First Floor Loom Project part 2: Plaid Twill Scarf

Hi all, this is my second post about my woven plaid twill scarf; the first project to get off my floor loom. Previously I wrote a deep dive into dressing the loom and the process of weaving it. This second post will talk about the scarf itself, what yarn I used, mistakes I made, useful books and some other bibs and bobs that didn’t fit into my first post.

As someone who might not weave, or knit, you might not be aware but weaving yarns and knitting yarns are not one and the same (though there are cases when you can use the one for the other). Weaving yarns come in different weights and sizes and their packaging often includes information on the ends per inch you’ll weave it with. When you just start getting into weaving the notations of these sizes are super confusing. Weaving yarns come in thicknesses classed by two numbers with a dash in between like: 8/4 or 16/2 or 28/2. The first number refers to the yards per pound – as someone who is used to grams and meters, I really need to rewire my brain a bit for this and do extra calculations. The second number refers to the number of plies (hurrah this is language I speak!). Because the weight of fibres differs vastly among different types of fibre you get the bizarre fact that same number does not mean the same yarn thickness across fibres… that’s right! An 8/2 cotton and 8/2 linen are not the same size. Go ahead, you might want to scream a bit at this point.

Another difference between knitting and weaving yarns besides the yarn weights and notation system is that weaving is more of a niche than knitting, and while it may vary depending on where you’re situated but in general it will be easier and the offering more varied to get knitting than weaving yarns. In my neck of the woods there just isn’t that much available in terms of true weaving yarns and the little I did find was almost all cotton. Which is great for weaving towels and things like that but not so ideal for weaving scarves or yardage for clothes. The only 100% wool weaving yarn I found so far is from a really thin weight, which will be perfect further down my weaving road I think, but less so for my first project I thought. So, I went looking at weaving projects on ravelry to see what other people’s experience was with weaving on a floor loom with knitting yarns I can easily get my hands on.

You may remember when I just started tablet weaving and I realised that my most favourite knitting yarns -lofty, woolly, rustic- are ill suited to the task of tablet weaving and you need smooth, strong yarns for it. The same is true for weaving on a loom. This refers solely to the warp yarn though, since that comes under heavy tension on the loom and needs to be able to withstand that. As for weft (the horizontal threads) you can literally use anything and really go to town with whatever you have. I read a lot of advise on knitting yarns vs weaving yarns and most sources advise you to stay away from knitting yarns for weaving, certainly as a beginner. There is certainly some solid advise here but I also got the idea that some of these places didn’t have the entire picture when it comes to knitting yarns and have gotten the idea that all people knit with is lofty woollen spun yarn, which is far…far from true. Things get murkier when you read posts from or talk to weavers, and find that this certainly isn’t as black and white. Lots of weavers that are multi crafters do use knitting yarns (and not just as weft). On top of that, I think a lot of advise ignores that it applies only when trying to do exactly what its giver is doing: There are so many variables in terms of style and type of project that I think it is good to read a lot of wise words and information from more experienced weavers, but I also think it’s good to stay open minded, think for yourself and just try things out and through that learn things and shape your own framework of weaving (or any other craft).

In any case since I couldn’t get my hands on actual weaving yarns made from wool in the right thickness, I decided to risk using a knitting yarn that I was familiar with and wouldn’t come at such a high price point that I would feel awful in case it would turn into a mess either because my skills are low or because the yarns weren’t suited to it. At the time my mum was knitting a project with Drops Flora and I wondered whether that might be a good candidate as I saw a few projects with it on Ravelry. I asked my mum to do a strength test which essentially means you take two ends of a piece of yarn in your hands and pull as hard as you can, and I asked her to report her findings in detail to me. The results were good, and I decided to place an order.

Drops Flora is a smooth yarn with minimal fuzziness to it. It has 210 meters on 50 grams so is a thin 4 ply yarn, comparable to sock yarns but lacking the polyester content. It is also very soft due to the mix of wool and alpaca. I don’t think it’s a superwash yarn, at least I couldn’t find it on their website or on the label so I take that as a negative. My mum has used it a lot to knit kids’ stuff and I can see why it is a nice yarn for that type of work. I think it is also a nice yarn for people that have a more sensitive skin. The colour palette is small and consists of mostly solids so it lacks the depth of colour that I’m usually drawn to. This yarn is very affordable though so you really cannot fault it for being limited in places. Because of its smoothness and limited palette, I don’t think I’d soon use this to knit an allover jumper myself, but I liked using it for weaving and might use it in more projects that I want a firmer thickness for (which is all relative as this is a thin knitting yarn). This yarn behaved really well while weaving. I used it as both weft and warp and I didn’t encounter any problems at all in this project. So, I definitely consider it a success and might use it again in the future for weaving. I think it would also work well when used as warp combined with an other, possibly more fragile, yarn and in this way you enlarge the colour palette in one go.

