Recently in Weaving Category

Current Weaving

In my last post, I mentioned that I was seeking out unfinished projects and creating a list so that I could focus on getting some of my works in progress to be finished projects.  I think I've rounded up all the weaving projects, so I'm starting with those.

I've got three projects in my weaving queue:

  • The big purple blanket(s) project (top left): the fabric is woven, but the ends need woven in and the fabric needs to be washed, cut in half and seamed appropriately into two blankets
  • The "Piping Hot" pillow project (top right): the main fabric for the pillows is woven, but I still need to create the piping, find pillow forms of the right size and put the project together
  • Log Cabin Handtowels for my powder room (center, on loom): this is a straightforward project to weave as long as I can and then separate into towels of reasonable size to be used in my powder room. 
The hand towels will most likely be the first project completed - the weaving is easy and fast given that I'm using worsted weight cotton. 

I'm still torn about the big purple blankets.  After weaving this huge length of cloth, I love the look of it when it is all laid out.  Some of the pooling creates infinity-sign like motifs that I like that will be severed in half if I make two blankets.  That said, it's really too long to be of practical use at that width.   The real issue here with finishing is just that I am lazy and not excited about dealing with the ends.

The pillows have been lingering for a while now because after weaving the fabric I have to also weave the piping and then sew things up.  I don't mind the sewing, but I admit that I don't always like my sewing skills, so I've been procrastinating.

My goal is to get to the point where I've only got one weaving project at any given time.  I have multiple looms... but not enough space to really keep them both set up and active.  Since I've got that great yarn from Habu, and there was a neat double weave scarf project with embroidery thread in the most recent Handwoven that I want to tackle, I'm feeling motivated than in the past to wrap these up so that I can tackle one of those.

Rainbow Gamp Warp

It appears I'm not doing too well with Wednesdays lately.  But at least I can brighten up Friday with the warp from my next weaving project.

20100121_ColorGampWarp.jpgThis is the beginning of a color gamp blanket project.  It will be 40" wide by 50" long and will use a huck lace weave structure.  I'm warping it from the back, and what you see here is inch wide units of 3/2 cotton yarn getting ready to be pulled forward in preparation for threading the heddles.  I'll be doing this project on an AVL dobby loom -- which has me completely geeked out because it's as if weaving and computers have intersected in one project.

Next week I hope to get the heddles threaded and to start sleying the reed.  I can hardly wait to start weaving on this project and to watch all the different color combinations come together !

Wrapping Up the Week

One thing I've always wondered about fantasy heroes... you spend some undetermined amount of time saving the world, accomplish your goal, get a little fan fare, and then what?  Where do you go from that?  After you save the world, is everything else a let down or do you spend the rest of your life just feeling unnaturally good about yourself?

Well, if you're playing Dragon Age, you decide you want to see what's going on with the other endings and you start thinking about which save games you're going to re-load from.  Planning your next character.  This is probably the first RPG ever where I felt like I wanted to actually play the whole darn thing again.  The characters really are that good. 

Whenever I finish a good book wherein I got attached to the characters, I'm always a little bummed that the book is finished.  I feel that way about Dragon Age, too.  But since most books don't take me over 100 hours to read, there's also a bit of relief that whatever I do next, I'll be able to visit Ferelden in a much more relaxed manner, dropping by when I need to get a break from the real world, without the intense compulsion to want to know how the story ends.

Speaking of stories... if you're looking for another good fantasy series to pick up, might I recommend Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books?  I've just finished up Taltos and Yendi and just started Dragon (I'm reading them in chronological order for the character, as opposed to the order they were written in) and while they aren't deep, they are really just a lot of fun.  I really love books written in first person, and these don't disappoint, as the main character, Vlad, is a wisecracking assassin with a mini-dragon familiar and penchant for witchcraft and getting in and out of challenging situations.  These books just make me happy to read, and because they are pretty light weight, it's easy to pick them up and put them down as necessary. 

Not only did I finish up DA today, I also got the pleasure of getting to finish up assembly of that AVL loom I mentioned last week.  All it's major pieces are in place, so warping might happen soon.  I'm so excited about getting to weave on a floor loom, I could just dance.  I mean, wow, warping a loom that I can sit inside... actually having to throw that shuttle for a fair number of inches.  Foot treadles.  Too. Wonderful. For. Words.

And then there's the squares and the swatching.  I have 4 new squares for my Targhee blanket, and I'm one swatch away from starting John's sweater.  Not monumental knitting productivity, but enough to make me really itchy to get things started on Aspinwall!

Dobby Loom Assembly


No. Don't worry.  I did not suddenly go out and acquire another loom.  Trust me.  A full sized dobby floor loom is so out of my picture right now, I wouldn't even know where to find the camera. 

But not so long ago, my weaving teacher found an old, under-appreciated AVL 16 harness dobby loom.  It came to live in the weaving studio but space and time issues meant that its assembly trajectory has been a mild one. 

And in I walked tonight with my color gamp blanket project.  A color gamp is essentially a way to look at a rainbow of colors in your warp, and the same rainbow in the weft and see how all the colors interplay.  I bought mine from Halcyon in 3/2 cotton and it comes with a pattern for a huck lace baby blanket, which has a weaving width of 40".  And the only floor loom in the studio that was available was 36" wide.

Well, the only assembled  floor loom was 36" wide. 

Then Nathalie, my teacher, got this inspired look on her face. 

That loom is big enough, she said, pointing to the dobby loom.  But it's not ready yet.

Well, what if I help you put it together?

You really want to do that?

Yeah, I really want to do that, 
I said with the kind of smile you will only ever see on the face of an engineer faced with a toy to assemble.  Most definitely.

Now, a good bit of it was already together, so I got to start with connecting the harnesses to the dobby and making the dobby work.  The dobby is the part of the loom that helps automate the raising and lowering of the harnesses for weaving.  You won't be surprised to know that figuring out the dobby just geeked me out, both on the computer and weaving geek sides of the equations.  Pushing the treadles, watching the harnesses go up and down the way they were supposed to.  Good times, I tell you, good times.

By the end of the evening, it still wasn't all together, but I felt like I had learned so much just by helping to put together the parts that I did (I also installed some of the cloth beam assembly) -- I can't wait to work on it a little more next week.  It's almost like watching something come to life!

