Archive for the ‘Shadow Weave’ category

Shadow Weave Samples & A Woolen Pullover

December 7, 2014


I wove a few yards of fabric in shadow weave using woolen yarns I found in my stash, and from this fabric I made myself a new pullover.  I haven’t made a new one in a long time because the old ones seem to last forever!  Shadow weave seemed like a good choice because its mostly plain weave structure would work well with these yarns to produce a lightweight, felted fabric after wet finishing, and also because there are so many patterns you can design in shadow weave by alternating light and dark or contrasting colors of yarns.  Shadow weave falls under the category of color-and-weave and is considered to be a color-and-weave effect.

In this post I’ll be sharing photos, drafts, and notes about a couple of shadow weave samples and the pullover.  I wove a sample in cotton yarn, liked the pattern a lot and decided to use it to weave the fabric for the pullover as well.  Here’s a photo of the sample:

Shadow weave cotton sample designed with 7 blocks and woven on 14 shafts

Shadow weave cotton sample designed with 7 blocks and woven on 14 shafts

I developed the weaving draft for this shadow weave pattern that to me looks like a plaited twill, from Fig. 586 in G. H. Oelsner’s A Handbook of Weaves (downloadable at, described by Oelsner as a twill “arranged to produce basket or braided effects.”  However, I did not weave this draft as a twill but used it as a 7-block profile draft:

PROFILE DRAFT - 7 blocks

PROFILE DRAFT – 7 blocks

I wrote an article in the June 2008 issue of the Complex Weavers Journal,Shadow Weave & Log Cabin,” that describes the method I used for designing shadow with independent blocks.  That’s the method I used to develop this 14-shaft thread-by-thread shadow weave draft from the 7-block profile draft:

Thread-by-thread draft for 7 blocks, 14 shafts shadow weave

Thread-by-thread draft for 7 blocks, 14 shafts shadow weave

The red and white contrasting colors work well in the woven sample to show off the plaited/braided pattern.  The colors of the woolen yarns I had available were not as contrasting, but since I wanted an understated look for my pullover I hoped it would look nice anyway and here it is:

Shadow weave woolen fabric after wet finishing, pullover, and close-up of sleeve with knitted cuff, 2014

Shadow weave woolen fabric after wet finishing, pullover, and close-up of sleeve with knitted cuff, 2014

Here are photos of the warp and a close-up of the weaving in progress on my loom to show how it looked before wet finishing:

Woolen warp yarns

Woolen warp yarns

Shadow weave in woolen yarns - close-up of weaving in progress on the loom before wet finishing

Shadow weave in woolen yarns – close-up of weaving in progress on the loom before wet finishing

Notes on weaving the fabric for the shadow weave woolen pullover:  I used a 2-ply heathery purple/blue woolen yarn (272 yds./4 oz. skein, “Regal” from Briggs & Little Woolen Mills) and a beautiful, single-ply brown/black woolen yarn, I’m not sure where I bought it years ago, the label says on it “Black Welsh, 1/5-1/2 YSW.”  These two yarns alternate in the warp and the weft at a sett of 8 e.p.i. and about the same p.p.i.  The width of the web on the loom was 28 inches and the total woven length about 3-1/4 yards.  I wet finished it in the washing machine in warm/hot water with Ivory for wool, agitated only two minutes, rinsed, and carefully spin dried it.  I put it in the dryer on low heat for about 12 minutes and then let it air dry until it was completely dry.  The end result was a slightly felted, lightweight fabric, 22 inches wide and 3 yards long.  The construction of the pullover was fairly easy because of its simple design.  I cut out the pieces, serged the raw edges, sewed the pieces together and knitted the hem, collar, and cuffs.  By the way, Laura Fry is an expert on wet finishing and I treasure her book, Magic in the Water, with real woven swatches attached, great tips, and excellent information.  For more about weaving with woolen yarns see one of my older posts, 2/2 Twill: Handwoven Woolen Wearables.

There are other methods of designing shadow weave than the method of using independent blocks of log cabin that I used to design the pattern for the red and white sample and the pullover.  The Atwater method uses alternate threads for the basic pattern and the threads that form the “shadow” are threaded on the opposite shaft.  The Powell method uses a twill-step sequence and two adjacent blocks weave together in the pattern.  Carol Strickler explains it in detail in A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns in Chapter 6 on shadow weave.  She writes about Mary M. Atwater who introduced shadow weave in the 1940’s and Harriet Tidball and Marian Powell who later developed other methods for designing the same fabric.

