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  • Emma Baker

Sand and Sea inspired Handwoven Shawl

Updated: Jun 24

Introduction - What was the inspiration for the weaving of a handwoven shawl?

A beautiful holiday in Pembrokeshire, Wales was the inspiration for my latest handwoven shawl weaving. The week in October was filled with warm sunny days and our time walking along the beaches and coastal path provided lots of images to draw ideas from with respect to colour schemes.

Yarn Choice

In November I visited the stand of Birdstreet Yarn at Stitchfest yarn show. I instantly fell in love with a handdyed colourway in their 4 ply 75% merino/25% nylon yarn. I purchased 6 skeins, two in 'deeper' a navy shade, one in a pale teal shade 'boathouse', one in a rust colour 'old Number 7' and two in 'Blue Iguana' a variegated teal base with speckles of the navy, rust and darker teal. I was interested to know how the Birdstreet yarn would weave compared to the 2/17nm merino lambswool that I have more recently been weaving with and for the weavers reading this I hope to provide some insight into the experience of weaving with these two different yarns.

It took several months for me to decide how I wanted to weave with this yarn but I decided eventually on a deflected doubleweave shawl in the proportions of 2:2:1:1 of the four different yarns. The plan was to weave a long piece of fabric of around 2m with a twisted fringe at each end with any remaining yarn being used to weave fabric for a cowl. I chose a weaving width of 18 inches with weaving at 15epi so requiring 270 ends (plus an extra 4 at each selvedge). I wasn't totally sure about the sett being 15epi but as this is the sett I use for deflected doubleweave with 2/17nm lambswool I hoped this would be OK. I wanted to use all of the yarn up so after some warp and weft calculations I decided that I would have sufficient yarn to weave a warp of 4.5m requiring 903m of each of the navy and variegated yarn and 451m of each of the teal and rust coloured yarns if all the warp was woven. Each skein of the 4 ply yarn has 425m of yarn but as not all the warp would be woven due to some being used for tying on etc I hoped I would use each of the yarns up fully without warp wastage or remaining yarn.

Navy, teal and rust coloured weaving on the floor loom

I initially wove some tabby weave as shown here. I didn't want to waste any of the warp by cutting and finishing this sample but I was happy that the tabby weave looked OK at the chosen sett.


Weaving was undertaken. Four shuttles were needed with the shuttle/yarn changing every 6 picks. This of course demands the question, do you weave in the ends as you go along at the start and end of every 6 picks or leave all the threads unwoven requiring them to be sewn in later. I decided to weave all the ends as I went along but this did make the weaving very slow - but then again, weaving is slow!

My calculations worked out about right - I ran out of all of the yarn and wove the very last part of the warp. I had tied the warp onto back beam threads from a previous warp which resulted in only 30cm of the warp being unwoven and wasted - a success I feel.

The Final Shawl

Here are three images of the final handwoven shawl. From the remainder of the fabric I was able to make two cowl scarves. I am delighted with the fabric, it has formed a beautifully drapey and warm shawl with two distinctive patterns, one of each side. The name 'deflected doubleweave' comes from the design which creates a reversible fabric which upon washing deflects due to the differential shrinkage of the yarn depending on whether the yarn in each area is woven as a tabby weave or is either a warp or weft float. This differential shrinking gives rises to the softening of the design producing more circular rather than square shapes.

2/17nm Lambswool vs 4 ply merino/nylon yarn

My experience with both yarns is that the 2/17nm yarn shrinks more and felts more easily. The 4 ply yarn is beautifully soft and has a fabulous drape to it and I suspect it would be a little more forgiving if the shawl was washed in a hot wash with agitation! In future I would try weaving the 4 ply yarn at a sett of 18epi with a deflected doubleweave. 15epi is perfect for a tabby weave.

The woven ends on the shawl didn't felt into the fabric upon washing so after finishing the ends needed to be cut carefully close to the body of the fabric to neaten off. With 2/17nm lambswool during washing the ends felt into the body of the fabric becoming invisible so this additional step is not needed. With a scarf woven with 2/17nm merino lambswool I often have a frayed fringe which is possible due to the felting. The 4 ply yarn needs either a fringe to be knotted or twisted .

Birdstreet yarns are beautifully dyed and come in a range of weights and every changing colourways. I love the fact that they dye four or five colourways which co-ordinate together allowing for colours to fade into one another in projects - click here if you want to see their range. I can confidently say that I look forward to weaving with their yarns again in the future.

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