The colours I went with are quite muted dyed colours with a natural sheep feel to them; charcoal black, light beige and a mid-brown. They are also among the few mix colours of the range. I was in a bit of a neutrals mood at the start of the year, which is unusual for me. I didn’t give in to it then, but when I went to pick out the colours for this shawl and saw this lot I thought it would be nice to give them a test drive and see how I would feel about the colours on me in the long run and, who knows, perhaps do a sheep coloured allover somewhere down the line if this project works out. I think they also suit my rekindled interest in re-enactment as I’ve seen quite a few plaid weavings among my archaeological textile dive and a lot of them were in shades of brown. Truthfully, a portion of these would have been in rich plant dyed colours in their day, but part of them would have been woven in their natural colours. It’s more a homage to of course, if I would make it for actual re-enactment I would go all in with self-spun yarn, plant dyeing and then weaving it myself. But I’m not that deep in yet, but who knows at some point.

With this being my first project on the floor loom I had no idea how much yarn to get but I could make some estimation with the ends per inch calculation and the measurements I was going for. In the end there is slightly over 300 grams of yarn in here, so around 1300 meter. I used more of the light beige colour than of the black and brown, and was afraid I would run out before I finished but all was well, and I had a bit to spare still. I think in general weaving uses less yarn than knitting, but I’m not sure and I don’t think the difference is not as pronounced as the difference between knitting and crochet for example.

Overall, I’m surprised by how smooth weaving this first project went, but of course there were mistakes as well and things learned. The first few rows were a sort of a test drive to quickly learn just how hard to beat with the beater and to keep it consistent over time so the – I want to say stitches but I guess it’s picks (pardon my knitting, weavers!)- are all the same size over time. The first few picks this readjusting is visible I think, but after that I think it naturally came out pretty consistent. Likewise, the self-edge is a bit patchy in the beginning as I mentioned in the previous post. Experienced weavers will no doubt laugh at my edges, but overall, I don’t think it’s too bad for a first go. Definitely wearable in my book at least!

I learned a lot about reading my weaving and, at least in this pattern, about being able to tell where I am and predicting what happens next. I’m sure this will all start from scratch when I do more complicated patterns, or even different twills, but it’s a nice confidence booster. Another learning point was neatly and evenly working in my ends. Especially with a weaving like this when there are many colour changes and thus many ends to weave in, it is important to work the threads in balanced over the work. So, if you end on the left side and worked in your threads there, you should attach your new colour on the right. You also have to anchor your old thread in the row in the pattern you just did, and only then continue with the pattern.

One thing that I’m sure will be a shock to some is the amount of loom waste weaving produces. This was definitely a thing I needed to get used to and comfortable with as a knitter. Weaving, because of how looms and the craft work, will always produce warp waste. How much waste you exactly end up with varies per loom and mechanism and your finishing technique, but there will always be some sort of waste. So far, I’ve produced wildly more scraps with my weaving than I do in say a year of knitting…or years even. From what I gathered is that if you get your loom waste to around 50 cm you did well. One thing I did to make my loom waste less is turn my back beam upside down once the cross sticks hit the raddle, and thus the warp can’t advance any further. In this way I could continue weaving until the cross sticks hit the castle and thus reduce my loom waste considerably.

Since loom waste is inevitable it is a good idea to start thinking about ways to use up these scraps. I guess I’m lucky that I’m a multi crafter so I have more options what to use my scraps on and can go for either knitting or weaving projects. I’m quite familiar with scrappy knitting projects, but I’ve also been looking at scrap weaving and how weavers creatively use them as weft. I’m already using my scraps for practical things like warp ties and garden ties etc. The tiniest of my scraps end up in my scrap pillow where my tiny fabric scraps also go, and which I will eventually sew shut. Then, it will become a pillow for my cats.

The finishing was done by making a fringe. This is a loom waste reducing finishing technique, but obviously more suitable for a project like a scarf than had I woven yardage to sew with. Since the Treehouse lacks a fringe twister, this all had to be done by hand. I turned this into a 2-3 day leisurely adventure as to not put too much stain on my wrists all at once. Perhaps it was because I took a more leisurely approach to it but all in all this was much less of a slog and much more doable than I feared it was going to be. It takes of course a lot longer than with the aid of a twister and you have to take breaks in between. But all in all, less of nightmare chore than I envisioned it to be.