I like to design shadow weave the Atwater way with the help of my weaving software (Fiberworks PCW).  I simply design a threading and/or treadling profile and use the extended parallel repeat to generate a complete draft with the Atwater tie-up.  Below are a photo of an 8-shaft shadow weave sample and two versions of its draft that I designed and wove, similar to pattern #8-16-1 in Marian Powell’s book, 1000(+) patterns in 4, 6, and 8 Harness Shadow Weaves.  I designed the Atwater method draft first by using the extended parallel repeat and then used the shaft shuffler to rearrange the shafts to come up with the Powell method draft with the Powell tie-up.  These two methods produce the same results:

Shadow weave cotton sample woven on 8 shafts - designed with Atwater & Powell methods

Shadow weave cotton sample woven on 8 shafts – designed with Atwater & Powell methods

Drafts for 8-shaft shadow weave cotton sample - Atwater method on left, Powell method on right, two methods, same result!

Drafts for 8-shaft shadow weave cotton sample – Atwater method on left, Powell method on right, two methods, same result!

Marian Powell first published her wonderful book in 1976 without the aid of weaving software.  Some weavers find it a little hard to decipher.


Season’s Greetings and a happy and healthy New Year to my readers who visit from all corners of the world!  Thank you for visiting and wandering around in my weaving universe!


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Color-and-Weave Medley on 4 Shafts

January 4, 2010

Margaret Windeknecht studied color-and-weave and wrote about it in her books, Color-and-Weave and Color-and-Weave II.  Her article, “What Is Color-and-Weave?” in Weaver’s magazine #20 (1993) is the best concise explanation I have come across about this topic.  Her work has inspired me so much, and I’m sad she passed away in March, 2009.

Briefly, color-and-weave refers to a pattern effect that you perceive as a result of the combination of a weave structure (the way the warp and weft interlace, as in plain weave, twill, etc.) and the sequence of light and dark or contrasting colored warp and weft threads.  For example, shadow weave falls under this category and is described as a color-and-weave effect with a mostly plain weave structure.  I find that the pattern is most prominent viewed close-up when using fine threads and at a distance when using thicker threads.

I have explored shadow weave and wrote about it in some of my earlier posts as well as in my article.  With inspiration from Margaret’s books and Marian Powell’s book, 1,000(+) Patterns in 4, 6, and 8 Harness Shadow Weaves, I recently designed an alpaca scarf and a few samples with my weaving software.  Below are images of the woven pieces with their drafts.  I tried to capture with my camera the softness and lightness of the alpaca scarf, the springiness and surprisingly nice feel of the acrylic/wool sample, and the sturdy and flat feel of the cotton sample.

After a bit of research, I learned that alpaca is often woven as plain weave or twill with a proper sett and the finished cloth is sometimes brushed well for a stable and soft cloth.  But my curiosity led me to try something I always wanted to do:  weave an alpaca scarf so the yarn remains lofty and to do that I decided to weave it looser than I normally would.  I used 4-ply alpaca (1600 yds./lb.), 12 e.p.i. sett, a broken twill (I think that’s what it is) threading with color-and-weave effects.  I hand washed the finished piece, lay flat to dry (shrinkage was negligible), and lightly brushed both sides.  It turned out super soft, stable enough so the yarns don’t shift even though it’s loosely woven, the brushing probably helps to keep the yarns together.  Here it is:

Alpaca Scarf (color-and-weave), 9 x 68, 2010

Weaving Draft for Alpaca Scarf

I wove the acrylic/wool sample using a type of wool-ease knitting yarn that’s 80% acrylic and 20% wool, machine washable and dryable.  I used a 10 e.p.i. sett, again a broken twill threading with color-and-weave effects, hand washed the sample and machine dried it, shrinkage was negligible.  I was surprised at how the pattern resembles overshot.  This could work well for an easy-care, soft scarf.  Here’s this sample with its draft:

Acrylic/Wool Sample (color-and-weave)

Weaving Draft for Acrylic/Wool Sample

The final images are of the cotton shadow weave sample and its draft.  I was having fun with the draft and just had to see how it would look woven.  I used a 20/2 cotton doubled up and a sett of 24 e.p.i., washed it by hand, ironed while still damp and shrinkage was about 10%.  A table runner might work well with this yarn and pattern.

Cotton Sample (shadow weave)

Weaving Draft for Cotton Sample

If you like looking at color-and-weave drafts, there are 475 of them at!

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Shadow Weave #4 (version using variegated colors of chenille)

May 29, 2009

Below are images of a different version of the rayon chenille scarf I wove, this time using black and variegated colors.  To view images of the other similar scarf, the weaving draft and notes on finishing techniques click on Shadow Weave #4 (& my experience weaving with chenille).

