Using Variegated Yarn for Weft

Marcy Petrini

June 2019

Some of the same principles that we discussed last month in using a variegated yarn for warp apply to using a variegated yarn for weft, if we want to make the pattern more visible: a bold pattern, not much contrast in the colors of the variegated yarn, but more contract between warp and weft colors; the distance at which we want the pattern visible is also important.

There are some differences, however: in the warp, the color repeats of the yarn are generally more spread out, because of the length. When used as a weft, how the colors of the variegated yarn are organized depends on the width of the piece, which is usually not the same as the length of the warp. So colors in the weft can stripe, pool or look more random, depending on the relationship of the color repeats with the width of the piece.

Also, think about how we wind our bobbins or shuttles: first of all, chances are that we won’t wind exactly the same yardage on each bobbin; but more important, we can start winding at the beginning of a ball or cone, say point A, and wind to point B, which is where out weaving begins; for the next winding, we will start at point B and end at point C, which is where the weaving begins, so the colors will no longer be in order; for the weft in the fabric we have: B to A, C to B, etc.

Of course, if we really wanted, we could carefully rewind balls and match to keep the colors in order, but that is a bit tedious.

Below is the pictures of two scarves both woven with a ribbed twill using two yarns, Reno Sunrise which is variegated and cinnamon which is solid. On the left, the warp is solid, the weft is variegated; on the right, the warp is variegated, the weft is solid. From a distance, the scarf with the variegated warp is more interesting. There is some cinnamon in the variegated yarn, which blends with the weft, resulting in the other colors being more prominent.


The close ups of the scarves are below, first the variegated weft, then the variegated warp. Close up the ribs are more visible with the variegated weft, while the twill line is more visible in the variegated warp. Which is better? Totally a matter of personal preference.




When using a variegated yarn for weft, I often want to showcase the colors, rather than the pattern. I use these possible combinations, often, but not always, in plain weave:

  1. solid warp, variegated weft;
  2. different solid warp colors, variegated weft;
  3. striped warp and variegated weft;
  4. both warp and weft variegated;
  5. both warp and weft variegated, but different yarns.

Below is a close up of a scarf with a gold silk warp and a variegated cotton weft, woven on my rigid heddle loom. I like the way the colors migrate across the width, almost like a watercolor painting.



The scarf below has three yarns for warp: rust, peach and purple, all solids 5/2 cotton; the weft is a variegated rayon weft with the same colors plus some green; It was woven in plain weave. I like the way the colors pool.


Three broad stripes in chestnut, cheddar and cranberry make up the warp of the scarf below. The weft is a variegated yarn called sugar maple with golds, greens, reds and browns. It was woven as a broken twill.



Note how the different colors of the weft disappear in the warp stripes, depending on its colors, shown in the close up below. This is a good strategy when wanting to showcase certain colors.



Compare the two scarves below, both woven in plain weave. The one on the left has three solid warp threads in blue, aqua blue and red purple with a variegated rayon weft of the same colors plus a bright green. The same rayon is used for warp and weft in the scarf on the right. The variegated weft results in irregular stripes on the left, and the interaction between warp and weft forms a crazy plaid on the right.



This scarf has a variegated Tencel warp in blues, greens and purples, and a variegated silk weft of blues; the variegated weft accentuates the blues of the variegated warp. The advancing twill causes a textured appearance from a distance.



What color interactions do you like for your variegated yarns?

 Happy weaving!

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Will the Pattern Show If I Weave with Variegated Yarns?

Marcy Petrini

May 2019

This seemingly simple question was posed by one of our weaving students. Heather loves color and she loves pattern, but so far, she has not woven with variegated yarns – hence the question.

The answer is “it depends.” It depends on the pattern and it depends on the colors.

Below are two pieces woven with similar color yarns for warp and weft. The deflected double weave (first below) with a variegated warp of blues, greens and gold shows the pattern woven with a blue weft much more than the advancing twill (second below) also woven with a blue weft on a variegated warp also of blues, greens and gold.




The deflected double weave is a much bolder pattern and thus more visible.

Below are two sections of a scarf with a variegate warp; the shadow twill (not to be confused with shadow weave) is clearly visible in the picture below where there is good contrast between warp and weft.



But in the section below where there is low contrast between warp and weft, the twill just about disappears.




We can also ask: what do we mean by: “will the pattern show?” From what distance?

