Clasped weft weaving is a fun technique that creates staggered picks or solid blocks of color that don’t travel selvedge to selvedge across a warp. It gives the weaver an opportunity to add more visual dimension and a certain “how did they do that?” element to their work.
There are two ways to weave clasped weft. The first may be the most common, where one weft enters a shed, loops around a second weft yarn (usually on a cone on the floor next to the loom or on an extra bobbin or wound as a butterfly) and pulls it back into the shed where the doubled picks are beat as one.
Two examples of this can be found in the Clasped Weft Towels and the Onward and Upward Towel patterns.
This is a fast and easy way to get multiple blocks of color across the weft. However, if you switch back and forth between this technique and single weft weaving, you will see different thicknesses in the cloth due to the doubled picks, and may see some bowing in your selvedges where the doubled picks push out more than the single picks.
Another clasped weft method is to have the two different weft threads enter the shed from opposite directions, exit the shed at the point where the two yarns will clasp, beat, change the shed, then re-enter the shed and exit at the selvedge where each yarn originally entered. This method is a bit more time consuming but avoids the selvedge distortion from doubled picks, and allows the weaver to place the color change very precisely.
Here is a step by step tutorial of this method, which was used for the Field and Sky Shawl. The example shown below was woven on a rigid heddle loom, but the same principles apply to multi-shaft weaving.
Open the pattern shed and insert one shuttle, exiting the top of the warp where you wish to place the clasp. I like to pick a color break in the warp so it’s very clear where my shuttles will exit. Do the same with the second weft, originating from the opposite side, but exiting at the same point as the first shuttle.
Cross the threads and beat.
Change sheds then insert the first shuttle back into the shed, toward the selvedge where it entered and make sure the two wefts are crossed/clasped. Beat lightly, re-open the shed and insert the second shuttle into the shed, weaving back to the selvedge where it entered. Beat lightly.
Beating after each color pick sets the yarn more securely in place. Be careful to not overbeat or change pattern sheds before you’ve woven both picks such that they complete one full warp width.
Continue as long as you wish, moving the blocks around the warp, or weave a bit of clasped weft then switch back to a single weft.