White scarf showing areas with different texture on a dressmaker's dummy,

Collapse weave

A while ago one of the women in my weaving group was offering wound warps and weft yarn for doing collapse weave. These were warps prepared by Anne Field for her students prior to her passing away in 2013 and they had been donated to the local Creative Fibre group. At the time I really hadn’t thought about doing collapse weave and it sat on my shelf for a while. Then I picked up her book on sale in a bookshop. It took a while but I eventually got around to having a go at it.

The yarns

The warp consists of 11 25mm sections alternating between very fine 2 ply wool (warp A) and something silky-shiny – possibly nylon or tencel (warp B). It measured about 4.5 m – so enough for two scarves. The weft yarn supplied with the pre-wound warp consisted of several lots of super-fine (34 Tex) single ply high-twist (active) merino (Weft A). I supplemented this active weft yarn with a fine 2 ply of my own (weft B) – some of the batch of yarn I was given that was originally for machine knitting. I believe that its wool but can’t be 100% certain.

A sampler

Rather than do two scarves with the warp while not really knowing what I was doing and potentially ruining it I determined that I would use the first half on doing some sampling. I’ve done a few samplers in 2021 so perhaps I’m gaining some patience through the practice.

Reading the book I learned that you can create collapse in a weave through various methods such as

  • using a yarn that will shrink once off the loom and/or finished such as the ‘active’ yarn or one with lycra in it;
  • using different yarns that will shrink differently in either warp and/or weft, e.g. fine wools will shrink when hot washed whereas many man made fibres will not.
  • certain weave structures can encourage or allow collapse – waffle, honeycomb and even loose twills.

In my sample I decided to alternate 300mm bands of the active yarn (weft A) and the fine wool (weft B) in plain weave, 2/2 twill and 1/3 twill. Then when it was finished to give it a hot wash with plenty of agitation to encourage the wools to shrink and the weave to collapse.

Woven, unwashed.

You can already see some distortion along the warp lines where the wool stretched a little more on the loom. At the 1/3 twill end the sides are curling in on the active weft (weft A) but other than that we don’t see much happening across the weft. Check below to see what happens when its washed though…

Sampler washed

… all the active wefts shrink and pull the warp into a finely pleated and very stretchy section about half the original width. Interestingly there is little difference between the 3 active weft sections, however the twill sections do have a lot of little ‘tails’ where the weft floats have plied back on themselves. The fine wool plain weave section has some interesting texture from tracking between the two warp fibres. The other fine wool weft sections have ripples caused by the pulling in of the active warp sections and the loose weaves here make for a soft and drapey area.


Based on the results of the sample above I decided to weave the scarf as follows:

  • long fringes
  • 200mm plain weave with the active yarn
  • 100mm 2/2 zig-zag twill in the fine wool
  • 100mm plain weave active yarn
  • 100mm 2/2 zig-zag twill in the fine wool
  • 100mm plain weave active yarn
  • 300mm 2/2 zig-zag twill fine wool
  • mirror to the end

this creates a fine pleated end with long twisted fringe, then 2 repeats of fine wool, then active pleating and the bands of the active weft create bubbling in the fine wool sections. Then a 60cm centre section in the fine wool which goes around the neck for comfort.