Garters, otters & swords

Mistress Catlin Le Mareschale was elevated to the Order of Defense at Raglan Fair in August 2018.  In the preceding weeks, I was asked to make a band for her, to be used in a set of buckled garters. Given the timescales, we realised that the weaving wouldn’t be finished by August, so I had the pleasure of handing it to her at Kingdom University in early November. 


I showed the designs I’d already developed for an otter’s head and 3 crossed swords to a couple of friends. I suggested otter heads round the calf, a plain section dangling down, and finishing with the 3-sword motif about a cm above the metal tip.  They agreed.

(1) Measurements for each garter: garter-weaving-mockup-01

  1. 3cm minimum plain doubleface, for turn under, hemming and attaching buckle. 
  2. calf section with otters’ heads, (calf circumference of boot).  
  3. 2-3cm ‘ease’ in plain doubleface, for knot near buckle. 
  4. ‘dangling section’, starting in plain and ending with the 3-sword motif (about 20cm).
  5. 2-3cm lead-in plain doubleface, for turn under, hemming and attaching tip.

(2) Rough idea of what one of the  finished garters should look like

(3) Further requirements

  • Target width was to be around 20 to 25mm, preferably closer to 20mm. 
  • Each of the two motifs takes 48 cards total, so to achieve the desired width, I would have to use warp threads that are thinner than anything I’ve used yet. I took a guess that I’d need a thread of thickness equivalent to size 80 crochet thread for this project, given that I used 34 cards of size 40 crochet thread to produce a doubleface band that was about 21mm wide.
  • I wanted to use a thread that would be colourfast when washed, and stand up to wear and tear well.  Luckily, I found a US brand, Handy Hands’ Lizbeth, that stocked vibrant purples and golds in a size 80 cordonnet. 


Size 80 thread is pretty thin!  I used a backstrap setup because the weights I have would have been too heavy when attached to the warp threads from a single card.  I decided to make both garters as a single band to conserve warp, because I wasn’t sure what the take-up would be like for this thread size. The warp was about 320cm long, to allow for up to 50% take-up plus wastage. I also allowed enough extra for one restart in the event of any major mistakes early on. (With this thread size, I didn’t plan to unpick rows unless really necessary.) I used single strand standard sewing thread for weft.

I found it tricky getting the tension right, and despite my best efforts there was a variation in warp tension across the band.  The warp threads were spread out by the cards, to double/triple the width of the actual band.  I did not take this into account and chained up the warp in one lot. If  I had made the outer threads a couple of cm longer  in the working section of the warp, or chained them up separately, this may have evened out the warp tension across the band. Chaining the warp from outermost cards would have allowed me to advance it more often as it tightened up more quickly.

I worked the first garter from tip to buckle (E to A in diagram 1), then marked the midpoint of the band with two parallel horizontal stripes. I continued onto the second garter working from buckle to tip (A to E).     

Half the finished band. (background of photo replaced with gradient fill)

When working motifs, I turned border cards on alternate rows to compact the length of the designs as much as possible. In the plain sections, I turned the border cards on every row, because I wanted to work fewer rows per cm.  This approach wasn’t entirely successful:  the difference in row density between the plain and patterned sections was negligible; swapping between the two methods of dealing with border cards led to noticeably uneven edges (when staring at the band close up).

It turned out that 9 otter heads, spaced approx 12mm apart, fitted neatly round the calf. The first two heads had some extra fur – in other words mistakes, which looked like fur from a distance.  The otter heads averaged 36-38mm in length. I managed to achieve 22-24mm width along the band, mostly closer to 24mm. 


Once I’d taken the band off the cards, I wove in weft ends and trimmed the excess warp.  I then steam pressed the band gently to even out minor irregularities.  And finally, I wrapped it,  secured it round the waist of the small helper who snuck in to supervise, and off they both went to Catlin.  


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