Feature of the Month January 2006

Shadow Weave, Ripsmatta, and "Shadow Rep"

Note: This article is a continuation of the feature on shadow weave found in the September 2004 archive. For easier understanding of the concepts, please review part 3 (Understandiong the Shadow Weave Tie-Ups) of that feature.

As we begin to understand the shadow weave tie-ups and look more closely at the relationships between design blocks that weave together, we may be reminded of another weave structure that works the same way. That structure is Ripsmatta, which was originally a Swedish weave, and is designed and woven in blocks in exactly the same manner as shadow weave.

Ripsmatta is a warp-faced weave, and the warps chosen are usually set quite closely so that the weft is hidden. We find Ripsmatta mats and rugs often woven in perle cottons, since the density of the weave makes it extremely difficult to use any but the smoothest warp yarns. It is important to understand that not every warp-faced weaving is Ripsmatta; it is not the dominance of the warp alone that distinguishes it. Ripsmatta is produced by the combination of a warp-faced fabric, a thick/thin weft, and a block threading and treadling that - surprise of surprises - is the same as shadow weave.

By realizing the relationships between shadow weave and Ripsmatta, one is able to expand the applications and design possibilities of the weaves. One may use the same draft and warp and create related but distinct fabrics simply by modifying the weft sizes, or at most by resleying to a closer or wider sett. Obvious uses that come to mind include table linens (runners or mats with coordinated napkins) and furnishings (e.g., rugs (Ripsmatta), upholstery or coverlets ("shadow rep"), and curtain fabric (shadow weave)). However, by playing with samples one may come up with related fabrics for coating and accessories (scarves, purses, etc) and even linings.

Warp Contrasts

As with shadow weave, the warp in each ripsmatta or "shadow rep" block must have contrasting elements. The most effective is color - the light/dark, dark/light sequences we know from shadow weave. It is also possible to use texture contrasts, in which case the sett cannot be as close as with consistently smooth yarns. Dull/shiny contrasts can also work, and are best appreciated in mats and runners rather than floor coverings. Thick/thin combinations in the warp do not show up well.

Weft Contrasts

The most important contrast in the weft sequencing is thickness; the alternation of thick/thin in the weft is what causes the block structure to appear. Whether the color of the weft should also alternate depends upon whether one wishes to have the resulting fabric have the three-dimensional appearance of blocks of shadow weave, or the flat appearance of classic Ripsmatta blocks. If one wishes the fabric to look like shadow weave, it must be sett wider, so that the weft shows to some degree, and the weft colors should alternate as in shadow weave. If one desires plain, "flat" Ripsmatta, then the warp must cover the weft and the weft color is of no importance except as it presents at the edges (see illustrations below). Depending upon how one widens the sett, the weight of the fabric will vary from heavy and stiff (true Ripsmatta), to medium weight ("shadow rep"), to light weight (shadow weave).

Treadling Considerations

Because a shadow weave pattern is compressed vertically when a thick/thin weft combination is used, one may wish to alter the treadling so that blocks are treadled to square. Starting both the wefts on the same side and interlocking as one weaves seems to work well to give one a good edge; no floating selvedge is needed.


1. A basic four-harness shadow weave draft, block fashion, showing balanced warp and weft thicknesses and sett:
2. The same draft and warp sett, with thick/thin weft ("shadow rep"):
3. The same draft and weft thickness alternation, but with close warp sett to completely cover the weft (Ripsmatta):


Many have been discouraged by the tedium of threading a closely sett warp, and the physical difficulties in separating its sheds, particularly on looms with light harnesses. "Shadow rep" can mitigate some of these difficulties, while producing a fabric which, depending on the wefts weights, can be sturdy for rug and mat applications, or more flexible for other uses. Moreover, many of the exciting options available with shadow weave - color shadings, fiber mixtures, treadling variations - may be extended to Ripsmatta, and can expand the traditional approaches with new design possibilities. Thus, "shadow rep" can improve the ease of use, range of applications, and creative options for both weaves.