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Exploring the Weaving Process

Updated: May 20

I very often get asked how long it takes to weave a scarf, and I always find it difficult to answer because it can depend on so many things. For example, how many items I have woven from the same warp on the loom, which patterns I have chosen for the piece and of course, the thickness of the wool. Not to mention the fact that because I weave amongst doing other work, I rarely time the process properly. I understand though, that it is an obvious way for a customer to connect with a piece and to assess its value, particularly if the craft of weaving is new to them.

So I decided to time the whole process, from warping up to finishing (sewing and washing) for one of the scarves that is pictured above. These scarves feature a fairly complex, point-return technique so take a relatively long time to weave.

Warping up: This involves wrapping the wool around a warping frame to order the wool and create uniformity between each strand ahead of placing it on the loom. In this instance, I wrapped 160 threads of wool around the frame, each piece 190 inches long. That is quite a lot of wrapping!

It took me 1 hour.

Dressing the loom: Once the yarn is 'warped up' it comes off of the warping frame and is carefully and loosely knotted to stop it from tangling. To divide the wool into even sections (again, to stop it from tangling when it is wound onto the loom), I then place it in a raddle, which is later attached with the wool onto the back of the loom. The wool is looped onto the back stick of the loom and the raddle tied into place with elastic bands. Then I wind the wool slowly onto the back beam, making sure to keep it in a neat order. Once this warp was wound on, I threaded all 160 threads through the heddles on the loom. This is to set the pattern for the woven cloth.

This process took me 2.5 hours.

Threading the reed: When each thread has come through the heddles, they then need to pass through the reed at the front of the loom. This helps to determine the right drape for the cloth - if the threads pass through the reed too closely then the cloth will be more dense.

Threading through the reed and tying the yarn onto the front beam took 35 minutes.

Weaving: It takes a while for the actual weaving to begin! I used a Shetland Romney cross wool in natural dark brown, from Fernhill Farm as the base for these scarves. The 'fish tail' inclusions feature undyed Shetland wool and naturally dyed Shetland wool, in weld, coreopsis and madder - hand dyed by local knitwear designer and natural dyer Ria Burns.

The total weaving time for 1 scarf at 75 inches long was 6.5 hours.

Finishing: When the weaving is cut from the loom, there are loose ends to sew in and end tassels to twist and tie.

This took me 1 hour.

Washing and pressing: I hand-wash each scarf with a gentle, environmentally conscious detergent, in order for the wool to 'full' - bind together to form the finished cloth. Once dry, I iron them on a warm heat to smooth out any creases.

This took half an hour.

So, bearing in mind that the threading of the loom was for 2 scarves, these timings must be halved. This makes the total time to make 1 'fish tail' style scarf 10 hours!

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