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Brocade in Inkle Weaving





The Loom










Image of Brocade in inkle woven band.

Some people think that the brocade is difficult. I find it much more straightforward than the pick-up techniques. You can do a brocade on any background but you will get a "cearer image" in a solid colored background. Use the same color weft as warp. Your weft should be the same diameter or smaller (I prefer a smaller weft in brocades) than your warp. The design for this technique uses the same 3:1 (columns:rows) graph paper as with the rest of the drafting techniques. I draw my design in a width that represents the same number of threads I'll use in the design, not the number of inches. Then, using a light table (or a window), I'll trace the design onto the graph paper. Then, I fill in the blanks of the graph paper with the colors I want to use. Please realize that just because I'm working on a band that is two inches wide, using 16/2 cotton, it doesn't mean that I use a two-inch wide section of graph paper. Two inches of 16/2 cotton is about 90 heddles wide (that's 180 wraps with the warp). I need my graph paper to be 90 columns wide. It would be near impossible to draw my graph paper that small and still be able to see the sections of the paper if made to scale. So, It gets drawn many times the actual size of the threads. Count threads, not inches, when designing.

You can realistically use any number of other colors in your brocade as you wish. The more colors you use, the more confusing it will become. Your pattern threads need to be no larger than the diameter of the warp threads but you need to at least double the threads. I've found that using a much thinner thread and tripling or quadrupling it works great. That way, when the threads float on the surface, they tend to spread out so that background doesn't show throughas much in the final product. I use old playing cards, cut into the shape of a shuttle, and wind my brocade pattern threads on these. That way they are small and tend to stay out of the way of each other.

Once the loom has been warped, weave a few rows of straight weave; about an inch worth of weaving is a good base. Then, select the shuttle(s) that are holding the pattern thread(s) that will appear in your first row of brocade weaving. Weave those threads into your straight weave, hiding them in the warp, just like the weft, for two rows. On the third row, you can begin your brocade patterning. Open a shed and leave your primary shuttle in the shed. Hold the top threads in your left hand. Using your pattern as a guide, count how many threads you will have to pass from your left hand to your right hand before you get to the place where the pattern starts. Transfer those threads. Now, count how many columns of color #1 of your pattern thread you need. This number is how many threads you must drop. You drop them because when you pass the pattern color shuttle, the pattern threads will float over these warp threads. Continue on across the row for that color, dropping or passing warp threads. When you get to the end of the warp threads, pass the pattern thread shuttle through this new shed you have created and set it aside. Re-open the original shed and repeat for the next color(s). Finally, re-open the shed one last time and pass your weft shuttle. Change sheds and beat down the threads. Much of the literature that I have read recommends passing the weft first, before the pattern threads. I prefer to pass the weft last because sometimes it helps to hide the pattern threads at the selvedge edge. When you have changed sheds, just repeat this same procedure for the next row(s) of your pattern. When you are finished with a particular color of pattern thread, bind it into the warp threads in the same manner in which you started using it (passing it with the weft for two rows of weaving). Then, cut it just shy of the edge and set aside until you need it again. Whenever you need to introduce a pattern color, be sure to pass it with the weft for two rows of weaving prior to the place where it will be introduced as a visible thread. This secures the threads. When finished using a thread, either permanently or temporarily (which means it will be quite a few rows before you need it again), pass it with the weft for a couple of rows before cutting off. There are some other techniques for passing brocade threads but this is the easiest for beginners. By the method described above, there will be no pattern threads on the back of the inkle band.

If you will be sewing the brocaded band onto something else, you can have threads floating around onthe back side because they'll be hidden when you attach it to the "something else" you're making.

Note: In some patterns, your brocade floats may get quite long. When this happens, it is common practice (modern and "period") to anchor the floats with a single warp. For example, your band is 50 heddles wide and you are using 4/2 cotton (result would be about 2-1/2 inches wide). Your brocade pattern colors are made up of tripled 8/2 cotton. In a particular row, your brocade pattern color is to cover 20 consecutive warp threads. When dropping those 20 warp threads, don't drop all of them. Keep about two or three of them up, evenly spaced, on top of the pattern thread by passing them from your left to your right hand. That way, when your pattern thread floats on the warp threads, they are not as likely to get snagged (after you finish and actually use this band for something) because they are anchored by a couple of warp threads.

Another option is to, after the band is complete, tack down the floats with a single thread of the same brocade color.

© 2000-2005Tracy DeGarmo