There was even knitting today... I've started swatching for Aspinwall.  Standard ol' stockinette swatch looks good, and I'm most of the way through the half-brioche stitch swatch.  This yarn is absolutely delicious to work with .  And the half-brioche stitch is a lot more fun to do than a standard K1 P1 ribbing.


Some Assembly Required

As you might have gathered from Friday's picture, my loom didn't come fully assembled.  In my mind, this is a good thing, because there is nothing like assembling a piece of equipment to help you understand how it works.  The castle of the loom was fully assembled, but I had to put the pieces together for the base, the beams and the overhead beater. 

20091206_LoomAssembled.jpgThe instructions that came with the loom were quite good, and it really didn't take much time at all to assemble.  Of course, the husband couldn't let me use the little screwdriver that came with it to screw things together, he had to go find the bit for his cordless drill, which not only sped up the assembly time, but also made the project incredibly interesting to Ms. Z.

I was without my camera for the assembly process, otherwise I'd have a couple of darling pictures of her wielding a socket wrench, trying to be help tighten down the bolts for the overhead beater.   Z is absolutely fascinated by the loom, it's parts and what it does.  She loves playing with the shaft levers and moving the beater. 

Once you've got a fully assembled loom, well, it just seems wrong not to figure out how to get a warp on it.  And since it has 8 shafts, I really wanted to do something that used all of them.   So, I've decided I'm going to do a series of Rosepath (you can see a 4 shaft example of the weave structure here at WeaveZine) samplers using a dark blue warp and backround and either a light blue or white foreground color.   I'll talk more about what's going on when I start to have pictures of the project.

Because it's a sampler, I decided to keep it narrow (just 5"), so it didn't take very long to measure my warp (120 ends, at 24 e.p.i -- I'm using 10/2 perle cotton), sley my reed, thread my heddles and get the warp wound onto the back beam.

20091206_FirstWarp.jpgWith a little luck, I'll get it tied onto the front apron bar tomorrow, test out all the sheds and maybe even start weaving!


A while back I had a commenter wonder when I was going to talk about weaving again. 

20091203_CarolynLoom.jpgI think this little number is going to dramatically enhance weaving content on this blog.  It's a Woolhouse Tools 8 Shaft "Carolyn" Loom with the overhead beater.  At this point, my life is just a little too full for me to invite a floor loom into it, but this loom is a nice compromise and should give me lots of room to grow.  These are the looms that we use in my weaving classes, and the mechanisms are very nice and there are many nice design elements that really make them a pleasure to use.   While certainly not considered a portable loom, it does fold up a bit for storage -- even when in use -- so it can be kept out of the hands of inquisitive small people. 

I think the biggest challenge is going to be deciding what project I will do on it first.  A simple scarf is likely since I just wrapped up a large, rather complicated project in my class and I think I need to do something that doesn't require quite so much thinking!

Waffle Warp

I like dressing my looms.  I know a lot of people find the warping part of weaving to be tedious and time consuming, but so far, I'm finding it to be something I enjoy.  Really, when you are a weaving newbie in the process of warping a loom, you have to devote your full focus to the process.  Hands and brain have to move together to keep track of how many ends and how the heddles need to be threaded and the reed needs to be sleyed.  It is a very nice way to push other issues aside.  To me, it feels meditative.

20080602_StripedCottonWarp.jpgMy rigid heddle loom does not require quite the focus that the 8 harness table loom I am using in my class takes to warp, but it still requires some attention.  Some time ago I bought some "self striping" cotton "Sugar 'n Cream" with the intention of using it as warp and weft in some project to see how the warp and weft stripes would interact.  If you want to have a striped warp but are feeling kind of lazy and don't need complete control over where the stripes go, this yarn is something you'll enjoy. 

20080602_WaffleWeaveCloth.jpgI'm all about waffle weave these days, so I was pretty excited when I found that I could do a 5/2 waffle weave usng my rigid heddle loom and just one pick up stick.  This pattern is very similar to the one that I am doing on my classroom loom.  One nice thing about working in thicker yarn is that it is easier to see the details of the weave structure without getting out a magnifying glass.

20080602_WaffleWeaveCloseUp.jpgIn the warp, given the end length I chose (which I did not measure out, other than to set my warping peg such that I got three-four ends per each color) I have 3 to four threads of each color.  In the weft, I am getting about 2 waffle intervals per color.  My warp is sett at 8 ends per inch. 

This is a very simple pattern to execute on a rigid heddle*.  The pickup stick is easy to set up and the pattern is done in 10 pick intervals, and the order of moving the heddle is easy to remember, so it's very easy to get a nice rhythm going.

I am not 100% sure what this project will end up being.  Depending on what happens to the fabric after I wash it, it could either end up as another dishtowel or perhaps some kind of runner somwhere  (it's a bit too wide and rustic for a scarf).  It could also probably be folded over on itself and become a pillow covering if I wanted it to.  One of the things I love about weaving is that you don't have to be absolutely sure what you want to do with a piece of cloth to enjoy making it!

* if you want more information on how to do this pattern, please refer to Betty Davenport's Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle Loom which has a wealth of pattern and texture information for the rigid heddle loom.

Braiding for a Bolster

Over the holiday weekend, I didn't knit a stitch.  I did, however get crafty with some perle cotton.

20080527_AllTheBraids.jpgFor my first big weaving project, I need to have two cords to use to help tie the ends of the bolster closed.  This seemed like the perfect application for a Kumihimo braid.  I talked about Kumihimo a long time ago when Julie got me excited about the craft.  I bought some perle cotton, the braiding foam templates, the bobbins* and tried out a few simple things, but since I didn't really have anything that I needed a braid for, I put it all aside on a shelf. 

It's amazing how having a real project to plan for can remind me of things that I never quite got into, and then get me really excited about it.  We spent Friday through Monday in Ann Arbor, and I spent almost all my free time in the car and at my parents house "auditioning" braids. 

I have a very nice, basic book that describes a nice variety of basic braid structures and then describes how altering the colors and their order can fundamentally alter how you see the braid.  For instance, the second cord from the top and the 3rd cord from the bottom are made using the exact same braiding technique, and the exact same number of threads.  The only difference is the number of threads of each color (and, in this case, the braid closer to the top of the picture is using 5/2 perle cotton while the lower one is using 10/2 perle cotton). 

