Thursday, December 14, 2006

How I Make a Shawl - Part 7: Fringing, Embellishing, Wet Finishing, Pressing and Drying

After the shawl rested overnight (or longer), I needed to fringe. This can be an art in itself, twisting, braiding, and weaving the fringes like lattice work, but there were enough interest in the colors and textures in these two, so I made straight forward fringes. The fringes took about 2 hours per shawl, with frequent rests and counting/recounting.

Sometimes I like to embellish the selvedge/s or the fringes with tiny glass beads, which makes parts of the shawls sparkle in the night, but again, I didn't want to make these two pieces too busy, so I didn't embellish them.

Then came the last but very exciting part of "weaving": wet finishing is mostly washing, but in case of wool, it also involves controlled felting, so here I did to wool what your mother probably told you never to do to your brand new sweater.

This is our old bathtub which we had fitted into a cradle. I have the hot water tap in the middle of the garage, just next to the lawn mower, and the cold water and drain at the end.

The very first time a shawl is placed in hot soapy water, it is left alone for about 15 minutes so it can absorb the water at its own speed, and the fiber can open up.

I washed them in hot soapy water roughly, then plunged them into cold water, and repeated the process. I must watch the transformation of the cloth carefully while I wet finish, but normally, with the combination of the yarns I use, the transformation takes place in the second hot wash, and I rinse the cloth carefully in the last cold wash. The first piece on this warp needed another extra hot wash, but the second was, as predicted, a two-cycle finish. I wash every single piece individually for this reason.

The photo above is during the most exciting second hot wash, and if you click to enlarge, you can see how the wiry/netty warp and weft yarns have integrated to become a piece of cloth.

After I squeezed as much water as I could, I spun the shawls in medium speed in my washing machine for a while, repositioned them, and then spun in high speed.

Finally the pieces were steam-pressed over and over while still damp, and laid flat on the living room floor to dry overnight. Wet finishing and pressing took about an hour for each piece.

After the pieces were completely dry, I cut off the frizzy ends below the knot of each fringe, and that is the very last job, which took about 15 minutes for each shawl.


  1. would you use this finishing technique on a piece that has cotton and bamboo along with wool? thanks!

  2. I've never used bamboo, Anastasia, so I can't say for certain, and I don't mix cotton with wool so I don't know how the shrinkage works. Having said that, I understand "all" textiles as a general rule must be relaxed and wet-finished, and most definitely, wool.

    When I have any new yarns, I weave tons of sample pieces and experiment with different temperatures, different number of times they are washed, and how vigorously they are washed. Only after I have the hand I want, would I wash the Real Deal.

    Good luck.

  3. as a beginner weaver i was overcome with excitement at the tactile qualities of the different yarns, mainly looked at color, and wove a plaid shawl. from three different materials. the learning curve is wide, i'm beginning to realize.
    what i could do though, is weave up samples and then find the right finish from that. doing things backwards is a learning tool, right?
    the tip about trimming the ends of the fringe after washing is very useful, and something i had not thought of, thank you!

  4. You just keep weaving cloth the way you do, Anastasia, and you might stumble onto something spectacular. My way is safe by a bit boring.

    So, yes, swatches with the same fiber content, same sett and preferably the same structure would give you a chance to experiment.

    With my particular combination of merino and merino/possum/silk mix, for example, it really doesn't look that different until I dunk it in the hot tub the second time. So enjoy the experimentation.


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