Sunday, November 19, 2023

What to Do About Fraying Selvages...

 A brief intro here: I like to use lots of photos in my blog posts, because weaving is such a visual medium.

But this month's topic doesn't really require photos, because we can all visualize the problem -- and who wants to see a photo of a fraying selvage, anyway?

So with that out of the way, let us begin with my first text-only blog post ;o)

A weaving friend from the Potomac (MD) Fiber Arts Guild wrote me recently about a problem she was having with fraying selvages -- a problem that most of us are all too familiar with. What follows is my reply. I welcome comments from anyone and everyone who has any other pointers!


The problem of fraying selvages is so common -- and there are lots of ways to deal with the problem. (I won't use the word "solutions" here, because often you have to analyze what's going on and then try several different approaches before you've found a solution.) 

For starters, you can have problems with the yarn itself (that is, poorly spun yarn can definitely cause problems with selvages). This means you might have to add something sturdy like Sulky machine-embroidery thread as floating selvages, in that way avoiding abrasion of the real warp selvages.

Aside from that, here's what I recommend.

1) Floating selvages definitely will help protect your warp ends. I typically recommend two floating selvages, sleyed together in one dent, on both sides of the warp.

2) Fraying is often the result of pulling too hard on the selvage after you've thrown the shuttle (that is, you throw the shuttle to the right, for instance, catch it with your right hand, and pull in too tightly on the left selvage). That makes for lots of draw-in on the selvage. (I'm right-handed, so I have this problem often on the left selvage, because that's the one my right hand pulls tighter on as it catches the shuttle and straightens out the weft.) Try being more gentle, "laying in" the weft rather than just yanking on the yarn to set it straight. (That's what we weavers are often inclined to do, because we want to make everything straight and tidy, don't you think?)

The best way to diagnose whether you're pulling on the weft too much is to look at the beater as it hits the fell line. If your yet-unwoven warp-ends at your selvage stretch at an angle, so that the fell line is several dents inside your weaving width, then you've got too much draw-in and you're putting lots of stress on your selvages. 

3) Beat on an open shed. This technique, I've found, can also reduce the draw-in on the selvages because it allows for more weft yarn to snuggle among the warp yarns at the fell line (thereby creating less tension at the selvages). What do I mean by beating on an open shed? Step on the treadle to open the shed, throw the shuttle, and then beat with your foot still on the treadle and your shed still open. Only after that do you close the shed. (The more common way we've learned to beat is to step on the treadle, throw the shuttle, release the treadle, close the shed -- and then beat. Beating on a closed shed is harder on the selvages because, in my view, the weft has less room to wriggle up and down among the warp ends, snugging it in so tight that it pulls more on the selvages.)

4) Also, you want to think about how you weave your floating selvages. Here's a technique developed by Janet Dawson and I share it because I've found it helps reduce draw-in. Instead of throwing the shuttle over one floating selvage, across the shed, and under the opposite floating selvage -- and then repeating this figure-eight throw for every pick -- try this: With each throw of the shuttle, weave OVER one floating selvage, through the shed, and then OVER the opposite floating selvage. Then, with the next pick, do the reverse: weave UNDER your floating selvage, through the shed, and then UNDER the opposite floating selvage. This, in my view, also reduces draw-in because the traditional "figure eight" of the weft yarn creates just a bit more tension than the circular approach that Dawson recommends. Weaving "over/over" and then "under/under" your floating selvages is a gentler approach, given that the alternative, the figure-eight approach, puts more tension on your selvages (again, in my view).

5) Try using an end-feed-delivery shuttle, which allows you to tension the weft more precisely so that it's not delivered as tightly. Also, with an end-feed-delivery shuttle, the weft is fed directly from the end of the pirn rather than from the wide slit in the boat shuttle, where the weft is fed as it spins erratically around the bobbin. That means, with the end-feed-delivery shuttle, the yarn is delivered in more of a straight line. You'll also find that, with an end-feed-delivery shuttle, the weft glides more gently across the fell line. Here's a link to where you can find excellent end-feed-delivery shuttles:

6) Many weavers swear by using a temple, which tensions the cloth, helping to take tension off the selvages. (I don't use one, but that's just me.)

7) I've read discussions that delve into the intricacies of the warp-yarn twist versus the twist of the weft yarn as it turns on the selvages, where pick-by-pick the weft slowly untwists one of the selvages because of its opposing S or Z twist direction. This I cannot even begin to analyze ;o) but I do see how  it might create a problem. Again, if you suspect this is the issue you're dealing with, you're best off adding floating selvages using a sturdy yarn like rayon embroidery thread.