All the rest of the braids in the photo use different "weave structures"  -- and I use that phrase because when I was working on the braid on the bottom of the picture (the one with the red, white and blue diagonal stripes) I realized that I really was weaving.  And the bottom braid is really a warp faced weaving -- like something you might get off of an inkle loom.  After I had that realization, I realized that the basic idea behind all of these braids had it's roots in weaving, which made the idea of creating these braided cords even more perfect as accents for my woven bolster cover.

After all the auditioning, which braid do I think will be the winner?  Likely the second braid from the top.  You can't tell from the picture, but it is one of the few soft, almost stretchy braids in the bunch -- it's also very easy to make.  And I think it will be the right complement to the bolster cover. 

What I like about Kumihimo is that it is a form of weaving that is eminently portable, easy to get started in and requires almost no expensive equipment.  You can use any threads you like and it is not that hard to "sample" and develop your own ideas.  While I work on finishing up my waffle weave sample I'm going to try out a few of them with some elastic thread my weaving teacher let me borrow.  Since Kumihimo braids can easily be embellished with beads, I thought it might be fun to create some of my own hair ties.

* If you are looking for Kumihimo supplies, I can highly recommend BraidersHand

Test Warp


Two weeks ago I put together my project design, measured out the warp for the sample and started sleying my reed.

When  I wrapped up my weaving class last week, I had started threading the heddles.

By the end of my class tonight, I had all my heddles threaded and my warp tied on the back beam.

20080514_Loom2.jpgYou're probably wondering why this took me so long.  And why I consider it to be an accomplishment worth blogging about.


First let me talk about the design.  I love having pillows on my bed.  I have always wanted one of those really impractical bolster pillows, and after my experience with double weave in my sampler, a couple of those bee bees in my head knocked against each other and it occurred to me that I could make my own .  But I also wanted to try out some interesting texture for my next weaving project, play around with a cloth woven on shafts and weave with finer threads.  So I decided on a double weave tube of waffle weave using 10/2 (fine lace weight) .perle cotton -- which means about 28 warp ends per inch (which actually works out to 14 ends per inch because I'm working in double weave)

But, before I wove the the real project, I figured I'd better test some things out first.  First off, both waffle weave and cottons tend to shrink when washed, so I needed to figure out what the circumference of my tube would need to be to ensure that it would still fit around the pillow (I settled on a pillow that is 10" in diameter by about 3 ft long).  I also wanted to make sure that I understood the threading and treadling patterns. So this white warp is only a yard long.  I'll probably work about a foot of tube and then cut it off and wash it and try it out on my pillow. 

What made this such an accomplishment is that I needed this sample to have a 30-31" circumference... or about 420 warp ends.  And that's a little bit of work no matter how you slice it.  But next week, after I tie things onto the front beam, actual weaving will start -- and I'm going to play with boat shuttles -- so I'm looking forward to some fun things ahead.

And because I can't resist...

20080514_MothersDay.jpg... one of my favorite pictures from Mother's Day, taken by my Dad.  It features a sweet baby and one of my favorite pieces of knitwear.  We had a very nice weekend.  I hope everyone out there is looking forward to a nice weekend to come!

Test Warp


Two weeks ago I put together my project design, measured out the warp for the sample and started sleying my reed.

When  I wrapped up my weaving class last week, I had started threading the heddles.

By the end of my class tonight, I had all my heddles threaded and my warp tied on the back beam.

20080514_Loom2.jpgYou're probably wondering why this took me so long.  And why I consider it to be an accomplishment worth blogging about.


First let me talk about the design.  I love having pillows on my bed.  I have always wanted one of those really impractical bolster pillows, and after my experience with double weave in my sampler, a couple of those bee bees in my head knocked against each other and it occurred to me that I could make my own .  But I also wanted to try out some interesting texture for my next weaving project, play around with a cloth woven on shafts and weave with finer threads.  So I decided on a double weave tube of waffle weave using 10/2 (fine lace weight) .perle cotton -- which means about 28 warp ends per inch (which actually works out to 14 ends per inch because I'm working in double weave)

But, before I wove the the real project, I figured I'd better test some things out first.  First off, both waffle weave and cottons tend to shrink when washed, so I needed to figure out what the circumference of my tube would need to be to ensure that it would still fit around the pillow (I settled on a pillow that is 10" in diameter by about 3 ft long).  I also wanted to make sure that I understood the threading and treadling patterns. So this white warp is only a yard long.  I'll probably work about a foot of tube and then cut it off and wash it and try it out on my pillow. 

What made this such an accomplishment is that I needed this sample to have a 30-31" circumference... or about 420 warp ends.  And that's a little bit of work no matter how you slice it.  But next week, after I tie things onto the front beam, actual weaving will start -- and I'm going to play with boat shuttles -- so I'm looking forward to some fun things ahead.

And because I can't resist...

20080514_MothersDay.jpg... one of my favorite pictures from Mother's Day, taken by my Dad.  It features a sweet baby and one of my favorite pieces of knitwear.  We had a very nice weekend.  I hope everyone out there is looking forward to a nice weekend to come!

Weaving Sampler

To begin with, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who left such kind comments about Ms. Z.  Just like her blue eyes, those sweet sentiments were very heart melting, and are warmly appreciated.

I also appreciated the thoughts and comments on the most recent issue of IK.  Here's hoping the fall is better for that magazine.  It's always been one of my favorite knitting mags, and it's a little sad for me to have been uninspired by it several issues running.

Today I wrapped up the last session in my first weaving class.  The general idea of the class was just not to think too hard and to play with color and simple weave structures using a plain twill threading on a 4 harness table loom.  Since it was just a sampler and not meant for display, I put together a brightly colored warp and just went wherever I felt like as far as color was concerned.

20080430_WeavingSampler.jpgMy warp was three yards long, but in the end, I stopped a little early, because, as it turns out, I am apparently as much of a product weaver as I am a product knitter and spinner.  After sampling a variety of weave structures and techniques, I was ready to get on to "a real project".  I played with a number of things in this project, but here are a few of the highlights.

