Weave a bubble scarf using differential shrinkage

Lemonade Weaves: 3

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?’

Bubble Scarf

So you want to make a warp, but you don’t have quite enough wool, or quite enough cotton… This is the perfect time to start experimenting with ‘differential shrinkage’: mixing two fibres which shrink at different rates when you wash them.

Choosing your yarn

For a bubble scarf you don’t need wool and cotton specifically, but you do need one yarn that will shrink significantly, and something with high wool content is usually the best option here. For the other yarn there are lots of options: cotton, bamboo, silk, Tencel, and so on.

Once you have two candidate yarns, there is a simple way to test their relative shrinkage. Cut a piece of each yarn to the same length, say 20 cm (8 inches). Tie the two yarns together with an overhand knot at each end. Then scour and agitate them as you would to wet finish a piece woven in wool, aiming to get the wool fulling nicely. You’ll soon see whether they shrink differently.

Choosing your draft

I wove this scarf in twill on 4 shafts, using a straight draw. I varied the direction of the twill when I changed fibre in the weft.

Key for all drafts

However, you might prefer to mix it up a bit with the same change of direction in the warp.

If you have 8 shafts, then this is the perfect project for twill blocks. You can vary how you weave the two blocks just by changing your tie-up or liftplan.

Choosing your sett

The 4-shaft draft I have shared above is not exactly what I wove to create this particular scarf. I have shown the warp and weft stripes with the same number of ends. However, my cotton called for a tighter sett than my wool, so to keep my stripes all the same width on the loom I actually had 20 ends of cotton alternating with 16 ends of wool. This leads me to a couple of general points:

  • It is OK to have yarns at different setts here. They need to be sufficiently well matched that you get a reasonably stable cloth where the two different fibres are interlaced together, but an exact match is not necessary.
  • Give your wool yarn a fairly open sett and keep your beat light as well. You want to leave some space in your weave (see photo) so that it can really shrink up when you wet finish your scarf.

Edge considerations

You will get a different effect depending on your choice of fibre at the edges of your scarf. I chose to have a wool stripe on the outside edges of my scarf, which keeps everything gathered in. However, a non-shrinking stripe will create a ruffled edge, which is just as pleasing in its own way.

You have the same choice in the weaving. Here a wool stripe to start and finish has a practical benefit if you don’t like fringes. The fulled fabric can be cut without risk of fraying. If you do like fringes, then it is a good idea to make the fringe before wet finishing, or the loose ends of wool may become messy and felted together randomly.

First posted on weavingspace.co.uk © Cally Booker

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