top of page
  • Emelie Weber

A detail shot of pink and purple handwoven gradient stripe fabric
Moss Phlox Mountaineer Cowl

Horizontal gradient stripes are one of my favorite striping patterns. I use it often in my wearable art because it's visually striking and it's an engaging pattern to weave. When I'm a few hours into a weaving session, I tend to get a little hypnotized by the rhythm of the loom and watching the woven patterns build up in the web. Focusing on counting gradient stripes usually wakes me up a little bit!

Weft gradient stripes can be woven on any type of loom, from tapestry and rigid heddle looms, to complex multi-shaft looms. You just need two shuttles with two different colors of yarn to weave gradient stripes. When you're first experimenting with gradient stripes, I recommend choosing two contrasting weft colors so you can easily see and count the stripes. I'm sharing an easy gradient striping pattern, but this technique lends itself well to experimentation! The possibilities with weft gradient stripes are endless.

Gradient stripes are simple, but do require counting and consistency while weaving. Once you have your light and dark weft colors picked out, choose an even number for your gradient stripes to equal out to. My go-to for gradient stripes is 20 picks per paired stripe. Weave 2L, 18 D, 4L, 16D, 6L, 14D, etc.

Drop down for the full repeat

A black and white gradient stripe cowl.
Black and white gradient stripes on the Calla Lily Rambler Cowl. Using one dark weft with one weft that matches the warp draws attention to the twill weaving structure in the dark stripes.

2L, 18D*

4L, 16D

6L, 14D

8L, 12D

10L, 10D**

12L, 8D

14L, 6D

16L, 4D

18L, 2D***

16L, 4D

14L, 6D

12L, 8D

10L, 10D**

8L, 12D

6L, 14D

4L, 16D


When weaving gradient stripes there are a few things to take into consideration to make it easier to keep track of the striping groups:

  • Choose a color to "lead" your striping groups with. In the example above, I'm leading with the light weft. This will make counting your stripes easier!

  • If you're weaving an item with an exposed selvage like a scarf or cowl, be mindful of how wide your stripes are. With two shuttles, you'll be carrying your weft up the edge of the fabric. I try to keep my stripes less than an inch tall.

  • For your striping group total, choose an even number that divides by two into an even number. For the example using 20 threads: 20 divided by two is 10, so I will have two even stripes of 10L and 10D at the 1/4 point and the 3/4 point in the pattern sequence. This means I'm always throwing even numbered stripes and always ending up on the same side of the shed. If I throw from the left, my shuttle will land on the left at the end of the stripe. If my shuttle ends up on the right side at the end of the stripe, I know I skipped a pick and recount. I like the visual balance of intervals of even stripes, which works well with striping group totals of 12, 16, and 20.

  • When you're first getting the hang of gradient stripes, choose a treadling pattern that is easy to keep track of. Super complex patterns can be hard to manage while counting stripes, but it's a fun challenge!

  • It's easier to see and count gradient stripes on a solid color warp, but you can get some really cool effects using a hand-dyed or striped warp. For a gradient warp, use the same stripe grouping total concept to wind your warp.

A cowl with a gradient stripe pattern in brick red, black, brown, and yellow.
You don't have to just use two colors! This cowl features contrasting colors and like colors that visually blend.
A yellow and white gradient cowl with a blended effect.
Using two similar colors will result in a blended gradient effect. This weft pairing of light yellow and ecru can be seen up close, but blends from a distance.

A cowl with blocks of gradient stripes and blocks of pinstripes.
The black and white block uses striping group totals of 12 for smaller stripes.
A rainbow gradient cowl
In this rainbow cowl, each color is woven in a full sequence of gradient stripes, beginning and ending with two picks of the focus color.

  • Emelie Weber

Who Am I, Who Are We?

Asheville's River Arts District Artists are coming together for a collaborative, monthly exhibition spanning across our studios and galleries. The 2024 theme is "Who Am I, Who Are We?," with a new prompt each month. Artists will exhibit new and archived work for the theme during our monthly Second Saturday Art Strolls. As of right now, over 70 artists and galleries are exhibiting with thoughtful and beautiful original art.

