Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chenille, The Pet You Don't Have to Feed

Actually, this blanket was a commissioned piece entitled THE RESULTS OF HAVING FALLEN INTO A PIT OF CHENILLE

Each square is the sample end of a chenille scarf I wove during a five year period leading up to the millennium.

What I know about weaving with chenille I learned during my scarf making madness. I also wove many Color Horoscope Weaving Shawls. In fact that is how I fell into the pit of chenille. I had stayed away from chenille for years hearing so many terrible stories of the dreaded "worming". Plus I really didn't think chenille would wear very well.

I was teaching a Color Horoscope Weaving Workshop at a yarn store sometime in the last century and they happened to stock a great palette of chenille yarn. The owner suggested I try it out. She said I could wind the warp (12 colors) and then weigh the warp and pay me for the total weight (came out to be about $80). Normally the yarn comes on 1 1/2 lb cones; and since I need 12 colors---well, that's mighty pricey which was probably another reason I had never tried it before. To make a long story short, the shawl came out beautifully except for a few little structural glitches which caused to yarn to worm. (worming is a nightmarish un-weaving caused by:
1. not weaving tightly enough
2. not snugging your edges
3. having floats
4. having more than one warp end through a heddle

The trick seems to be that when you take the piece off the loom, it feels stiff and has a lousy drape.

I wish I knew exactly how this yarn is manufactured. I do know that there is tons of sizing in the yarn, and it is only after the finished piece is laundered that it morphs into a cloth that people can't resist petting as you pass them on the street.

I know I haven't yet answered ANY of the questions you asked, but 2 things have happened. It has gotten late, for one. And two, my USB port does not seem to be working and I can't get the images from my camera into the computer.

But looking back over those chenille years, I can really only remember one time when I had a warp end break while I was weaving. The 2 warp ends that broke in the piece I am weaving now broke close enough to the beginning of the piece that I was able to lay in a replacement thread and tie it onto the front bar.

So I guess the trick is to wind short warps. Mine are mostly 4 yds long. (just long enough for 1 scarf and a nice sized sample piece) Watch your yarn closely while winding the warp, keeping a sharp eye out for frayed or weak sections of yarn.

But here is the good news, that first shawl I re-wove (about 15 years ago), looks like I just wove it! Believe me when I tell you that I road tested that shawl thoroughly. I can't believe it still looks as fresh and new as the day I wove it.

When I first started using chenille, I was very careful about laundering, and I never put it in the dryer. Then I ran into a woman who was banging out chenille scarves by the dozens. She tossed them in the wash with nary a care, AND she tossed them into the dryer as well (with 3 tennis balls), so now I do too. If you were washing the pieces often, it might not be a great idea.

Once I get to the fringes on this new piece, I will show you how I do mine. I always braid chenille fringe. It takes forever, but it really makes the shawl. And I have a special little non-knot, that is elegant beyond compare.

The ikat scarf on the wall will have to wait, but I won't forget.


Anonymous said...

The blanket is truly amazing. Absolutely gorgeous. I wish I could touch it.

Bonnie said...

I wish I could touch it too, Anne. Following the untimely death of the owner of the blanket, her husband put all of her clothes and weavings into a consignment shop. I found out about it 2 months later. I can only imagine some very lucky individual is touching it now (wry grin)

Cally said...

I don't know how chenille is made now, but it was invented by a weaver in Paisley and they have lots about it at the Paisley museum! He set up a warp with pairs of ends slightly spaced out and then wove a cloth with - I think - a woollen weft. Then the cloth was cut into strips (one pair of warp ends per strip), the cut edges fluffed up and voila: chenille yarn. Or something like that. I have a very bad memory. Good excuse for another visit to the museum, I guess!

Lo Limits Fiber Arts said...

Hello, I came across your site while looking for chenille designs for my daughter. I was wondering if you published this draft anywhere? I would love to get my hands on it.