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Wet Finishing - A Warm Winter Coat

I recently bought a fairly large quantity of yarn from a couple of retiring weavers which included quite a bit of 2 ply medium wool. Wanting to utilize some of this acquired stash, and needing a new winter jacket, I decided to combine some Maypole worsted with the two ply wool in order to get a suitable weight of fabric.

I had used diversified plain weave previously, but hadn't been satisfied with the results. This time I opened the set up knowing that I was going to full the cloth significantly.

The two ply wool was set at five ends per inch, and the warp was sleyed with two Maypole and one wool per dent in a 10 dent reed. No special provision was made for the selvedges, and there was no problem with broken threads.

Wet Finished Sample
The bottom image is the sample after wet finishing. Note that the scale is identical in both photos.

Once removed from the loom, the web was serged on the ends (after one yard was removed for samples), the selvedges were basted together, and then the end was sewn to the beginning making a large tube or ring of fabric.

The washing machine was filled with hot water, and about half a scoop of detergent (Cheer, to be specific) and the water agitated to develop the suds. The cloth was entered into the water surrounding the spindle and agitation began. The suds quickly disappeared, so the water was spun out, and the tub refilled with hot water and another half a scoop of detergent. This time some suds remained, so the fulling process was continued.

When using the washing machine, you must be sure not to overfill its capacity to circulate the cloth. My elderly Maytag standard sized tub can handle a cloth about 48" wide and 8 yards long. If the cloth is too large for your machine, you can either cut it up (if appropriate to do so) and full each section separately, or you can do it "manually" by holding a waulking, or convincing several young children to help you "walk" it in the bathtub, or a children's wading pool.

During the re-fill cycle of the machine, it is advisable to remove the cloth so that the entering water doesn't pound against the same area of cloth felting it. As I know where the infill on my tub is, I can move the cloth out of the way and don't have to actually remove the cloth from the tub. It is also a good idea to adjust the temperature of the water so that it is the same during the rinse cycle as the wash cycle. I do this by turning the machine off after the wash/spin cycle, and putting it back on wash because my machine automatically gives a "warm" water rinse for a "hot" water wash.

For this fabric, a total of 24 minutes of agitation was required before I felt it was 'done'. I look for stability of the threads within the weave structure by running a fingernail over the threads. If the individual threads can be moved within the weave structure, I feel that the cloth is not stable enough for garments. The fabric was monitored closely and checked often (at about 2 minute intervals) as it was nearing completion.

After spinning the cloth to extract as much water as possible, the fabric was opened up by removing the stitching, then rolled around a slatted roller to partially dry. Before it dried completely, it was given a hard press (in other words, as much pressure as possible.) The resulting fabric is very flexible, but stable to sew. A commercial quilted lining, leather bound buttonholes, and matte silver coloured buttons completed Butterick pattern 4637.

Download WIF file for this coat.


Laura Fry has been weaving for over 20 years and completed the Guild of Canadian Weavers' Master Certificate in 1997. Laura lives in Prince George, B.C., manages to weave enormous warps for fashion designers, write articles for weaving magazines, recently published a detailed book on wet finishing - Magic in the Water, and participates in exhibitions and craft shows. She teaches weaving from beginning to advance techniques in Western Canada and the United States.

Copyright © 1999 by Laura Fry. Please contact the author for permission to use any part of this article.

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PO Box 4, Stn. A
Prince George, BC V2L 4R9

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