Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Coal canals and cotton

Inspiration for a woven scarf for the National Exhibition

The 2020 National Exhibition was due to be  held from 5th – 20th September 2020 at Leigh Spinners Mill in Lancashire. http://leighspinnersmill.co.uk/  This exhibition has had to be cancelled due to the corona virus. Here is one item earlier in the year which designed and wove. I hoped would be accepted for the exhibition.

“Coal, Cotton, Canals”

The theme, Coal, Cotton, Canals, is the inspiration for exhibits for this exhibition.  I decided that I would like to design material which  echoes the different textures and colour of coal. 

The black is not uniform but alters with the play of light and moisture and shape of the pieces of coal.


I wondered how I could use bumpy texture in my material.

I had woven many samples of collapse weave some years ago.  I was fortunate enough to meet Anne Field who came over the the UK and put on a workshop for the Durham Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers. She was writing her book about collapse weave at the time and we had many long conversations about twist and collapse. I was honoured that she chose a couple of my own pieces of weaving to use in the book. 
Her book is wonderful.

ISBN: 978-1-877427-17-6  Published in 2008 by Willsonscott Publishing New Zealand.

I decided to weave a scarf. I set myself a personal goal of only using yarns from my stash. 

First I looked at all the cones of yarn that I had that were black or dark grey.  I wanted to use cotton as far as possible.

  • Silk adds a sheen which might be useful and I had some black and dark grey 60/2 silk. 
  • I had an enormous cone of 20/2 black cotton (why did I buy this?)  
  • I found a 72 Tex cotton/cashmere yarn that I had never used - it looked interesting in the yarn sale some years ago so I bought it! 
  • I found a black cotton? yarn which is spun with a  metallic thread in with my wool yarns. 
  • I also had some cotton/elastic yarn in black and two cones of white cotton/lycra of different thicknesses.  
  • When I was exploring collapse weave, I bought a number of overtwisted yarns from Anne Field and I still had a large cone of 52/2 overtwist merino.

So armed with this abundance, I checked Anne Fields book on collapse weave and my own notes and records of previous explorations of the effects of collapse weave.

I decide to try 3/1 and 1/3 twill as a  base structure. I made a warp of different yarns in stripes.

Sample Warp

One stripe each of 16 ends in the following yarns:
2/20 cotton, 2 ends of grey 2/60 silk, overtwisted merino,
1 end of grey 2/60 silk, metallic black cotton, overtwisted merino, metallic black cotton,
black 20/2 cotton, overtwist merino and finally black 20/2 cotton

There are ten stripes in all.

Weave Samples

I woven three samples on this warp trying different wefts.

Sample one

Weft;  overtwisted merino wool, cashmere/cotton/ elastic cotton yarn in dark green

Sample two

Weft: overtwisted merino, cashmere cotton, 2/20 cotton

Sample three

thick white cotton/lycracashmere cotton, grey elastic cotton, thin cotton lycra

Sampling is essential to see the effects of different types of yarn.

The different effects of the warp and weft were fascinating and formed the basis of my decisions about warp and weft for the final piece.  There was no collapse lengthwise. 
The white cotton lycra yarn gave a strong width wise collapse. Here is decided that this yarn should be used with no more than four picks. I did not want the white to dominate but merely indicate shine. 
I varied the number of weft picks in the main blocks to add variety and unevenness. 
I also tried using the twill only in one direction rather than changing it for the shorter blocks. Each smaple was examined to see the different effects and what would be suitable to use for the final scarf. 


Warp: black 2/20 cotton used double, black and grey silk 2/60 two ends used, metal effect yarn
400 warp ends in all. 


Cotton 16           24          16          16
Silk         16           24          24           16
Metal           16           16          24             centre: 20 then reverse sequence.

Total number of warp ends: 412

sett 20 epi  2 per dent in a 10 reed.

Weave structure 

3/1 and 1/3 twill in blocks.  The warp is threaded with different number of threads according to the type of thread used. 

Here is a picture of the final scarf. The width varies from 13 cm at the ends to 15 cm in the centre.  When stretched it measures 38 cm. Ideally, I think that it would have been better with a wider warp but the scarf is quite warm because there is a lot of bulk when it is wrapped around my neck.

And here is a close up with a small piece of coal.

Happy Weaving everyone

Susan J Foulkes

September 2020