From Little Inkle Looms, Passementerie Grows

  Anne shows you how to insert lovely
fringe into your inkle weaving. 

Sewing has always been part of my life. I learned from my mom, bought a Singer sewing machine with my first income tax refund, and sewed my way through college formals, office wear, maternity clothes, and holiday dresses. When we bought a house that needed draperies and curtains, my sewing skills grew to include handling very long lengths of drapery fabric and details like sack linings, triple pleats, and lacing up a roman shade.


We moved numerous times as my husband’s career took us on a tour of the eastern United States. With every move came another new house and more windows to dress. I used to say the reason my house always had one undressed window was as soon as I put up the last set of curtains and had the tie-backs just right, the phone rang and my husband asked, "How’d you like to live in (fill in the blank)?"


Along the way I spent a lot, and I mean a LOT, of money on what drapery designers call passementerie: trimmings, braid, tassels, and fancy fringes that add a little touch of “jewelry” to the best-dressed windows. Imagine my surprise several years ago when I found a class about weaving your own passementerie on the schedule for a regional conference. The instructor illustrated several fancy trims on a tiny 2-shaft Structo loom. I don’t think I made fringe for my next set of drapes, but I COULD have.


A few years later, in another conference seminar, Robyn Spady showed examples of passementerie woven on an inkle loom. Well, that made even more sense, and I already had an inkle loom. However, the next time I warped the inkle loom for a guild demo, I wove shoelaces, which are fast to warp because they’re so narrow. However, it takes forever to weave two long enough for one pair of sneakers. They were cute, but the economies of scale didn’t make sense.


I haven’t made curtains or drapes for a while. In my latest home in North Carolina, I ordered pleated shades for every window and had them installed before we moved in. Windows . . . dressed. I had every intention of at least making colorful valances and even bought some great fabric, but it’s still in the closet. Building a weaving business and going to school have been priorities.


Then along comes Anne Dixon with a great new book about inkle weaving. My copy finally arrived this week. As I flipped through the hundreds of inkle patterns, from basic pick-up and lettering to monk’s belt, krokbragd, and shibori (yes, shibori!), I came to a chapter about weaving inkle bands with fringes on one or both sides. Aha! That would dress up those valances.


Technically, Anne explains, fringes can either be inserted or knotted into inkle bands as they are woven. However, for stability, an inserted fringe always must enter the shed, turn and exit in another shed so the cut ends are on the same side of the band. If you want inserted cut fringes on both sides of the band, you have to insert two separate sets of fringe into one shed extending out the opposite sides of the band and then turn each into another shed and send them out the way they came in. Anne explains it a lot better.


Fringe can be inserted singly, doubled, or in color rotations and, when worked on both edges, can make a pattern on the top of the band where the opposing fringes join. Anne offers another four pages with variations on knotting fringes to the inkle band on open or closed sheds.


My favorite idea is inserting uncut fringe lengths. Weave the long fringe yarns back and forth with the regular weft, leaving long loops on both sides, Anne says. Then pull the loops through so the fringes all emerge from one side and the loops that were on the other side secure them against the band. The looped fringe can then be cut if desired. That almost sounds cost effective, given what the fabric stores charge for passementerie.


I may never weave enough passementerie to trim those valances, if I ever get them sewn. But remember the yardage I showed last month that looked to me more like pillows than a jacket? I have enough left after cutting out the jacket to make a pillow or two. Wouldn’t handwoven inkle fringes look great around the edges?


Thanks, Anne. I love the book.

Karen Donde

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