20080430_WeavingBrokenTwill.jpgThis close up features rib weave on the bottom half (for those that are interested, it's a 1-3 sort of structure where either 1 harness or three harnesses are "up") and a broken twill pattern on the top half.  Rib weaves and their final look are very dependent on how hard you beat the fabric.  The harder you beat, the more prominent that vertical line becomes.    I really liked the twill structures and how they seem to almost float above the warp.  Twills were fun to see because they aren't something I know how to do yet on a rigid heddle loom (I believe they are possible on a rigid heddle with a properly applied pattern stick -- but given what I've tried already, it's a lot easier done on a multi-shaft loom).

20080430_WeavingInlay.jpgThis is inlay work.  The background weaving is just plain weave (i.e. what you think of as the standard "over under" every other thread pattern of weaving) with another thread laid in the shed when you put in your plain weave weft picks.  You could take out the inlaid yarn without any impact on the plain weave fabric as it isn't an essential part of the actual cloth.  It was fun to do with the big slubby yarn that I used.  Kind if a neat way to work patterns into a fabric without actually having to do tapestry weaving. 

20080430_WeavingLeno.jpgThis last image is "leno" -- you use a pick up stick to twist the warp threads so that you can run a weft shot through and use it to maintain the structure of the open work.  It's one of a series of ways that you can create "lace" in a woven fabric.  I found it a little fussy, but it could clearly be a nice detail in a table runner, curtains or the border for a garment.

While I liked trying all these textures and techniques, what really captured my attention was something that I tried on my sampler, but is really hard to make look interesting unless you have the fabric in your hands: double weave.  Double weave is a technique used to make two pieces of cloth on one warp.  The two cloths can be completely separate, joined at one side or joined on both sides to form a tube.  The whole woven tube thing got me thinking about how I'd always wanted to have a nice bolster pillow on my bed and that lead me to think about weaving a bolster pillow cover.  This would give me a chance to try out double weave for a larger project, as well as combine it with working in finer threads (10/2 cotton) and with a weave structure that fascinates me: waffle weave (which has a point twill threading, so I'll be able to play with some point twill structures on whatever warp I have left after I weave my bolster cover).  I'm also psyched that I'll get to play around with an 8 harness loom. 

I spent my last class planning for my next project and getting a sample warp ready so that I could determine whether what I was planning would actually fit around my bolster after washing (cotton shrinks, waffle weave condenses a bit, too, after washing).  I'm in the process of warping 480 tiny cotton warp threads onto my loom.  I've got about 1/4 of the reed sleyed.   I'm hoping that by the end of my next class, I'll finish that up and get my heddles threaded.  Careful warping is definitely a time consuming process!

But the bottom line is that I'm definitely enjoying weaving and I'm glad I took a chance and tried it out.  I can't wait to get started on my first "real" multi-shaft fabric project.

Weaving Glass

In my day job, I spend some of my time keeping up on what is going on in the scientific world.  It's rare that I come across anything that I feel is interesting in both my worlds, but this video crosses the boundary nicely.  This link comes from The Scientist (I would post the original direct link, but I think it requires registration and doesn't provide much additional information beyond what you see in the video) showing the woven glass art of Eric Markow (a chemical engineer) and Thom Morris (a biologist).

I think their work is both beautiful and inspiring no matter whether you weave or not, but is particularly neat for anyone who likes to see a traditional fiber art translated into another medium.  And the day after my weaving class, I always have weaving on the brain, so I just couldn't resist sharing this lovely colorful work on a cloudy grey Chicago day.

Happy Weekend, All!

The Sampler Scarf and the Samples

I originally meant to put everything together in one post on Friday, but as I started going through the pictures, I just felt like it was too much information for one post -- and I knew I wouldn't have time to put it all together well all at once on Thursday night.  So I decided to break the post into two parts: what I did to set up the project and the results.  Without further ado, here's the results!

20090219_SamplerScarf.jpg First of all, I'll start out with the finished product.  Here it is basking in the cold light of morning after I finished it.  It is not completely clear, but the selvedges on this project are light-years better than those of the first project I tried.  And this is basically because in the first project I was trying to work out the technique for making it happen without any reference.  With this project, I had the help of good reference materials and I took advantage of them.  It's easier to describe what helped with pictures than it is in text alone, so I will save that discussion for the next project that I work on -- but you can definitely find information about how to have nice selvedges in Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom-- her pictures are very good and her discussion of this is very helpful for beginners.

20090219_SamplerScarfEdges.jpg Ok!  Onto the sampling.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the warp I set up alternated two ends of my orangey-red and two ends of purple, beginning and ending with two ends of the orangey-red.   My goal with this project was to see how different combinations of weft threads looked in combination with the warp.  I wasn't very systematic about this in the scarf itself (I just did whatever entertained me at the moment, but made sure that I tried all the combinations that I could think of.  I'm putting them in better order here to make the progression more clear.


These are the results for using all orangey-red weft threads (top) or all purple weft threads (bottom).  Consistent with how I understand color theory and using warm and cool colors together, it doesn't surprise me that sample with the all purple weft still reads as very orangey-red while the sample with the orangey-red weft hardly reads purple at all.  Cool colors tend to recede and be dominated by wram colors, and that really played out in this case!

This swatch alternates picks of purple and orange-red.  So when the heddle is in the up position, you are always using one color and when the heddle is in the down position, you are always using the other.  I can't remember which color went with which heddle position for this particular sample, but I can tell you that if you were to swap the colors used for the two different heddle postions, you would get the opposite pattern where what you see as orangey-red now would be purple and what you see as purple would be orange red.  This was the only one of my tests that really worked out this way.

20090219_2x2x2.jpg This is the hound's tooth check pattern.  Two orangey-red weft threads alternate with two purple weft threads.  Because each pair of threads gets used in each of the heddle positions, you don't see any real variation when you alternate with pair you start with. 

20090219_2x4x4.jpg In this case I did 4 threads of purple followed by 4 weft threads of orangey-red (I did try an intermediate two threads of purple and three of red, but it ended up looking kind of muddy and not all that interesting).  Here you can see what I think of as almost a little space invader pattern... but when you back up, it starts to look like stripes.