The more you weave with chenille and discover what works best for you, all the effort is worth it in the end!

Shadow Weave #4 Variegated Colors Chenille Scarf

Shadow Weave #4 Variegated Colors Chenille Scarf

Shadow Weave #4 Variegated Colors Chenille Scarf (detail)

Shadow Weave #4 Variegated Colors Chenille Scarf (detail)

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Shadow Weave #4 (& my experience weaving with chenille)

May 8, 2009

I have worked with chenille in the past but was never quite satisfied with the results because I encountered problems with the finished fabric such as worming (tiny loops of the yarn appear on the fabric), the fabric shed too much when I shook it, and the fringes became partially untwisted.

So I asked other weavers how they solved these problems.  Su Butler recommended that I use a closer sett that was very helpful.  I also read Ruth Blau’s article (Rayon Chenille: A Primer) in issue #41 of Weaver’s magazine that I highly recommend.  The article also includes step-by-step instructions on how to weave a beautiful rayon chenille “Snowflake Shadow Shawl.”

Ruth gave me permission to quote from her article and here are some points to keep in mind:

“A rayon chenille of 1450 yds/lb, for example, should be sett at 15 or 16 epi for plain weave and as close as 20 epi for twills.”

“Because chenille has a tendency to ‘worm’ (little loops of the fiber migrate to the surface of the finished fabric), choose structures with no floats or very short ones.  Plain weave is the safest choice.  Shadow weave, a plain-weave structure with occasional 2-thread floats, can also be used….”

“There may be as many ways to finish chenille as there are weavers who use the fiber….” Ruth goes on to describe three ways of wet finishing that work well.

I recently wove some rayon chenille scarves and I’m happy with the results.  Below are images of one of the scarves, the weaving draft and a description of the finishing techniques I used.  The weaving draft is from a pattern I tweaked (#8-8-11) from Marian Powell’s book, 1,000 (+) Patterns in 4, 6, and 8 Harness Shadow Weaves.

Shadow Weave #4 Chenille Scarf

Shadow Weave #4 Chenille Scarf

Shadow Weave #4 Chenille Scarf (detail)

Shadow Weave #4 Chenille Scarf (detail)

Shadow Weave #4 draft

Shadow Weave #4 draft

Shadow Weave #4 draft showing structure

Shadow Weave #4 draft showing structure

  1. I used rayon chenille (1450 yds/lb) sett 18 epi and a floating selvedge on each side.
  2. After removing the woven scarf from the loom, using a fringe twister I tightly twisted the fringes (2 ends with 2 ends).
  3. I then washed it and rinsed it by hand in lukewarm water, placed it in the washing machine on the spin cycle only and stopped it every now and then to make sure it doesn’t crease too much.
  4. Next, it went into the dryer with a couple of towels on low heat and I alternated between heat and air dry (my dryer is temperamental) being careful it doesn’t get too hot and removed it when it was completely dry.
  5. I trimmed the fringes and put a little bit of anti-fray fabric glue on the bottom of the knots.

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Shadow Weave #3 – Powell Method

March 14, 2009

I wove this chenille shawl using one of the patterns from Marian Powell’s book, 1000(+) Patterns in 4, 6, and 8 Harness Shadow Weave (page 248).  It follows a twill-step sequence and two adjacent blocks weave together in the pattern (unlike the independent blocks in Shadow Weave #2).

The book was first published in 1976 by Robin & Russ Handweavers and it’s a precious book, so many patterns done without a computer.  By plugging in the information from the book into my weaving program I created the draft you see here.  The horizontal and vertical stripes as well as the outlines of the shapes will appear different depending on whether you start threading/treadling with a light or dark colored thread.  The back of the fabric also appears different than the front.

I wove the shawl using rayon chenille at 14 e.p.i.  The plain weave structure works well with chenille because you don’t have long floats that would make the chenille get loose and snag.

Shadow Weave #3

Shadow Weave #3 detail

Shadow Weave #3 draft

The draft showing the mostly plain weave structure (the longest float is 2):

Shadow Weave #3 draft showing structure

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Shadow Weave #2

March 3, 2009

I like using a profile draft when I design shadow weave patterns.  You can read more about ‘Shadow Weave and Log Cabin’ in ‘My Articles’.  Below is a close-up of a scarf I wove using 5/2 pearl cotton at 16 e.p.i.  The profile draft and weaving draft are below that.  Because the weave structure of Shadow weave is mostly plain weave the fabric was a little stiff when I cut it off the loom, but after finishing by washing and ironing it softened.

Shadow Weave #2Shadow Weave #2 profile draftShadow Weave #2 blocksShadow Weave #2 draft

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