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Joan Keats Weaving Workshop Notes: Inlay

Inlay is the very simplest way of decorating plain weaving and can be woven on any threading giving plain weave. The inlay thread can be wool or cotton, or even linen, depending on the intended use of the article, but it should be softly spun so that it will pack down well. As the name implies, inlay threads are extra threads "laid-in" the web. For this reason the inlays cannot always be made in the same positions or the weaving will be distorted.

In all of the following techniques in this and subsequent lessons care must be taken in choosing threads and setts to get a proper balance between the pattern wefts and the warp and background weft. It is most important to watch the beat because the effect can be spoilt by the decoration being squashed or elongated. It is unfortunately very easy to beat so that the tabby is closer where the inlays are used tan in other portions. A good plan is to cut a sheet of newspaper the size of the planned article and on it to mark the placings of the design areas. In this way a visually pleasing effect can be achieved before weaving commences.

Throughout these lessons Tabby A refers to the shed opened by pushing the Lever to the back (when shuttle is inserted from the Right.) Tabby B refers to the other shed when the lever is pushed to the front and shuttle enters from the Left. (On a 4-shaft loom, Tabby A is 1-3 shed and Tabby B is the 2-4 shed.)

Inlays may be placed in the shed before or after the tabby background pick is thrown. Decide on one procedure and be consistent.

Some of the different types of Inlays are as follows:

Small pieces of coloured weft are placed in the web at random intervals.

Cut lengths of yarn and lay them in the same position for six consecutive weft picks leaving a short end hanging out of the web on each side. If this same techniques is used with a continuous inlay weft it is termed "Laid in every shed." The outline will not be vertical at the sides because of the different sheds used but it is very suitable for shapes with diagonal lines.

'When a large area is to be inlaid, wind the inlay thread on a small shuttle or wind it into a "butterfly". To make a butterfly wind the thread in a figure 8 between thumb and index finger of the left hand, the other fingers holding the beginning of the thread against the palm of the hand. Make 12 or 15 turns. Cut off the end and tie firmly with two half hitches around the crossed thread. Slip off the fingers and use the thread from the beginning. Do not overfill small shuttles or make large butterflies.

To inlay a square shape a better outline will result if the inlay thread is a little thicker is Laid in Every Other Shed.

The two types of Inlay just mentioned are given a new look in the Swedish way of doing them -- the H.V. Technique -- (see Shuttlecraft Nov. 1959.) The warp and weft are of linen and the background weaving is a little more open. The pattern weft may be handspun wool but is more usually several shades of one colour of singles linen wound together on the shuttle. The effect is very pleasing in curtains (see Australian Hand Weaver and Spinner, Nov, 1969, Judith Taylor's curtains.)

It is sometimes better to weave inlay patterns wrong side up so that the turns of the inlay threads can be easily controlled. If this method is adopted, use a mirror to check progress.

Inlay on Alternatives
This is woven wrong side up with the inlay and the background of the same weight but slightly heavier than the warp and the binder weft. The inlays are always on the same shed and there must be a pattern weft (either inlay or background) under every thread of that shed. On the other shed use the binder weft which is the same as the warp. The effect is like a mosaic.

These are woven on the tabby sheds and the spot areas are woven between 2 tabby background picks. On one shed, weave under 1 thread and beat, on the next shed under 2 threads and beat. Then repeat for 5 inlay picks in all. Spot areas must be staggered or the background area will sag.

Inlay in Leaf Shapes
As a further development of the above technique interesting leaf shapes can be woven. Start the inlay on a few warp ends and then gradually increase the number until the desired shape is reached. Then decrease back to the original size. Beat the inlay well into the background. Then throw the background weft with plenty of slack so that it can curve over the inlay. Several picks of background weft will be needed before the line of weft becomes straight again.

To Outline an Area with another Thread
Take a length of yarn and lay it in the shed in the desired position, leaving ends of equal length hanging out of the web. Take each end through the reed, the eye of a heddle (both on the same shaft) and then to the back of the loom. Attach each end to a full cotton reel which should hang over the back beam (as in inserting an extra warp end -see Lesson 1.) These ends will now weave in with the main warp. When the sides have been woven for the desired length undo the ends from the cotton reels and pull through to the front of the reed. In the same shed as that used for the first inlay lay-in each end to the halfway point and allow it to hang down under the web. The ends can be darned in later, or if desired they can be spliced in the inlay as in joining in at the selvedges.

