Finished a Huave style weaving on a Rigid Heddle loom

11 October 2015

I finished my first attempt at weaving a heavily brocaded Huave (or Ikoots) style cloth that I discussed in my last post,  I am pleased with this technique.

Huave style brocade, yellow

This is the finished cloth, after mending, washing, a little steam from the iron and trimming.  It is 13″ wide by 17.75″ long without the fringe.  This is about the size of most of this style cloths that I saw, they were labeled as tortilla cloths, or smaller ones as table napkins.

The design was inspired by photograph of a piece of cloth seen at the end of the last post.  I handled some of Huave weavings in Oaxaca but didn’t manage to photograph or buy any.

Working on this piece reminds me of bas relief carvings.   The brocading weft is mostly on the surface and then the few ground warp ends that  tie down the supplementary weft make a lower surface.  The effect is more pronounced than most quilting   I see today.

The hand of the cloth is nice for placemats or table runner or embellished parts of clothing. More substantial than just the 8/2 plain weave, lies flat  but is not stiff or heavy. The obverse is smooth and finished.

The Technical Details

This is a brocade ; continuous supplementary weft in inlay /overlay interlacement, the same technique used in I have been using with 8/2 cotton doubled,(, the only difference is that each end in the warp now works individually, not as a pair.  Might seem like a small change but the effect is quite different.

The warp is 8/2 cotton pale mint green.  It is sett at 20 epi.  To get 20 epi on the rigid heddle loom I had to use two 10 dent heddles.  I didn’t have two 10 dent Leclerc heddles for the Bergere loom I was using so I used a narrower Ashford 10 dent heddle for the second one .  I lined up the two heddles and could see light through all the eyes so I thought it would work. I threadedUsing Leclerc and Ashford heddles them and then tied them together with zip cable ties because they move as a unit. Threaded the full width of the narrower heddle, and I do not have a second castle on this loom.  What I didn’t check was the size of the eyes, they are not the same size so the shed was not as clear as when I use two leclerc heddles.  So I added a dowel under the slot threads and pushed it to the back beam and  opened the shed and beat with a sword.

The ground weft is the same as the warp, mint 8/2 cotton, and the brocading weft is yellow doubled embroidery floss.  I started this piece with a full large skein of embroidery floss I brought back from Oaxaca this year. Our little skeins of floss are 5g this one was 30g and it is divided into 5 subskeins. So I knew I had to make the whole piece with this one skein of yarn, the Oaxacan floss is not mercerized and ours is, so no chance of matching it here.

I was using two strands of floss for the pattern warp, this effect needs a thick pattern weft. So I wound the shuttle using 2 of the subskeins and wove until they ran out.   I looked at my woven pattern and calculated that I could get 3 diamonds lengthwise using the 3 subskeins I had left. I wanted to finish with the same motifs that I used in the beginning.  I finished and I came out with just 1 1/2 picks of embroidery floss left!

 The epi is 20 and the ppi is around 10, so this is a warp dominate cloth, all the better to hide the inlay potion of the brocading weft.  This is the big difference from using 8/2 doubled in one 10 dent heddle.  Using a doubled 8/2 though out, epi is really 10 (true there are 20 threads but the interlacements is as if there are 10) and ppi is also 10 for a balanced plain weave cloth.

Top: interlacement with doubled warp and weft. Bottom: normal interlacements with the same number of warp threads.

The inlaid brocading weft is much more visible in the balance cloth than in the warp dominate cloth.   The effect in the warp dominate cloth is more magical, the brocading weft appears and then nearly disappears. In the balanced cloth  you are aware that the brocading weft is there all the time, just sometimes it stands in front and other times it back.
All in all these are the same threads,8/2 cotton for warp and weft and the same brocading weft, two full strands of embroidery floss  and the same structure.  The only difference is whether the warp threads weave  individually or doubled.  Yet the difference in appearance is dramatic.  Here is a side by side comparison:
IMG_3967 (1)

8/2 cotton used normally at 20 epi in two 10 dent heddles Results: warp dominate weave

IMG_3973 (1)

8/2 cotton doubled in warp and weft in 10 dent heddle: results in a balanced weave

 The 20epi also gives more detail, more pixel per inch if you will, and shorter floats.  The yellow design woven in the orange cloth would result in floats 1.4″ long, way too long and there would only be two diamonds across the same width of cloth.
When I did my samples before I found that I had to beat hard with the thick brocading weft to get it to look right.  I could not beat hard enough with the heddle so I used a sword.  It felt like I could have woven it on a backstrap loom more comfortably; it took a lot of jerry-rigs to make this work on the RH loom.

Once off the loom I turned it over and I could see a fault line where I missed a ground tabby pick.


At the top you can see the fault line but at the bottom is has been mended.

I knew I had missed one because the shuttle was on the wrong side.  But I mended it and all is well.  You can also see how tidy the back of the cloth is.

Before weaving I did a graph of a section of the design, only two diamonds wide and about 3/4 of one diamond tall.  Just enough to see the spacing .  I then calculate that I would get 4+ repeats across the web.  So I decided how I wanted it centered and worked out from there having two partial motifs, one on each side.   I did get better at handling the edges with the partial repeats as I wove.  Some things you just have to do to get it right.
The other problem I had weaving this is that the cloth narrowed, the last part is at least a 1/4″ narrower than the start.  That was a surprise, so the next time I’ll use a stretcher , like I do on a backstrap loom, to keep the width constant.
I’m usually wiser the second time I do something, how about you?
In response to a comment I’m posting an additional diagram here:

To fit the same number of warp ends in the same space , the weft straightens and the cloth becomes warp-dominate.

To fit the same number of warp ends in the same space , the weft straightens and the cloth becomes warp-dominate.

 See comments for further explanation.

2 Responses to “Finished a Huave style weaving on a Rigid Heddle loom”

  1. Cathie B. Says:

    Hi Karren, lovely piece! Most interesting about the dramatic detail of single warp and double, 20 epi and 10 epi, but makes sense. I didn’t realize that when looking at warp/weft dominance in supplemental weaves, one takes the supplemental factor out of the equation and goes strictly with the ground cloth. Learn something new everyday:) Yes, the 2nd and 3 rd ! times usually go smoother for me too:) Thanks for the photos and informative right up! Cathie Beckman


  2. Thanks Cathy! The change from balanced to warp dominate is pretty dramatic. When you count the yarn diameters in each diagram the double one has 9 and the single one 12 in the same space. The only way to fit 12 in the space of 9 is to push the warp out and make the weft go a straighter path ( I put a new diagram at the end of the text because I can’t add it here).

    The ppi in the warp dominate cloth is the same with and without the thick pattern weft, I was surprised. The warp must curve more. I did have to beat it hard.


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