The Devil in the Details


My unexpectedly “exuberant” fringe


We put so much thought and energy into our weaving – the colors, the structure, the sett, the selvedges. Yet, when all of that is said and done, the small details of finishing can determine whether your final product portrays you as a serene weaving master or bothers you every time you look at it. I learned this lesson in a graphic way when I wove my very first piece. I had blended the wool and mohair and spun the yarn, warped my shiny new rigid heddle loom, then woven a soft plaid shawl with nice straight edges, pretty good for a first effort. Thrilled, I hemstitched the ends, cut it off the loom, took it to my washing machine, and watched and timed anxiously for the few minutes it took to full. I pulled it out, and only then, when I saw the fringe ‘fro, did it occur to me that one ought to finish the fringe before fulling. One of these days, I’ll sit down and retwist and ply the fiber in those fringes, but until then, their exuberance serves as a powerful reminder that finished is as the finisher does.


Every weaver has his or her story about finishing. Madelyn’s favorite also involves water: “When I started weaving coverlets “for a living,” I never wanted to wash them. I loved them exactly the way they looked on the loom. I was afraid (rightly) that they would change if if they got wet. People who bought them would ask me: How shall I wash this? I would look at them a little blankly, realizing that they actually intended to USE them. In my house, they would be trotted out to put on beds when I wanted to take guests on a house tour–not for SLEEPING on. (I had a lot to learn.)


I loved that at Convergence in Chicago, in 1988, Malin Selander told students in one of her seminars that they should try to use a reed that would enable them to sley one end per dent to avoid reed marks in linen. Someone asked, “But won’t reed marks come out when the pieces are washed?” “Wash? Wash?” she answered. “You Americans always wash everything!”


  Pressing implements from before Pattie’s school days
(Photo taken at the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux)

To Handwoven managing editor Pattie Graver, a finished piece should be crisp and wrinkle-free, and her story carries a lesson. (And a most excellent  sound effect. Watch for it.) “Ironing is something I love to do – but only when I feel like it! I have memories of my Mom “sprinkling” the laundry and rolling each piece up and placing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator overnite. The next day, she would press the pieces and all the wrinkles disappeared. I loved how my white Catholic school blouses looked on the hangers.

It wasn’t until about forty-five years later that I learned that to iron a piece and to press a piece are not the same. I was jolted in a workshop taught by Jean Scorgie when she described pressing. I had been using a hot iron with a press cloth, but moving the iron over and over the piece. Aha! That’s why I never got all the wrinkles out. Now, I press my scarves to a wrinkle free finish. I put a linen towel over top of the scarf and mist it until it becomes quite damp. Then I press down with a hot iron and let it ttsshhhhhhhh away all the wrinkles. When I admire my pressed scarves on a hanger, I get that same school blouse satisfaction.”


Regardless of your laundry predilections, if you’re interested in a few new ideas for finishing your weaving (or knitting, crocheting, or embroidery, Interweave’s Compendium of Finishing Techniques would make a very nice addition to your library. From seams to hemstitches and buttons to braids, it’s designed to help you add those sublime finishing touches that make your textile satisfaction complete. 


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