To me, a successful fabric should look interesting close-up and far away, especially if it will be viewed from different distances; but it is not likely that the same elements that provide interest from near will also do so from far.

The close-up of the fabric below is an extended pointed twill; the warp is variegated purples and greens and the weft a solid lighter purple. Because of the contrast in the purples, the diamonds of the pointed twill are visible when looked closely.



But from far away, the diamonds disappear, and we are left with changing colors that cause our eyes to move because they reflect the light differently depending on the direction of the twill.




We can use pattern to affect our colors – and the hand of our fabric. For example, twills give fabric drape and fluidity because of their staggered floats, so it may not matter if the pattern is visible. As we saw in the scarf above, the different colors of the twill can reflect the light in different directions, giving interest to the scarf from afar.

With so many choices, how do we proceed? Here are some guidelines, to get started.

To make a pattern more visible with a variegated yarn:

  1. Choose a variegated yarn that does not have colors with strong contrast in hue or intensity.
  2. Choose a bold weaving pattern.
  3. Use the variegated yarn as warp.
  4. Choose a solid color weft, contrasting to the warp in hue, intensity or both.
  5. Make the project slightly weft dominant; that is, sett the warp slightly more open that you would for that pattern and yarn, and make sure you don’t beat too much. Or use a weft that is slightly larger than the warp.

The pattern of the straight twill of the shawl below is visible because the red purple weft is darker than the variegated red and blue purples of the warp and it is lightly larger in grist.



What about variegated yarns for weft? We’ll discuss those next month.



 Happy weaving!

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Weaving Ruffles

Marcy Petrini

March 2019

In the Spring 2019 issue of Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot (# 197), there is a wonderful article about Ann Richards and her collapse fabrics.  

I have long been intrigued by three-dimensional textiles, but I have never systematically pursued them. Here and there I have dabbled to make some simple ones, projects that may be suitable for my teaching. One technique I have tried is to make ruffles. 

A few Convergences® ago I found some stretchy yarn that I thought would be fun to weave. It is a 1% Lycra®, 99% cotton loop, close in size to 5/2 cotton, hand-dyed in wine and purple by Teresa Ruch and available in her booth.  

To weave it, I wanted to have stripes of the Lycra® to make a sample scarf with ruffles; to figure how what the rest of the scarf should be, I tried yarns in cotton, wool and silk of approximately the same size as the Lycra®. The silk ended up giving me the results I was looking for: drape and not too much fulling so that the Lycra® could contract. 

On my shelf I had a wine color 100% silk, Hana from ArtFibers which wrapped at 22 wpi. It is a bit smaller in grist than the Lycra®, but it had a wonderful hand and the colors went well together. I decided to use it and sett it at 15 epi, while the Lycra® would be sett at 12 epi. 

I divided the 6” width into: 1” silk, 1” Lycra®, 0.5” silk, 1” Lycra®, 0.5” silk, 1” Lycra®, 1” silk. 

To weave it, I used plain weave for the silk, threaded on shafts 1 and 2, and ribbing for the Lycra®, threaded on 3 and 4, as shown below. The weft was the same Hana silk, even though I used I different color in the drawdown, so I could see the structure. 


Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


To avoid floats where I didn’t want them, the structure required an even number of threads, so I adjusted the width slightly; the 1” of silk was 14 treads, and the 0.5” was 8 threads, so the total was just a threads short (44 threads rather than 45 for the silk). 

The bouts of Lycra® were tension separately with weights since the loom I planned on using doesn’t have a second beam. 

In sleying, I didn’t want to bunch up the silk, so I chose a 15 dent reed, sleying the silk 1 per dent, and sleying the Lycra® 1, 1, 1, skip 1. 

Here is a photo of the finished scarf. For didactic reasons, I chose not to trim the considerably longer silk fringe. Of course, for a finished project, I would trim them all to the same length, but I would also leave longer fringe for the Lycra®. Perhaps beads at the end of the fringe could stretch the Lycra® so extra length may not be necessary. 




Not surprisingly, there was some take up and a lot of shrinkage. The Lycra® didn’t crimp much until it was washed. Length-wise the take up was approximately 10%, but the shrinkage was nearly 34%. I had planned about 30% take-up and 50% shrinkage, so the final length, almost 70” was plenty long. In the width, the take-up was 8% and the shrinkage 5%. I hope this inspires you to try some Lycra® in your weaving!  

  Happy weaving!

