Friday, 19 October 2018

Witney and the Witney Blanket - the Canadian connection

In September I visited Oxfordshire and we had a day out in Witney.  I had forgotten that there is a weaving connection. I was delighted to find a couple of museums and plenty of people who were willing to spend time discussing the weaving heritage of the area.

Here is a useful web site

It is full of information and links to other sites.

Witney and District Museum

The first place we visited was the Witney and District Musem. This delightful locally run museum was crammed with memorabilia from the town. The local blanket industry was a revelation to me as I was unaware of how extensive it had been. I can remember Witney blankets from my youth. Before the days of duvets, sheets and blankets made for the time consuming task of bed making.  Blankets were so heavy!

Here is one of the museum displays.

The curator kindly took out the advertising plaque from the display case so that I could see it more clearly.  It shows a North American trapper wearing a capote coat made from a Witney blanket.

The item that particularly intrigued me was the patterned belt.

close up of the patterned belt

My interest in patterned belts was aroused.  I had not seen this type of belt before.  If anyone has more information about it I would love to find out more.

blanket showing the four lines

This close up shows a Witney blanket.  The lines are called 'points'. The number of lines on the blanket was used as an exchange rate for those people trading skins.  For example, a blanket with four points would have been worth the same as four beaver skins.
Later on the number of points was used to show the size or weight of the blanket.
The word 'point' may have been derived from the French word empointer which means to stitch or to embroider. The points are darned into the blanket near to one end.

The usual bands of colours were black, yellow, red and green and were known as the headings. The surface of the blanket was raised so that it became thicker and more about to trap air.

It was difficult to get away from this delightful museum. Run by volunteers, it is a tribute to the interest felt by local people in their heritage.

The Blanket Hall

The High Street has many fascinating buildings if you are interested in architecture. The Blanket Hall is a must-see. It also has a great tea room. For more pictures and information go to
Facebook page:   @theblankethall

The Blanket hall on the High Street, Witney

At the start of the 18th century, the Company of Witney Blanket Weavers set it up as their meeting place. All of the weavers sent blankets to the Hudson Bay Company. For over 100 years point blankets were sent to North America.

This little booklet told the story of the Witney Point Blanket

This is a view of the upstairs landing.  Note the blanket coat.  The temptation was too great.

I could not resist trying it on.  I was very surprised at the weight of the material.  It would have been very warm in inhospitable environments.

The Great Room where the company of weavers used to meet was lovely and had a number of items laid out on the table.

close up of the table display

sample book

The sample book was intriguing but no touching.  My fingers itched to turn the pages!

The Cotswolds Woollen Weavers.

Outside of Witney there is a small village, Filkins, which houses the Cotswolds Woollen Weavers. This is a commercial outlet but well worth the visit. It has a shop, coffee shop (very important!) a museum and a design studio.
the weaving store room 
This astonishing jumble of equipment is a relic of the thriving weaving industry.  It was an education rummaging through the items piled up on tables, the floor and in boxes. 

Upstairs the weaving record books are on display. Shelves and shelves of them! I wished I could have opened some of them and examined the samples from the old weaving industry.  One of the books was open. 

Here is one page of the open book. 

I can recommend Witney as a place to visit if you are interested in the history of weaving. 

Susan J Foulkes

October 2018


In the Guardian Newspaper recently (20th September 2018) there was a display of photographs by Edward S Curtis which were due to be auctioned in New York in October. One picture was a Piegan lodge interior taken in 191. It is picture number 9 out of the 20 on the Guardian page.  The three  Native Americans are seated on the ground and there appears to be a pile of blankets on the floor as well. I could make out one stripe so they could be Witney blankets.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Weaving bands with 7 pattern threads

With the 9 pattern slot heddle you can also weave patterns with 5 and 7 pattern threads.

Here is a sample I wove showing three patterns. The first has 9 pattern threads. I removed two pattern threads and some border threads for the next pattern for 7 pattern threads. The final example has just 5 pattern threads.

