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  • Emma Baker

How long does it take to weave a handwoven scarf? Weaving a traditional Monk's Belt design on the floor loom

Updated: Jun 24

Introduction - How long does it take to weave a handwoven scarf?

I am often asked how long a handwoven scarf, shawl or snood has taken to weave. I am able to give a rough estimate of how long the weaving has taken. However, I recently realised that whilst my answer will always reflect that handweaving is a slow process the time quoted never takes account of how long it has taken for me to become proficient in weaving with any particular yarn or design. After many hours of practice it is fair to say that I do now have the necessary skills to warp and set up my loom but many of those hours of practice have created fabrics with many mistakes and issues along the way. In this blog I will outline the timings for setting up, trailing and creating a scarf woven using a Monk's Belt design.

The Monk's Belt design is a distinctive weaving pattern with bold geometric designs. I hope that this blog will serve to give a number of hints in the event that another weaver might also wish to weave this design.

How long does it take to weave that shawl?

The first item off the loom was a shawl and the steps in its creation are outlined here along with the timings to answer this question. The first step was the planning process which took around an hour. This work involved deciding on the width and length of the fabric along with the weaving design. I decided to weave a fabric that was 22 inches in the reed and to use 8/2 cotton as the warp. I normally weave 8/2 cotton at a sett of 24 ends per inch. This meant that I needed 528 threads. I then looked at the Monk's Belt design and decided that I didn't want the long float area of the design to be at either edge of the fabric. The design had a repeating pattern of 48 threads so with 11repeats and an additional 22 threads for the additional pattern at the edge including a floating warp at each edge I needed to measure 542 warp threads.

Dressing the Loom and optimising the design

The next 9 steps are shown below and are detailed step by step with timings.

nine images showing the setting up of a floor loom and the weaving of a Monk's belt design fabric

Image 1 - Measuring the warp - 1 hour. I decided to measure around 13m of 542 warp ends. Fortunately I had 4 cones of the 8/2 organic cotton ecru yarn and a warping paddle making transferring the warp chain onto the warping mill much quicker than it would otherwise have been.

Image 2 - 4 - Threading the heddles - 3 hours.

Image 5 - Threading the reed - 40 minutes. As I decided to thread at a sett of 24epi I threaded 2 warp threads through each slot of my 12epi reed.

Image 6 - Tying the warp threads onto the front warp stick - 15 minutes.

Image 7 - Trial weaving with tabby weave - 30 minutes. I do this to check the threading. If the tabby weave doesn't look correct then this often identifies an incorrect threading of a heddle or alternatively that I have pulled one or more threads through the wrong reed slot, perhaps crossing over the warp threads. Any errors identified are corrected at this stage.

Image 8 - Using the pattern book to programme the dobby bars - 15 minutes. I have 50 dobby bars so this does restrict the pattern length. I have however recently learnt that I can reverse the direction of the dobby bars on my loom which means that if I have a symmetrical design it can have a pattern of up to 100 picks. This may sound like a large pattern repeat but with a Monk's Belt design every alternative weft pick needs to be a tabby pick which uses up half of the dobby bars.

Image 9 - Trialling - 1 hour. The first block used an 8/2 cotton for the intermediate tabby picks which resulted in the coloured weft threads being very spread out. For the second block I used a very fine cotton thread for the tabby rows which worked better. For the third block I used a finer weft thread which gave me the correct dimensions in both directions for the pattern but the coloured weft rows were too thin. After these three trial blocks I decided that I wanted to use the finer weft cotton for the tabby rows and thicker coloured weft for the patterned rows and that in order to achieve the design I was aiming for I needed to reduce the sett. This trial sample was cut from the loom.

A green, blue and white monk's belt weaving

Step 10 - Rethreading the reed to be 20epi - 40minutes. I chose to change the reed to a 10epi reed and then threaded 2 warp threads per slot

Step 11- Re-tying the warp threads onto the front warp stick - 15 minutes

Step 12 - Re-weaving a sample - 1 hour. The result of this was pleasing as the weave appeared to be balanced creating the square shaped designs which was my aim. Here you can see four patterned blocks with intervening ecru tabby weaving. The tabby area was woven using the 8/2 ecru cotton for the weft.

Creating a colour gradients within the design

A few years ago I purchased a box (or two) of very fine (I think 60/2) cotton yarn. The yarn is as thin if not thinner than sewing thread. I have used the yarn as the weft for numerous projects winding on 6-7 threads from different cones together to give a yarn which is around the same thickness as an 8/2 cotton. This process has been interesting because it has enabled me to tweak one or two of the threads each winding allowing me to create a colour gradient. I decided to weave a colour gradient with blue and pink, going from pale to dark blue and pale to dark pink.

The final colour gradient shawl

The weaving of the shawl was very slow as I was continually adjusting the weft threads and rewinding new, slightly different coloured threads onto the weaving bobbin. Each end of the shawl was hemstitched which took around 20 minutes for each end. The actual weaving of the shawl took around 4 hours so in total to create the first shawl it had taken me around 14 hours. This being said there was a remaining 10m of warp on the loom ready for me to weave some further fabric.  I enjoyed playing with the weft colours and whilst my husband loved this shawl I decided that there would be only one of them.

What did I do with the remaining warp?

I decided to use different coloured weft to create fabric for two further shawls and a number of snoods as shown below.

These scarves and snoods are now for sale in my website for UK delivery. If you live abroad then do contact me for International shipping.

If you are interested in knowing what is on the loom, off the loom and workshop dates then do sign up to receive my weaving news emails by clicking here.

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