Monk’s Belt is an ancient weave with a thoroughly modern aesthetic. It can be used as an all-over design for a throw or pillows, but is most often used as a border treatment. On handwoven towels or table linens it is an elegant and understated design element.
What is Monk’s Belt?
Monk’s Belt is a block weave, woven with a supplementary weft on a plain weave ground. Although it can be used to create apparently complex patterns, it needs only two blocks of plain weave. This means it can be woven on four shafts using shafts 1 & 2 for one block and shafts 3 & 4 for the other. The blocks can be any size, but each should:
- Contain an even number of threads
- Start on an odd-numbered shaft and end on an even-numbered shaft
- Be followed by a block on the opposite pair of shafts
So, for example, a block threaded 1-2-1-2 might be followed by a block threaded 3-4-3-4-3-4.
Planning your blocks
A block can be any size in principle, but there are no tie-down threads in Monk’s Belt so the wider the block, the longer the floats. However, even limiting your blocks to no more than six ends produces a huge range of potential patterns using two-, four- and six-end blocks.
Squared paper is the ideal tool for planning block threadings, where each square can stand for the smallest possible (two-end) block. Each row in the pattern stands for one pair of shafts.
When you have a pattern that you like, you can turn it into a threading using the rules specified above. Here is a small example:
The first square on the left is on the bottom row, so it is threaded 1-2. The second square is on the upper row: it is threaded 3-4. Then we have a long block of three squares on the bottom row: this represents six ends and is threaded 1-2-1-2-1-2. And so on.
Yarns and sett
You can use Monk’s Belt with a wide range of yarns. Because it is often used to give a decorative border to towels and table linens, cotton is a popular choice for the warp and tabby weft. Because the ground is a plain weave fabric, the sett should be your usual plain weave sett for that yarn.
The pattern weft needs to do two things: to pack tightly into the ground cloth where it passes through the fabric and to cover the ground cloth on the surface. Something soft and squishy is ideal! One option is to use a multiple of the warp yarn — usually two strands is sufficient. I tend to use a tightly twisted cotton for the ground cloth and prefer something with a bit more “give” for the pattern weft so that it will beat in well. A softer-spun cotton or a matte silk works well.
Plain weave is woven throughout the design. When you are weaving the Monk’s Belt pattern areas, alternate one pick of plain weave (tabby) with one pattern pick. To weave the pattern in one block, you lift the shafts for the opposite block out of the way.
So if you want the pattern weft to appear in the blocks on shafts 1 and 2, weave:
And for the pattern weft to appear in the blocks on shaft 3 and 4, weave:
It is typical to weave each block in pairs of tabby picks as shown here. This corresponds to the pairs of warp ends in the threading. In this way, you are building the pattern up out of small 2 x 2 squares.
If you are using two or more strands of yarn for your pattern weft, it is a good idea to wind them onto separate shuttles. This allows you to beat them in separately and thus keep them parallel for better coverage of your ground cloth.
Draft for a Monk’s Belt Mini-Runner
This elegant mini-runner is perfect for a hall table or a small bookcase, and it is very quick to weave! The arrangement of blocks is a traditional format based on units of two and six ends. I used 142 ends of 6/2 silver grey cotton set at 15 epi for the warp. The tabby weft matches the warp, while the pattern weft consists of two strands of a 9/2 Nm matte silk yarn.
View the complete draft for the Monk’s belt border here. Only the pattern picks are shown — to weave it, you need to alternate each pattern pick with a tabby pick as shown above.
You can weave the center section as long as you need it. My finished runner is 8” wide and 20” long with a 3” fringe at either end.