20090219_2x8x8.jpg Finally, I ended the scarf with 8 threads of purple followed by 8 threads of orangey red.  This pattern definitely reads as wide stripes! (See the sample on the bottom left side of thes scarf in the picture below)
20090219_SamplerScarfInActi.jpg When I first took this scarf off of the loom, it was on the stiff side, and I was a little concerned about whether it would actually work as a scarf.   However, just like most hand knits benefit from a little bath, so do woven materials.  I soaked the scarf for about 1/2 an hour in luke warm water with Eucalin and some mild hair conditioner and the resulting fabric was much softer and more scarf like. 

I ended up tying groups of warp threads together and trimming them to a reasonable length for the finishing of the ends -- this was because I didn't pay attention to the instructions for hemstitching, and, in my excitement about having a finished project, I took the scarf off of the loom before I did the hemstitching, which makes it pretty hard to do that.  But for a simlple scarf, the tied ends are a completely acceptable and durable finish. 

Not only has my scarf seen photographs, it's also seen actual outdoor in the winter action -- I wore it to work on Friday.  Definitely a different feel from a hand knit scarf, but still awfully nice to be wearing something I made.  I am now thinking about what I have in my stash that might be man-friendly, since I think that John might take to a scarf like this (albeit in one regular pattern) better than he does to handknit scarves.  I'd also like to find some chenille yarn to make myself a plaid chenille scarf with.  I have some "Touch Me" in my stash, and I'm wondering if the combination of Touch Me, weaving, and a bit of fulling would make for something very yummy to wear indeed!

So now the thinking about what to try next begins.   I took the plunge and ordered an 8 dent heddle so that I can work with some slightly larger yarn that I have in my stash.  The funny thing about weaving?  I am actually dreaming about it.  I don't think I've ever had dreams that involved knitting.  But with weaving, I wake up with pattern images floating around in my head.  So clearly some part of my brain is absolutely taken with my new craft.  But that said, I still don't really have any firm notion of what is going to be on my loom next.  I'm thinking a little more stash diving might help the process along.
There's a lot to be said for just jumping and trying things.  There's also a lot to be said for taking advantage of the wisdom collected into books by people with a better understanding of the subject.  For my second project, I took extensive advantage of the information in Liz Gipson's Weaving Made Easy -- a collection of projects all based around the rigid heddle loom and meant to help newbies like me get started and get excited about weaving.

First off, for anyone who is thinking about getting started with a rigid heddle loom, I highly recommend this book.  It is definitely not a bible to all things rigid heddle, but it has just enough information to get you off and running and to help you create a polished project.  And the projects, while simple are actually the sorts of things you would want to make for yourself.  She does a nice job of balancing the kinds of projects.  While there are a number of scarves, there are also pillow covers, a belt, placemats, a couple of bags, an obi, a table runner, felted coasters and even felted slippers.  Each project features a different kind of technique and helps the new weaver get their feet wet with regards to both the weaving process and terminology.  With a couple of exceptions, she also focuses on the kind of yarns that a lot of knitters are likely to have in their stash already, making this a doubly nice book for the knitter who is interested in learning to weave.

Make no mistake, I think the most difficult thing about weaving, for me, so far,  is the technical jargon that comes along with it.  I know the language of knitting and spinning, but weaving comes with a whole new set of terms.  Frankly, I can completely understand why this particualr fiber art may have more appeal to men* -- setting up a weaving project and working with loom equipment starts out feeling very technical, almost like you are embarking on some engineering project.  This book does a great job of de-mystifying the terminology.  It defines weaving terms well, and then uses them without overwhelming you with them so that you feel confident and excited about learning a new language rather than baffled by it all. 

Perhaps the only thing I would have liked to have had more of in this book was more discussion of how varying color in the warp and weft has an effect on patterning.  And, thus, that was I decided I wanted to explore more with my next project.

The project I decided to riff off of in the book was a pattern for a simple hounds' tooth check satchel.  It means warping the loom with two colors and weaving with two colors.  So the first thing on my agenda was to pick those two colors.  I knew that I wanted to work in wool for my next project, that I wanted a scarf I could enjoy and that I wanted two colors with fairly high contrast so that I could see clearly what the pattern I was creating looked like.

To find the yarn, I went stash diving (I'm really making an effort right now not to increase my stash as I learn to weave since I have plenty of "unintentioned" yarn to work with) into my Cascade 220 stash and came out with a skein of "Quattro" that falls into the "orange/pink/red" region of the spectrum and a heathery purple skein.  Ideally, the ends per inch (i.e. the number of warp (or vertical) threads per inch) should be about 1/2 the wpi of the yarn.  However, since I only have one heddle, and it's a 10 dent (epi) heddle, I didn't actually bother to do that calculation.  The reality is that the 8 dent heddle probably would have been more ideal for the Cascade since it's a worsted (some say light worsted) weight yarn, but sometimes a girl's gotta run with what she has.  I was hoping that since Cascade is on the light side of worsted that using the 10 dent heddle wouldn't result in a fabric that was too "boardy"**.

I decided that I wanted my scarf to be about 8" wide and 60" long*** -- and after doing the calculations for how much warp and weft I would need, it was clear that 2 skeins of Cascade 220 would have enough yardage for what I wanted to do as long as I used an equal amount of each color in the weft.

After that, I warped up the loom (while enjoying the afternoon with Julie) and got started.   

20090219_SamplerScarfBegins.jpgOne thing I knew from the get-go was that I was not going to do 5 feet of hound's tooth check.  In addition to using this scarf as a project to focus on making my selvedges even, I wanted to use the scarf as a chance to see what patterns I could get from different numbers of picks (weft threads) of each color in combination.  I started with a header of all purple, followed by 4" of the hound's tooth (2 picks of orange followed by 2 picks of purple, etc.).  After that, I tried out a bunch of different combinations, all of about 4" and each separated by a section of the hound's tooth.

The picture above shows the header and the first bit of hounds's tooth.  Pretty neat, eh? I loved watching those first patterns grow.   It probably shouldn't be any surprised that I had that loom warped by Friday night and pretty much had a finished scarf by Sunday morning.  I've got quite a few detail pictures from my sampling, so I'm going to save the final reveal and pattern discussion for Monday to give myself more time to put together a nice post.

