The Ugly Muscovy Scarf

December 23, 2009

By the way you can still trade me a hat for this scarf by leaving me a comment and e-mailing a picture of the hat.

I guess nobody has unwanted merino wool hats just lying around! It also occurs to me that I chose the wrong time of year. I forget how busy people who are putting together family celebrations are this week, as opposed to childless holiday slackers like us.

Which brings me to the scarf / stole I told you about back in November, which I am calling the Ugly Muscovy. Last week it was mailed, received, unwrapped, and much appreciated by its recipient. And that was my last Christmas package, so I’m done!

“Muscovy” doesn’t refer to the region in Russia, which isn’t ugly at all, but to the name of a kind of duck originating in South America. We never had Muscovies when we were raising our own ducks, though we often visited some at a local homestead park. After moving we noticed a pair of them in a neighbor’s yard in our new town. Muscovies are a popular low-care breed for small gardens, as they are great slug-eaters and (unlike most ducks) have a fighting chance against predators, since they roost to sleep. In terms of scientific classification they are actually more closely related to geese than to ducks. Maybe that’s why I never wanted any–they didn’t charm me with their dauntless incompetence the way our Indian runners did. (Also, Der Mann thinks the bubbly red caruncles on the males’ bills are cute. I do not!)

I named the scarf for the inlay: it is a common motif on South and Central American folk textiles. Probably only duck fancier would notice, but this motif isn’t just a fantastical “bird,” it has the shape of a Muscovy duck! I found it graphed out by M. M. Atwater in this July 1936 issue of The Weaver, in an article about loom-controlled leno featuring a Guatemalan huipil–she spells it “hupel.”

I have a small stack of these wonderful magazines. They belonged to the original owner of my loom, and after my shuttles and my antique swift from Sweden, they are my greatest weaving treasures.

The inlay was my favorite part of this project. I thought it would be tiresome. I’m going to have to try some more; I have an idea for a different way to use the inlay circles. I wasn’t as pleased with the Danish medallions, which I learned to do using Robyn Spady’s February 2008 article in WeaveZine. They don’t seem a very stable decoration when you are making them on this scale. For a little color and some textural interest in a fine linen, I can see them being very nice.

Scarf / Stole: Ugly Muscovy

Plain weave on rigid heddle loom with inlay and Danish medallions

Warp: German worsted weight superwash wool.

Weft: multicolored mystery wool, don’t know the name for this kind of yarn where the bulk is wrapped loosely around the core yarn like a telephone cord, without the extra twist forming loops as in bouclé. Do you know it?

Inlay and medallions: fat natural wool flammé with regularly spaced slubs.

Ends: forgot to count ends or measure width in reed!

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit dpi

Ends per inch: about 4 5/8.  I skipped every other hole-slot pair.  First time I’ve done this, and it worked fine with the puffy yarn.

Picks per inch: 4.

Length on loom: 85″ excluding fringe

Woven width: 14″

Woven length: 77″

Finished width: 12 3/8″

Finished length: 74 1/2″

Finishing: Machine wash warm, tumble dry warm.

Conclusions: I wouldn’t call this scarf the ugly duckling that becomes a swan, but I wasn’t ashamed to give it as a gift after all, mostly because I really enjoyed having woven something figured. As much as I love repeating patterns and stripes, there is something about little pictures that pleases me.  The clothes I remember from childhood are the ones with little pictures or applique.

The superwash was educational. If I ever use it for warp again, I’ll have to remember to run a line of machine stitching along the fringe to keep the the cut ends of the yarn from unraveling. (And wear a dust mask.) Its non-shrinking, non-felting characteristics were not useful here, but could be useful combined with regular wool for a differential shrinkage effect.


5 Responses to “The Ugly Muscovy Scarf”

  1. I can be your partner in figure-weaving crime. For some reason, I find it so cool whenever a loom can weave a figure. I haven’t explored that at all yet really, but it’s the one part of weaving that I think I could play around with for a long time.

    I was just gifted with orange yarn that’s going to be a challenge to use. Your giveaway scarf kind of reminds me of it. I’m going to have to be creative to figure out how to make it into something I like! (Perhaps very creative)


  2. Lovely is in the mind of the beholder! I hope you have a lovely holiday season! And delicious little things!

  3. Dot Says:

    I’d call the ducks ugly, but not your finished scarf.

    I am green with envy over your Weaver’s magazines, what a treasure store! I hadn’t heard of them before.

    Best wishes for a happy Christmas and New Year.

  4. Dot Says:

    p.s. no merino hats here, although I have just finished weaving a merino scarf which is a present for my Mum.

  5. fibresofbeing Says:

    Very nice effect. Something more to explore…

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