Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wet Finishing

Well, I thought I was making a nice shawl. I had spun up a batch of merino/tencel blend, and wove it on the floor loom. Yesterday I finally finished twisting up the fringe, and took the shawl off the loom. Do you know what sleazy means? No, not that guy who tried to pick you up in the bar. (What is with those lines???) No, sleazy in fiber terms means a cloth that is thin and loosely woven. When I took my fabric off the loom, it definitely fit the definition of sleazy.

At this point, the fabric was 34" wide by 7'6" long, not counting fringe. And, it was surprisingly heavy. Now, I knew the solution to the looseness of the weave was to wet finish the fabric. That gives the threads a chance to move into their final places, and allows the fabric to tighten up. I chose to just put it in the wash, since I'd rather get any changes done right away rather than be surprised down the road. So I went ahead and popped it in the machine on hot, knowing quite well that wool fulls and shrinks. I had accounted for some shrinkage in my calculations, but I hadn't done a test swatch so I didn't know exactly what was going to happen. Ready? Hold my breath... Go!

...Oops. When I pulled it back out of the wash, I knew I didn't have a shawl as a finished product. The wool was now 18 3/4" wide by 4'9" long, and about a quarter of an inch thick. True, there were no holes left in the weave. But even though the size was still usable as a scarf, it didn't drape well at all any more. In fact, it was a very solid piece of material, as stiff as a rug. However, the pattern was still nicely visible, and the colors had melded together. The texture was slightly fuzzy, and the fringe had tightened up while still remaining untangled.

I pondered this weaving for a little bit, with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Had I just ruined several years worth of on and off work?

A few days ago, I posted this quote: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes,
Art is knowing which ones to keep."

--Scott Adams

My mind started looking at it in different ways. I suddenly realized that while I didn't have a shawl at all, I might have a kick ass table runner. And it looked like it was just the size of the top of my dresser, where I keep my antique walking wheel. I decided to give it a try...

Oh yes! It worked. Beautifully, in fact. Like I had custom made it for that particular spot. I didn't really need another shawl, but a good table runner? I hadn't had one of those till now. And this one is sturdy enough that it will wear like iron. My great grandchildren may still be enjoying this runner long after I'm gone.

I may have miscalculated the shrinkage of the wool yarn...but this is a happy accident that I'm pleased to keep. Besides. It has the kitty seal of approval. How can that be bad?


  1. Great post!! Love the quote - will have to keep that one. Your cat looks quite cozy on his/her new "bed". Love the colors, glad you found a way to use it - it looks wonderful!!

  2. Good thing it ended up a very sturdy textile, because I think I'm going to have to brush it regularly to get the cat hair off. :)

    Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

  3. That looks so intricate! Amazing work!

  4. That looks fantastic! How wonderful that it worked out so well. The cat looks very pleased. ;-)

  5. OMG! That is some of my luck you have there! Thank GOD it worked out! =)

  6. It took a couple minutes to regroup and look at what I actually had, rather than what I expected. :)

  7. I adore how it looks with the great wheel! *squee*

  8. It makes me smile every time I walk by there, now. The more I think of it, the more I like having it displayed as a runner, rather than tucked in the closet put away as a shawl. And I think the old lady wheel deserved something a little special.