Edges in hand weaving don’t have to be straight. They can be puckered and uneven. Imagine a collar with an uneven puckered edge. It’s all in the planning around fibers and finishing a weaving project.
The key to this technique is a little knowledge of fibers and what they can do for you. These effects can be unexpected if you’re not prepared and a bit of sampling will let you know a fiber’s capabilities for the effect you want to achieve. For example, wool is a sneaky fiber, capable of all sorts of devilish tricks. But cotton and silk are rather unmoved and reserved. They will let wool do its own thing but they won’t join in. That’s what we want! Yarn doing different things after finishing.
Weaving a simple pucker
To weave an effective simple edge pucker, weave a cotton or silk plain weave cloth. These fibers will ensure that minimal shrinkage and movement will occur in the cloth when finishing. To place a pucker on the edge, insert a piece of woolen sliver in the open shed. I often jump over a few threads too, but it’s not necessary. Place these wherever you want on one edge or both! I end them about 3 inches (7.5cm) in from the edge, but they can be very interesting by varying the length of the piece of wool sliver each time.
The cloth might look a bit "flat" at this stage and you might be regretting the whole pucker thing, but hang out until you’ve finished the cloth. The magic happens in the wash.
Finishing the cloth for the pucker effect
Handwoven cloth really becomes cloth after finishing. Before this is similar to an unbaked cake -- not quite there. Finishing handwoven cloth is like washing it, but it is different to the care process you continue when laundering a cloth. In this case, we want to agitate the cloth just enough so the woolen sliver matts, felts and ripples the cotton/silk cloth into little gathers or puckers. Don’t worry about the main cloth because that is woven from cotton/silk and will be unmoved by the whole drama.
Place the cloth in warm water with a mild detergent and manipulate it roughly for several minutes in a sink or bucket until the wool does its thing and felts nicely. You could experiment with a limited amount of agitation in a washing machine too, but keep a keen eye on what that wool is getting up to.
Ideas for puckered edges
I’ve used these edges in wall drapes and clothing. They make a flat or plain cloth look interesting and it is so easy to do. I'm thinking about using it on the ends of a sleeve, in woven jewelry pieces or as the edging of a garment.