Carried Away Spring 2015 - Page 32

Handwovens cont... So that’s general weaving. But what about weaving specifically for babywearing? Let’s start with the general fibre used in many handwoven wraps: 8/2 cotton. The numbers refer to the size of the yarn: the higher the numbers, the thinner the yarn; the lower the numbers, the thicker the yarn. Generally yarn in various fibres from 5/2 to 24/2 is used in handwoven wraps. Usually the warp is a thicker yarn, because it’s easier to thread the loom with, and the weft can be just about anything as long as the loom is set up for it properly. Weaving Yarn Sizes Image by WEBS and more information here When weavers started weaving wraps, they followed this guide. However, babywearers soon learnt that plain weave at 20 EPI is a lighter, thinner fabric and twill at 24 EPI is denser and thicker. Depending on the yarn used (fibre and brand as even cottons vary dramatically) some of those twills were beastly, and some plain weaves were saggy. There is now found a happy medium with EPI and PPI for babywearing fabric. PPI is picks per inch, that is how many weft threads there are in an inch of warp. Weavers beat the weft threads into the warp with the beater and how hard a weaver beats influences the fabric greatly. Most weavers have now found a happy medium between EPI, PPI and fibre for babywearing fabric. “Beat like a boss” and you get a 32 carried away | Spring 2015 | Handwovens denser, thicker, cushier fabric. Beat gently and it’s lighter, airier and thinner. As a general rule, good babywearing fabric has a PPI just under the EPI creating some stretch and give. And this is where the art of weaving comes in. The Art It is truly impossible to say “I love wool handwovens!” or “I hate plain weave handwovens!” because there are far too many factors that come into play which I’ve outlined above. A wool handwoven can be light, thin and airy when woven in one way with certain brands or sizes of fibre, and a thick, dense, impossible, cushy beast when woven differently. Plain weave can get a bad rap, because low EPI plain weaves can lack cush and support for heavier children, however plain weave can be woven far denser and be wonderful, even in just standard cotton. Weavers are artists. They really are, because they take yarn and create fabric with the integrity to weight bear that is beautiful! And do so in totally different ways to suit different tastes and needs. Colour is the most obvious way that weavers are artists. Some weavers have a very distinct style, and their wraps can be picked from a line up. Some are far more varied, often the ones who take on a lot of customs. Obviously, it’s all personal taste as to what people like and don’t like but hand dyed yarn is big at the moment, as are variegated wefts. These add dimension to wraps. Complex weaves are also very in fashion and require a loom with more than 4 shafts to create (heart weaves are in this category). Fibre is big too. 2 years ago, handwovens were almost all cotton, with a little linen and wool commanding sky high market value prices in the thousands. Nowadays, superfine merino, superwash wool, alpaca, silk, tencel, linen, hemp, cottohemp, cottolin and a variety of blends of those, and more, are all quite common in handwovens. Currently triblends (or even quadblends) are in fashion. For example a cottolin warp with a merino/tencel weft creates a wrap that is 30% cotton, 20% linen, 25% merino and 25% tencel. Thanks for all that information, Cat, but what am I looking for in a handwoven? How does all this translate to wrapping qualities? This is what I am asked nearly every day. We can apply some general rules. These are generalisations for 8/2 cotton and equivalent sizes that won’t always be true. But it’s a start. • Lower EPI will be thinner, lighter and airier with the only exceptions in fibre being hemp and 8/2 superwash wool which fluff up at little and take up the space that the lower EPI leaves. It can still be supportive in the more supportive fibres (linen, hemp, blends of those) and cushy in the cushier fibres (hemp and wool and blends). Selvedges Most handwovens have raw edges, called selvedges. Some are hemmed but generally part of the skill of weaving is being able to weave well enough to get a very neat edge and they are unique to handwovens. These below images show a neat perfect selvedge (1) and a messy but safe selvedge (2) that has some tension issues. Another way to do selvedges is double thickness. Some weavers do this and you can see it here (3) along with a weaving flaw that is safe, just a little messy looking. 1. 2. 3. Continued page 34 33 Handwovens