Last night, I finished my first big shawl on my rigid heddle loom. Previously, I had made scarves. I had never warped the full-length of the loom. I think I was feeling particularly inspired to finish weaving it after going by the Habu Textiles New York showroom before a taping of the Martha Stewart show. It was a little hard to find – it’s on an upper floor of a very nondescript building – but entirely worth the trouble. Such an inspiring space.
I picked up the yarn for this shawl last year at the 2009 Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival. It’s A Touch of Twist Alpaca in a nice, dark gray.
It felt almost fingering-like to me, but it’s listed as sport.
I spent a good bit of time playing with math and figuring out how long of a warp to warp. At the end of the day, I decided to warp about 82 inches. If I had it to do again, I would have warped a bit longer – and here’s why.
1. I made it to the end and didn’t run out of yarn, so I could have spared a few more inches.
2. The pick-up stick doesn’t work well near the end of the warp, so I had to stop weaving because my patterning could not continue. Had it been plain weave, I could have eeked several more inches out.
Warping all the way across my loom was pretty amazing, though of course something got ever-so slightly off…in the middle…it took a while to get back on the right track but it eventually happened. I used my 7.5 dpi heddle – far looser than the yarn would “normally” call for, and I tried to achieve a fairly balanced weave by beating very very very gently.
I recently picked up Betty Linn Davenport’s Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle Loom. It’s a great book – I want to play more with it – but after reading through the book a few times I decided to dive right in and use the 5/1 Lace (aka Bronson Lace, Barleycorn, or Mock Leno) for this project. I think that with how open I chose to make this piece the true nature of the particular lace pattern doesn’t sing, but the shawl turned out wonderfully textured and feels just like a dream.
I used the ladder hem stitch to finish the ends but I don’t think that was the right hem stitch to use. I need to pick up Interweave’s Compendium of Finishing techniques. One interesting difference between the weaving and knitting communities, at least in my experience, is that it’s harder to find weaving explanations, tutorials, photos, and videos online. I need to work on building my own weaving reference library for that very reason. I used the Knitpicks bent-tip needles for sewing the hem on the loom and it was so much easier to use than a straight tip needle!
I cut the piece off the loom and washed it gently in the sink (such a beautiful process!). I trimmed the very long fringes to a much shorter length. I think I want to sew over the ends with my sewing machine then cut the fringe off entirely, but I’m still deciding. The loose nature of the weave, which gives the project great drape, seems like it may also necessitate some amount of fringe so a snag doesn’t undo the project.
I am incredibly pleased with this project – it’s just gorgeous. It’s a much looser weave than most weaving projects but the drape is just fantastic. I didn’t want an alpaca shawl to go fight the Connecticut winter in – I wanted in essence a woven gray pashmina-style scarf or shawl to throw on over a halter-top dress when the evenings gets a little bit chilly, or to layer over other outfits in the winter.
The yarn is a little sheddy, but it’s more than worth it for the drape and softness (and really, have you met alpaca that isn’t sheddy? do tell!). Seriously, I just want a blankie out of this stuff to carry around with me. And a pillow out of it to nap on.