Silk chenille sampler

Not an exciting photo today. Generally I find samplers full of possibilities, but  this time I’m just not sure where to go next.

Earlier I mentioned that my first project on the new ashford table loom would be a sampler using silk chenille from Beautiful Silks. The sampler is in 3 sections, sleyed at 10, 15 and 20 ends per inch.

I used 5 different wefts – the mulberry chenille as in the warp, tussah ribbon yarn, fancy spun silk, 20/2 silk and 12 ply silk sewing threads. The 20/2 silk was from Walters Import, the rest from Beautiful Silks. The 10 epi sample was all plain weave, the 15 epi was plain weave in each weft then 2/2 twill in each weft, the 20 epi 2/2 twill each weft.

What did I learn?

With chenille, keeping the yarn under tension is a must. Quoting a research paper I found here, A Study of the Basic Parameters Describing the Structure of Chenille Yarns by Erhan Kenan Çeven and Özcan Özdemir,  “Chenille yarn is a kind of fancy yarn which charms because of its gleam and softness. Chenille yarns are constructed by twisting core yarns together in chenille
yarn machines, where cut pile yarns are inserted at right angles to the core yarn surface to create a surface in which the fibres contained in the pile yarns burst and form a soft pile surface to the yarn.” Follow the link to the paper to see a nice diagram of this. The result is that the yarn is unbalanced – lots of excess twist.

First impact – I couldn’t tie temporary knots in warp and I couldn’t just let them go. The ends would just frizz and tangle crazily. I ended up using metal hair clips around groups of ends for temporary holds.

Second – when I got to the 2/2 twill section I wanted to add a floating selvedge. I put in an extra thread at each side, wound on a plastic bobbin and individually weighted. Dangling behind the loom, the yarn spun and untwisted, giving me spots with 2 empty core yarns and the cut pile drifting to the floor. Here is my improvised fix – a cloth held under the loom’s feet and falling behind the selvedge ends meant that the yarn bobbins couldn’t turn, so the yarn couldn’t untwist.

Third – see photo at right. I now know what people mean by “worms” in chenille. This section is 10epi, 12 ply sewing thread weft. My hem stitching didn’t stablise the end. After a gentle hand wash and press I was disappointed by the feel of the fabric and for some reason thought that throwing it into the tumble dryer would be a good idea. Oops.

On the plus side, I enjoyed using the new loom. Things moved smoothly and held firmly and it was overall very pleasant.

It’s just – I don’t know what to do next with any of it. None of it has the soft, luxurious feel I was hoping for. I’m also daunted by the natural colour. I was planning to dye warps, but I can’t imagine being able to without getting into a horrible tangle.

Any suggestions? I’ve seen various comments and tips on using rayon chenille on the web – maybe I should read through that and look for ideas. (I have a skein of handpainted (not by me) rayon chenille which feels softer and appears to have a less aggressive twist.) Some of the sections are a bit stiff for a scarf, but might be nice for cushions say (if I wanted some cushions). Perhaps my finishing technique needs improvement. Maybe embrace the worms, explore the possibilities for bumps or collapse with the high twist…



6 Responses to “Silk chenille sampler”

  1. 1 Geodyne November 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    No advice from me, other than to suggest that collapse or something with texture may be a way forward. Perhaps using the chenille in the weft?

    I sympathise: I have several cones of (rayon) chenille I’ve owned for yearsandyearsansyears, without raising the courage to work with them.w

  2. 2 Leigh December 2, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Very interesting post. Actually I like the textured look of your finished fabric! I probably wouldn’t feel the same if it were mine, but don’t consider it a total disaster, it’s a design element!

    I’ve worked with rayon, cotton, and poly chenilles. One thing my weaving teacher told me was that with chenilles, the set needs to be closer than one would initially think. Due to their construction, chenille yarn looks bigger than it actually is, in terms of WPI. It weaves better (with less worming) if it is sett according to the core thread, rather than the pile threads. Do some samplers and experiment! You will gain valuable experience and information that way. Put your samples in a notebook with all the info and you’ll have a treasure.

  3. 3 Life Looms Large December 2, 2009 at 5:40 am

    I’m going to second Leigh’s notion about tight sett for chenille. When I took a class in chenille weaving, that was one thing the teacher (who weaves chenille scarves for a living) stressed. She also said that sometimes she has a chenille that will not work as warp, but which will be fine used as weft. But that some chenille won’t work for her in warp or weft. She’ll just get worms.

    At least yours in worming immediately. One of my friends wove chenille fabric and made a jacket. Worming only started after the jacket was done.

    I just got a taste of how badly behaved chenille is in the dyepot. I threw a tiny skein in with skeins of cotton and linen. That chenille twisted around everyone else in the dyepot. I’m going to be playing with yarn spaghetti once it dries. (Good thing I’m easily amused.)

    I think there are dyeing techniques, although I’m not sure what they are. I wonder if painting the warp and using some kind of clips to maintain tension would work.

    There’s another blogger, I think her name is Eva, who works with chenille. You might look for clues in her blog. (Email me if you can’t find it. I’ve got to run, but I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for a couple of days and wanted to do it while I have a few minutes.)

    Good luck!!!


  4. 4 Juli Keifer June 22, 2010 at 12:44 am

    I am weaving a rayon chenille scarf and am not sure what to do when I’m done. Someone told me the process to use to make it soft, but I forgot! Right now it’s not something you would want to put around your neck!

  1. 1 Chenille progress « Fibres of Being Trackback on December 12, 2009 at 6:01 pm
  2. 2 Chenille shibori « Fibres of Being Trackback on December 20, 2009 at 4:49 pm

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