What is double weave?

Over a series of posts I am going to go through some of the principles of weaving double cloth on 4 and 8 shafts, but first we need to determine exactly what I am going to be talking about. Let’s establish some terminology.*

And is it double weave or doubleweave? And how is it different from double cloth? Is it different from double cloth??

Section of orange and blue double cloth
Double cloth woven on 4 shafts

Double cloth

I’m starting with double cloth (which is sometimes written doublecloth or even double-cloth) because it is the thing we can touch: the cloth. We can define double cloth as a cloth which consists of two separate sets of warp and weft.

It is sometimes explained in these terms: that you could remove one complete set of warp and weft from a double cloth and you would still have a properly interlaced piece of fabric. How feasible that would be in practice is another matter, and it isn’t universally true in any case! However, as a way of thinking about double cloth it can be quite a useful mental picture. The two layers of the double cloth may be stitched together or interchanged with each other in many different ways. This is what produces the patterning that makes double cloth so exciting and full of design potential for the weaver.

Section of blue and black double cloth
Double cloth woven on 8 shafts

The essence of this definition is that double cloth is a product. It is the end result of a weaving process.

And that brings us back to the name of the process, which is….

Double weave

Yes, double weave (or doubleweave or double-weave) is best thought of as a process: a process of weaving which in some sense is ‘twice as much’ as regular weaving. This may be because you are creating double cloth, so you have set up your loom with twice as many warp threads and are weaving with two shuttles rather than the usual one. That’s what I am usually doing when I am using double weave, and that is what I am going to focus on in these blog posts.

However, there are other ways to think double in the weaving process. One of the most common is…

Double width

This is a process where you use some of the principles of double weave to create a cloth that is up to twice as wide as your loom. It does not produce double cloth, because there is only one set of weft threads. Indeed, strictly speaking there is only one set of warp threads, though they are set up and used in two distinct groups in order to form the double wide cloth.

When I write or speak about ‘double weave’, I find that a lot of new weavers assume that the end goal is a cloth of double width, but in fact I seldom use double weave in this way. Double width can be thought of as a subset of the double weave process: I will touch on it, but it will not be a main focus for now.

I hope that sets the scene for our journey into double weave. In the next instalment I will begin with creating and threading a warp for double weaving on four shafts.

Double cloth with padding

* I’m not by any means proposing that my usage should be taken as definitive, but setting out to clarify my own intentions and vocabulary for this series. Weaving is a global craft and there is much diversity both in what we do and how we speak about what we do. If you are interested in pinning these things down then I recommend The Primary Structures of Fabrics by Irene Emery as an excellent reference on this topic.

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First posted on weavingspace.co.uk © Cally Booker

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