Knotted pile with fabric scraps

Lemonade Weaves: 6

When life gives you lemons… weave yourself some lemonade. To keep us all going during the global coronavirus pandemic – whether we’re self-isolating, quarantined or just keeping a safe distance – I decided to share a few ways to make the most of simple drafts. There’s no master plan, but the theme is loosely ‘what can I do with the odd bits of yarn I have to hand?’

Using fabric scraps for knotted pile

Here’s a way to dig into your fabric stash as well as your yarn stash. It’s actually the weave I am working on right at this moment, as part of a collaborative project which started last October. I’ve had it in mind to share this process for a while, but this is a slow weave which has kept me busy at the loom. You have been warned!


This is a lot easier to do with a rotary cutter and mat rather than with a pair of scissors. I’m working with relatively small scraps of fabric, so I am cutting it up into short individual strips. If you have larger pieces of fabric, you might prefer to work with longer strips and cut the pile after you have woven it.

The best size of the strips will depend on several factors: the scale of your woven cloth, as determined by your yarn and sett; the length of pile you want to achieve; the type of fabric you are using. A lighter weight fabric will compress more easily into the weave than a bulkier one. This is definitely something to experiment with before you commit to a lot of cutting!

For what it’s worth, I’m working with strips that are one-eighth of an inch wide (about 3 mm) and 5.5 inches long (about 14 cm). There is a lot of cutting, but it’s a pretty easy job and one I can be getting on with during Zoom calls!

Weave structure

Traditionally, this kind of knotting would be worked into a twill ground cloth, and there are a few reasons why this is an excellent structure to use.

Firstly, it is excellent for spacing out the knots. A simple four-shaft twill on a straight draw repeats itself every four ends and every four picks. A pile row is inserted after each set of four picks, giving a nice easy rhythm to the process and a well-spaced covering of pile. The rhythm of four also works for the placing of the knots within each row, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Secondly, if you weave a balanced 2/2 twill, you are raising each shaft for two picks in turn and that gives your knots space to slide down over the weave, so you aren’t distorting the fabric with the extra insertions. Having experimented with different options, I have found that my preferred ground is a broken twill.

You don’t need to limit yourself either to four shafts or to a balanced twill, however. I’m actually mixing 1/3 and 3/1 broken twills in my ground cloth, but still working with the four-pick progression that maintains the underlying rhythm.

Inserting the pile

Just one of the shafts will be raised for the ‘pile pick’ and it doesn’t really matter which one, though shaft 1 is the easiest to remember! The pile pick will be added to the treadling every four picks, and it should come after the picks where that shaft is raised, since this will allow the knot to slide down as described above.

Reading the following treadling from the top down, notice that pick three raises shafts 1 & 2, pick four raises shafts 4 & 1 and then the pile pick raises just shaft 1.

The orange colour which I’ve used to highlight the pile pick does not represent a weft yarn. No shuttle is thrown on this pick. Instead, the shed is kept open while you tie your knots. The simplest knot to use is the rya knot. Traditionally used for rug-making, this is currently a very popular knot for adding long fringes to woven hangings, so there are dozens of YouTube videos showing how it is made. Neither knot creation nor video-making is something that I am particularly skilled at, but I have nonetheless added my own contribution to the genre and have embedded it below. If you are using long lengths of fabric for your pile, you might prefer to follow the method for knotted loops.

Knot placement

Every knot is wrapped around two raised warp ends, but you don’t need to use all the warp ends in your pile pick. If your ground cloth is quite fine relative to your pile, then you might end up with something much too dense and stiff if you wrapped a knot around every pair of ends. Again, you will need to experiment to determine what is right for your materials.

I’ve used white ovals on the drawdown below to highlight how you can alternate the placement of your knots from one row to the next.

For a less dense pile you might alternate like this instead:

Pile placement

You don’t have to cover the whole fabric with pile either. My design is based on lines of pile creating a design on the face of the cloth. Since it is directly under your control while you are weaving, there are no limits…

Happy weaving!


First posted on © Cally Booker

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