Posted tagged ‘Handwoven Wearables’

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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Handwoven Double Weave Vest

April 18, 2010

The double weave cloth I designed, wove, and wrote about in a recent post was begging me to be made into something – a vest!  But because I’m somewhat sewing challenged, I called up my longtime friend and professional seamstress extraordinaire, Elisabet, to help me out.  She’s the one who sewed the woolen jackets I wrote about in an older post.

Elisabet grew up in Holland where her parents had a weaving business with several tapestry carpet looms, dobby looms and a jacquard loom at one time, weaving upholstery fabrics, tablecloths, and carpets.  The business is still being operated by her brother and his partner but only pile rugs are being woven now.  Elisabet came to the U.S. in 1982 and that’s when I met her.  She learned to weave at the age of 12 but when she came to the U.S. she started her own sewing business and is still making a living from it in Chester County, PA.  Her skills are excellent and her work is impeccable.  She also gives private sewing lessons.

I showed her the 20 inch by 2-1/2 yards long fabric hoping it would be enough for a vest.  After taking my measurements she assured me it would be enough but suggested that the more colorful side of the fabric would look more attractive on the outside of the vest, the opposite of how I imagined, but I liked the idea and agreed to do it this way.

The next step was choosing a style.  Elisabet showed me a few basic commercial patterns from her file.  We picked one, but she made some changes to it that I liked.  We kept the style simple so that the fabric would draw most of the attention and the style would help show it off.

After cutting out the pieces with a rotary cutter, Elisabet serged the raw edges with her overlock sewing machine before sewing them together.  She used seam binding for some of the finishing on the inside.  I did the crochet finish at the front openings.  Because the fabric was thick enough and had enough body to it, interfacing was not needed.

Here are images of the vest with details, followed by a short list of resources for handwoven wearables.

Handwoven Double Weave Vest, Pearl Cotton, 2010

1) Elisabet at work 2) inside finish detail 3) closure embellishment

For more information about making handwoven wearables, here are just a few of many recommendations thanks to the weavers from some of the online weaving groups:

  • Daryl Lancaster’s work is beautiful and she has self-published monographs on weaving and sewing topics.  Daryl’s blog has a link to her website where you can purchase the monographs.  She has also written a few articles for Weavezine.
  • Handwoven, Tailormade: a tandem guide to fabric designing, weaving, sewing, and tailoring, by Sharon D. Alderman and Kathryn Wertenberger, Interweave Press, 1982.
  • Clothing From the Hands That Weave, by Anita Luvera Mayer, 1984.
  • Fashions From the Loom, by Betty Beard, Interweave Press, 1980.
  • Weaver’s Wearables, by Virginia West, 1979.
  • Cut My Cote, by Dorothy K. Burnham, the Royal Ontario Museum, 1973.  (Simple, traditional garments of different cultures, fascinating and exquisitely presented.)
  • Articles in weaving magazines including some of Handwoven’s Design Collection booklets.

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2/2 Twill: Handwoven Woolen Wearables

September 1, 2009

Over the years I wove different types of woolen fabrics for jackets and pullovers.  I often used 2/2 twill and woolen yarns, sometimes with a little bit of mohair mixed in with the warp.  Woolen yarns are made up of short and long fibers lying in different directions and the yarn is usually soft and fuzzy while worsted yarns are made up of long fibers all lying parallel to each other and the resulting yarn is compact and smooth.  Woolen yarns are great to use to get a finished fabric that is felted, and the amount of felting depends on the finishing process.

Below are images of two jackets, a pullover, a weaving draft and notes about how I finished the woolen fabrics.  The jackets are a product of my collaboration with a friend, a professional seamstress, who used commercial patterns to sew them from my handwoven fabrics and lined them with commercial cotton fabric.  The pullover is entirely my own creation, including the crochet finish.  Because the weave structure is simple I emphasized color and texture in the designs to make the fabrics more interesting.

My Favorite 2/2 Twill Woolen Jacket, 1984

My Favorite 2/2 Twill Woolen Jacket, 1984

To weave the fabric for this jacket I dyed medium weight woolen yarns for the warp in several batches of colors using fiber reactive dyes.  I used a lighter weight woolen yarn that was already dyed for the weft.  The sett was 10 e.p.i.  The total width on the loom was 48″ and after the finishing process it was reduced to 40″.  I wove many yards of this fabric, enough for several jackets and each jacket used up about 4 yards of fabric.  This is my favorite  jacket, I’ve been wearing it in the Fall for the past 25 years and it’s still in great condition.

My Husband's 2/2 Twill Woolen Jacket, 1984

My Husband’s 2/2 Twill Woolen Jacket, 1984

The woolen yarns in this jacket are lighter weight and the sett was 12 e.p.i.  I mixed in the warp some mohair yarn, about 1 in every 6 warp ends is mohair.  The yardage width and finished fabric is similar to the other jacket, but my seamstress friend used a different pattern.  She did a great job, and my husband still enjoys wearing this jacket on a cold day.

2/2 Twill Woolen Pullover (with detail), 2002

2/2 Twill Woolen Pullover (with detail), 2002

I sewed this pullover myself because its construction is simple.   To weave the fabric I used lightweight woolen yarns, 6 warp ends in a paddle, and every sixth end was black mohair.  The weft was a singles woolen yarn that I doubled up.  The sett was 12 e.p.i. and 30″ wide on the loom that was reduced to 24-1/2″ after the finishing process.  Less than two yards of this fabric was enough to make the pullover:  it’s about 24″ long, the main body required 48″ and the sleeves required 18″ for both.  The only cuts in the fabric were at the neckline, sleeves and bottom.  I serged using an overlock sewing machine any raw edges and used a regular sewing machine for all the seams.  To avoid any bulkiness where the sleeves are connected to the main body, I zigzagged the pieces together as they lay side by side and then used some woolen yarn in a large blunt needle to do overcast stitching over the join for a more attractive finish.  The final touch was crocheting around the neckline, cuffs and the bottom.

2/2 Twill (and plain weave) Weaving Draft

2/2 Twill (and plain weave) Weaving Draft

Notes on the finishing process:

I finished (scouring and fulling) all the yardages for these jackets and pullover in a similar way:  After removing the web from the loom, I put it in the washing machine on gentle, warm water with a little bit of detergent (neutral/alkaline pH – most detergents are good), agitated for only 3 minutes, warm water again in the rinse cycle for about another 2-3 minutes, spin cycle to remove excess water, and then placed in the dryer on low heat for about 30 minutes until dry.  This produced a fabric that is just a little bit felted, easy to cut and sew and wonderfully warm to wear as a finished garment.

You need to experiment with the amount of time for agitating in the washing machine and trying different drying methods to see what works for you.  There are a series of related articles on the topic of finishing wool fiber and textiles at  I especially like the article, “Washing Wool Fiber and Textiles” by Tom Beaudet and the article, “Wet Finishing – A Warm Winter Coat” by Laura Fry.

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