5, 7 and 9 thread patterns on one warp

Threading chart for 7 pattern threads. 

Here is the threading chart for 7 pattern threads when using a 9 pattern slot heddle.

 Threading chart for 7 pattern threads when using a 9 pattern slot heddle

Note that there are two empty slots and holes on each side marked with X.
7 pattern thread chart

Here is the pattern chart for a 7 pattern design of noughts and crosses.

Remember that only the coloured pattern threads appear on the chart. These are the threads that will be picked up to appear on the surface of the band.

close up of 5 and 7 pattern thread bands on one warp
I made many bookmarks to send to booksellers to accompany my book.

Bookmark with 7 pattern threads. 

Here is the pattern for the bookmark with 7 pattern threads. This pattern is not in my book.

 There are 48 picks in the pattern repeat.

Some 7 pattern thread bookmarks.
Why not try this pattern for yourself? Varying the colours of the pattern threads and the border can dramatically alter the look of the band.

Using a 13 pattern slot heddle.

here is the threading chart for a 13 pattern slot heddle for a band with only 7 pattern threads. All the grey slots and holes are empty. There are only 2 border threads on each side of the pattern threads. 

using a 13 pattern slot heddle for 7 pattern threads. 

Using a Sunna double slotted heddle with 7 pattern threads.

The double slotted heddle is available in a smaller size of  7 shorter slots for patterns threads.  This heddle can be used with a back strap, in a box loom or on a larger inkle loom.

The Sunna heddle with 7 pattern slots set up to weave with a backstrap.

Here is a portion of the graphic design which I saw on a  Weave Fair poster.

This pattern can be looked at in two ways; one with a pink pattern and one with a black pattern.

On the left is the pattern draft for 7 pink pattern threads. The pattern threads are twice as thick as the background and weft threads.The weft thread is black and shows at the pink selvedge as a black dot.  There are 36 picks for the pattern repeat.

The pink pattern is on a black background.

On the right is the pattern draft  for 7 black pattern threads.  The pattern threads are twice as thick as the background and weft thread. The weft is pink and shows at the black selvedge as a pink dot.

The black pattern is on a pink background.

Can you see how the two patterns are related?

It is easier to see when you examine the woven bands.

Two faces of the pink pattern.

Two faces of the black pattern.

As you can see, the two patterns are the same.  It depends upon which design is woven on the top.

Here is the threading diagram for the 7 pattern slot Sunna double slotted heddle.

Threading for the 7 Sunna double slotted heddle.

The 7 pattern threads are numbered and are indicated in red.  They should be at least twice as thick as the background and border threads.  You can use as many border threads as there are slots and holes in the heddle.

If you wish to use a standard heddle or an inkle loom, here is the threading.

Threading for a standard heddle or an inkle loom.
For an inkle loom, the heddled threads are indicated by the hole and the unheddled threads by the slot. Note that the centre pattern thread is always threaded through the centre hole in the heddle. When you raise the heddle, the centre pattern thread 4 (and pattern threads 2 and 6) will appear on the surface.  When using the pattern draft, you may have to bring up a pattern thread from the bottom layer or push down a pattern thread from the top layer to weave the pattern.  See my YouTube video: Weaving narrow warp faced bands.

Happy weaving.

My book has 45 pattern charts for 7 thread patterns. Plenty to choose from and you now have an additional pattern.

'More than 140 patterns are included, along with principles for planning your own unique designs for contemporary uses such as straps, belts, bracelets, and even handfasting bands. The breathtaking range of colorful bands woven in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Norway are explored and offer additional inspiration.'

You can order this book on Amazon and from the Book Depository UK.

In the USA, it is available from The Woolery who are based in Frankfort, Kentucky:

Susan J Foulkes October 2018

18th October 2018

I was invited to write a blog post for the Woolery in the USA.  Here is the link