Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Doubleweave Colorwork Ruana

 I finally finished my ruana! This was a big weaving project that stretched my skills. I learned so much!

The piece of cloth I made is pretty large, because it was doubleweave. The entire thing is 38.5" wide. The front (which contains a slit) is 17.25" long from the shoulder, plus a generous 7" fringe. The back is 18.5" long with 3" fringe.
But let's rewind to the making. After my last update, I chugged along with the weaving, fighting some sticky warp threads but generally (I thought) keeping things under control. I felt more confident as I went along. I was chuffed that I labeled my shuttles with washi tape to keep track of which one is used on the top layer and which one is for the bottom.

I felt pretty good... until I took the cloth off the loom. At that point, I was STUNNED to see that somehow I missed FIFTEEN warp threads. Like, completely missed them. They weren't even part of the fabric. I still don't really know what happened there, because everything looked pretty fine as I was going along. Here's a not-great nighttime photo of the cloth with all those missed threads:

The good news is that this is fixable. I threaded up my trusty tapestry needle, and needle-wove the thread into the fabric where it should have been all along. This was time consuming (I clocked it at 12 minutes per thread, so about 3 hours in all) ... but it was also kind of calming. I settled into a rhythm of fixing and derived a lot of satisfaction from it.

In addition to those (essentially) gigantic floats, I also made a few mistakes on the second half of the double weave, where the two layers of fabric are not supposed to be connected on either edge. I must have messed up the 4-step sequence, because the layers were connected in 3 places where they shouldn't have been. I was able to cut the yarn there and then needle-weave some replacement yarn. In other words, I patched the weft mistakes. Those fixes were quite time consuming.

Only then did I turn my attention to all the "regular" floats that sometimes happen. I decided to fix these by un-weaving the involved warp thread and re-weaving it. This approach (as opposed to the weft-based fix) takes a little longer but doesn't involve feathering in ends, which adds bulk to the fabric. By this time, I was a master of needle-weaving warp threads. I adopted an "in for a penny, in for a pound" mentality and fixed every single float I could find, even the really tiny ones. For fun, I logged them - and there were 29 in all. 

Only after fixing all that did I address the fringe. The pattern calls for offset knots on the back edge, and offset knots plus twisted fringe on the front edge.

Tying knots was a welcome change from needle-weaving. As usual, my pal Will helped me out. Here is a line of finished offset knots. So pretty!
I took another day to twist the front on the front edges. This adds a bit of length (at least visually) and protects the warp threads. I use this helpful gizmo and it's a fun process:

Then I washed the fabric, trimmed the ends, and it was done!
I didn't go into this project thinking "I want to make a ruana so I can wear a ruana." This was more about the learning. But now that I have a ruana, I find it more wearable than expected. It is 100% wool and a nice layer to throw over my shoulders while working at home. It certainly classes up my usual WFH look.

Some WAL participants noticed that you can wear it sideways, too, with the slit over one shoulder. I think it might work better with a pin than what I did here, but you sort of get the idea. It's neat to see the plaid (the back) and the stripes (the front) at the same time:

I find it helpful to list learnings after each project, so I can find them before the next time. Here is what I want to remember about this project:

  • When warping a wider project, it's worth it to drag out the heavy wooden folding table for the warping peg (if warping directly). My normal setup is prone to movement.
  • After threading the warp but before packing the beam, check the back of the heddle to make sure all warp threads went around the apron rod - I missed one and it only went around the heddle. It was fixable, but a bit fiddly.
  • I used a 24" shuttle but could really have benefited from a 20" shuttle. Something to pick up on my next supply order.
  • I learned how to predict how much yarn to put on a shuttle and not have extra waste (especially helpful in the stripe section).
  • I could also use another "beefy" pickup stick. These are 1.5" wide and really help open the doubleweave sheds. I have one but wanted two for this project.
  • When working doubleweave with heddle 1 in the "down" position, push heddle 1 snug up against heddle 2. This helps combat traveling warp threads.
  • Consider removing the trap from the loom on big projects in order to get my center of gravity closer to the work. 
  • If I were to weave this again, I would use the indirect warping technique. I'm ready to try indirect warping again, and I think it would really help address most of the issues I had with crossed threads.

That's a wrap on my most challenging weaving project to date! I'm not sure what will go on the loom next. I am pondering weaving some curtains for our work-from-home space. I have an experiment set up with some handwoven kitchen towels as a stand-in for curtains, but I'll probably weave something especially for this window. Because I can.


  1. Your ruana is lovely, and it looks like you did learn a lot. Those missed warp threads caused me some concern; I equated them to dropped stitches in knitting, but I guess they're not the same thing. Beautiful colors and a classy look!

    1. They are kind of like dropped stitches in knitting... or maybe more like if you just miss catching the yarn to make a new stitch and move the loop from the left needle over to the right needle and then just keep going. You can fix those by laddering up with a crochet hook. It's a good analogy!

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