This year, I'll be designing, weaving, and sewing twelve two-piece sets and dresses in conjunction with RADA's overarching theme and monthly prompts. Each month will introduce new skills and complexity in design. I'll be documenting the process here for archival and educational purposes. By this time next year, I'll have a dozen pieces for a retrospective collection.

January's theme is Origin Story. I started with the very basics--a Boxy Crop Top and coordinating A-Line Mini Skirt. Boxy Crop Tops are a staple in my rotating selection of handwoven wearable art. They're simple, beautiful, and production oriented--just two panels, a boatneck, and folded hems.

A front view of Emelie wearing the boxy crop top and skirt.
The skirt and top are handwoven from the same warp of 10/2 Tencel with an 8/2 Tencel weft.

The A-Line Mini is based on the design of my first handwoven skirt, made in a 2013? fibers class at Berea College. I wish I still had that skirt, or even a photo! It was my first time weaving with Tencel, which I now use almost exclusively. I had nabbed two cones of old 5/2 Tencel in peachy pink and cream at a fiber sale, knowing little about it, but intrigued by its silky sheen.

A side view of the boxy crop top and skirt.
The skirt was cut at an angle, which creates a point where the stripes meet at the seam.

The A-Line Skirt I created for Origin Story mirrors that first skirt in college, with some modifications. For the 2024 skirt, I had intended to avoid hardware and use an elastic waistband for simplicity's sake. Once the elastic band was installed, it didn't quite mesh with the shape and feel of the skirt. I changed gears and instead installed a pink side zipper. I don't currently have a functioning zipper foot, so it's not perfect! The original skirt had poorly executed buttons because none of the sewing machines I had access to had a buttonhole feature, so it's fitting :)

The top and skirt are cut from the same cloth, handwoven with a 10/2 Tencel warp and 8/2 Tencel weft. The waistband is there to visually break up the gradient stripes and give the skirt a little more length. The zipper is polyester, but secondhand. I don't have a paper pattern for either the boxy crop top or the skirt. I cut by measurement for the tops and use a cardstock boatneck template for the neckline. For the skirt, I taped the cut directly to my cutting mat.

I have a bunch of sketches ready for this year-long endeavor and have started mock-ups of some of the more complex dresses slated for later months. Like the A-Line Skirt, I'm certain I'll be making changes to designs halfway through sewing. I intend to flow with the trials and challenges that crop up in this project. Nothing is set in stone and I'm allowing creativity and curiosity to take the lead.

I'm excited for this project because for a very long time, I've had a strong desire to make garments with my handwoven fabric. As a child, I was fascinated with historic costuming and poured through costuming textbooks I didn't really understand. My neighbor taught me how to sew for a seventh grade history project, in which I made a full medieval peasant's outfit. As a high schooler, I was into painting, dyeing fabric, quilting, and making and altering dresses. My favorite dress was inspired by Project Runway and made out of duct tape and Pixie Stix wrappers. I loved fashion, but never considered it a career remotely attainable for a poor kid in central Ohio.

I learned how to weave as an apprentice at Berea College and changed my art major concentration from painting to fibers at the eleventh hour. I dabbled in handwoven garments there, but only touched the surface. My focus was more on soft sculpture, and those garments were just accessories for silk, stuffed legs and disembodied arms.

After college, I worked full time and made wall hangings and scarves. Cowls came next, and the call to make clothing just got stronger. Over the years, I've played around a lot with handwoven clothing designs, using both ready-to-cut and self-drafted patterns. The handwoven wedding dress I made in 2022 is still my favorite and most heartfelt garment. That dress opened a door in my soul to dressmaking. Since that project, I've felt a strong and undeniable pull to make more dresses with my own fabric. Creating a dress from cones of thin threads is as monumental task, but one that is extremely gratifying. I'm looking forward to building this new collection of handwoven garments and can't wait to see them all together at the year's end.

  • Emelie Weber

If weaving was just about money for me, I would have called it quits a long time ago. This year has been devastating for so many people. I decided to pursue art full-time in November of 2019, just months before the world fell apart. I should probably get at least a part-time job for my own financial peace of mind. There are days that are great and I can exude confidence. There are also days that I'm worried about the future, like a lot of people I know. Weaving is work for me, but there is so much more to it that propels me to keep moving forward.

