Thursday, 13 April 2017

Weaving a band for a Wedding dress.

Recently I was asked to weave a band for a wedding dress.  This was an unusual request but I was delighted to accept.  I weave many samples and have many ideas but I rarely weave for a specific commission.

Someone had seen my picture of the six handfasting bands that I wove for an exhibition. They featured in my very first blog entry.They are in silk and are one inch in width. I designed and wove them for an exhibition and they won a prize. They were sold to someone who wanted to give them as presents for couples for their weddings. The pattern is the Buddhist symbol of the Eternal Knot.

A handfasting band was not wanted however.  A narrow silk band to go around a wedding dress and to form the shoulder straps was required.  She wanted something with a Finnish theme to reflect her Finnish heritage.
Here is a picture I found on the web which shows the type of spaghetti straps that she wanted. The band was also to be sewn around the top of the dress.

I discussed with her various options. One idea is to use a pattern of hearts and flowers, joined hearts, hearts and diamonds or a heart meander pattern. I sent her a picture of some examples woven in cotton which are exactly half an inch in width.

Another idea is to have a non repeating length of pattern.  In Scandinavian countries ( Finland, Sweden and Norway) it was the custom in the early 19th century for a girl to weave her own marriage band - this was worn around the waist.  It would be about 4 metres in length and no pattern motif could be repeated. These were really works of art. At one end the initials of the couple and the year would be woven. By the end of the 19th century, this was no longer done.

The 100 motif band was woven for a challenge on the Online Guild.  It was their 10th anniversary so I wove it as 10x10.

My woven band of 100 motifs from Sweden and Finland.

This example is woven in very fine lace linen. The very fine linen is used for for the background and weft and the traditional red wool (with a centre green thread) as the pattern threads. The centre green thread is known as the heart of the band. The band is just less than half an inch in width.  I had spent many months analysing woven bands that I had seen in museums in Sweden and Finland so that I could devise the pattern.

Each pattern on a band had to be analysed and carefully transferred to a graph - in my case a weave programme.  This weave programme allows me to check that everything is accurate and quickly make corrections if they are not. If I had to manually copy it on to graph paper, the process would take much longer.

Deciding on the colours and pattern.

She liked the colours gold and yellow so I put a short sample warp on my loom. I was not sure whether I could weave in very fine silk.  Only 1 strand of 2/60 silk is used for the background threads and weft and a doubled end for the 13 pattern threads. I wove a short sample and sent it to her so that she could see the colours and quality.

Sample friendship bracelet and bookmark.

I had a short sample of warp left so I wove a bookmark and friendship bracelet. I have a memento of the weaving.

Colour Selection.

I have a selection of yellow and gold silks.  I sent a sample of the silks that I have available. Pictures distort the actual colour. My stash of yarn is rather larger than I would like! A final decision was made to use just the centre pattern thread in ivory to represent the 'heart of the band'.

Sewing the band.

I wanted to check that the band could be sewn neatly onto silk.  I took a scrap of my handwoven silk in red and sewed the band using purple silk thread and a fine needle.  I used purple so that I could check that the band was firmly sewn and the thread did not pull. Success!

Using a matching colour for the silk sewing thread, the band can be sewn invisibly onto the dress.

After some discussion about colours and what was needed, I started to weave the band. I thought that it would be useful to time how long it takes.

I use my 32 shaft Megado electronic dobby loom.  The pattern is one that I put together for the Online Guild but it took me many months of hard work to analyse the motifs from numerous photographs that I had taken across Sweden and Finland.  Now that I have it graphed it and checked that it is accurate, weaving is straightforward .The time taken to weave does not take into account the immense effort to find these patterns originally.  I use an excellent computer program for planning my work and for weaving on my lovely loom.  It is Fiberworks PCW.

This band is a unique addition to a wedding dress.

Time analysis

Making the warp, winding onto the back beam:   30 minutes
Threading the heddles and threading the reed:      24 minutes
Designing the initials and date motif:                    30 minutes

Weaving:  8 hours
Finishing:  approx 30 minutes.

Total time = approx 10 hours

Length of finished band = 422cm  Width just under 12 mm  0.5 inches

The total number of picks to weave this band is 5,515.  Imagine having to weave this using a rigid heddle and back strap.  It would take such a long time.

Finished band. The centre pattern thread is ivory but the effect is too subtle to show. 


The band was completed in time for the dressmaker to finish the wedding dress. I am hoping that she will send me a picture of the dress so that I can see how it looked. I also wove two bookmarks with her initials and date so that she and her mother could have a memento of the occasion.

It was a pleasure to weave this item which will be treasured.

Susan J Foulkes  April 2017


  1. Beautiful. What weaving software did you use?

    1. I use the PCW weave program which runs my Megado loom. It is easy to design patterns and check that they are correct. For 13 pattern threads you need 15 shafts for a patterned band. I use the loom to check that my patterns are correct and also to weave wider bands or more complex patterns. I still love using bakckstrap as it is so restful.

  2. What a treasure, and what a lucky bride! The band is absolutely exquisite. And I would never have thought to weave a band on a Megado!

  3. This is a delightful story and such a great follow on from your prize winning hand binding bands I so admired in Norwich. I so agree: a most fortunate bride. I presume that the fine silk was a pleasure to work with as the result is such a fine band?
    The time analysis is fascinating - and shows it to have been done by a real specialist (I really appreciate this as I know it has taken me a long time and intense concentration to weave just ⅓ of the Nīca band so far!)
    I look forward to seeing the photo of her on the day.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    1. Hi Jennie. The sine silk was interesting. Two warp threads broke whilst I was weaving because of a join in the silk - the silk itself was fine. Fortunately I know how to add in another warp end and leave the join invisible but it took some time to do.
      I did not have enough time to consider weaving this using a backstrap. It had to be done in a bit of a rush as the dressmaker wanted it to sew onto the dress.


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