Whew! This is a big topic for a small detail. Many of us, at least when we first learn to weave, beat hard and pull on the shuttle hard. But I've learned that weaving calls for a more Zen-like approach, you might say, drawing on the shuttle just enough but not too much. As Aristotle famously said, "In all things, moderation."

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 21, 2023

'Weaving Outside the Box' with Katherine Luhring of Lunatic Fringe Yarns

Deflected doubleweave scarf woven by Katherine Luhring from my workshop, 
"Weaving Outside the Box"

This month I'd like to share an essay by "Katzy" (pronounced "KAHtzee") Luhring, one of the managers at Lunatic Fringe Yarns. Some background: Over the summer, I taught "Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth" at the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Logan, Utah, a workshop based on my book of the same name. We were lucky to have Katzy in our class, as she brought a lot of knowledge and information about some of the special yarns that are sold by Lunatic Fringe. 

Here's a post she wrote for the Lunatic Fringe blog, starting with an introductory paragraph about her weaving adventures. Thank you, Katzy!


We Lunatics have gone to a lot of conferences over the 30-plus years that we have been in business.  However, it isn’t very often that we give ourselves the time to participate in the classes offered at the conferences. This year at IWC in Logan Utah, we sprang our fearless leader, Katzy, from booth duty so she could take Denise Kovnat’s dimensional-cloth workshop. Let her tell you about a few of the wonderful things she learned along the way.

By Katzy Luhring

Denise Kovnat’s dimensional-cloth workshop at IWC was a fabulous opportunity to experiment with interesting yarns and learn some new things! Denise asked all the class participants to choose a project from her book,  "Weaving Outside the Box, 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth." I chose project #1, the Deflected-Doubleweave Scarf on four shafts.  To be perfectly honest, I chose it because the project didn’t have too many ends, it used 10/2 mercerized cotton yarns, and it would fit on the 4-shaft Wolf Pup Loom that we had room to take with us to Logan. Seemed like a perfect fit all the way around!

I wanted to spend the workshop time making samples and learn more about elastic yarn during the workshop.  To give myself plenty of warp for playing, I wound a six-yard warp of 10/2 Tubular Spectrum Thyme and 5 Blue. This was twice the warp length that Denise recommends in her book. I knew I would have plenty of warp to experiment to my heart's desire.

What Is Colcolastic Cotton Yarn?

Denise's instructions call for Colcolastic cotton yarn for one of the weft yarns. This is a yarn that I was unfamiliar with, but after a quick Internet search, I found it at Lone Star Loom Room. When I received the yarn (in a very short amount of time), I discovered that the yarn is a two-stranded yarn: One strand is 20/2 cotton and one strand is a thin elastic, and these two yarns are wound together onto the spool. I could make my own yarn by using one strand of 20/2 Tubular Spectrum mercerized cotton yarn and combining it with any of our thin elastic yarns: ramie, cotton, silk. The color possibilities are endless!

And how did these two yarns wind onto a bobbin? No problem there. I have since used both a hand winder and an electric bobbin winder to wind the spools from two cones and have not had any trouble with the yarns getting tangled either as I wound onto the spools or while I was weaving. 

Play Time!

Three days of class trying different yarns and learning how the weave structure works and interacts with the weft yarns. It was heavenly! I tried elastic ramie, elastic silk, elastic cotton, both by themselves and with cotton yarns. I experimented with weft yarn colors to see how the two layers interacted. So much experimenting and so many things to try!

Not So Plain Weave.

Denise designed an interesting project: The first 18" is doubleweave with a top layer and a bottom layer. When I first warped the loom and sleyed the reed, I couldn't understand how we were going to get a functional fabric in those first 18" from the big spaces that are in between the yarns on each layer. There are gaps of about 1/4 inch! I trusted Denise's instructions and wove the fabric with the weft yarn floating across those gaps. When the fabric is washed, the warp yarn shifts over to fill the gaps and you can an interesting, almost plain-weave fabric with lots of drape.

Plain-weave section before washing

Plain-weave section after washing

Splash! Now to Make Things Go Bump!

The center section of the scarf contains the elastic and cotton weft. There is a nice texture to the fabric while on the loom, but it is relatively flat.  And the fabric remains flat when you take it off the loom.  The magic really happens when the fabric gets wet! When washed, the elastic in the weft shrinks up and takes the warp yarns along for a ride, creating ridges in the fabrics.  The 20/2 weft yarns bubble up and make a loopy texture on one side of the fabric.  You can stretch the fabric out to see how it originally looked, but when you let it go, the pleats reappear. Magical!

