Saturday, 30 March 2019

My first complete weave of 2019

Last September our son had a significant birthday and I decided it was a significant event in my life too! Thus I decided to treat myself to Janet Phillip’s (1) book ‘Designing Woven Fabrics’ and that weaving the sample blanket from Part One of the book would be my winter project. 

This would be a good reason to get another warp on my Schadt Might Wolf 8 shaft floor loom. 

The aim being to weave a multi- sectioned sample blanket based on 2/2 Twill with 10 different threadings across the width and then 50 sets of 2” deep different treadling  variations  to give 500 patterns on the side I was looking at and virtually the same number on the reverse. ( I believe one horizontal  pattern is woven and then repeated by weaving  the ‘backside’ so to speak. So I would have 980 patterns). 

The suggested yarn in the book is 2/6 cotton but as I prefer to weave in wool I decided I would do the blanket in wool too. However, as it was suggested that the warp would be at 20 ends per inch I would clearly need finer wool than I would normally weave with. I needed 3 colours that I liked and where the warp and weft would have a good contrast so that I could see the pattern definition well. Fortunately I have a good stash of cones of wool so that was not a problem. My yarns 

I set up a narrow, short warp but used the 20 dent reed, which I had not used before and did a couple of trials to check that that all would work. Chiefly I was checking that  the yarn would not break and that when washed and pressed I could see the patterns well. This was useful but it would have been better with a wider warp. 


I was nervous about doing this blanket as it seemed complicated, but fortunately I had a friend who had finished her sample blanket and she lent it to me until I had got going with mine, it was a great confidence boost. 

I did seemingly endless calculations to check I had enough heddles on each half of each of the 4 shafts and  this involved adding more, borrowed from the 4 shafts not being used. 

For the weaving I used the following yarns: 

Knoll supersoft Wool 11.5/2 in natural, blue, green

The thinner natural used on the left of the warp -2/16 John Woodhead, Holmfirth- I have had this some time. 

I started making the warp at the end of November, but Christmas got in the way. I decided that I would wind each section (A-J ) separately and label them as this would make getting the warp onto the loom easier as there were a different number of warp threads in each section. On 27th December I was up to threading the reed. With this loom I thread the reed sitting at a table using a wonderful device my DH has made. I then add the reed to the loom  turning the reed 180 degrees and then tie the warp to the front beam. Threading the reed took a day- half before lunch and half after. 

I love this loom for lots of reasons, but one of them is the fact that I can remove the back beam and sit very close to the heddles. So with the warp through the reed, I can thread the heddles in the correct order without the need for a raddle or back cross. I have the loom arranged so I have a large window behind me, as I do this, and the daylight really helped. I had to spread this over a couple of days - I estimate 7 hours in total. 

The next job was relatively easy, it was tying the warp threads onto the back beam and then winding the warp on evenly. I am a big fan of Madelyn van dear Hooghly method given in her ‘Warping your looom’ dvd. I used lots of sticks to separate the long warp (5 m) and we had to stop, visit B and Q and wait for DH to make more. I think we had used some for tying  up plants in the garden. 

Once I was happy with this,  all that was left was to tie on to the front beam and get started with the actual weaving. Tying  on worked well although I did the final knots too soon! 

Janet P has more trial weaving before starting than I would normally do. I thought I had found the 2 or 3 crossed threads I had while doing plain weave but this was not the case and doing a sample of one of the repeats found some more, hence I should have not done the final tightening and knotting  of the warps until after that. I also liked the idea of putting in a different coloured thread across this sampling area,  I choose one of my hand dyed scarlet yarns. 

For the tie up I used  the 4 treadles on the left for the patterning and the 2 most on the right for plain weave. Later during the weaving I used the remaining 4 treadles too for the individual  shafts as this meant I did not have to change any of the  tie ups during the weaving. 

I tried to weave a couple of the horizontal pattern sections each day when I could.... we were trying to do some decorating during January too ! 

It was a lovely project to do as each horizontal pattern section presented me with 10 patterns and some were very unexpected. I kept detailed notes and made each horizontal section at least 2” deep, some were much deeper. If the pattern had a lot of picks then I did at least two repeats. 

So on 4 Feb I took the blanket of the loom. When washed and pressed the final piece  was 21 “ by about 9 ft. 

I am VERY pleased with it and have now photographed both sides so I can have all the patterns on my iPad. Janet herself says that she uses this all the time and spends much  time examining individual patterns. I am also doing this and lots of ‘what ifs’ keep filling my head. 

I have quite a bit of warp left and have decided to just play with changing weft colours and pattern combinations, although the book contains instructions for changing warp colours in this ‘spare’ warp. After this I am keen to do another fresh warp sample exploring different colour combinations and am having many ‘ what if’ thoughts along those lines. 

What I learnt that was unexpected:

A wide selvedge works well....I usually cut the cloth that I weave so, although I like neat edges, these are not my priority 

The wool I used made a very nice finished cloth

Spending weave time and warp (about 6 “) at the start before finally tying the front knots and before the weaving starts pays real dividends 

The usefulness of the ‘face mark’ thread

If you are wondering about trying this I would definitely suggest doing it, it has been a great first weaving project for the New Year. 

