WeaveZine: an online magazine for handweavers—Archives

3/1 Double-Faced Weave Saddle Blanket

Horse blankets

This saddle blanket project is an avenue for exploring 3/1 double-faced weave, a fascinating weft-faced weave structure.

If you know someone who's into horseback riding, this would be a special gift. 

Otherwise, you can use it as a small rug, or scale it down and weave it as a table runner or placemat.

Typically woven on four or more shafts, 3/1 double-faced weave has many names, which gives a hint as to how versitile and useful the structure is.

Peter Collingwood referred to this structure as Double-Faced Weave Based on a Weft Course of Over Three Under One in his Techniques of Rug Weaving, and Four-End Block Weave in the shaft switching section of Rug Weaving Techniques: Beyond the Basics.  And in Heather Allen's Weaving Contemporary Rag Rugs, it is called double binding.

You can use a two-shaft loom to weave the variant described in this article.  Warp ends are threaded onto both shafts as usual, but with one important addition: between each pair of threaded ends is a floating end that is not threaded into a heddle, and thus neither rises nor falls as the treadles are pressed. 

These floating warp ends split the shed when a treadle is pressed, as illustrated below.

Because of this split shed, each row of weaving requires two weft picks: one passing through the lower shed and the other passing through the upper shed.  When beaten in, they pack together, producing a firm, interlocked, double-layer fabric, suitable for rugs and upholstery.  The textile can have sides of different colors or textures if two different wefts are used.

Below is a drawing of the structure of the cloth, with the warp shown in grey, and the two wefts shown in black and white.  The whilte weft has been woven in the lower shed and the black weft in the upper shed.


Because the pairs of wefts pack down into one visible row on each side, the front and back look different, as shown below.

Front and Back of Cloth

The preceeding diagrams illustrate the weave structure as it appears when woven in a balanced, not weft-faced, cloth.  For the saddle blanket, you will pack the weft densely over a widely-spaced warp, and thus no warp will be visible on the surface of the cloth. 

This two-sided structure is the foundation weave for the technique.

Images can be woven into this foundation by manipulating the two colors of weft between the upper and lower sheds. The motif on this saddle blanket shows how several colors can be incorporated into a complex geometric design, even though in any given row, you are only weaving with only two different weft colors.

border detail


Pattern interpretation

diamond patternThe pattern for the saddle blanket motif is quite complicated, so to understand how to interpret a pattern let's consider a simpler design: a white diamond on a black ground.


The following diagram shows the weave structure for this design.

As an aid to understanding the structure, the warps are colored according to whether they are threaded on shaft 1 (pink) or shaft 2 (blue), or are floating (grey).

The treadling column uses black to indicate the lowered shaft and white to indicate the risen shaft.  The treadling is held open while you weave two weft shots (one in the lower shed and one in the upper shed), and the two colored wefts are always thrown in rotation, starting at the bottom with white.  It is very important that the alternating weft sequence be maintained, otherwise the pattern will not work.  Other variations of this technique do call for changes in the color rotation.  Also, the pattern must be followed from the bottom up, ("draw-up" as opposed to "draw-down").

We can simplify the pattern by combining the two shots that constitute one row of weaving into a single line  The colors of the two wefts that are thrown to complete one row are as follows: weft 1 is thrown first, followed by weft 2.


Since the occurrence of the pink and blue warps is controlled by the treadling and will never be altered, we can further simplify the pattern by replacing those columns with dashed lines.

The pattern now looks much more like the original design, and is smaller and easier to follow than the full draw-up representation. 

When weaving using this compact form of the chart, you disregard the threaded warp threads, and use the chart to maneuver the weft over and under the floating warps according to which color the pattern indicates is to be visible on the top of the cloth.


Project Planning

Equipment and Supplies

  • loom with two or more shafts
  • two shuttles (or you can make yarn butterflies)
  • temple (optional, but recommended)
  • an 8, 9, or 10 dent reed
  • about a dozen each of two colors of stick pins with plastic heads
  • one larger stick pin with a colored head (like a hat pin)
  • tape measure or calibrated ribbon that can be pinned to the web
  • clip board
  • magnetic strips, removeable/highlighter tape, or pen to mark your place in the pattern
  • waste yarn for the woven header and footer
  • a blunt needle


Saddle blankets should be woven of animal fibers, as the acid in sweat damages cellulose-based textiles.  The wicking property of wool and its loft and elasticity make the blanket more comfortable for the horse.  Coarse, hairy, wool that is strong and durable enough for rugs is ideal.

saddle blanket in use

Warp: a highly twisted 3-ply worsted wool. ( 850 yards per pound, natural.) This yarn wraps at about 20 wraps per inch. I bought this at a trading post in Arizona as Navajo warp yarn.