Center section before washing

Center section after washing

To the Loom!

When I left Logan, my brain was bursting with new ideas and I have been spending lots of time at the loom finishing up the first batch of scarves and working on new ones.  Thanks Denise for a wonderful workshop!

Finished scarf before washing

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Join Me for a 'Thread Talk' on October 5

 Above is my most recent post on Facebook, promoting a 10-minute "Thread Talk" I'll be giving during Spinning and Weaving Week.

It's a wonderful opportunity for me to talk about craft, why we humans have always been makers, and how inspiration can come to us like a bolt out of the blue -- even to the point where we don't know how it happened or where it came from.

My talk is based on a longer presentation I've given at guilds and conferences, looking at craft around the globe and throughout history.  The discussion reaches as far back as the cave paintings of Chauvet, France, discovered in 1994, which are thought to be around 33,000 years old. Drawn in charcoal on stone, these images were created at a time when Neanderthals still walked the earth.

Humans have been working with and manipulating materials as far back as we know, creating objects and images of great beauty like those above -- whether they were designed to be useful, representational, or inspirational. Or perhaps all three.

Some estimates state that the tradition of weaving began as long as 12,000 years ago -- but the practice of spinning and dyeing is much older than that.

Pictured above: the oldest dyed flax fiber found to date: a microscopic image of the fiber, at least 30,000 years old, found in a cave in the republic of Georgia. 

We'll look at Homer and his story of Penelope, who wove and unwove her father-in-law's shroud, a journey of sorts that reflects her husband's odyssey.

Sculpture of Penelope, Roman copy of a Greek original,
circa 460 B.C.E., Vatican museums

We then move far forward in history, to the quilter's of Gee's Bend, to Andrew Wyeth as he paints Christina's pink dress, and on to the crystal chandeliers at the Metropolitan Opera House -- but I won't give it all away. I'll just end with an image of my own work, hand-dyed and woven on 12 shafts in reeled silk, one of my favorite pieces to date.

For a full schedule of events, including my Thread Talk and others, click here:

The entire schedule isn't up just yet, so keep checking back for updates.

Thanks for reading! Hope you listen in.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

New Zoom Workshop Beginning October 14: 'Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth'


Based on my book of the same name, this workshop is being offered for the first time online -- thanks to MAFA, the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association, which is offering Zoom workshops this fall for weavers near and far.

For three Saturdays in October, you'll weave a project of your choice from the book, on 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16 shafts. The photo above, woven on 4 shafts, is one of the projects you can choose from. 

Here's the link to register:

And here are photos of a few more of the projects you can weave at home, on your own time.

"Ruffles Scarf," 8 shaft doubleweave using differential-shrinkage

Shawl on 6 shafts, detail, deflected doubleweave and fulling techniques

Scarf from the book cover, 4 shafts, wool/stainless-steel and 20/2 cotton yarns

8-shaft scarf in 60/2 silk, pleats in turned twill

4-shaft scarf in deflected doubleweave, using Colcolastic (cotton/elastic yarn) 
to create shrinkage in center

Woven-shibori scarf on 4 shafts, differential-shrinkage techniques

Participants will learn how to optimize the effects of structure, energized yarns, and finishing techniques to achieve three-dimensional texture in their cloth. The goal is to venture off the rectilinear grid of handwoven cloth, exploiting texture to work with color and form, adding interest and tactile appeal to your woven creations. It all happens in the wash and the results are often surprising!

A summary of the focus of this workshop, taken from the back of the book:

Color and structure are key elements in weaving, of course. But we often overlook the importance of texture. Dimensional fabrics, with their pleats, puffs, and curves, take us off the grid, reflecting the organic forms of nature. We can both see and feel the tactile quality of dimensional cloth, which adds much to the beauty of handwoven fabric.

If you're interested or if you have questions, please send me an email (click on the "About Me" section on the front page of this blog, at the right, then click on "Email" underneath my photo). And yes, one enticement: Lunatic Fringe Yarns is offering participants a coupon on the special yarns that are used on several of the projects.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Here's the News from NEWS

Last week I taught at the New England Weavers Seminar -- well known as NEWS -- in Worcester, Massachusetts. Not only was it run very well (right down to the excellent IPA I had at the dinner for jurors and NEWS committee members), but I had a great time teaching my workshop, "One Warp, Many Structures: Explorations in Extended Parallel Threading." 

Everybody was enthusiastic and their samples showed it -- as you can see from the 12-shaft samples above, woven in Jin (bottom) and Shadow Weave (top) by Diana Vaughan.