* This is not to say that I know what ratio of male to female weavers there are, just that I can understand why it is easier to find more male weavers than one might find male knitters or spinners.

** Of course, if I'd been paying more attention to the second book I bought (which I will talk about in the future) I would have realized that I could have just used 8 out of each 10 slots in my heddle to achieve the effect of having an 8 dent heddle... but sometimes it's hard to learn too many lessons in one project.

** I'll spare the gorey calculation details, but I ended up with 86 warp ends (42 orange, 44 purple) each at about 92" long.

First Woven Project


After I got the header on my warp, wild elephants crashing through my living room couldn't have stopped me from working on it! 

20090216_RunnerFinished.jpgOriginally I was going to do it with olive warp and maroon weft, but after about 3 inches of the red, I decided that it would be fun to change colors and I alternated between 3 inches of red and one inch of olive.  A little Christmas-y perhaps, but the colors go together better than I would have predicted at  first.  You can see that my edges are kind of wonky.  I really didn't understand what I needed to do to keep my selvedges neat, so I tried all sorts of things and none of them worked really well.  You can also see at the bottom of the project where I didn't get my shed quite right and some of the weft threads ended up above warp threads they should have been under.  It took me a bit to realize that ripping on a loom isn't all that hard, but, after I did, I corrected those kinds of mistakes.

20090216_RunnerPattern.jpgIt's remarkably easy to get nice, even results.   I did not measure to make sure that the fabric was completely balanced (i.e. the same number of warp and weft threads per inch) but just by eye I'd say it looks reasonably close.  The number of optimal ends per inch (e.p.i.) is determined by figuring out wraps per inch (something that most spinners will understand) and dividing by two.  I think I measured something in the neighborhood of 18 wpi for this yarn, so my 10 dent heddle was pretty close to what it should have been to give me a balanced fabric.

I was surprised when I wove with the olive thread to see how much I liked the way it looked against the olive warp.  The tweediness of the yarn really stood out and the subtle color variations showed up.  It might be acrylic yarn, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a nice coloration.

20090216_RunnerFolded.jpgThe whole project wasn't very long -- just over three feet or so (no I didn't measure...).  I began and ended the project with a wide stripe of red.  I haven't taken care of the ends properly yet, but I will probably just group and tie them in an overhand knot, since this item won't be used in any heavy-duty way.

20090216_RunnerInAction.jpgIf John will permit, this will become it's final location.  If not, then I will tuck it away until some other use presents itself.  I think it does a reasonable job of being a masculine table runner -- a much better job than the yarn would have done as socks, I think!

I am, of course, extremely excited about having accomplished my first small project on my loom.  Fortunately for me, the two books I ordered arrived on the day that I finished this project, so I was able to take advantage of their tips and wisdom as I thought about my second project.  It will probably not surprise anyone that my loom was warped again less than 24 hours after finishing this project. 

That project will be the subject of Friday's post -- apologies to anyone who is concerned about the wanton enabling I am engaged in right now.  I'm having so much fun with this thing!  Things come together so quickly.  If I'd knit something of this length it would have taken me several days and been deadly dull.  But this project really came together in a handful of hours -- something that makes the idea of giving hand-made gifts much more approachable.    And like knitting with self striping yarn, I kept finding myself wanting to do "just one more pick" so I could see what the pattern would turn out like.

Getting Warped for the First Time


There might be some that would argue that I was a little warped long before I ever got a loom, but today I'm going to share my first experience warping my Flip.   A wiser person than I might have waited for the nice books she ordered before getting started, but I just couldn't wait to get started, so I cracked open the little paper manual that comes with the Flip and got started.

One of the benefits of having been a newbie knitter when it comes to being a newbie weaver, is that you are bound to have some yarn in your stash that you don't really like, but, for some reason, you haven't bothered to give away or sell.  In my case, it happened to be 4 skeins of sport weight acrylic yarn (actually an acrylic/nylon blend) that I thought would make nice socks for John (because of the color) before I realized that acrylic socks would only result in John having sweaty cold feet.  While the yarn is not so good for socks, it seemed like good starter loom yarn because I figured the tensile strength would be good in a warp (warp yarn spends its time under a fair amount of tension), it was the right weight for my 10 dent heddle, I had enough in one skein to make a reasonably wide warp, and I thought that I would turn my manly colored yarn into a manly colored runner for John's night stand.

Warping, so far as I can tell, is time consuming and requires that you have some higher brain function available (by which I mean focus, not the ability to do integral calculus in your head), but is not hard.  One of the big contrasts between knitting and weaving is that getting started on a project takes a little bit more thinking and a lot more time preparing.  Casting on 300 stitches for a two color sweater in the round takes a lot less effort than getting a loom warped.  I did some basic back of the envelope calculations (assisted by the Flip manual) to know how many warp ends I could get out of one skein of my yarn and figured out where to start warping based on my estimated width.

20090215_Warping1.jpgWarping a loom takes one of two things: a warping board or a warping peg.  Both are the mechanisms by which you measure out a specific length thread to tie onto the loom to be your warp.  The reason to use one or the other seems to be related to both personal preference and how long you want your warp to be.  I suspect that the peg method would not work so well for very long warps.  But given that I do not have a warping board and I didn't really want a very long warp, I followed the instructions with the Flip to use the peg.  This involves mounting the peg the desired distance from your warp beam (the beam in the back of the loom) and then pulling loops of yarn through the slots in the heddle, alternating pulling the loops over and under the warp beam.  This method also saves you from having to tie the warp threads onto the warp beam, so I suspect that it not only saves you time, but also helps keep the tension on the warp more even.

20090215_Warping2.jpgThe next step is to do something that, as a knitter, is pretty scary to me -- you pull the loops off the peg and cut right through them so that they go from being loops to warp threads.  To keep them from getting out of control, you tie the ends using an overhand knot.

20090215_Warping3.jpgAfter that, it's a simple of matter of winding the warp onto the warp beam (the beam in the back) separating each layer of warp threads with paper.  I opted for baking parchment paper because I had it available and it came in a roll -- making it easy to control the flow of paper.    As you roll the warp threads onto the warp beam, you have to stop now and again to pull tightly on the threads to make sure they are tightly wound onto the warp beam. 

