I have been considering the coat project, and while I haven’t made any final decisions yet, I have found my thought process intriguing. Oversimplifying somewhat, I think there are basically 8 things to settle when designing a woven fabric:
- What is the woven fabric going to be used for? What characteristics does it need to have?
- How much will you need?
- What weight and fiber content yarns will you use?
- What weave structure will you use?
- What sett and ppi are you aiming for?
- What visual “feel” do you want to get from it? What will it look like?
- What colors?
- How do you plan to wet-finish it?
The first question enlightens all the others. So, since I’m making a full-length, flared coat, I want a relatively heavy fabric that still has good drape, wears well, and is very warm. According to my pattern calculations, I’ll need 20 yards of 22″ fabric, which is what I’m going to be weaving.
Weight: Usually I work with silk and/or cashmere in the 7000 ypp range, which is good for light jackets and shawls but is too lightweight for a jacket. So I am looking for something roughly double (or maybe even a little more) than that in weight.
Fiber content: 100% cashmere would be ideal, given how warm cashmere is, but I haven’t tried working with a cashmere warp and don’t want to risk it. The cashmere/mohair weft I have will work fine if doubled and added to the merino which I already have. Silk will make for a very strong warp and is also somewhat insulating, plus it will add visual interest (sheen) to the coat, plus I have a lot of it to use up, so silk will be just fine.
Structure: I want something fairly thick and dense, so will probably not use plainweave. Satin is very heavy, and would provide excellent drape, but would also use up more yarn, and I’m close to running out of warp as it stands, so I will probably not use a satin structure. Something like a 3/1 twill (or a similar number of interlacements) seems best.
Based on the structure and the yarn weight, a sett of 24 epi seems appropriate.
Visual appearanace: because it’s being used as a coat on a short, stocky person, I want something that will emphasize height. Vertical stripes are inevitable since I am mixing two yarns in the warp, but I want to be bolder – possibly even dyeing one yarn a slightly lighter color to give a pinstripe effect.
Because I’m relatively small, I want small weaving patterns. Large patterns just look blotchy on me. So something with a 1-inch repeat or less would be appropriate. In the weight of yarn I’m using, that’s about every 24 threads.
Because my repeat is going to be about every 24 threads, and I have 24 shafts, it makes sense to thread it up straight draw. That allows me to control each warp thread individually, and gives me maximum flexibility.
Color-wise, I want something more dramatic than plain black. I will agree cheerfully that plain black would be elegant and timeless, wear well, go with everything, etc. – but visually speaking, to me it’s pretty boring to weave, as I like color. On the other hand, I do not want to go prancing around in a bright fuchsia coat – someone might mistake me for a tulip!
So I am still thinking through color, but I am leaning towards a deep ruby red, lustrous silk warp and a black, slightly fuzzy cashmere/mohair weft, which should really “pop” the red while simultaneously toning it down to something suitable for outerwear. For the collar, I am considering using a brushed loop mohair in ruby red with chocolate brown weft, giving it some contrast and some (furry) texture.
There! That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I still have a lot of sampling and testing, plus pattern design, to do, but I’ve settled most of the major questions. Now it’s a matter of playing around in my weaving software until I find a pattern I like. I’ve been browsing Handweaving.net and my books of patterns, looking for inspiration, and also have been doing sketches. I haven’t gotten anything worth mentioning yet, but I’m starting to narrow down the options in my head.
Next step after I get the basic design down is to weave some samples. I think if I make the sample warp about 12″ wide and 3 yards long, I should be able to play with a lot of different ideas without using up too much yarn.
That said, I do still have two other projects on the loom. So I better get weaving quickly! to clear the path for the coat. So far I’m about 2/3 of the way through the gradated-weft shawl. Once I get back from vacation I’ll dye the knitted blank for the fourth shawl. I have some ideas for that, too, but they’ll have to wait ’til I get back.
I love weaving! There’s so much design freedom and so many exciting decisions to make.