Woven Shrug – A Work in Progress

I have always been a scarf person. I will wear a scarf of some sort whether indoors or out on all but the most oppressive of hot and humid summer days. I like that the scarf provides just a bit of extra warmth without having to don a sweater.

multicolored shrug

But let’s face it; sometimes the scarf gets in the way. Recently I was baking bread, and had to remove a scarf with my doughy fingers as the fringe-y bits were in danger of becoming part of the loaf. I was then tasked with removing the doughy bits left by my fingers, which hardened onto the aforementioned scarf.

This got me thinking about other slightly warming but not-too-warming clothing without any dangly bits. I dug through my bin of weaving projects and found what I was searching for: a shrug.

A few months back I wove up a dark purple shrug using a rayon/cotton/flax blend of yarn purchased from Paradise Fibers. I really enjoy weaving with this material. It’s sturdy but has beautiful drape. I wove this in a 2/2 twill on my Baby Wolf sett at 12 ends per inch the full 26” of my reed. In a 2/2 twill, each weft pick crosses over and under groups of two warp threads. At 1800 yds/lb, I used less than one cone of yarn for this project – about 1300 yards. My warp was two yards long, and I beat at about 19 picks per inch.

purple shrug

I cut the project from the loom, zigzag stitched the cut edges and washed the fabric on the delicate cycle in cool water. Into the dryer it went, and then on to a steam pressing. The cut edges were then double-folded over and hemmed by hand.

I spread out my panel of fabric running lengthwise left to right, and folded the top and bottom edges in until the selvedges met in the middle. I pinned the selvedges together starting from the hemmed edges in about 10” on each side leaving an opening about 26” wide in the middle. The pinned seams were then machine stitched into place to form basic sleeves.

So now I had myself a shrug. On it went. My brow furrowed. Not quite right. While this particular shrug might look perfectly lovely on someone, I didn’t feel like it looked perfectly lovely on me. I folded it neatly, and placed it into the not-quite-right finished objects box.

Well the not-quite-right shrug may have been hidden away, but it taunted me from its dark home. “All that work, and you just box me up? Shame on you!”

So post-bread-kneading brain poof, I dug out the shrug and decided that the quest for the perfect fit and fabric was going to be a work in progress.
With this in mind, I made a list of changes I wanted to incorporate into the shrug take two, and I raided my stash.

I started with some Araucania Nature Cotton from Webs and then  I went searching for a full-able wool. I wanted to make my new shrug larger,  ample enough to cover my entire back. I also wanted it to be a bit warmer with fall being on the horizon. I had several skeins of naturally dyed Friendz Blendz 50% wool/50% mohair from Friends’ Folly Farm. Visually it blended beautifully with my cotton.

This time around I used my 20” Flip rigid heddle loom.. If my next shrug was going to be larger than the not–quite-right-shrug, my fabric needed to be wider. Weaving one long panel on the Flip that could be cut in half widthwise and stitched together selvedge to selvedge seemed like a good approach. Since my yarns were both relatively bulky, I knew it would weave up quickly.


The Project

Here are the weaving details:


Sett: 6 ends per inch (I used my 8 dent rigid heddle, threading 4 ends and leaving 2 empty.)

Warp: Friendz Blendz 50% wool/50% mohair, 200 yds/ 3.75 oz per skein, 1 skein

Araucania Nature Cotton, 105 yds/3.52 oz per skein, 2 skeins

Warp length: 4 yards plus 10”

Threading: 2 ends of wool/mohair, 2 ends of cotton, 2 ends empty, repeat

Weft:   Friendz Blendz 50% wool/50% mohair, 200 yds/ 3.75 oz per skein, 1 skein

Araucania Nature Cotton, 105 yds/3.52 oz per skein, 2 skeins

Picks per inch: 6, alternating 2 picks of wool/mohair with 2 picks of cotton

Plain weave, woven on my 20” Flip rigid heddle loom

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I took the concept of a color and weave effect and decided that rather than creating an effect using two different colors, I would create an effect using materials that were texturally different and would respond differently to wet finishing. I alternated two picks of the wool/mohair with two picks of the cotton. Since the wool/mohair was a variegated color, I knew that I wouldn’t see an obvious pattern as I wove, but looking closely at the fabric after washing, the wool and cotton form a subtle houndstooth pattern.

I cut the fabric from the loom and zigzag stitched the edges. I was aiming for 125” of fabric and ended up with 131” at a width of 17”. I put this into my washing machine, which is your basic low budget, apartment-style top loader, to soak in hot soapy water for about 20 minutes. Then I closed the lid and let the delicate cycle take over. After just a few minutes of agitation, I removed my fabric, drained my washer and returned the fabric to the machine on the rinse cycle. I then ran it through the dryer on low heat for about 10 minutes and air-dried it the rest of the way.

Now I was ready to sew.

My washed and dried fabric measured 114” x 14 ¼”. I cut this in half to create two 57” x 14 ¼” panels and zigzag stitched the cut edges. Using a bit of leftover wool/mohair, I hand stitched the two panels together, selvedge to selvedge using a yarn needle.  This is quick and easy sewing. All you need to do is grab alternating loops along your selvedges to create a simple, flat join. Be sure not to pull your yarn too tight. You want the fabric to lay flat without puckering or being too lose when you’re finished. This created a single piece of fabric measuring 57” x 28 ½”.

To reduce bulk,  I stitched a 30” piece of ribbon directly onto each of the zigzagged cut edges, folded this over to conceal the woven edge and hand-stitched into place. The side of my fabric with the ribbon facing out then became the inside of the shrug.

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With the piece in front of you lengthwise running left to right and the ribbon covered hems facing up, fold the top and bottom selvedge edges into the center. They should meet above the seam you stitched to create the larger panel. Pin a seam starting at the hemmed edges in about 10” on each side. I stitched these together using my yarn needle and wool/mohair. If you stitch in both sides starting from the hemmed edge and leaving a tail, you can try your shrug on to see if you’d like the sleeves to be stitched up some more.

The finished shrug measures 55” long and, if laid out flat, 14 1/2” top to bottom (the seaming added just a bit of extra height). Now this sizing is based on me, and I happen to be a bit on the tall side at just about 5’ 9” with your average amount of stuff going on upstairs, if you know what I mean. Tweak the type of material you use and/or the quantity to make the end result smaller or larger. My fabric started out at 20” wide on the loom and ended up at 14 ½” post-washing, so if you are using different yarns, keep this in mind.

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So am I happy with my second shrug? The verdict is still out. I did have fun with this little experiment, and now I’m encouraged to revisit some of my older projects to see if I can create any more interesting and appealing new versions. I love how infinite the possibilities are with weaving. I’ll keep you posted should another shrug find it’s way off my loom!

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Melissa Ludden Hankens

You can find Melissa designing weaving projects for the Schacht blog and E-news. Melissa is also online at www.mlhankens.com and on Instagram as mlhankens (https://www.instagram.com/mlhankens/ ).