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Deflected Double Weave

Marcy Petrini

April 2019

 In double weave, we weave two layers of cloth which can be joined on the loom to form a double cloth or a tube. In deflected double weave, the two layers are interlaced, causing the deflection; the technique can be woven for differential shrinking, by using a yarn for one layer that fulls more than the yarn in the other layer. Often more than 4 shafts are used, so the two layers are not restricted to plain weave. A few years ago, I wanted to weave a deflected double weave fabric, not to full it, but to understand how it works; to get started, I chose to adopt the pattern than Holly Brockman published in Fabrics that Go Bump (page 94). The bottom layer is plain weave on four shafts, interlacing and anchoring the floats of the top layer horizontally and vertically, forming motifs. Here is a close up of the fabric:




The ground warp and weft are 10/2 Tencel® from Just Our Yarns, from a past Convergence®; it is variegated in blues, greens, and yellows, called Great Lakes Sunrise. The overlayer is 20/2 silk from RedFish Dyeworks in blues. The draft is below; the drawdown doesn’t show the interlacing of the bottom layer, but the draft has the threading and treadling directions. The ground warp and weft are shown in green, the overlayer in blue.


Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


The ratio of top and bottom layers – here 4 / 6 – determines the number of threads in the float, so the sett is important; I used an 8-dent reed and I sleyed 2 per dent for the Tencel® and 4 treads in one dent for the silk. I liked the fabric and I thought that “one of those days” I will try it for differential shrinking. More recently, as I was thinking about puckering fabrics, I wondered: why not deflected double weave on 4 shafts? The ground fabric in the 8-shaft version I wove was plain weave on four shafts, which can be simplified to two shafts; the top layer could have floats anchored by plain weave, using the other two shafts. I am sure other people have had this idea, but it was easy enough to figure this out from scratch. Below is the draft of the fabric that I wove. The bottom layer was woven, as in the 8-shaft version, with 10/2 Tencel® (from Margaret Pittman, no longer available) variegated in reds; in the draft the warp is red, the weft is pink to show the intersection; the top layer is red Jaggerspun wool; in the draft, the warp is burgundy, the weft brown.


Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


I used the same ratio as for the 8-shaft version, 6 threads for the ground, 4 for the top layer and I sett the warp the same way in an 8-dent reed. Below on the left is the fabric off the loom, on the right after it was washed in hot water and hung to dry. There was about 40% shrinkage, so the two fabrics in the pictures are the same dimensions.



The back of the fabric before washing (below on the left) is pretty flat, but it becomes bumpy after washing (on the right).



A summary of the 4-shaft deflected double weave is in the Pictionary, downloadable as a pdf.


  Happy weaving!

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More Rigid Heddle Weaving

Marcy Petrini

February 2019

With my first two warps on the Flip loom, described in the January 2019 blog, I learned a bit about tension on the rigid heddle. Given that the warp cannot be tensioned very tightly, I thought that warping with a woolen handspun should work.

Recently I had spun a 3.5 oz braid of 65% super-wash merino and 35% silk called Starry Night, a gift from a friend; the colors ranged from blue-black to yellow and gold. I spun it with no project in mind, split in half for a two-ply, letting the colors fall where they may. The yarn wrapped at 24 epi, so it was perfect for my 12-dent rigid heddle.

I calculated that for a scarf about 7” wide and 100” long on the loom (allowing for 16” loom waste), I would have enough for warp and weft. And here is the scarf!



But when I was spinning the fiber and then weaving with the yarn, I was reminded that I usually don’t use super-wash merino; combined with the silk, the scarf has a good hand and drape, but there is an underlying slickness that reminds me of synthetic yarns.

When it was first introduced, I was very enthusiastic about super-wash merino, as were many people, but when it came to buy it, I always seemed to choose something else. I sometimes thought that super-wash really didn’t feel like merino, but I dismissed the thought.

Just as I was finishing weaving the scarf, I read the December 2018 issue of Ply magazine and I discovered that I am not the only who is not crazy about super-wash merino. Furthermore, in a great article, Julie-Anne Gandier discusses the processes resulting in super-wash and, totally new to me, the environmental impact of those processes – of course! Depending on the process, there can be lots of water used, chlorinated waste, and a plastic-like coating to the fiber itself (no wonder it reminds of synthetic yarns!). She does say that alternatives are being developed to counteract the environmental impact. Whether you like super-wash wool or not, I highly recommend her article.

Other fibers and handspuns are in my stash, so they will have to find their way to my rigid heddle.

  Happy weaving!

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