Weft: Lopi, a single-ply, loosely-spun, wool. (600 yards per pound, in 2 main colors and 3 accent colors.)

One saddle blanket will require approximately:

  • 12 oz. of warp (natural or off-white)
  • 20 oz. each of the two main colors of lopi (light grey and dark grey)
  • 3 oz. of lopi in the most prominent accent color (red)
  • 2 oz. of lopi in a second accent color (black)
  • 1 oz. of lopi in a third accent color (white)
  • A few yards of very fine 2-ply wool (2/22), the same color as warp (to fix weft skips)



As this is a weft-face weave, the warp is spaced openly.  Use a reed with ends per inch of 8, 9 or 10. 

The more open sett of 8 will work best on a light-weight loom where the beat is lighter and the warp tension is less. 

The tighter sett of 10 yields a denser textile but will require a heavier beat and greater warp tension to ensure that the warp is totally covered by the weft. 

I use a 9-dent reed, which is an odd size but I have found it ideal for this type of weaving.



Most saddle blankets are about 35 inches square.  Allowing for shrinkage and take-up, a safe on-loom size is 38 to 40 inches square.  You can customize the size to the individual horse and saddle. 

When planning your blanket, take into account that the saddle will cover a fair amount of the surface of the blanket when it's in use. So I put my patterned motifs on the edges of the blanket, where they will be more visible.

My blanket was woven 40 inches square on the loom.  After wet finishing, its dimensions were 35 inches wide by 37 inches long, a 12 percent loss in width and 7-8 percent in length.

Warp Calculations

Determining how many ends to wind in your warp so that things work out to the proper width and threading-repeat multiple is a bit of an iterative process.

Multiply the epi of reed times the desired on-loom width in inches and subtract 9 from this number (for the selvedge allowance), to get your first guess as to the correct number of warp ends.

(epi of reed) x (width on loom in inches) - 9 = (# warp ends)

Divide the resulting number (# warp ends) by 4.  If 4 does not divide evenly, add or subtract 1 or 2 to (# warp ends) until it does. Now when you divide by 4 there will be no remainder and the quotient is the number of threading units you need for your desired width.

In my case, I wanted the on-loom width to be 40 inches, and I was using a 9-dent reed.

9 X 40 - 9 = 351

351 / 4 = 87 with remainder 3   So 351 + 1 = 352 which divides evenly by 4 and I will have 352 / 4 = 88 threading units.

Then 352 + 9 = 361 is the number of warps I need.

Another way to calculate this, if matching a precise width on the loom is not important (say, for a sample) is to simply start with the number of threading units and calculate as follows:

(# warp ends) = 4 X (number of threading units) + 9.

Determine warp length in the usual way: start with your desired finished length then add an allowance for take-up and fulling plus an additional amount for loom waste.

If you have no use for a saddle blanket, you can weave a smaller rectangle, say 12 inches wide by 18 inches long, and use it as a table runner or place mat.

Threading and Tie-Up

In this threading chart the letter F denotes a floating warp that is not threaded through a heddle. 

Note: If your loom has more than two shafts you can disperse the threaded warps over all shafts in a straight draw (for example 1, 2, 3, 4 for a four-shaft loom). This will reduce friction on the warp and make it easier to open sheds.

Since we want a firm, strong selvedge, the edges have doubled threads.  One extra end (the single pink one, fifth in from the left) is threaded on the left to balance the structure.  The four-end threading unit is outlined above, with ellipses indicating areas where the threading is repeated as necessary to obtain the desired width.

The tie-up is direct on a two shaft loom, with shaft 1 tied to treadle 1 and shaft 2 tied to treadle 2.  If you have threaded more than two shafts as described in the proceding note, tie all odd-numbered shafts to treadle 1 and all even-numbered shafts to treadle 2.



Header and twined edge

Once you have wound your warp, and have beamed, threaded, sleyed and evenly tied on, you are ready to weave a header.  Because of the floating ends you cannot treadle a pure plain weave, so I recommend that you hand pick six rows of plain weave to spread the warp and provide a firm foundation. Beat on a closed shed.

Then weave eight rows in each of the top and bottom sheds (16 picks total) using waste yarns of two colors. This will give you a feel for weaving in the split shed, and let you see how the foundation weave produces different colors on the two sides of the textile.  Weave a few rows using your intended wefts, to see how well they pack down over the warps.  You can try interchanging the colors, to get stripes.  Remember the important rule that the wefts are thrown alternately.

Make sure you bubble enough weft in the shed to prevent excessive draw-in.  I heartily recommend the use of a temple for this project, but even a temple can't fight the forces of draw-in if the wefts are too skimpy.  As you weave the header, experiment to determine the bubble angle that works best for your materials, sett, and beat.  If the outermost warp ends bend when the beater hits them you need to increase the angle of your weft insertions.