Diana was one of the conference organizers (forgive me that I can't recall her specific title) and the entire volunteer team did a terrific job in planning and running this big event, which may be the largest of the regional conferences in the U.S. (I don't have any research to back this up, just hearsay and a glance at the long list of attendees.)

I figure that, since weaving is such a visual craft, the best way for me to describe the workshop is to show it in photos. Unfortunately, I took pictures only at the end of the workshop on Sunday, so Amy Somerstein had already packed up her loom and left -- leaving me with no images of her beautiful work! But I think I got images of everyone else and if I didn't, my apologies.

Debra Colo Nemetz here with her Doubleweave samples 
of the eight-shaft "Falling Stars" pattern

Jennifer Rogers also wove 
Falling Stars, shown here as Rep

Jennifer on the floor re-tying treadles. 
For those with floor looms, 
this had to happen a lot....

Fran Osten wove an eight-shaft pattern called "Fun House" on a gradient warp. 
The blue and magenta yarns each shifted from dark to light values going right to left, 
adding lots of depth and interest to her samples.

Here's the Shadow Weave version of the eight-shaft pattern "Many Rivers," 
woven by Barbara Keller

Barbara Keller herself

Sylvie Faucher of Quebec also wove "Many Rivers," shown here as Rep.
(Sylvie was camera-shy, so I didn't get a good photo of her, unfortunately.)

Danyelle Brodeur, also of Quebec, weaving the Rep version of Fun House.

A few years ago, I noticed that one of the favorite patterns in Carol Strickler's book was #728, a multiple-tabby design that allows for many colors in the warp and never ceases to grab you with its treadling rhythm. I realized that it could easily be adapted for Echo, Jin, Shadow Weave, Rep, Doubleweave -- all the designs in this workshop -- so I added it to the workshop. 

Echo and Jin variations on #728, the eight-shaft design found in Strickler,
woven by Krysten Morganti.

A few other variations by Krysten...

And here's Krysten.

Diana Vaughan ventured into 12-shaft territory 
with the pattern I call "Pink and Green."

Here are some of Diana's samples woven as Echo. 
The pattern on the bottom right is particularly striking, 
with colors ranging from navy to khaki to turquoise to yellow. 
(Her warp was turquoise and dark blue and her weft was orange!)

Mayine Yu (who goes by Lynn) of Brooklyn, NY, also wove the "Falling Stars" pattern.
Here, she's working on a Doubleweave version that uses one wool yarn 
alternating with one cotton yarn in the weft. When the sample is washed and agitated 
with soap and warm water, the wool fulls and draws in the layer of cotton, 
creating vertical pleats in the fabric. The technique is called "differential shrinkage."

Anne Graham of New Haven also wove the 12-shaft pattern called "Pink and Green."

Here's a detail of Anne's samples in Echo. Note the changes in weft color 
and how much they change the color blending in the samples.

Christina Zook's Falling Stars variations in Rep (below) and Doubleweave (above)

Christina at her loom. Note that her weft colors of bright blue and burgundy 
are the same yarns and colors as her warp for her Doubleweave sample. 
The weft colors can vary and produce interesting color blending, 
but the effect is stronger in some designs than in others.

Here's Marjorie Wheeler working on her Doubleweave design for "Falling Stars." 
(Marjorie was also a key volunteer for NEWS 
and I hope I thanked her enough for all her good work!)

Christine Ross at work on her Doubleweave sample of "Falling Stars."

Ann Guralnick also chose the eight-shaft pattern #728 in Strickler. 
At the top is a Doubleweave variation and below that, Rep Weave.

Ann at her loom

The samples were beautiful, the company was great, and the food was excellent. OK, maybe the rooms were a little cold, at least to begin with -- but what more can you ask for a good conference? 

The morning everyone was leaving, I woke at 6 a.m. to the sound of a weaver calling out to her friend, "Goodbye! Drive safely! See you soon!" I think that says a lot about the camaraderie of these gatherings.

Can't resist posting one more image: This one of Ann Guralnick's samples 
of Strickler #728, starting at the bottom with Shadow Weave

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

It's Conference Season!


I write this as I'm sitting in the airport in Grand Rapids, MI, waiting for a much-delayed flight to Detroit and then home. What better time to post about the just-finished Michigan Handweavers Conference in Holland, MI? And why not start with a classic conference photo -- that of a group of weaver-friends going out to dinner after a long day in the classroom?

