Achieving Straight Selvedges

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn


Hi Madelyn,

I raise alpacas (in Australia) and spin the fiber and weave with it. My question relates to selvedges when using yarns that have differential shrinkage. Each of my alpacas has very different shrinkage properties. If I use a yarn that shrinks and one that does not in the weft, the selvedges “bubble.” Is there any way to achieve straight selvedges using weft yarns that shrink differently?

Hi Karen!

I am afraid that there is nothing you can really do to counteract the yarn’s behavior (unless you go for “dry-clean only”). If you are weaving weft stripes of any thickness, the shrinking yarn will pull the selvedges in; the non-shrinking yarn won’t, and the result is a scalloped selvedge (which can be a nice effect if you want it).

If the stripes are quite narrow, however, such as 2 picks of one yarn and 2 picks of the other, the yarns will help each other reach a compromise. I did find an interesting example that might work well with your yarns in an alpaca scarf project by Dorothy Solbrig, Handwoven May/June 2009, pages 60–61. For this scarf, the weft order is 2 picks white, 2 picks brown. Log cabin and shadow-weave drafts should also work well.


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