To the (Wet) Finish Line!

Wet-finishing weaving projects is one of those weaving techniques that will transform you and your work. Suddenly, your woven web of fibers becomes whole cloth!
Top: Before finishing, fibers are loose enough to poke through. Middle: Unfinished, once-fulled, and twice-fulled twill cloth. Bottom: Unfinished vs brushed wool cloth.

You know what’s scary? Dipping your first ever handwoven baby into water for the first time. My heart was actually pounding this morning as I held my suddenly very flimsy-feeling twill alpaca scarf over the sink of warm water.

Would my tucked-in weft ends really stay put, or would they unravel, leaving giant gaps in the weaving? Would the fibers fluff up the way they were supposed to, or would my too-loose interlacement (I was told most beginners beat too hard, so I went ahead and did the opposite) leave me disappointed? Would my beautiful blues bleed into each other irrevocably, or would they hold?

Now, I had sunk many hours into research before attempting my first wet-finish, watching Laura Fry’s excellent video Wet-Finishing for Weavers as I combed Handwoven back issues for tips. Laura really made me feel like I could do this.

Her video lays out all the finishing-related weaving techniques you need to know, including how the different fiber types, protein and cellulose, react to the pressures of heat, agitation, soaps and other chemicals, and compression. She also strongly advocates for sampling every time you try a new-to-you yarn or weave structure…and I had not sampled. But her explanations and demonstrations were so thorough, I felt pretty confident I was set up to succeed.

I knew my water wasn’t too hot. I knew I was using the right kind of detergent. I knew I wanted to agitate slightly by hand to fluff up my alpaca fibers. But I was petrified! Suddenly, I understood why wet-finishing is one of those weaving techniques many weavers don’t both with.

But I went for it, plunging the scarf into the soapy (but not sudsy!) water and starting to shift my web of fibers around. I knew I wanted to even out my picks per inch, so I focused on gently pulling on the bias, weft-wise, and warp-wise, trying to help those fibers settle into their natural alignment.

And it held together! After rinsing and then rolling some of the excess water out with a towel, giving the fibers a good press as I did so, I laid my scarf out on the table. Finally I saw for myself the magic of wet-finishing. It was already clear that my weave and patterning looked much more even along the length of the scarf.

I was nervous about wet-finishing -- it's one of those weaving techniques that seems way more art than exact science. But by following Laura Fry's instructions on how to wet-finish woven cloth, I was successful!
My alpaca scarf before and after wet-finishing. Before wet-finishing (left), you can see how uneven my picks per inch are. After wet-finishing (right), the interlacement became much closer as the fibers fulled.

I let it dry while I went to work (Colorado is the perfect place to live if you like it when things dry quickly). When I returned home, I was rewarded with fluffy alpaca fibers fulled to just the right degree, closely interlaced warp and weft, and a remarkably more even looking weave overall. My selvedges had even straightened out. Success!

Wet-Finishing for Weavers teaches you tons of weaving techniques for wet-finishing all different kinds of handwoven projects.
Buy or Download Wet-Finishing for Weavers and turn weaving into cloth!

Now I just have to work up the courage to take a pair of scissors to the thing so I can sew the ends together into an infinity scarf.

If, like me, wet-finishing weaving techniques leave you feeling a bit more insecure than you’d like, I can’t recommend Laura Fry’s video Wet-Finishing for Weavers highly enough. No matter what kind(s) of fibers you’re using, what finish you want on your final cloth, or what kind of drape you’re looking for, she can help you get the results you dreamed of while you were warping.

As she so eloquently puts it, “It’s not finished until it’s wet-finished!”

sig_andrea

P.S. How do you feel about wet-finishing? Are you a little bit leery of dunking your precious handwovens? Share your questions in the comments!

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Fringes and Finishing
Andrea Lotz

About Andrea Lotz

Andrea is a long-time knitter, but a new weaver. She's so excited to learn and grow as part of this community as her weaving skills expand. Come along on the journey with me!

4 thoughts on “To the (Wet) Finish Line!

  1. Wet finishing? Absolutely! I spun many skeins of Leicester Longwool for a scarf for myself a few years ago. It was so soft and beautiful I loved the feel and the look. BUT, when I finished my woven scarf it felt like burlap. 🙁 So I emailed Laura Fry who explained to me all about wet finishing. What a treasure of knowledge she is. I did exactly as she said and my scarf Always gets a compliment. Thank you Laura again and again.

    1. Yeah, when I finished weaving my alpaca scarf, I was kind of disappointed–it was soft, but it didn’t feel like cloth, and the weaving looked so uneven. I really wasn’t prepared for how big a difference the wet finish would make. I bet your finished scarf is just beautiful, and I’m glad Laura was able to help you as much as she helped me! She really is a treasure of knowledge, as you said. ~Andrea

  2. Andrea!
    I recognized your scarf on Pinterest! Now, get those scissors sharpened!
    snip snip cut cut,
    the best,
    elaine (teacher)
    Your Daily Fiber

    1. Thanks Elaine! I’m planning to give those scissors a try tonight…and I’m very nervous about utter scarf disintegration. 😉 But I trust you not to have led me astray, haha.

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