I am currently 38 weeks pregnant and feeling...well, 38 weeks pregnant. I am really excited I got these receiving blankets finished, though! They were my own design- and by "design" I mean the were more or less an experiment in waffle weave on my rigid heddle loom. I used a 60/40 cotton/hemp blend in 8/2. Turns out 8/2 is pretty darn fine, so I held it double and used my 12-dent reed on my 32" Ashford for 24 epi (sort of) but warped as a 12 epi project. This was all good and well except I had to measure out 400 ends for this warp! I don't know about you, but I usually do not think of rigid heddle projects as having 400 warp ends. Obviously they can and do.
I also held the weft double to keep everything matchy matchy. This created 12 picks per inch as I wove. I'm glad I held the weft double, I really like the way the burp cloths feel, they washed very well with a lot of texture and are very soft. Hemp is supposed to get even softer with use, so I think these are going to be really baby friendly. I cloth diaper, as well, and know a lot of the cloth diaper inserts also use hemp for its long, comfy ware and its natural antibacterial properties. But enough about hemp, let's talk about the patterns that emerged.
I had sampled on my 15" Cricket before I started these blankets. Even though I did not have a strict pattern in mind, 400 ends are a lot of ends that I did not want to waste. I discovered there was about a 15-20% shrinkage in all finished fabrics of both my single waffle weave and my double waffle weave. This was to be expected, though, with take-up and the fiber choice. I wove a two-inch header that was hemmed under when the towels were finished.
My first blanket incorporated a 2x2 waffle weave framing a 1x2 waffle weave to create a square within a square. (When I say "2x2" I mean I used my pick up stick to pick up every other 2 warp threads in the down shaft position and then two repeats of the waffle weave sequence. For a 1x2, I picked up every other warp thread in the down shed and did two repeats of the waffle weave sequence.) The 1x2 waffle weave really stands out more than I expected with this monochromatic palette. This is the blanket shown on the far left. Then, I tried a larger waffle and did a 3x3. I really like how it puffed and crinkled for a ton of texture when it was washed, but I feel as though the warp and weft floats are just shy of being too long. I think the more the cloth is washed, the less this will be an issue, but it wasn't my favorite result for something where baby fingers could get snagged. Bottom line, I liked the look but maybe the 3x3 wasn't practical for this particular purpose. (With a little color play, it could make a really nice spa cloth or pillow.) The last burp cloth was a combination of plain weave and a 1x1 waffle. I really liked how this turned out, too. The only hiccup with this pattern is that there is significantly more draw-in with the waffle weave than the plain weave, which is to be expected. But this leads to some undulation along the side of the cloth that looks a little less clean than I typically like. However, if you keep the stripes small (mine were four inches), the flux along the side is minimized and I do not think it detracted too much from the finished product.
Summary: This was a really fun exploration in waffle weave and I love the resulting cloth it made. To think, with one pick-up stick you can make such varied textures! It also is not a time-consuming technique but makes a cloth that looks a lot more complicated than what people expect from a rigid heddle. My biggest tips for creating a waffle weave is to make sure to consider the different draw-in a waffle weave can create and also to be mindful of how long a float can get, since waffle weave is nothing more than combining warp and weft floats in a pretty pattern. Also, speaking of floats, keep in mind that a weft float on the front is a warp float on the back of your cloth. Don't forget to consider the back, which can be full of surprises when you pull your project from the loom!