Sunday, November 30, 2014

Baltic-Style Pick-Up Inkle Weaving, Cont.

At RUM last weekend, I had the opportunity to learn a bit more about Baltic-Style Inkle Weaving from Lady Kateline Eliot. I think it's always a great idea to take classes offered by others that cover topics or crafts that I've learned on my own, to give myself the chance to find out more or see the topic from a different perspective. I'm really glad I did in this case.

For the most part, Kateline reinforced what I'd learned. (It's a great feeling knowing you're not on a page all by yourself!) She also mentioned three things about the Baltic Style that I either did not previously know, didn't really cover in my own tutorials, or were different than how I'd understood the technique.

I had the chance to speak with Kateline before leaving to get a bit more clarification from her on the item that was really different from my experience, and I walked away incredibly inspired to start up a new weave and address my three notes for myself.

Please consider these three observations to be additions to my Baltic-Style Pick-Up Inkle Weaving tutorial.

1. Pattern threads are arranged in such a way that they come in paired sets (each set contains a heddled and unheddled pattern thread), PLUS a final single pattern thread (instead of a full pair) at the end. That final, single thread allows for the range of patterns that are possible with the technique. If you didn't have that final pattern thread, you wouldn't be able to create a symmetrical circle, for instance. This also means that the total number of pattern threads will always be an odd number in the Baltic-Style method.

2. Technically speaking, it doesn't really matter whether it's your heddled or unheddled pattern threads that are in the up position when you start your pattern manipulation. You're going to be manipulating the pattern threads anyway, so there's no real difference between the sheds when you get right down to it. It DOES matter, however, if you'd prefer to save the work and trouble of always needing to manipulate on every weft pass. [NOTE: In the comments below, Herb noted from experimentation that the threads could appear more "suppressed" in their form when they are pulled from their natural positions. So while it might not technically matter, there may be an aesthetic advantage to not having to manipulate the natural up or down position of the threads.]

Because your total number of pattern threads is an odd number, when they are warped, there will be an even number of pattern threads on one shed and an odd number on the other. This exactly coincides with the way grid patterns are arranged.

Pink squares represent pattern threads. Either the even or the odd row could be the heddled row.

If you are creating your own pattern and you have a design in mind, establish the color changes on the chart first. Then, look at the pattern and determine which rows are arranged to take advantage of the odd row and which take advantage of the even row. (It may or may not be immediately clear.)

In this pattern, I created an arch design. The pale pink squares represent the threads I would need to pick up, and the gray squares represent the dropped threads. The dark pink squares show where threads are not manipulated out of their natural positions.

If you're not trying to create a particular pattern, and are starting from scratch without a clear goal in mind, you can set up your chart with the odd and even rows marked (place dots on the squares of any threads that would be naturally up on that row), and build your pattern around that.

The circles represent threads that are currently up on that row.

There may be areas of your pattern that simply do not conform to the odd/even pattern, and that's okay- you just want to establish which shed is the best to start with for the least amount of manipulation throughout the majority of the pattern.

3. In my (albeit limited) experience with the Baltic-style method, I have yet to experience an issue where the background threads interfere with areas of pattern that are meant to look like solid pieces. This was not the case for Kateline, however, so I was prompted to talk this over with her and to look into this when I got home.

Generally speaking, the thicker pattern threads should fill out over the background threads, concealing them. (This is the primary reason you need thicker pattern threads.) It may be the case, however, that the difference in thread thickness between background and pattern is not significant enough and/or the contrast between your colors is so strong that the background colors "poke through", disrupting the look of the design. If you're looking at your piece and seeing your background in areas that should be solid pattern, you might want to experiment with adjusting your tension first. If that doesn't change your results, experiment with dropping those background threads. This only makes sense within the solid areas, so don't drop all the backgrounds- just the ones that are interfering. Remember that it's the background threads that are forming the foundational weave. You don't want to manipulate those willy-nilly, or your finished band won't hold together as well as it should. If you're not seeing any background color in your solid pattern areas, don't manipulate the background threads at all.

I'm excited to have had the chance to look into Baltic-Style Pick-up inkle weaving again to learn more and further understand why the technique works the way it does. I started a narrow band using white and dark pink (crochet cotton) really just to help me wrap my mind around these concepts. I'm thinking of using it specifically for part of the kokoshnik portion of a new early Slavic veil I'm assembling to add to my headdress arsenal for teaching. Or my daughter could claim it, as she does with anything I make containing pink.


  1. I want to respond to your observation that there is no technical difference between starting with the heddled or unheddled sheds because you will be manipulating the pattern threads anyway.Efficiency is the only consideration. Well, maybe not. I tried the the experiment above, using cotton crochet yarn. By my count, it was most efficient to weave the square at a disadvantage so that I could save time on the rest of the pattern. This meant that I had to pick up every pattern thread I needed and drop every thread that was naturally up as I created the square. The result was disappointing. The pattern looked suppressed. The rest of the pattern, where I had fewer pattern threads to pick up, looked better. So I tried an experiment and skipped a step so that I could weave the next square to advantage - I did not have to pick up any pattern threads. And, the end result was a much more distinct pattern display. Cotton is fine and quite stiff, so that would be a consideration, but it is still interesting to note that how you start may make a difference.

    1. Oh interesting. Thank you for sharing that experiment with me. I will add a note to the post about what you found.