The final step is wet finishing. Opinion differs on how this exactly works; some weavers swear that cloth needs to be felted before it can be called finished, others do almost nothing with it, others still do something in between and another group says just do whatever you like or what suits the fabric. I’m most sympathetic towards the last approach and I think whatever the weaver wants to do with it is good enough for the cloth and I also think different fabrics with different goals ask for different approaches. In this case I treated mine much like I would do with a finished jumper but I did everything a bit more extreme; hotter water and I moved it around and squeezed it a lot more in that water than I would do with a jumper (that I basically leave alone once it goes into the water). All in all, my treatment was quite mellow in comparison to when the goal is a full felting treatment and as a result my weaving shrinkage is less than it could have been. Still, there was some shrinkage, and the fabric is definitely less open now.

I think the scarf came out well, certainly better than I would have predicted my first floor loom project to be. It is my first floor loom project so naturally I’m proud of it, but I think it’s very wearable as well with a nice length and width and not too shoddy weaving quality. The Flora wool is very soft and has a nice thickness to it while, still remaining light. Because it is woven in twill the fabric has a nice drape to it without becoming droopy. I think I in general benefit the most from strong, warm and rich colours, but I think this colour grouping is nice as well and I think the black will help when combining it with other stuff in my wardrobe. It’s a really nice thickness and weight for wearing I think and since finishing it I have reached for it often during the colder hours of the day.

My experience for the past year with tablet and rigid heddle weaving undoubtedly served me well in this transition towards floor loom weaving. The skills built up on those mediums gave me a valuable foundation as well as trained both my body and my brain to the movements involved with weaving. I also think that the many months of research and reading up on the craft helped. I read a lot on blogs and forums, watched videos and I simply studied a lot of photos of woven fabric. Finally, I got two books on floor loom weaving and both have been helpful in getting to grips with the craft. The first one is Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler. This is an older book, but very complete and focusses completely on looms with shafts, so floor looms and table looms. The other is The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon. This is not an instruction book, and I wouldn’t get it solely as a ‘learn how to weave’ book, but it is like a dictionary of weaving patterns you can weave on 4 shafts. So, a really useful book for getting familiar with all sorts of different patterns and also shows you just how much you can do with and the broad range of 4 shafts.

I really loved weaving on this project. I think going with a twill as a first project was excellent as I think twills will be the bread and butter of my weaving. I think it helps to pick something that you want to weave as a first project, and that makes you comfortable with multiple shafts and treadles from the go. This opens the door towards more complicated weaving patterns. Doing a multi-colour weave with a multi-colour weft with so many changes was a bit intense in the beginning, but I think I got used to it fast. It was an excellent opportunity to learn by doing and again plaids and tartans feature heavy in my weaving dreams so it’s good to get used to them sooner rather than later, I think.

That concludes the epic saga that telling you about my first floor loom project was. I’ve relished every second of it from planning to project, to warping to weaving to now relaying the story to you all on here. This is the start of my floor loom weaving story and I’m so excited to think of the adventures in weaving ahead but also enjoying where I am right now with this first scarf woven by me in my hands. So onwards to the next warp!

Thanks for reading and speak soon!

6 thoughts on “First Floor Loom Project part 2: Plaid Twill Scarf

  1. Dank je, voor deel twee van je weef ontdekkingsreis. Heel fijn en leerzaam te lezen. En wat een prachtige sjaal is dit geworden met een mooie natuurlijke kleuren combinatie en een heerlijke warme uitstraling. Zeker heel bruin en draagbaar op koude herfst en winterdagen. Dank je en groet Margot

  2. Wat gaaf, Nisse. Het staat ook al lang op mijn lijst om goed te leren. Ik heb een paar jaar geleden een wintercursus van 6x of zo gedaan, en redelijk de smaak te pakken gekregen, maar oh dat optuigen. En ik wist ook wel zeker dat ik een iets groter weefgetouw wilde dat die tafelweefgetouwen, die we van de cursus mochten leren. Je maakt me weer enthousiast; misschien komt het ervan nu ik grotendeels met pensioen ben….

    1. Dank je wel Arianne! Leuk om te horen dat je weer enthousiast aan het worden bent – als er meer tijd vrijkomt openen zich ook weer allerlei deuren natuurlijk 🙂 (En alvast gefeliciteerd met je aanstaande volledige pensioen!)

  3. Your scarf is absolutely gorgeous. I am a knitter and a spinner, but reading about the weaving process was a whole new language! It was really interesting, thank you for the taking the time to write it all out.

    1. It was a pleasure, Sarah! Yeah, I had that same experience, like a language that you recognize some vocabulary from but none of the idiom!

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