As if the ability to weave cloth weren’t exciting enough, what about weaving two layers of cloth at the same time? Weaving double cloth is a challenge that brings out the adventurous spirit in many weavers: once you try it, there is no end to the “what ifs: you can explore. In this post, I will focus on examining how the double cloth weave structure works, using the example of a four-shaft double weave.
What is double cloth weave?
The fundamental principle of the double cloth weave is very simple. To weave a layer of plain weave cloth, you need two shafts threaded alternately. So to weave two layers, you need 2 x 2 = 4 shafts. I find that this is the easiest way to think about and plan a four-shaft double cloth weave: group the shafts into pairs and assign one pair to each layer of cloth.
My preferred threading therefore looks like this:
The important points to note are:
- We alternate the threading, taking one end from each layer in turn.
- Shafts 1 & 2 carry one layer, shafts 3 & 4 carry the other.
You can test the second point by lifting shafts 1 & 2: you should be able to separate the two layers completely.
The sett for double weave is very dense: twice the normal sett for plain weave with your yarn.
When planning a double weave tie-up, you need to think about what you want to achieve. You will be handling several different tasks:
- Choosing which layer is on top and which is on the bottom
- Weaving in the top layer
- Weaving in the bottom layer
Let’s say we want to start with layer 1 (shafts 1 & 2) on top and layer 2 on the bottom. To weave plain weave on shafts 1 & 2, we need to lift shaft 1 for the first pick and shaft 2 for the second.
Similarly, to weave plain weave on shafts 3 & 4 we need to lift shaft 3 for the first pick and shaft 4 for the second. However, this won’t give us double weave unless we take an extra step: we also need to lift the top layer out of the way. Every time we weave the layer on shafts 3 & 4, we also need to raise shafts 1 & 2 to keep those ends clear of the shuttle.
We can use the same reasoning to derive a tie-up, which works for weaving layer 2 on top and layer 1 on the bottom.
Putting these together to make the complete tie-up it makes sense to keep the “weaving lifts” separate from the “out-of-the-way lifts: so that we can mix and match during the treadling. For a jack-type loom, the tie-up looks like this
If you are weaving on a countermarche loom, then you will need eight treadles, tied up like this:
Each X shows where a shaft is tied in order to be raised, while each O shows where a shaft is tied in order to be lowered. The blanks indicate that those shafts are not tied to those treadles at all.
As with the threading, we need to alternate the treadling, inserting one pick into each layer in turn. By progressing the two layers at the same rate, you ensure that the beater can always reach the fell on both layers
On a jack-type loom you will need to press two treadles whenever you are weaving the bottom layer: one foot presses the “weaving” treadle and the other the “out-of-the-way” treadle. On a countermarche loom, you will need to press two treadles for every pick – top and bottom layers – so that the shafts for the inactive layer are either raised (to weave the bottom layer) or lowered (to weave the top layer).
The theory sounds complicated, but once you are at the loom you will find that the freedom to mix and match the treadles in this way encourages you to try all kinds of patterns! For those of you weaving on table or dobby looms, the liftplan looks like this:
Managing the shuttles
You can weave many kinds of double cloth with a single shuttle, but to explore all the possibilities of color and structure you are likely to want to use two. How you handle those shuttles makes an important difference to the finished cloth.
By keeping the two layers separate in the body of the cloth (i.e. always weaving the same layer on top), but joining them at the edges, you can weave a tube. This is a great way to weave a small bag, for example. To link the edges together, start with both shuttles at the same side of the loom and weave the top layer first. After you have woven the first pick, place the shuttle on the face of the cloth in front of you. After you have woven the second pick, place the second shuttle in front of the first one, i.e. further from your body. Then pick up the first shuttle again and so on.
If you are interchanging the two layers – weaving one on top and then switching over to weave the other on top – stitching the ends together allows you to introduce padding into the pockets you create. The switching of the layers closes the pocket and secures the padding.
Keeping the ends open at one side but closed on the other makes a series of tubular pockets, which could become a caddy for knitting needles or crochet hooks, for instance.
To keep the ends open, weave as above but place the second shuttle behind the first one, i.e. nearer to your body. To keep one end open and one closed you need to place the shuttle behind its partner at one side of the loom and in front at the other. Be sure to check every now and then that you have the openings where you want them, as it is easy to slip up! I find it easiest to keep track of where I am if I always weave the top layer first, whichever one it is. It is a good idea to experiment in order to discover what effects you get from different sequencing and placing of the shuttles – nothing will fix it in your mind so well as actually trying it.