Italian Inlay
This is woven in a similar way by inserting a length of yarn and laying it in the shed with an end hanging out on each side. The inlaid and an uneven number of background tabbies is woven between each inlay row. On the second inlay row the ends are both put through the shed, and subsequent rows (other than the first one) also have the double threads, except for the increasing or decreasing portions. The turns are made on the right side and their length, ie the number of background tabbies between each inlay depends on the intended use of the article. A sketch of the design is needed so that the working threads can be brought into the correct position for the next inlay. If the pattern divides then the original thread will continue up one area and a new thread will be laid in for each new area.

Calabrian Inlay
This is a variation of the Italian Inlay and is woven in the same manner. However the inlay thread is inserted on a 1 up 3 down shed, and it is quicker and easier on a 4-shaft loom. On a 2 shaft loom pick-up the desired area with a pick-up stick in front of the reed and then transfer it on to another stick behind the heddles. Each time the inlay is to be made (always on the same shed and separated by an uneven number of background tabbies) turn the pick-up stick on its side and the correct position for the inlays is ready for use. The turns are on the right side and are very decorative.

Another interesting way of weaving this is Reverse Calabrian which is woven on a 3 up1 down shed. It is very effective woven with a ... stiff thread or with thicker linen on a linen background.

Swedish Finger Weaving
This is rather similar to Italian Inlay except that the turns are not always straight and there are no double inlay wefts. Seven ends were used in the group in this sampler. On Tabby B shed raise the middle thread of the group and lay under it the working thread with equal lengths hanging out each side. Four alternating tabbies follow so that the next and succeeding inlays are on Tabby A shed. Pick-up the 4 ends of the pattern group in this shed and transfer to the back of the heddles. Each working end of the inlay is inserted under 2 raised warp ends, coming from the outside of the group to the centre and then to the top of the web. Patterns may be developed as desired. If the design is to be used as a border with an inlay row right across the web at the beginning and end then 2 pattern threads are used, one from each side.

Weaving Twice into One Shed
To prevent the weft from pulling out it must be anchored around the selvedge (outside) thread when returning into the web. If double wefting is being used frequently throughout a piece of weaving it is better to thread a "floating" selvedge thread on each side. This end does not go through a heddle but is threaded only through the reed and tied into the appropriate bundle for lacing in the ordinary way. As theses ends will not rise and fall with the changing of the sheds the procedure is to take the shuttle under them when coming out of the shed and over them when entering the shed or vice versa. This practice is particularly useful in pattern drafts where the normal selvedge threads do not weave in on every other shed.

... on shaft 2 and repeat. There is a double weft for every pick. In this case a better weave and selvedge results if the weft is not doubled on the shuttle. Use 2 shuttles each with the same weft and enters one from each side of the web into each shed.

Making a Pattern Effect Using 2 Wefts Together on One Shuttle
For an interesting border wind 2 wefts untwisted on the shuttle. They should be of the same thickness and softness and one should be approximately the same colour as the warp. Lay in the shed and twist together, noting the number of twists made and the direction, ie to the front of the loom or to the back. Beat well and repeat. If the twist is always applied in the same direction then attractive "arrowheads" will result. If the twist is applied in an opposite direction in each shed a twill effect results.

Clasped Wefts
This is used where two colours appear in one line of weft. Use two shuttles each with a different colour and working from opposite sides of the web. There are 2 methods of weaving:

Method A On alternate sheds giving single wefting

  1. Shuttle A from R to point of colour change: out of shed to top of web and then to L

  2. Shuttle B from L to same point of change; out of shed and to R

  3. Change to alternate tabby shed.

  4. Shuttle A into shed to return to R making sure that the weft is around the warp end now popped-up at the point of change and go into the shed at the L of that end.

  5. Shuttle B into shed to return to L. Do not go around the popped-up end with this shuttle as the wefts are already looped around each other, but enter to the L of it. Put a pull on each shuttle so that the loop lies evenly in the shed. Repeat as required.

Method B Double wefting in each row
Weave the required amount with the main colour A, finishing with the shuttle tat R. Join in shuttle B at L. Bring shuttle A to L under the weft attached to shuttle B and go back into the same shed so that the weft attached to shuttle B and go back into the same shed so that A pulls B's weft to the point of colour change. Pull wefts evenly. Change shed and beat.