Indigo Shawl – Twill Tie-Ups

If the pattern on my Indigo Shawl looks familiar it’s because I tied on a new warp to the old warp of my previous double weave project so that the threading is the same, the treadling is only slightly different, but the tie-up is now a twill, and what a surprise it turned out to be!

The idea of using indigo-dyed cotton has been lurking in the back of my mind ever since I bought a bunch of cones of it at a closeout years ago.  The labels on the cones indicated that they were from the UK and warned that the indigo color rubs off.  I was curious as to whether it was synthetic or real indigo and why the color rubs off.  When I asked about this on a couple of weaving lists, Ian Bowers, managing director of George Weil & Sons Ltd (a supplier of textile art and crafts materials in the UK), replied (with permission to quote), “There is absolutely NO difference in the chemical composition between synthetic indigo and that from plant material.  There may be different impurities which behave in the same way as indigotin but this would take substantial analytical equipment to differentiate.  The tendency to crock (rub off) is dependent on a number of factors including the finish on the yarn fibres and the skill of the dyer….”  I also got some replies from weavers who dye with natural indigo and some who even grow their own plants, like Dot, and it sounds like a wonderful experience that I would like to try one day.  In any case, I decided to go ahead and use my indigo-dyed yarn for the weft and make sure to wash and rinse very well the woven fabric once it’s off the loom.

I used one white and one very light blue 20/2 cotton together for the warp, keeping the same sett of 30 e.p.i. from the last project, and used the 10/2 indigo-dyed cotton for the weft.  The p.p.i. (picks per inch) turned out to be somewhat less, about 25.  The woven piece was washed by hand in very warm water, rinsed 6-7 times in warm water until the water was clear, rolled in some old towels and placed flat over some more old towels to dry and ironed while it was still slightly damp.  The blue color stayed dark even after all the rinsing and the very light blue color in the warp is not from any “bleeding” from the indigo dye but because I used the very light blue cotton as part of the warp.

Now I have a shawl to wear with my blue jeans:

Indigo Shawl, cotton, 19 x 72, 2010

Indigo Shawl, cotton, 19 x 72, 2010 (detail)

Weaving Draft for Indigo Shawl (14 shafts)

I used 14 shafts for weaving the Shawl and wondered what would happen to the design if I tried to reduce the shafts and treadles to 8.  In Draft 2, I think there is still a little bit of a resemblance to the original pattern:

Draft 2 (8 shafts)(detail)

Draft 2 (8 shafts)

I wanted to see if I could further reduce the shafts and treadles to 4 and still retain some resemblance to the original design but I couldn’t do it.  I came up with Draft 3 which is completely different but still fits in with this post’s theme of twill tie-ups:

Draft 3 (4 shafts)

If you love twills, especially unusual ones, I recommend the book, Twill Thrills (The Best of Weaver’s), edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt.

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17 Comments on “Indigo Shawl – Twill Tie-Ups”

  1. buyathread Says:

    Eva, What a beautiful and unusual pattern you got using only two blues and changing the treadling! The other drafts might have been interesting too, but I think you made the best choice.

    The indigo didn’t bleed, but does it rub off after all the finishing?

    • evasweaving Says:

      Fern, it was so easy to just tie on the new warp to the old warp from my double weave project and only the tie-up is really different. The indigo doesn’t rub off any more after all the excess dye has been rinsed off. Thank you for visiting and your comment is truly appreciated.

      • Kathie Says:

        Hello Eva!! Your beautiful indigo shawl is to “dye for :)”. I can’t stop looking at it! What an incredible job you did, it is so well planned, and woven! What a thrill it must of been when finished and you got to wrap it around your shoulders, how lovely!
        Tho’ I weave on a 4 harness and a larger loom is a “pie in the sky” dream, I appreciate that you graciously shared the draft and your weaving experiences with it. Thank you!
        I am one of the group that is an Indigo grower. I know what they say about synthetic indigo, and it probably is all the same, BUT, there is no mystery nor magic in synthetic. Dyeing with the indigo plant is filled with such things!! I do hope that you try the natural stuff someday too!
        Sincerely, Kathie
        Light in the Forest Wools and Textiles

  2. Carolyn Dymit Says:

    What a beautiful shawl – yum!

  3. What a wonderful looking shawl, and it looks like jeans denim. Love it.

  4. Wow – that is beautiful! :)

  5. Linda Says:

    Beautiful, and thanks for including the draft variations! Reminds me both that I want more shafts and that I can do wonderful things with 4.

  6. Why did you use 14 shafts instead of 16 or 12? This worked well for your shawl.
    There is a way to weave network drafted twill designs on 4 shafts. I start with a draft that is based on 3-shaft twills (initial 3) to reach the goal of a 4-shaft network drafted twill with curves. You have the book, Twill Thrills. See pages 102-105.
    Chapter 10 in my book is about converting drafts to more or fewer shafts.

    • evasweaving Says:

      I used 14 because I tied the new warp to the previous warp of my double weave project which was 14. I did see the networked twill designs on 4 shafts and will study your book some more. Thank you, Bonnie, for your input and I admire your great knowledge and expertise in weaving.

  7. Dot Says:

    Hi Eva, that is a very lovely shawl, I’m glad to know you found the indigo dyed yarns worked well and don’t lose their colour easily.

    Thanks for the link. I need to get my Japanese Indigo seeds planted this weekend as spring has finally arrived.

    • evasweaving Says:

      Hi Dot, I really enjoyed your post about how you grew your indigo plants and parts 2 and 3 that you wrote on this topic are great too. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment.

  8. Vickie Says:


  9. Eva, I was thrilled to see your indigo shawl. I want to do some experimenting with shadow weave and 8 harness weaving and this gives me inspriration. I’m very new at blogging and look forward to following your blog.

    • evasweaving Says:

      I’m so happy that my weaving muse is inspiring others. Thank you so much to everyone for commenting and visiting!


  10. That’s a beautiful shawl! I love the draft you’ve chosen for it.

    Indigo is very intriguing.


  11. What a beautiful shawl!

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