Custom Handwoven Shawl

Unlike some of the weavers I know, I’m happy to take orders for custom weaving. Usually the order is for something I’ve made before or something close to it.

For instance, I’ve had special orders for a solid black rayon chenille scarf of a particular size, a solid white one without fringe, a cotton flannel baby blanket in specific colors, and so on.

With orders like this, I can warp up my loom for multiple pieces, just like I usually do.

Recently I got an order for a rayon chenille shawl in a larger size. I’d have to weave it on my Macomber, but that’s okay — I’ve gotten more used to working on it.

It took much longer to get from initial inquiry to warping the loom. The shawl would be predominantly red, with some brown, but not just any red or any brown. I sent out samples of yarn I had on my selves, but they weren’t right — too pink, too purple, or too orange.

I did some online searching and decided that WEBS had the best color assortment, so I sent for a sample card. I liked what I saw when it arrived, and sent it off to my customer for her input. She chose a red & a brown and decided on some other colors she wanted to include.

I ordered the yarn, but of course, the red was back ordered, so we had to wait for that.

When I had all the yarn in house, I was in the middle of weaving the pink & white baby blanket, so my Macomber was already in use. Another delay.

Finally I had the yarn and a naked loom, so now was the time to start measuring the warp. And shooting photos of it as I wound each section so my customer had an opportunity for input.

I have to admit, I was hesitant with her color choices. Ruby red, chocolate brown, olive green, with some of dark purple, silver grey, and lavender. I put all the colors in the warp, with 70% red and 30% the other colors combined, as the customer wanted. I would use all red as the weft. Because of this color combo, I was not going to warp for more than one piece.

Here’s what it looked like spread out on the back beam.
custom shawl on the back beam

I was still unsure, but my customer was solid with it, so we went ahead.

I must admit, as I wove with that red weft, I got comfortable with the colors. They actually worked well together.

I wove the extra width and length she wanted, took it off the loom, washed and dried it, and twisted the fringe. It was super soft, and with all the extra size, quite heavy.
custom shawl is done

I sent it off to California. USPS tracking tells me she should have it in her mailbox on Monday, so I don’t feel like I’m jumping the gun much by showing it here.

The red is remarkably gorgeous! And quite different after wet finishing than on the cone or while weaving. It became much richer and deeper after wet finishing. You can see the cone and the shawl here together.
finished shawl & yarn

Although there’s some light bounce on the cone, I think you can still see clearly how much more orange it looks on the cone than in the shawl. Now, I’ve had some pieces lose color in the post-weaving wash and become lighter than the yarn, but this is a first for me in the opposite direction.

I will definitely be buying more of that red yarn!

I hope I learned something about color, and trust in my customers’ taste, in the process of weaving this shawl. I definitely learned something about pricing, making a mistake I won’t repeat by substantially underselling my time.

I figure as long as I learn from it, I’m good. It’s when I make the same mistake again and again that I get frustrated with myself.

Your turn: what have you learned lately?

Addendum: My customer, Val, received her shawl and loves it. Here she is wrapped up in it next to her lovely garden bed of cosmos.
Val in her shawl

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