Silk Sari Pillow Fashioned on a Rigid Heddle Loom: Part I

silk sari pillow sham on the loom

Mastering how to weave had been a dream of mine for a long time. A few weeks ago, I finally took my first weaving lesson. The instructor at Bisbee Fiber Arts Guild taught me how to use a rigid heddle loom. After finishing my study practice, and mastering a few skills and designs on my own, I decided to create something real and useful, such as a decorative pillow. Ok, I hear what you are thinking, “useful” and “decorative” make a clash. It’s not necessarily so. Something that is pleasing to the eye and touch is therapeutic to the mind. It doesn’t have to be utilitarian to be useful. That’s my humble opinion.

A couple of years ago, I was on a shopping spree for bright and colorful Indian saris. Some have very intricate prints, and some are more simple and elegant. I use them for tunics, curtains, ribbons, and various decorative items. When you purchase things on line, however, you don’t always get what you think you are buying. So, two of the saris I bought looked a little different in real life. The colors weren’t exactly what I expected, and the fabric had very little drape. Drape, by the way, is a quality of fabric describing how fluid or rigid the fabric is. The more drape the more fluid and silky the fabric. Well, these saris didn’t have the desired drape for my purposes. See the picture of the two saris below.

Two Indian silk saris from my stash

Each sari is about five yards long. I decided to cut them into 3/4 inch-wide strips lengthwise, and use them for as a weft in my weaving project. Woven fabric has two basic components, warp and weft. Warp is a longitudinal yarn/thread, and weft is made of crosswise fibers. I decided to use mercerized cotton for my stationary warp fibers.

The colors of the saris are very bright and saturated. I needed to dilute them with something light and neutral. White cotton was my color of choice in this case.

I put the mercerized cotton warp on the loom and started weaving with the silk sari strips in alternating colors.

Sari silk weaving project on a rigid heddle loom

This is what I fashioned for the decorative top of my silk sari pillow.

My newly woven fabric from sari silk and cotton

Although, I have introduced a good amount of white in this colorful combination, I felt that I still didn’t have enough light-colored neutrals. So, I decided to break the pattern with an off-white cotton lace. The photo below shows the close up of the lace embellishments stitched to the silk. You will see later how the stitching was done.

Cotton lace added to the pattern

The silk sham is lined with another fabric for added durability and a sleek luxurious feel. The material I found is a very smooth and silky liner fabric.

This liner, by the way, is an example of a fabric with a very good drape. See how smoothly it folds without creases or crinkles?

Silky liner for silk sari pillow

Weaving this sari silk changed its texture altogether. It became very soft and warm feeling. The drape was greatly improved. It feels almost like a knitted silk fabric.

Because the sari silk top and the liner are both very sleek and flowing, they float easily past each other when being handled. I had to use this special contraption called walking presser foot. It is so complicated that it comes with its own user manual.

bernina walking foot

This presser foot is designed specifically for quilting or sewing multiple layers of very sleek fabrics. It advances all layers of fabric equally with each stitch. Sorry for getting too technical here. I just wanted you to know that this lace adornment was handled very slowly and with surgical precision. The liner fabric was being quilted to the sham at the same time. It is on the bottom of the assembly and not seen in the picture below.

Attaching the cotton lace ribbons

You can see the back side of the sham in the photo below. An unfinished matching sham is in the background.

Liner of the silk sari pillow sham

Below is the finished and lined top part of the pillowcase.

Silk sari pillow sham with cotton lace embelishments

The type of weave and the liner had transformed very crispy saris into a very soft and luxurious piece.

The top of the silk sari pillow case

I am happy with my work and with the result. The next step is to make a matching sham to complete the decorative pillow.

Silk sari ribbons woven into a pillow sham

Go to Part II to see the result.

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