20090215_Warping4.jpgYou wind the warp on until you can undo the knot and still have enough yarn to tie the warp ends onto the cloth beam (the beam at the front of the loom).  Then you untie the not and get ready for the main event.

20090215_Warping5.jpgUsing a hook that looks a lot like a latch hook for a rug or a thin crochet hook, you take one of the pair of ends in each slot in the heddle and thread it through the hole in the plastic piece next to it.  You get to do this until all the ends are individually in either on of the slots or one of the holes in the heddle -- this is what is going to make sure that you raise and lower alternate threads for the weaving.

20090215_Warping6.jpgThe final step in the warping process is to tie the warp ends to the cloth beam.  This is easier than you might think, since you do it in groups of about 1" worth (10) of warp ends and then use a simple knot to tie the ends to the beam.  You start in the middle and then alternate back and forth to the right and left sides tying on groups of ends.  The knot used is adjustable so that you can adjust the tension on the warp ends as you go: if the tension isn't adjusted correctly, your final fabric will be wobbly.  After the tension is adjusted the way you want it to be, then you tie the ends in a bow knot (like the bow you use with shoelaces) so that it's easy to untie them after your project is done.

20090215_Warping7.jpgAnd that's pretty much it for warping.  Everything is tied on and you're pretty much good to go -- except for one thing: your warp ends aren't spread out evenly. (You can see how they're bunched into groups in the picture that shows them tied on).  To spread the warp ends out evenly, you need to weave a header.  At the end of the weaving, the header is removed, so it doesn't really matter what yarn you use for it, as long as it isn't too different in size from the yarn you are going to do your main weaving with.  I decided to use some of the yarn I was planning to use for the project since it was convenient.  And I like convenient.  Weaving on the header involves placing a few weft threads ("picks") onto the warp, and then beating them all down together.  I did a few more after that just to get the rhythm of using the heddle. 

20090215_Warping8.jpgAnd there it is, al ready to go, with the heddle in the neutral position.  As you might imagine, I didn't stop there, but I think I'll stop here and talk about the finished product in my next post.   It might take a while to get that warp set up, but getting to the finish line for a weaving project is amazingly quick compared to what it would take to knit a comparable sized length fabric (using appropriately sized needles -- I know that knitting goes fast when you use big yarn and tree trunks). 

Birthday Hobby Acquisition

It is awfully nice to have a spouse who not only "deals" with my hobbies, but also helps me get started with new ones. For the past year or so, I've been thinking more and more about weaving.  I've watched Julie play with her looms, Dr. Steph has been weaving scarves, I've heard Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood of Craftsanity podcast fame and Syne Mitchell of Weavecast talk about what weaving has added to their lives.  I've played with my Weavettes as well as an introduction for myself.  I liked it a lot, but as is usually true with me, while I liked the Weavettes, it was clear that I wasn't going to be able to make anything happen quickly, and there would be lots of seaming involved. 

Today something special arrived.  Can you guess what it might be?

20090205_BDayBox.jpgI know my preface has probably given it away.  It's definitely not a spinning wheel!

20090205_BDayBox2.jpgThat reed should be a dead give away.

Yep, yep yep, it's a 25" Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom with a 10 dent reed. My dear husband got it for my for my birthday with the help of the ever fabulous Toni Neil of the Fold. It comes not quite assembled, so after I took it out of the box I had to do a few things to get it set up.

Here it is, most of the way to being ready to be warped.  Even though it is ready, I am definitely not!  I think there is some reading in my future -- there are detailed instructions in the manual, and I will have to do some thinking about the yarn I want to start with.

Why did I choose this loom?  Well, The first consideration was budget.  Since I've never done much weaving on any scale, I wanted something that wasn't going to break the bank if it didn't quite work out.  The second consideration was getting something that I could learn to use without much assistance.   The only weaving instruction I've seen in Chicago is rather far away from where I live and the schedules don't tend to be that compatible with a full-time job, so I needed a loom that I could learn to set up on my own.  I also figured that a simpler loom would introduce me to the basics, and that after I understood the basics it would be easier to learn more complicated things.  The final consideration was portability and storability.  Space is not unlimited in our house and I thought it might be fun to be able to take my loom with me on the occasional trip. 

From what I could see, this left me pretty much with two options: the Ashford Knitter's Loom and the Schacht Filp.  Why did I pick the the Flip?  Well, the primary reason was flexibility.   There are more reeds available for the Flip, so there are more yarn size options for the warp.  I also really liked the 25" width.  That really makes the loom capable of doing a lot more than funky scarves, and simple scarves are still eminnently do-able.  The Flip also has been built with two heddles in mind -- so if I really take to it, there's growth potential.  The last reason is strictly aesthetics.  The Flip is almost all solid maple except for the nylon ratches that handle the tension control.  So it's not only a functional tool, but an attractive one as well. 

I'm very psyched to get started with my new toy, and very thankful that my husband not only puts up with my hobbies, but supports and encourages them.

If any of you out there have experience with rigid heddle looms and want to recommend your favorite books and sources of weaving information in the comments, I'd be very appreciative.

Thank you so much to everyone who left me good wishes for my birthday.  John and I celebrated with an exceptional dinner at Schwa (Michael Carlson's food is absolutely incredible and there is nothing quite like having the kitchen staff, including the chef serve dinner!) one of my favorite Chicago restaurants and I got to spend the day with my beautiful daughter.  All your bloggy birthday wishes helped to make a good day even better.  Forty doesn't seem like such a scary milestone when you have so many happy thoughts and good things happening in your life!

Woven Squares

6 Woven Squares

So, I'm sitting in my fiber room this weekend, working on a log cabin square, when I get the sudden incredible urge to weave. Suddenly I had dropped everything, dug my Weavette out of hiding, and was "warping" my little 4" x 4" square loom with a bit of hand-dyed (Blue Moon Fiber Arts), hand-spun (my own) merino and silk blend yarn. It turned out to be an interesting exercise in color and texture for me.

The yarn I started with has relatively pronounced regions of striping, and there's a good deal of contrast between the colors. (The colorway is called "Eclipse" and you can see the finished product yarn in this old post). The very first square in the bottom right corner is evenweave (as are the top right and middle left squares). After making that square, I alternated between a square with a "pattern stitch" and an evenweave square -- the idea in my head was a small blanket or pillow that was a sampler that alternated evenweave with patterned squares. Clearly the pattern stitches don't show up all that well in this yarn, but they do create interesting texture. (All the pattern stitches came out of this book).

