Designing Handwoven Fabric

There are several elements which go into designing fabric which are easy to determine. First, the proper fiber content of the yarn for the project being considered. For instance, you wouldn?t necessarily choose a fine silk yarn for a washcloth or rug, or a scratchy synthetic yarn for a delicate blouse fabric.

Secondly, the appropriate sett for the size yarn used or the desired effect wanted in the fabric. Too close and the fabric will be hard, too open and it will be gauzy.

Thirdly, the right beat. Beating too briskly and too hard will result in a hard fabric and if the sett is open enough, a weft faced fabric. Uneven beating will cause streakiness in the fabric.

The right fabric structure is important for the item made from the fabric. Long floats that may get pulled would be inappropriate for baby blankets or outerwear. However, floats are ok for curtain fabric, shawls, scarves and dressy fabrics.

Proper finishing is just as important as the initial design draft. A woven wool fabric almost calls out loud for wet finishing. Linen fabric softens considerably when wet finished. Wet finishing may not be appropriate for rayon fabrics. Some chenilles will worm when wet finished. Cotton and silk fabrics take on a luster when wet finished. Certain fabric structures are enhanced by wet finishing. Huck, Swedish lace and honeycomb are structures which become more sculptural when washed. The cells of honeycomb, especially those woven of wool, become deeper when wet finished.

When combining wool and cotton in warp, an even distribution of yarns can prevent uneven shrinkage when the fabric is finished. It is that characteristic that can be exploited to create interesting effects like seersucker. The wool will shrink more than the cotton, causing the puckering effect.

Wool is lighter than cotton. It is a great choice for garments that will require a large amount of yardage. Wool yarns come in a huge array of weights, colors, plies, and also is available in boucles, novelties, and thick and thin. Handspun wool yarn is simply a joy to weave with. Contrary to popular belief, handspun singles can be used as warp by sizing. A can of spray sizing, sprayed on the warp behind the heddles, will be dry by the time it is in place to be woven and will help prevent stickiness and breakage.

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