I think “Leno” is kinda the worst name for a lace technique ever. Because you don’t think of delicate, sinuous, woven lace; you think of the guy with The Chin. But leno is what they called it.

But what is Leno? I’m so glad you asked.

So in normal plain weave, every thread crosses the fabric going over one, under one thread. This is the structure of my beautiful throw pillow covers, which are pilling sadly.

Leno does something a little crazy. For just one pick (crossways thread), you take these neat weft threads and wrench them out of order.

For this pattern, you take two threads and cross them under the neighbouring two, then pull them up. The next pick is normal, so the strange twist twists back again, making neat little S-shapes.

Now, as you might imagine, going across over 300 threads to make these little crossovers is a bit of a pain. That’s fine if you’re doing just one row of Leno at the end of a tea towel or something, but these are all over Leno lace curtains. So if you’re going to do lots of Leno, there’s a trick. You take all your crossovers, and tie strings around each, then attach the strings to a stick.

These strings are called doups. So, as if the name was not graceless enough, now I’m doing Doup Leno. Oh well. The doups save loads of time by pulling the crosses up to make a different shed whenever I want to do a row of Leno. It’s a pretty shallow shed:

So it’s not super easy to use, but totally doable with a little aid from my handy dandy pickup stick.

I made a pickup stick out of my spare shuttle. By closing the two pronged end with painters tape. Because classy.

The pickup stick serves another purpose, in that you need it to beat the Leno pick. The heddle is behind the other half of the crossover of threads, and so really can’t get down to beat. But the pickup stick is ok at it.

The strings of the doups are long and bendy enough that on the regular picks, the warp can slide into something resembling its regular configuration.

It’s still a bit fussy; the doups are doing a lot of crossing over and under, and hold some of the floating threads down with them. Before each regular pick I have to push the doup threads back (they are pushed all the way forward whenever I beat with the heddle) and give the heddle a little shake to get the doups to make space. But then I can use the loops of the doups as a sort of guide to make sure I’m catching all the right threads.

I figured out pretty quickly that the up shed is easier than the down shed, so my pattern is one pick of Leno, then up down up.

This makes for a slow process, but fast progress – because the Leno spreads the picks so far apart, it’s only like 5 picks per inch! And I love the pattern.

It is very open. In order to be an effective shade, I will probably have to back the handwoven fabric with some tulle or something. I think I have some I have a valence in the crawl space I can cannibalize.

But for now, I will enjoy this slow, peaceful process, ostensibly to Jane Austen on audiobook, and shake my head ruefully at the name of this clever technique.

3 thoughts on “Leno

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