As I watched the squares evolve, there were moments when it didn't even seem like the squares could be coming from the same small skein of yarn. It was very interesting to me to see how a striped yarn plays out in a different fabric creating process than a knit fabric.

Each of these little squares takes about 7.5 yards of yarn, and after being removed from the loom, they are about 3.5" x 3.5" in size -- which is about 12.25 square inches. I have about 663 yards from this batch of hand spun, which would give me 88 squares (1078 square inches or a blanket roughly 33" on each side) if I were to weave it all up. Or, I could just make enough of them to enclose a standard size pillow form.

This yarn is a challenge for me to know what to do with. On one hand, it's incredibly soft and I have a sentimental attachement to it since it one of my earlier spinning efforts. On the other hand, it is not a yarn that I would consider for a garment (I can in no way,shape or form, wear a garment with so much yellow in it), and it is not particularly even or tighly spun. So I will have to think on it a bit. But in the meantime, I think I need to go make another square....

Rustic Tomato Pincushion

Rustic Tomato Pincushion In Action

A few pins, a bit of fluffy roving and some brown embroidery floss later, my pincushion is a reality. Believe it or not, my knitting experience came in handy with the seaming of the two woven pieces. Originally, I thought I was going to use back stitch to put the pieces toether. Then I remembered that the backside looks different from the front side, and that the back side doesn't look neat enough when it's going to be exposed. So I ended up using something that reminded me of mattress stitch for seams.

Close Up View of Rustic Tomato Pincushion

It's a very rustic -- the woven fabric is rustic, the cross stitching in rustic, the backstitching is rustic, the seaming is rustic. But what could be better than turning my own handspun into something useful? This little pincushion has been the gateway to a lot more than just doing cross-stitch again. It made me realize that when I combine my hand spun with my Weavette I have almost endless possibilities for creating templates for small cross stitch projects. Now that indigo dyed wool/silk skein can become a blue background for a small project. I can spin a finer yarn or single and create a template that is less rustic. For someone who almost never sews fabric, it was pleasant to discover that I could work out a way to solve my problem and get the result I was imagining in my head with the few rudimentary skills I acquired when I was in my early teenage years. And this template can be used for more than just pincushions. I can also imagine a pretty little pillow sachet for a lingerie drawer. Add a ribbon and some cedar stuffing and it could be a decorative means of discouraging moths in a closet.

So there you have it. My entry in Julie's May Pincushion Challenge featuring


Pincushion details:

The foundation is made up of a hand-woven fabric that I created using a 4" x 4" Weavette loom and some of my hand-spun two-ply wool/silk yarn. The tomato was cross-stitched using 6 strands of with DMC embroidery floss and back-stitched with 3 strands of DMC embroidery floss. The inside of the pincushion is lined with a light weight muslin fabric to provide structure and to prevent the stuffing from escaping. It's stuffed with a little bit of lovely and cushiony moorit CVM roving. I seamed the woven pieces and the muslin together usin 2 strands of the same brown DMC floss as I used to backstitch the tomato.

Something New


There's one more thing that I bought at MS&W that I didn't mention in my "what I bought at the festival" post. This was partly because I forgot about it and partly because I wanted to play with it and have some results to show off before I talked about it. If you read Julie's blog, you've already read what she has to say about her Weavette. I bought mine at the very same place (Haltwhistle Fibers) , only I purchased the 4" x 4" Weavette. Weaving is one of those crafts that I've been interested in for some time (and I can remember playing with my potholder loom when I was small, and working on a very simple frame loom when I was about 10), but have shied away from because of the fact that it's not a cheap pursuit to embark upon. I can be fickle with my crafting hobbies and I figured that I needed to find some smaller scale way to try this out to see if it was worth it to me in terms of both money and space to move on to bigger and more expensive things.

Weavette Loom and Accessories

Clearly, the tiny weavette is a good place for someone like me to start. In addition to the loom, I also bought a handy-dandy little book of textures (I do like me some spiral bound craft books! Why can't more people make books like this?) to help me on my way. I thought about the yarn to use it with for a little while, and then settled on some of the 50/50 silk/fine wool blend that I had spun after Christmas, since I thought for the first experiments it would be best to do something where color didn't get in the way of being able to observe the texture.

Woven Squares: Plain Weave (top left), Hourglass (top right) and Mock Seed Stitch (bottom right)

First off, I had a lot of fun doing this. The instructions that come with the Weavette and that are in the book are excellent and easy to follow. It took me no time at all to "warp up" this little loom and get started on my first square of plain weave. Taking it off the pins was a little adventure because I was curious as to how the fabric would change. Clearly, the frame put tension on the fiber, so would it retract a bit like I would expect knitted fabric to do? In this case, it changed very little, though I suspect that some of that has to do with the high silk content (and, thus, reduced elasticity) of the yarn I chose. For a little while, I couldn't put that square down. I was completely surprised that in less tthan 15 minutes I could create this wonderful little square bit of cloth. So I made another, and then another. I think I might like this whole weaving thing!

I think it's appropriate that there should be a convergence of cross-stitch and weaving for me right now. As soon as I started to handle the plain weave square, it occured to me that this was no different than the woven linen fabrics that I've used to cross stitch on. Amazing how it can take actually making something on my own to help me see the painfully obvious. The weave is quite large, though, so I don't know that embroidery floss would be my best bet to cross-stitch with. But what about the silk single that I am spinning up right now? Could be an interesting combination, I'm thinking, if I can find a simple design that will fit in the confines of a relatively small space. I've been wanting to join Julie's pincushion challenge, but given my rudimentary (at best) sewing skills I was at a loss for what to do. Now I am beginning to think I might have the inkling of an idea.

There's also a pretty rich set of patterns out there on the internet for this little toy. My favorite site was eLoomaNation, a site that focuses on doing interesting things with little looms, and which has a whole section filled with vintage patterns and projects for use with the 4" x 4" loom with lots of nice downloadable PDFs.

Can you tell what toys I'm going to be playing with this weekend?


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