I have a lovely Avoca Handweavers blanket a friend brought me back from Ireland. It is nice and soft – no wool itchies at all. It is wool/cotton. Looking at the fringe – it looks like 1 wool yarn/1 ‘slubby’ cotton all the way across. How does this mixture shrink evenly? It did upon first gentle washing! But not too much thank goodness! What types of yarn would you combine for a blanket like this? Or can I do a straight wool one and not end up with it being scratchy and itchy. Obviously the type of yarn influences this, but do other things too? Like sett, post-weaving treatment etc. Hope I’m making sense here! I want to weave a blanket for a wedding present, but want it to be soft and warm. Don’t think I can afford chenille! So what are my options?
I’m so happy to know that Avoca blankies are still around. I visited Avoca in the early 80’s. You can use cotton and wool together with no problems if you alternate them end on end or pick and pick. You can also make one your warp and one your weft. When you combine them this way they move together as they full. Coverlets were often done this way. Cotton was used for the warp and tabby weft and wool was the pattern weft. The alternating business keeps eveything moving together. Where you run into trouble is when you put a cotton stripe in amongst wool stripes. The wool will shrink but it doesn’t take the cotton with it. The wool shrinks and the cotton bubbles. This is how you get shrinkage differentials in a piece of cloth. This is totally cool if you want a wonderful collapsed look or a seer sucker look. If you really want wool to be soft and drapey you have to sett it more open than you normally would. As soon as you put it in water the scales open up and the more room there is to open the softer your blankie will be. The trick with open setts is controlling your beat. Beat for 50/50, watch the negative space in your cloth. You may think the cloth won’t be stable once it is off the loom but you will gain structural integrity through your fulling. I always brush wool blankies after fulling while the cloth is still damp and warm. It is the best time to raise a nap and retrieve width and length. You can use a nylon hair brush, a softish cat brush or a traditional teasel although those are a tad difficult to find and they aren’t necessary to bring up a lovely nap. I brush in all 4 directions on both sides. Harrisville Shetland ends up very soft with this treatment.