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Fridays with Franklin - The Adventure of the Warp with Two Brains, Part Two

By Franklin Habit 7 months ago 915 Views

fwf-logo-v1The Adventure of the Warp with Two Brains: Part Two

For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here

For the first part of this adventure, and to find out who the heck Mary and Sylvia are, click here.


Lots of weave structures could be used to produce two different scarves on one warp, but I wanted to play with an effect called color-and-weave.

Simply put, color-and-weave means a pattern that emerges because of a combination of light and dark threads alternating in a particular order in the warp and in the weft. Make sense? No? Don’t worry. We’ll go deeper into that in a bit.

Something for Mary

One of the most famous varieties of color-and-weave happens to be a fabric I’ve always wanted to make, and a fabric eminently suited (no pun intended) for our first recipient, Mary.

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The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

We noted last time that Mary’s style is simple and tailored, frequently influenced by menswear. A classic menswear fabric might make the perfect scarf for her; and in her first scene, one appears. Not on Mary, but on her daughter–the uncreatively named Little Mary.

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The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Little Mary was played by Virginia Weidler, who had an absolutely inexplicable career as a child actress in the 1930s and 40s. She is the only person in the cast who turns in a more wooden performance than Norma Shearer, which perhaps makes her presence somewhat more explicable.

Little Mary’s riding coat is made of houndstooth…

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The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

…more specifically, of the small variation of houndstooth that is sometimes called puppytooth.

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How to Make Houndstooth: Choosing Colors

When I first tip-toed into weaving, I got very fizzy and bubbly when I found out a legendary pattern like this was, in fact, simple enough to be readily made by a beginner. Here’s how it works.

First, we pick colors. I chose Zitron Trekking in color 240 (Red) and color 210 (Buff) for two reasons.

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Reason One: I really wanted the pattern to pop, which meant I needed my colors to have high value contrast. One needed to be very dark in value, the other very light. To see if the difference was strong enough, I looked at the yarns using the black-and-white setting on my camera. For a bold look, they need to appear distinctly different. The greater the difference, the more legible the pattern.

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Yup. That’ll work.

Reason Two: That luscious red reminded me of reds as they showed up in glorious Technicolor, and even though The Women is in black and white (except for the famous fashion show sequence), the entire plot is set in motion by a shade of nail polish called Jungle Red.

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The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

How to Make Houndstooth: The Warp

To get a balanced weave* with a fingering weight yarn like Trekking, I needed to outfit my Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom with a 12-dent reed; it allows the strands of the warp to sit closer together than the 8-dent reed that comes with the loom when you buy it.

The warp plan itself? Ridiculously simple: two red strands, two buff strands. Repeat. That’s it.

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Mind you, for two scarves on one warp, my warp had to be very long. And this time, I did my advance calculations like a good boy to figure out how long.

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The length I needed just barely fit into the longest room available to me. Any longer, and I wouldn’t have been able to use the direct warping method – which would have been fine, but that’s another column.

I did a lot of walking that morning.

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It’s probably a good thing I don’t have cats.

How to Make Houndstooth: The Weft

Once your warp is in place, you weave the colors in the same order they appear in the warp: two picks (passes) with the red, two picks with the buff. Repeat.

The structure of my fabric is plain weave–the warp goes over one thread, under the next–which on my Cricket loom means simply moving the heddle up and down, up and down.

It seems like there ought to be more to it, but there isn’t. *Over and back with the red, over and back with the buff. Repeat from *.

When changing colors at the right selvedge, I kept things neat by always picking up the new color under the old color–rather like carrying yarns up the side of a piece of striped knitting. In the photograph below of an early sample for the scarves (yes, I sampled!) the buff (which is in use) is catching the red (which is not).

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A small detail, but in weaving as in all things, little details can make a big difference.

For this project, I graduated to a pair of Schacht 11-inch slim open-bottom boat shuttles, which worked beautifully with the Cricket. You could absolutely do this weaving with the same stick shuttles I used here, but boat shuttles are smoother and faster. Note that they carry the yarn on bobbins–so if you decide to use them you’ll also need a bobbin winder.

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And look! Look!

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You know those moments in your life when you’re excited to try something new, but you really worry it won’t work, and then it does work? And you can’t believe you did it? This was one of those moments.

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How Long Is Long Enough?

Since I needed to get two scarves out of this warp, for the first time I couldn’t blithely weave to the end and then call it quits. I had to make sure Mary’s scarf was long enough, but not too long.

There are many methods for doing that, but the one I chose was simply to place a stitch marker (I like the safety pin or locking ring types–they’re readily available from good yarn shops) in the right-hand selvedge every six inches. At any time, to figure out how much you’ve woven you count your markers.

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Coming Up…

In two weeks, we’ll look at the weaving of Sylvia’s scarf.

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The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

She doesn’t like waiting, but she’ll just have to deal with it.

*A balanced weave has the same number of threads per inch in the warp and in the weft.


Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Trekking (75% New Wool, 25% Nylon; 3.5 oz/100g per 459 yds/420m). Colors: 210 (Buff) and 240 (Red).

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15 inch) with optional 12-dent reed, by Schacht Spindle Company

11-inch Slim Open-Bottom Boat Shuttle by Schacht Spindle Company

The Women (1939). For information on sources, visit the official IMDB page. Yes, there was a remake in 2008, but please don’t ever bring that up in front of me again.


About Franklin Habit

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His next book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book will be published by Soho Publishing in June 2016.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Knitty.com, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, Squam Arts Workshops, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.