I stumbled across an article written in 1941 by Mary Meigs Atwater, an influential weaver and one of my biggest weaving heroes. She was calling out Anni Albers' article from a previous issue of 'Weaver,' in which Albers stated the main three reasons for handweaving: to make samples for industrial weaving, a vague educational value, and to make money. At first glance, I felt a wave of defensiveness. I was looking at her recipe book sitting on the window sill, thinking, "she made money weaving, too!" But, she was absolutely correct in her assessment. Yes, money is important if you're selling your work, but there's more to it than making sales. It's definitely not easy work and there's a reason you've never seen a get-rich-quick weaving ad on Facebook. (You know what I'm talking about -- I'm going to share with YOU my quick-guide secret of making 6-figures playing with yarn and bruising your legs!)

Mary Meigs Atwater seated at a floor loom, holding a large shuttle.
Mary M. Atwater (b.1878, d. 1956)

Atwater said, "...some people weave in order to sell their work and make money. This, of course, is true. It is pleasant, and sometimes necessary, to make money... this [is] a minor reason for engaging in handweaving. I have an idea that if making money is the main object, most people would make more money, with less hard work, at some occupation other than handweaving. I am very certain I should... essentially we weave because we like to do it... we like to throw the shuttle; we like to beat the batten; we enjoy combining colors and textures... to make a brave new fabric that will be a pleasure to the eye and that will serve a practical need... Doing these things give us the pleasure of creating -- the artist's pleasure, the craftsman's pleasure."

This resonated with me in a big way. When I decided I wanted to take weaving beyond a hobby in my studio apartment kitchen, I was working full time in a stock transfer agency call center. I was making more money than I ever have in my life, but I was just existing. The job was easy, despite the mounting anxiety and depression that comes with sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day. I fought with panic attacks between phone calls and weaved through the late nights when I was too worried about what the next day would bring to sleep. I pondered a lot about growth, as an artist and a human, and found peace in the moonlight gracing my loom. Lunadendron is a flower that grows by the light of the moon.

Double woven fabric on the loom in with a warm gradient block pattern on black.
Handwoven in 2016, in the kitchen of my studio apartment in Old Louisville

If it was just money I was after, I wouldn't be weaving for work. As Atwater said, I could work at a call center with a steady check and the financial security to binge on lone lunch dates at upscale sushi restaurants. Global pandemics certainly make that life more appealing, since beautiful handwoven scarves aren't exactly essential. Despite the hardships that have been presented to nearly everyone in 2020, I'm not going to stop weaving. It's my passion and I truly believe it is what I was meant to do with my life. It's my bird dog trait and I would be doing a disservice to myself, and the weavers who came before me, to throw in the towel (textile pun intended).

Yes, I weave for money, but there's so much more to it than seeing I made a sale and knowing I can buy groceries or pay bills. Weaving is a process I truly enjoy and I'm proud to carry on a long, and often forgotten, tradition of pattern weaving on a floor loom. Even better than the pleasure of the process is being able to provide a piece of art that will be cherished for years to come.

This holiday season, challenge yourself to buy more from artists and craftspeople, and less from big box retail and e-commerce stores. When you shop handmade, you feed bellies and you feed souls. Even just a card from a local artist can warm your favorite maker with a hot cup of coffee and the comfort of knowing they are seen and supported. These are the people taking big risks to persist in putting beautiful things in the world, which becomes more necessary every day as the world seems shrouded in darkness.

To all the creators, makers, and shakers out there: thank you. Thank you for putting yourself out there and showing the world what brings you joy. Your leap of faith may just be what another creative soul needs to see to find the confidence to follow their own path. Keep making, keep sharing, and keep talking, no matter how hard it gets.

A modern weaver working at a floor loom, ready to throw the shuttle.
Me, weaving in my art studio in downtown Frankfort in 2020. Pursue your passions and keep moving forward.

Read "It's pretty -- but is it art?" by Mary Meigs Atwater here.

bottom of page