times, here is why:

What a tangled mess!

I did eventually manage to tame it, and wind the whole lot:

YAY, success!

I warped 199 ends and two floating selvedges, in the following colour order (where N stands for “natural”, R for “red” and B for “blue”):

  • 24 ends in N
  • 3 repeats of *RRRNBBBNRRRN – block of 16 N – BBBNRRRNBBBN – block of 16 N *
  • 7+1FS natural

Well, then it was just the matter of threading, and weaving. Threading was a straightforward point twill:

Threading the full width – note that the last warp ends have to to be arranged a bit differently

For the weaving I used the following order for each repetition:

  1. I & II up
  2. II & III up
  3. I & II down
  4. II & III down
  5. I & II down
  6. II & III up

And here is the draft:

One word of advice on weaving yardage – I generally hemstitch the ends while on the loom, but I wasn’t quite sure this was the best course of action with yardage. So I followed the advice picked up on the net to weave four picks with sewing thread at both ends, as below:

The picks with sewing thread after weaving a header – this DOES prevent unravelling in the wash

Then I washed and pressed – and the ironing did make a difference, the cloth became much more reflective of the light.

I can’t wait to sew it up – before I do so, though, I must weave the cloth for the bottom band!

Warp ends: 199+2 
Sett: 12.5 epi, 12.5 ppi 
Width in reed:
Width off the loom before wet finishing: 34.8cm/13.7” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing: 32.3cm/12.7” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:33.2cm/13” 
Horizontal shrinkage: 5% 
Length of woven fabric off the loom before wet finishing: 345.5cm/136” 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing:331cm/130.3” 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:335.5cm/132” 
Vertical shrinkage: 3% 
Loom waste:about 40cm/16”. However variable, because of the tangled mess that indirect warping was with this yarn; with hybrid warping it should be less.

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