The forgotten double weave cushion cover

A few months back I started talking about double weave and used some pictures of the early stages of a cushion cover, but I never followed up with a post about the cushion cover! Well, better late than never.

So, I was aiming to weave a cushion cover for an existing cushion and overall the cover came out well. There were however some stunning problems, which I’ll mention in a Bloopers post. For now I’ll stick to what worked.

The goal was to weave it so it had the same variegated weft running over both sides of the cushion, but the warp would be black on the bottom and purple on the top. This worked really well. It also made threading the double weave easier and I highly recommend different colours for your upper and lower warp as you do your first double weave project.

I wanted to do as little sewing as possible for the cover, so I decided to weave it with three closed edges. How? Like this:

diagram of my cushion cover

To explain… starting at the lefthand edge, I wove a pick of my top layer, carried my weft around the righthand edge to weave a pick of the bottom layer and then did the same in reverse. Carrying the weft between the top and bottom layers on the right, closes that edge. The left remains as two separate selvedge edges.

I closed the bottom and the top, by treating both my rigid heddles as one unit (lifting / lowering them together) for a few picks. This makes a single, dense layer of cloth for just those picks and a perfect seam!

This way when I took the cloth off the loom it only needed finishing of the warp ends, and to be turned inside out, to be ready to use. Though I might have added a little closure for the open edge to keep the cushion in place if things had gone to plan.

You can see the denser seems at the warp end edges

One thing to note about the way I wove this is that, if I hadn’t woven closed the top and bottom edges, it would have unfolded to give a single piece of cloth, double the width it was on the loom. Half would have been purple and half black with the variegated yarn running the full width.

Getting started with double weave

What happens after you put a second heddle on a rigid heddle loom? The double weave calls to you!

Double weave is one of the more literally named techniques in that you weave two layers of cloth at the same time. Yes, you read that right – two layers of cloth!an image of a woven shuttle holder

Now, if you’re scratching your head and going “why is that exciting?” then consider this; it means you can double the width of the cloth your loom creates, and it means you can weave tubes or weave open and closed sections (pockets) like in this example of a shuttle holder from the Ashford’s double heddle instructions.

The thing about double weave is that it can sound really complicated when you read the instructions, but it’s not. What I found most useful for getting my head around it was when I saw an image like this:

Image of two open sheds on the loom showing the two layers one above the other

The bottom shed is black and the top shed is purple and I’ve got both of them open so you can see how one sits above the other. When you weave you weave one set of threads at a time.

image of two layer of cloth being woven separately on one threading
The open edge of double-wide cloth

So, if you want to create a double-width fabric you use one shuttle and weave top layer / top layer / bottom layer / bottom layer. the u shape you get when creating double width clothThis means your weft joins the two layers together on just one side.

To weave a tube, you change the order to be top layer / bottom layer / top layer / bottom layer and your weft will join both edges.

You can weave two separate layers of cloth, by using two separate shuttles. To create pockets like in the picture above, you alternate two separate layers of cloth with sections where you treat your two heddles as one, to get a single layer of very dense cloth.

So, how does this magic happen? Each reed/heddle controls one layer of cloth, but you need 4 shafts (equivalent of an up-shed and a down-shed for each layer of the cloth) and that’s the reason for the pick-up sticks in the image of my loom.

You need to move the slot threads with pick-up sticks. This is because you need to get the slot threads for the layer you’re weaving away from the slot threads of the other layer, remembering on an RH loom only the threads in the holes actually move.

Obviously, on a multi-shaft loom you would just thread 4 shafts.

I’d say the only tricky bit of double weave is the threading, because you have to get the right threads in the front and back holes. And it’s easy to make mistakes. You can see here I crossed a bunch of my threads and this will stop you getting a shed.

image of crossed threads between the two reeds/heddles

I realise this post probably does make it sound complicated, but honestly, once you do it you’ll find it’s not really!