The rippling surface of a bubble scarf is a visual and tactile delight: Full of interest and incredibly warm and comfortable as well. And the best news of all is that it is very simple to make!
In this tutorial, I will take you through the steps needed to weave your own soft, bubbly textile.
The warp consists of stripes in a shrinking and a non-shrinking yarn. Your best option for the shrinking yarn is a wool that will full when you finish it. For the non-shrinking yarn, I have used mercerized cotton, but linen or silk are also good choices.
Wind your warp with stripes of equal width, each approximately one inch wide in the reed. My cotton yarn needs a sett of 20 epi, while for the wool I wanted a more open sett of 15 epi, so, in order to obtain multiples of four, I wound stripes of 20 ends and 16 ends respectively.
You can choose whether to start and finish with a wool stripe or a cotton stripe. A cotton stripe at the selvedge gives an attractive ruffled edge. However, a wool stripe is softer, and you may find it more comfortable to wear.
Dressing the loom
You may have doubts about beaming a warp of mixed fibers, particularly where the elasticity of your two yarns is very different. One of the beauties of this project is that you can beam your mixed warp with impunity! You do need to be careful that you don’t overstretch the wool, however, so make sure you handle it gently both when beaming and when tying on – there is no need to apply a great deal of weight to obtain an even tension. This should ensure that both sets of ends remain the same overall length.
There are lots of structures which are well suited to this project: twills and lace weaves are particularly appealing. I have chosen to use a simple twill and threaded a straight draw on four shafts.
I have already noted that I wanted an open sett for the wool stripes. If you set your wool just a little wider than you would normally use for that yarn, you are giving it plenty of space so that it can full without becoming uncomfortably thick.
For the weft you will alternate wool and cotton as you did in the warp. If you start and finish with a wool stripe there is no need for any hem-stitching – the fulled fibre will keep your scarf from unravelling at the ends.
I used a straight 2/2 twill liftplan, but have added a little extra visual interest by reversing the twill each time I changed weft.
You will probably find as you progress that you can see some undulation in your weaving, because of the different fibres you are using. You can see in the picture below that my weft stripes are slightly wavy. This would be a problem if we wanted our finished cloth to be absolutely square, but of course that is exactly what we don’t want! Any little unevenness you observe now will be overtaken by the bubble effect you create in the finishing.
Note also that I am keeping the wool stripes fairly open but beating the cotton stripes in very firmly. The squares which will form the bubbles are those which are cotton in both warp and weft. Keeping them tightly woven will mean that you get a lovely glossy finish when they curve and flex.
Because you are going to shrink the wool substantially, you need to make sure that you have woven enough length to give you a useable scarf after washing. I wove 84 inches to produce a scarf which is 58 inches long — a loss of approximately 30%.
If you want a twisted fringe on your scarf then I recommend you make it before wet finishing, as the wool will be much easier to handle at this stage. An easy way to approach it is to make the wool part of the fringe to the desired final length (allowing for shrinkage) but to make the cotton fringe significantly longer than you want it to be. After fulling, the cotton fringes will be very long indeed (as illustrated in the photo below), but you can then retie the knots at the same level as the knots in the wool fringes and trim everything to an even length.
On the other hand, if you don’t want a fringe at all, you can trim the warp ends so that they are just a couple of inches long. Once you have fulled the wool stripes sufficiently, you will be able safely to cut the warp ends off altogether.
You can wash and full your scarf by hand or put it in the machine if you prefer. I washed mine by hand, but then put it in the tumble dryer for 10 minute bursts. It took 30 minutes in total to reach a finish that I was happy with. At that stage the wool was practically dry, but the cotton was still damp. Accordingly, I laid the scarf flat on a towel until it was completely dry.