  1. Janet Phillips is a weaver based in Somerset. She has been designing and weaving handwoven fabrics for over 30 years. She tutors a number of weaving courses, unfortunately I have not attended any of these but I do know people who have. They have found them inspirational and transformational for their weaving.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Revamping a Sixties Suit- Lessons Learnt

The March 2019 meeting of the wonderful Costume and Textile Association in Norwich (1) was advertised as a presentation by Meredith Towne (2), where we would be transported back to 60’s fashion and sewing clothes of the era in ‘Sewing the Sixties’. 

To me that meant Crimplene ! (3) I had several years previously bought a royal blue and a white Crimplene suit from a Vintage Shop for £10 as I loved the texture. It was a size 20 and so needed some adjustment to fit my size 10/12 frame.(4) 

I had previously tweaked a blue faux suede belt and changed the buckle to a vintage white plastic to match the suit. I knew I needed to reduce the width of the white lapels. Then it languished in the drawer for a couple of years until I saw the presentation advertised when I decided I would complete the transformation and  wear this for the afternoon. 

I took the sides of the skirt in, this was not as easy as it sounds as I needed to match the horizontal ‘stripes’. 

The best part of it was the fact that no neatening was needed as it was Crimplene. Once the skirted fitted, rather than fall down, the length was good. 

Then I came to the jacket. The Crimplene is quite thin and so my way of making it fit my top half, was to pleat/ gather round the waist with the belt. This gave a nice profile and a sort of peplum effect. It gave shape where non existed before. 

The lapels were massive, projecting 4.5 inches (using inches as it was the Sixties) more than can be seen  on the finished suit. This area needed some seam unpicking, careful tacking and then stitching. I used  a slight zigzag stitch as this would avoid puckering in the finished seam. 

The jacket looked good when on my body duplicate. I discussed the suit with a friend and she immediately suggested that we swap the navy buttons down the front for white ones. This was a great  idea and we spent about  an hour searching through my button tins (note the ‘s’) and the buttons I liked best were 3 square ones which seemed more suitable than the ones there originally. 

The left buttons are the original ones, the white were their replacement. 

Then we needed to find a matching pair of buttons for the sleeve cuffs. 

The sleeves were designed to turn back and be buttoned, but the overlocking at the base of the cuff showed. I decided that I would have the cuff ‘normal’ and not turned back. I could leave the buttons as navy or use the smaller black ones on the right of the picture above. I liked these as they had more character but were not perfect. 

I decided to be bold and go for red for cuff buttons, I loved the detail of the surface of the button as this complimented the texture of the suit. I would then wear red patent shoes and take a red handbag. 

I thought the jacket was finished before Sue and I met but now this was looking so much better.

However, there was a potential disaster, I noticed that there were 4 buttons on the front not 3  as I had thought. I only had 3 white ones. We had spent over an hour finding these and there certainly wasn’t another one. In a strange way I like these sort of challenges. The bottom line was I could take  off the three white buttons and replace them with the navy ones again. I was not keen to do this as the white buttons were just right. I decided to make a bold move. I had another related red button, slightly larger, and I would put this on the front of the jacket as the first button, in pride of place and leave the 3 square white ones which I liked a lot. 

However, after a couple of hours reflection this did not look quite right. I had 3 other red buttons so the obvious thing to do was add red buttons down the front, but two of these had been stitched on the cuffs with super strong good stitching! 

I had seen a couple of lovely glass black buttons whilst searching for white ones, now I needed to look for these again as they would work on the cuffs, I hoped. I managed to find them.  (Note to self, sort out all the buttons into colour coded containers, just as my yarn stash is sorted and it is easy to find what I want.) 

Then it was time to remove the cuff buttons, which seemed to take an age; then to stitch on 5 more buttons.  in all another hour did the trick. 

This is the result. 

I found some navy gloves of the period in my glove box and really felt great as I went to the meeting. 

I will definitely wear this outfit again, complete with knitted red wool ear rings! 

I learnt a lot, the main things are:

Be bold

Don’t stop the revamping until you are ‘in love’ with the result

Organise the button collection by colour- it will save time in the future

...and I won’t include the obvious....concentrate on the this is probably rule one for me in sewing. 


  1. The Costume and Textile Association ( promotes the unique costumes and textiles of our city, Norwich. It organises a  great programme of talks, workshops and visits and it is a great place to meet fellow textile enthusiasts. 
  2. Meredith Towne ( is a dressmaker and costume historian who does brilliant talks accompanied by costumes and other related items of the period. 
  3. Crimplene is a type of bulked polyester fibre, it could look thick but weighs little. It was patented in 1959 by a Cheshire Firm and mainly produced in Leek. The fabric was very popular in the 1960’s as at first it seemed the ideal synthetic fabric - no fraying when sewing, drip dry, no ironing, no creases. It was mainly a knit rather than woven fabric. It was popular for the decade and was replaced by lighter (still polyester) fabrics which had more breathability. Some of us still have Crimplene fabric from that period. 
  4. A 1960’s size 20 suit which measured 39” across the bust and 44” across the hips. I am size 10 with hips perhaps a little larger!