This is also a good time to try different shuttles.  I prefer to use low-profile boat shuttles. With thicker yarns this means more weft joins, but Lopi yarn conceals these joins so well that I feel the limited capacity of the bobbins is not a problem.  If you use a boat shuttle, don't overfill the bobbin, and turn the shuttle on its side if it starts catching on the warp.

For heavily patterned designs I often resort to butterflies, because the sense of touch helps reduce errors and skips and makes it easier to regulate weft tension and angle of insertion.


Once you have a solid header woven and the warps are spread, you are ready to start the project.  I recommend that a single row of weft twining be done to separate the header and to protect the edge of the weaving to come.  Use warp yarn for the twining.

Because this is a saddle blanket and much of the cloth will be hidden during use, I placed the main patterning along the top and bottom and wove the rest of the blanket in foundation weave.

The central stripe of design is an aid to the rider, to help them center the blanket on the horse.


Here are close-up photos of the woven border motif, front and back.

motifs front and back

To start, weave 16 rows of the foundation weave, using the two main colors of weft.  In my sample, the main colors are dark grey and light grey. 

I throw dark grey first, in the lower shed, and light grey second, in the upper shed.  That way I can most easily see that there are no errors or skips on the bottom layer before covering it with the top layer.

Following the pattern


To make the pattern easy to follow, take a copy of it and fix it to a clip board.  You can use magnets or removable tape to follow it row-by-row. The pattern is worked from the bottom upwards.

Before starting to weave the pattern, please read the section, Avoiding and Correcting Errors.

This pattern uses five colors of weft, color-coded as shown to the right, with quantities indicated.  

color chart



Download the pattern as a PDF file (2.4 MB)

Weave the first five rows of the pattern.  Note that regardless of which weft is showing on the top surface of the textile, the wefts must be inserted in the order shown: weft 1 goes first, weft 2 goes second.

Before starting to weave the red diamonds that come next, notice the green and yellow grid lines and the circles near the bottom of the pattern.  You will use colored pins to set up a grid on your weaving that corresponds to this grid of green and yellow lines.

To set up this grid arrangement, first raise shaft 1 (lowering shaft 2) and find the exact middle warp of the raised warps.  Double-check that you have the center warp by re-counting out to each edge.  On the printed pattern, this center warp is marked with a black arrow.

Mark the center warp on your web with a large pin (I used a large white hat pin).  Then put a green pin above the white one, to mark the center green grid line.  Counting out in both directions from this center warp, mark every seventh raised warp with a green pin.  When inserting the pins, don't split the warp that the pin is marking, but get as close to it as possible.

Next, raise shaft 2 (lowering shaft 1), and insert yellow pins beside the raised warps that are halfway between the green pins.  This photo shows the pins properly placed in the web.

Now you can use these pins to orient to the green and yellow grid lines that are visible on the charted pattern, and this will be very helpful in preventing errors. 

Notice that weft 1 changes from dark grey to red for the diamonds.  Weave the four rows for the diamonds, following the placement indicated in the pattern and referencing the colored pins.  The motifs that make up this border repeat regularly relative to the pins, so once the pattern is established the repeats can be done from memory.  Once weft 1 is done, weft 2 is quite easy as it counters weft 1. In other words, when weft 1 is in the upper shed, weft 2 is in the lower shed, and vice versa.

Follow the pattern exactly. It may seem that little changes won't hurt, but you'd be surprised.  Because of the polarity imposed by the two wefts being entered in a fixed sequence, certain structural constraints are required in order to keep the slanted edges of the pattern smooth on both faces of the textile.

As you weave, use a temple to regulate your width.  Advance the warp, the temple, and the colored pins often.  Inch the shuttle through the shed with one hand and manipulate the point of the shuttle up and down (following the pattern) with the other hand.  Keep the shuttle close to the reed for maximum shed depth.  Don't overfill the bobbins.

shuttle in shed

Continue weaving the pattern until you have completed the top row.  Attach a measuring tape to your weaving, with zero at the twined edge.  The pattern likely began at about the 2-inch mark and ended at about the 6-inch mark, depending on your materials, sett, and beat.  In any case, record your measurements so you will be able to properly position the border on the other end of the weaving.  Also record the width of the first 12 rows of pattern, the dark lines enclosing the small red diamonds.  It's a good idea to do all these calculations, and then put safety pins into your measuring tape to remind you.

Since you will now weave a long stretch of foundation weave, you can remove the colored pins so you don't have to keep advancing them.  Keep the center pin to save having to re-count later when you weave the middle and end motifs.

