Fringing Shawls

Fringe Frustration
Fringing Your Wool Shawl:

A Guide to Fringing Your Wool Fabric Shawl

My fringe frustration comes after working many hours on my new red shawl. I carefully found the weft grain and fringed for hours, and hour just to find in the end my shawl is not square. Thus, the title fringe frustration.

Most shawls of the early Victorian era were fringed on two or four sides. This applies to wool, silk and cotton shawls. As a shawl’s fringe was often made from it’s warp and weft threads, a squared shawl was fringed on the grain. The shawls I have observed have had fringe ranging from 3 inches to 10 inches in length. Personally, I find the longer fringe pretty but difficult to live with.

Helpful hints before you start
– Make sure you purchase plenty of extra length to work with. I often find merchants do not cut along the grain. If your fabric is not cut on the grain you will lose length on one or both ends.
– Have a lint basket near-by. This works much easier than a bag.
– You might also want a lint brush to clean up with.
– Pick up your favorite movie or audio-book from the library. You will need several hours of video or audio.

Purchasing Your Fabric
For a square shawl, you will need the width of the fabric, plus twice the length of fringe, plus waste.
———- For example: The fabric width is 60″. You want 5″ fringe on each end. There is approx. 1.5″ waste on each end. You will need 60″+10″+3″= 73 inches.
For a long shawl or double square shawl, you will need twice the width of the fabric, plus twice the length of the fringe, plus waste.
——— For example: The fabric is 60″. You want 6″ fringe. There is approx. 1.5″ waste on each end. You will need 120″+12″+3″=135″.
If you are working with a plaid, stripe or check fabric, you may need additional length in order to have a balanced design. Be sure to lay your fabric out on the cutting counter to double check you measurements.

Step One – Find the grain
I find it easiest to work along the grain of the fabric as I fringe. But, as I learned with the red shawl, make certain your fabric is square first.
To do this, snip the fabric at the selvedge about a half inch from the cut end and tear along the weft. This will create a straight line along the weft. Do this at both ends. Lay the fabric out flat. Each corner should form a 90 degree angle. With in the fabric, the weft should run perpendicular to the warp. If there is a small difference consider squaring your fabric. (see below)
At one cut end of the fabric, measure in from the end the desired length of your fringe. Mark your measurements along the width of the fabric. Repeat this at the opposite end of the fabric.
Using a seam ripper or embroidery scissors, carefully snip the weft thread that passes through these markings.
With a thick needle or small crochet hook, carefully remove this weft thread. The space created by removing this thread becomes your measurement guide in the next step. If this line is not easy to see, remove a second weft thread in the same way.
Repeat this process at the other cut end of fabric.
This image shows a green shawl where the weft threads have been removed:

Step Two – Sectioning
It is easier to fringe in sections rather than lengths. Make cuts, dividing the width of the fabric into 2 inch sections. To do this – Cut along the warp threads from the cut end of fabric to the removed weft line you created above. Repeat this on the opposite end.

Step Three – Fringing
Here is the fun part! Put a movie or audio book in the player. Using your fingers, large needle, crochet hook or anything you think might help, remove the weft threads from each section. I find it easier to alternate from working vertically to working horizontally removing threads.

Step Four – Finishing
You can finish your fringe in a few ways; knotting, hand stitching, or working a weft thread back through the fabric.
One of the simplest ways to finish as shawl is to stitch along the fringed edge. Using a matching thread, make a sort-of back-stitch and whip-stich combination along where the fringe meets the fabric. Go forward 5-7 warp threads at the fabric edge, then back three threads and up tree warp threads, catch the stitch and go forward. This sounds much more complicated than it is. Picture to come.
A method used before taking a shawl off the loom is to work the weft thread back through the edge. This process could be attempted if you can save enough of your weft thread. I have not yet tried this.
For knotting your fringe, I suggest an over-hand knot (as you would knot the end of thread) instead of a square knot (as you would start your shoe laces), because a square knot tends to pull threads together creating a puckered look. If you are going to do multiple layers of knots, creating a nice diamond pattern, I suggest starting with an over hand knot than continuing with a square knot for a flat diamond pattern.
This image shows fringe from warp threads that were knotted as the scarf shawl was removed from the loom:

This image shows fringe knotted with an over-hand knot:

Squaring your fabric
You will need a large, flat, traffic free space for this. Double check prior to doing this that your fabric is color fast. Otherwise you may stain the drying surface. At each end of your fabric, snip at the selvedge and tear the fabric along the weft threads. Do this at each end. This will create a straight edge along the weft. Wet your wool fabric. Do not agitate it as this can cause your wool to shrink. Press out excess water. Lay the fabric out flat using a quilter’s rule to square the edges. Place weigh (jars of food work well) on each corner and side. Allow your fabric to dry. Go back to step one.

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Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 11:22 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. OK Anna, I’m embarrassed to admit, not being much of a sewing person, I don’t know the weft from the warp. How would I tell?

  2. Good question.
    The warp runs parallel to the selvage. The weft runs across the width of the fabric.
    Here is a diagram:


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