4-shaft double weave: creating and exchanging layers

We have threaded our loom for double weave. Now it is time to look at some of the key liftplans that allow us to weave two layers of cloth at once. Note that throughout this series I am going to discuss the principles of weaving double using liftplans rather than tie-ups. This allows us to focus on what is happening in the weave itself rather than on the mechanics of the loom. Don’t worry, though, I will document tie-up and treadling options as well.

Key to liftplans

As always, the liftplan denotes which shafts need to be lifted for each pick. However, when weaving double we have two different reasons for lifting shafts: one is to weave a particular layer, the other is to get a layer out of the way. Now the loom makes no distinction – a lifted shaft is a lifted shaft – but it is important for the weaver to know, because that is how you learn to work fluently with the structure. So in the liftplans below two different symbols are used:

A reminder of the threading

We have threaded our loom like this:

I’ve updated the colour scheme to look more like my woven samples! The light blue squares are the warp ends for layer 1, which is threaded on shafts 1 and 2. The dark green square are the warp ends for layer 2, which is threaded on shafts 3 and 4.

Weaving layers

When you are weaving double weave, you will normally be using two shuttles, one for each layer. You generally want to maintain a rhythm of weaving one pick of the top layer and one pick of the bottom layer alternately. There are exceptions, but the aim is to keep the two layers growing at the same rate.

The way this is done is to weave the top layer ‘as usual’. So if it is threaded on shafts 1 and 2, then you alternately lift shaft 1 and shaft 2 to weave that layer. However, to weave the bottom layer, you need to get the top layer out of the way. So, as well as alternately lifting shaft 3 and shaft 4, you must also lift both shafts 1 and 2 at the same time. This gives us the following liftplan:

Layer 1 on top

I have assumed here that we are using the same yarns in the weft as in the warp, so light blue weaves with light blue and dark green weaves with dark green.

  • Pick one: we lift shaft 1 to weave layer 1 with the light blue weft
  • Pick two: we lift shafts 1 and 2 to raise all of layer 1 out of the way, and shaft 3 to weave layer 2 with the dark green weft
  • Pick three: we lift shaft 2 to weave layer 1 with the return pick using the light blue weft
  • Pick four: we lift shafts 1 and 2 again to raise all of layer 1 out of the way, and shaft 4 to weave layer 2 with the return pick using the dark green weft

By the time we have finished, both shuttles are back where they started and we have woven two picks of each layer of cloth. The light blue layer is on top, and the dark green layer is on the bottom.

Layer 2 on top

When we switch our layers around, bringing the one that was on the bottom up to the top, it is called ‘layer exchange’. Let’s do it.

One option is to weave this liftplan:

Option A

This liftplan is very similar to our first one. The only difference is that we are weaving the dark green layer first and on top, so we have:

  • Pick one: we lift shaft 3 to weave layer 2 with the dark green weft
  • Pick two: we lift shafts 3 and 4 to raise all of layer 2 out of the way, and shaft 1 to weave layer 1 with the light blue weft
  • Pick three: we lift shaft 4 to weave layer 2 with the return pick using the dark green weft
  • Pick four: we lift shafts 3 and 4 again to raise all of layer 2 out of the way, and shaft 2 to weave layer 1 with the return pick using the light blue weft

However, we could also weave it this way:

Option B

If you look closely at this liftplan, you will see that it has exactly the same lifts as the option above, but they are in a different order. Picks one and two have switched places, as have picks three and four. What difference does it make?

Maintaining shuttle order

The main difference between the two is that Option B maintains the same shuttle order that we started with when we were weaving with layer 1 on top.

When you are weaving with two shuttles, you need to keep an eye on what you are doing to avoid muddling them up. One way to do this is to say ‘always weave the top layer first’ (or the bottom layer, it is up to you). However, as you advance into more complicated designs using more shafts, it becomes harder to say what the ‘top layer’ is.

Another way to manage your shuttles is to pick one of them and say ‘this one goes first’ whichever layer is on top. Again, there are designs you may want to weave that don’t fit this rule, but it is a bit more robust than the first option and the one I tend to use to keep myself on track. Once upon a time I happened to drop a shuttle on a concrete floor and give it a bit of a dent, so I generally use the ‘dented shuttle goes first’ rule!

Layer 1 rewrite

Here’s a wee exercise. Since we have two options for weaving layer 2 on top, it follows that we also have two options for weaving layer 1 on top. Can you rewrite the first liftplan so that the bottom layer (dark green) is woven first? I will post the solution below in the comments.

Speed it up, slow it down

The sequences I have shared will give you two picks of each layer. You can obviously repeat each sequence as often as you like before switching, in order to create stripes of different widths.

However, if you look closely, you will see that you can also mix and match the halves of each sequence. That is, you can weave with the first two picks of the sequence which places layer 1 on top, then switch weave the second two picks of the sequence which places layer 2 on top. This will give you very narrow stripes – a single pick of one layer on each surface of the cloth – and a lot of exchanges, which tends to make the cloth stiffer. It isn’t suitable for every application: a scarf might not drape very well, whereas a cushion cover would be fine.

Double cloth with narrow stripes of 1, 2 or 3 picks.

But note that the picks must remain in pairs as the basic minimum. Just as a warp end in one layer is followed by a warp end in the other, so a pick in one layer must be followed by a pick in the other.

Managing two shuttles

I’ve already mentioned the importance of keeping track of your shuttles to avoid muddle. Besides this, however, managing the two shuttles is actually an important aspect of creating the effect you want from your double weave.

You can choose to ‘interlock’ the two wefts at the selvedges to create a single piece of double density cloth, or you can leave the selvedges open to create tubes between two single layers. If you interlock at one selvedge and leave the other open, you can create woven pockets. This last option requires some mental agility to keep on track, but it is one of those things that is pleasing way beyond its practical applications: it is just so delightful that the weaving process enables us to do this.

Pockets created by exchanging layers
The open end of double woven pockets

The trick is this: know where to put the shuttle down. Oddly enough, it is not the weaving which determines whether or not the wefts interlock – it is where you place the shuttles when you are not weaving.

Placing the shuttles

It is easiest if you place each shuttle on the cloth in front of you after weaving. Then…

To interlock edges: the shuttle which weaves the top layer should be placed nearest to your body
To leave edges open: the shuttle which weaves the top layer should be placed furthest from your body

Coming up…

Next time I’ll share tie-ups and treadlings for layer exchange on a floor loom. Countermarche looms need special consideration when you are setting up for double weave, so we’ll think about how to manage this.

First posted on weavingspace.co.uk © Cally Booker

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