Continue with foundation weave until you approach the center of the length that you plan to weave.  The first 14 rows of the pattern (dark lines enclosing red diamonds) should be woven at the center of the horse blanket, as an aid to the rider in positioning it properly.  Start the motif so that the center of the diamonds falls at the desired mid-point.

Then do foundation weave for as long as needed to get to the point on your measuring tape where you must do the pattern again.  Follow the pattern exactly as before – starting from the bottom (where the colored circles are) and weaving row-by-row to the top.

When you finish the pattern do 16 final rows of foundation weave.


Twined edge and footer

Use a warp yarn to twine over all warps, just as was done at the beginning of the project.  Then weave an inch or so of waste yarn so you can beat on them and fully compact the last few rows.

You can now advance the warp and cut the piece off.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised when you look at the back.  Here are pictures of both sides of the finished saddle blanket.

finished blanket

Avoiding and correcting errors

As this is a weft-faced weave, a lot of weft is required for each pick as it meanders over and under the high-tension warp.  I recommend bubbling the weft at about a 30-degree angle to the fell and using a temple.

Whenever a weaving follows a pattern row-by-row it is necessary to be very careful about keeping track of your position relative to the charted pattern.  Using the colored pins as already explained will help in the horizontal direction.  To keep track vertically, use a ruler, removable tape, a strip of magnet or a highlighter to mark your position on the pattern.

I also find it very helpful to keep track of the positions of the two shuttles.  In fact, it's not a bad idea to write a '1' in grease pen on the shuttle that carries weft 1, and similarly mark a '2' on the shuttle that carries weft 2.  This saves having to refer to the weft color chart in patterned areas.  When the color chart indicates a change of weft color, make sure you put the right color into each shuttle, and then you don't have to think about color again until there is another change.

The positions of the shuttles are clear indicators of whether a row has been completed, or whether you forgot to move your marker on the pattern.

  • Shuttle 1 on left, shuttle 2 on right means you're about to weave shuttle 1 on treadle 1.
  • Both shuttles on the right means you're about to weave shuttle 2 on treadle 1.
  • Shuttle 2 on left, shuttle 1 on right means you're about to weave shuttle 1 on treadle 2.
  • Both shuttles on the left means you're about to weave shuttle 2 on treadle 2.

Weaving Tips

Be very careful when passing the shuttle through the lower web, especially in design areas where it is harder to see what you are doing.  If you incorrectly pass over or under a warp end you will create weft skips that will need to be fixed.

Skips can be easily fixed after the weaving is off the loom (more about this later).  But design-placement errors are much more serious and should be corrected before proceeding.  Since Lopi overlaps so well in weft joins, I often break the wefts and pull out the weaving from the selvedges rather than try to "unweave" with the fuzzy, weak weft.  In pattern areas, especially, unweaving is very tedious.


Finger-woven edges

In order to protect the warp edges, an edge-finish should be worked on each end of the saddle blanket.  The one I use is a finger-woven edge, as documented in The Techniques of Rug Weaving, page 498.  Once this tight finish is applied the warps can be trimmed to about a half inch. 

Inspection and repair

Before wet-finishing, the blanket should be carefully inspected for weft skips.  Mark them with pins, but do not cut either the warp or the weft.

Fix the skip using a needle and some very fine wool yarn (2/22, preferably the same color as the warp).  Darn the needle under a wale of wefts for about one inche until you reach the error.  Go over the skip, then under the warp end that was missed, then over the skip again and darn back into the same wale.  Pull both ends of the darning thread very tight and clip them.  The skip will be gone and wet-finishing will felt the repair thread into the weft so that it is secure.

Wet finishing

If you are worried that any color might run, use Synthropol or a similar product in the wash.  Otherwise, use lots of soap or Orvus in a bathtub full of hot water.  Immerse the blanket in the tub, and work it with your hands until it is adequately fulled.  If the Lopi is dirty or bleeds dye you may have to do this twice.  Rinse well with cold water.  When there are no more suds, do a final rinse with vinegar added to the water.

Roll the blanket in towels and put the roll on the ground or the floor and walk on it to squeeze as much water as possible into the towels.  Reposition the roll and walk on it some more, until it feels quite a lot drier.  Spread the blanket on dry towels and leave it overnight, then steam press it with a hot iron.  Spread it flat again to thoroughly dry.




Bonnie DattaA retired computer analyst, Bonnie lives an idyllic life on a small farm in western Canada.  For all of the weaving topics she explores—crackle, tabletweaving, Flessbergplegg, tapestry—her approach is to focus on pattern-making: the interface between the maker, the process, and the object.  Samples of her work can be seen at her website.

Photo credit:  Geoff Ghitter, Airdrie AB Canada