Leno vs. Mock Leno

The weave structure ” leno” shares its name with a popular late night tv talk show host. Of course, there’s the difference in pronunciation, and the fact that woven leno (LEE-no) has been around much longer. Though in my 30 years of weaving, I’ve known few weavers who have actually woven leno.  It probably has to do with the time consuming set up on the loom.  Leno, to those who aren’t familiar with the weave, is an open, lacy weave structure that is produced from two or more warp threads that are twisted around each other. There is a very thorough article in the Winter 2008 issue of  weavezine.com that describes the loom set up for leno by using “doups” or yarn loops to wrap around the warp threads and twist them during weaving.

Leno can also be woven on a rigid heddle loom. The leno scarf below was woven on a Schacht rigid  heddle loom.

Leno scarf woven on rigid heddle loom

Leno scarf woven on rigid heddle loom

The warp consisted of two yarns:  a smooth bamboo, Bambu 7 from Woodland Woolworks, and a nubby rayon yarn from my stash.  The weft was the rayon by itself.  I followed Rowena Hart’s instructions in The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving to set up the rigid heddle loom for leno lace weaving.  The rigid heddle itself is not used to create the sheds, it is only used to space the warp threads and for beating.  Instead, the sheds are created by using a pick up stick behind the heddle,  and  string heddles  attached to a dowel are used for the alternating shed. The twisting together of the warp threads occur behind the rigid heddle. In this way, the weaving goes a bit slowly, but I really love the open weave and texture of the end result.

Rowena Hart's The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving

Rowena Hart's The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving

Now I wanted to weave a leno lace on my four harness floor loom, but I didn’t have the time nor patience to try the doup or bead leno technique to twist the warp yarns together.  I saw that in Marguerite Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, there was such a thing called “mock leno”.  It is considered a “canvas weave” because the open weave of the fabric resembles needlepoint canvas.  The lacy effect is produced by a combination of treadling sequence and grouped warp threads alternating with empty dents in the reed.

My ancient copy of Davison's A Handweavers Pattern Book

My ancient copy of Davison's A Handweavers Pattern Book

I adapted Davison’s pattern for “Canvas Weave Spots” by grouping three warp threads in one dent in the reed, and threading them through separate heddles in harnesses 2-1-2, then 4-3-4.  There was one empty dent between each group of 3 warp threads.  The tabby structure between the leno “stripes” was threaded in harnesses 2-4.  As for treadling, I followed Davison’s short and sweet pattern of raising these harness in the following sequence:   1-4, 1-2, 1-4 then 2-3, 3-4, 2-3. Easy to remember and made for quick weaving! This is the result — still on my loom!

Mock leno woven on a 4 harness loom

Mock leno woven on a 4 harness loom

The warp here is the same bamboo as the leno scarf, and the weft is the same nubby rayon yarn used in the first scarf. The open areas of the lace are not as open as the true leno woven scarf, but they look more stable.  I also added the tabby sections, because I was afraid that the tension on leno lace stripes would be compromised and become too loose.  I’m almost done weaving this 5 yard warp, and I have had no tension problems at all. The next time I try mock leno I might weave wider leno lace stripes so that the fabric would be more similar to that of the first scarf.

The lacy effect of the mock leno, though not exactly resembling a true leno weave,  does have a comparable look.  The weaving on the 4 harness loom goes very quickly and other than the usual warping process, there is no additional set up while threading the loom.  So for a lacy open weave look, mock leno on a four harness loom is definitely a fast and effective alternative to the more traditional doup or bead leno.

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