Pictured above, from left to right: Cathy McCarthy, Janney Simpson, Martha Town, Susan Moran, Nancy Riele, Martina Celerin, Nadine Cloutier, and me. Everyone in the photo is either a teacher, a conference organizer, a student at the conference, or any combination of the three. You can imagine what we talked about -- for instance, the exhibits....

There are some 19 guilds in Michigan, and one exhibit featured collected works from many of these guilds -- including this beautiful series of blue vertical panels created by members of Woodland Weavers. Whether they were woven, knitted, felted, printed, quilted, or hand-dyed, these vertical panels all related to the exhibit's focus on the lakes and landscape of Michigan. Here's a closeup of one of the pieces, which included cyanotype prints and painted images of white-pine needles. (I apologize for not crediting the artist, as I did not take down the name.)

Here's an image from a rug-hooked piece by Nadine Cloutier, using hand-dyed wool strips to create a sun-soaked lake view. I love the tactile quality and the varying directions of the wool strips.

Martina Celerin was the keynote speaker, who spoke about her dimensional weavings. They all begin with a simple frame loom she builds herself for warping and weaving tapestry-like backdrops of natural scenes. She then uses a number of techniques, including felting and weaving, to extend her pieces beyond the plane of the the loom outward as much as 12 inches. It's difficult for a photo to portray the depth of her creations, but here is an image of one of her recent pieces, featuring a trail meandering through the forest. (The bright blue color in the upper righthand side of the image is from paper bags in the background, unfortunately, that you can see through the open yarns on the loom.)

You can find out more about Celerin by clicking here.

So much to see -- and touch! Speaking of touch, the workshop I taught was based on my book, Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth. To my surprise and delight, people in the workshop took off with their versions of the projects in the book -- in some cases, improving upon them, in my view. 

This sample by Nancy Riele, using the ancient weave technique known as Rippenköper, had whimsical, flowing horizontal lines. It's woven in 8/2 Tencel on a warp of 60/2 silk in a turned-twill design. I consider her sample way better than the piece I wove for the book ;o)

Among the takeaways from this workshop is that textured weaves call for either specialized (energized) yarns, fulling and differential shrinkage, and/or structure -- any one of these or varied combinations of the three. Finishing is key. Below is a photo of the work of Cory Zann, showing the difference between her fabric on the loom and after washing. Again, this is a turned-twill structure on a 60/2 warp, in her case using a silk/stainless-steel yarn for the weft.

Cindy Root, president of the Michigan League of Handweavers, chose to weave a 4-shaft project on a gradient warp of 16/2 bamboo, using a weft of 18/2 Jagger Spun merino and a supplemental weft of embroidery cotton. The supplemental weft is used to draw the fabric in horizontally, compressing it so that only portions of the wool are exposed in finishing. This means that only some portions of the wool will full, creating pleats where the weft yarns have shrunk and gathered the warp yarns together densely. Here's Cindy's shibori-tightened fabric before it's washed with warm water and agitated with soap. After it's dried a bit, but still damp, she will remove the shibori ties and have a permanently pleated scarf.

Gail Pilgrim was also working on the Rippenköper structure -- but weaving it in on a 20/2 cotton warp using 8/2 cotton in the weft. She's doing research for a story planned for Heddlecraft magazine looking at hand towels in a variety of structures. In addition to working with cotton wefts, she decided to try a weft of 18/2 Jagger Spun merino, just to see whether the results were worthy of weaving a scarf somewhere down the line (or down the warp). Here's that sample, below.

As it is with many workshops, not every project is complete at the end. And since this workshop emphasized the importance of using specific finishing techniques, some weavers chose to finish their projects at home, after the workshop -- as with this 4-shaft deflected doubleweave scarf by Naomi Fletcher, woven with 10/2 cotton in the warp and weft, with a mid-section that includes Colcolastic yarn by Venne, drawing the mid-section in dramatically. I'm hoping she'll send me some photos of her results that I can then share with the group.

Some samples were finished, however (finished meaning washed with warm water and soap and then rinsed), as with this sample below by Martha Town. She wove it on a hand-painted warp of 60/2 silk with navy stripes and jewel-tone-painted stripes and a weft of 120/2 silk, using a turned-twill structure that pleats naturally. Note the subtle yellow accents in the weft every few inches, which add interest to the sample.

Thanks to MLH for a wonderful conference -- and to everyone in my workshop for an experience that I didn't want to end! And finally, thanks to you for reading.

What to Do About Fraying Selvages...

 A brief intro here: I like to use lots of photos in my blog posts, because weaving is such a visual medium. But this month's topic does...