Exploring leno #4: leno in sections

For me, personally, the fun of leno – and much of its design potential – is in not doing whole rows, but instead just using it in sections of the warp. Why?

Well, it gives you curves! I like curves.

So here you can see how the weft curves between the central section of plain weave and the leno on either side

By stacking your plain weave and leno sections you get a nice lacy, curvy look…

An example of a pattern made using leno
This is curvier in real life too!

The other use for leno as a design tool is to use the solid and open areas to form shapes. I haven’t tried this yet, but I have seen some fascinating examples and this is a link to one of the loveliest!

It’s been fun exploring leno and I’m determined to use it more for future projects. The next, and final, post in this series will be a short one about creating your twist…

Exploring leno #3: a sampler

So, in the last post I looked at a single row of leno, but what if you follow that directly with another row? And what does 1:2 leno or 2:2 leno look like? What happens if you mix the direction in which you twist?

Below are pics to answer these questions!

Single row of 1:1 leno
Here is that row of 1:1 leno again…
Two rows of 1:1 leno
Remember how leno is created by a normal row, a twist row and a normal row? Here I used the normal row at the top of the first leno, to form the bottom of the second leno. Note how the plain weave row in the middle gets twisted because of the twists in the leno above and below?
Two rows of 1:1 leno separated by plain weave
Here I followed the normal, twist, normal for both the first and second leno.

Already you can see you have choices about how you use leno from a pattern perspective… Let’s look at some more:

Making a 1:2 leno where one warp thread twists around two others
2:2 leno where two threads twist around two more

So far, I’ve been twisting all in one direction with these examples, but you can alternate your twists across a row, or within a row…

Two rows of 1:1 leno with different direction of twist
Doesn’t show up well with a dark yarn (apologies!) so I’ve drawn a few lines to make it clearer! Here the first and second leno twist in opposite directions
1:1 leno where the twist alternates across the row
Here the twist alternates with each pair of warp threads

Exploring leno #2: basic technique

Is it hard to make leno? Not really. You do a normal row of weaving to start the leno, then the twist row in the middle and you finish with a normal row. As long as you have a pick-up stick, your fingers and some wool, it’s pretty straightforward.

Now despite my dislike of whole rows of leno, that’s what we’re about to do! Just because it’s practical when you’re trying it for the first time.

I need an even number of warp threads, because I’m going to twist one thread around another (i.e. each twist uses two threads). Incidentally, this is called 1:1 leno. It’s important that, whichever side you start from, you are raising the edge thread.

After I do a normal row, I’m ready to create my twist. I’ll start with a “closed shed”, i.e. no shafts are raised or lowered here – everything is in neutral. I lift the first pair of warp threads with my pick-up stick, working in front of the heddle:

The first leno step

Then I use my fingers to take the first thread of the pair (thread furthest from the end of the stick), lift it over its friend and drop it off the end of the stick:

Leno steps 2 and 3

You repeat this for every pair of threads, all the way across:

Continuing to work leno across the warp

Then you turn the pick-up stick on its edge to make a shed and pass your shuttle through:

Using the pick up stick to create a shed

Use the edge of the pick-up stick to beat the weft, and then remove it:

Half of the leno

This is half of your leno! To finish, bring your heddle forward to push the twists n the warp threads toward your fell line and then weave a normal row with the heddle up, beating firmly:

The completed leno

Ta dah! That is how you make a row of 1:1 leno. If you want to follow this directly with a second row of leno; you make another twist row and finish with another normal row. How easy is that?

The one tricky thing with leno is the draw-in. The twist row will draw in more than the row above and below it. Sometimes this is used as a design feature of leno, but to avoid it means practicing having the right amount of weft in the shed. For that reason, sampling is a very good idea.

If you decide to use anything other than wool (natural or acrylic) for leno, sampling is also definitely your friend, because smoother fibres will generally give you taller “windows” in your leno than grippy ones like wool.

A final note: If you found twisting your threads a bit awkward, you might want to try another approach to it (to follow in another post) or you can try starting from the other side of the web. Generally, you’ll use your non-dominant hand for holding the stick, but it might work better for you the other way around!

Exploring leno #1

It’s a long time since I tried any “finger manipulated” weaving, but I decided the first warp on the baby loom would be some leno!

So, what is leno? Well, it’s where you create a twist in your warp threads and open the web up. Here is a very bad photo (!) of the principle, showing the twisting of pairs of warp threads:

section of leno in my twill scarf
Very first time I tried leno…

The thing to remember about leno is that you always get two rows of “windows” – one below the row of weft that runs through the twist and one above it:

A small section of leno showing its basic structure
The “basic unit” of leno has two windows…

You can twist individual warp threads (shown in the purple) or groups of them (like in my first attempt), up to whatever number your tension will allow you to twist. And you don’t have to have the same number on each side of the twist either, i.e. you could twist two threads around one thread.

I’ll talk through the technique in other posts, but for me the starting point with leno was looking at how to use the openness it creates. Usually, leno gets used across a whole row, but I find that kind of ugly. The fun, I think, is what happens when you see it used in sections:

An example of a pattern made using leno
This is what I did on baby loom…

Here I alternated areas of leno and plain weave across the width of the warp, and changed where the leno areas were, to make a pattern. Now, I repeated that pattern all the way up the web, but you could free-form if you wanted to. That’s the nice thing about finger manipulated weaves; you aren’t locked into a threading!

Using leno in sections like this, also allows you to create soft shapes rather than a rigid, horizontal line and I like that a lot. Stay tuned for more leno posts and attempts!

Looms! A family of two

So, here are my looms hanging out in the craft room. Also, you can see my dappled fuchsia walls in the background. I don’t believe I’ve blogged a pic of them yet…

Two different sized Ashford's Knitters' Looms sitting on a table with windows behind

I have now dressed the little loom and am enjoying myself doing some leno; a project that’s long been sitting in the wings.

The only difference – and slightly strange thing – with the little loom, is that it only has a single heddle kit. I’ve had the double heddle kit on the big loom so long I’d forgotten how different they are!

A visit from the loom stork…

It’s finally happened. The loom stork has visited and I haz a new loom!!

Not just a new loom, but a baby loom (half the size of my first loom). It’s unbelievably adorable, like a puppy or a baby lizard. Though I didn’t get it because it’s cute… I got it because it’s practical. My other loom is very portable, but large enough to be awkward in many situations. This little guy is super-duper portable.

Also, my projects often don’t utilise the width of my bigger loom. So, the baby will mean I can do my ordinary scarfs there, while leaving the bigger loom free for double weave and other fun stuff! Well, that’s the theory.

Who is the baby? Well, he’s another rigid heddle loom that folds up into a neat carry bag; known as the Ashford’s Knitters’ Loom. He’s just smaller (30cm/12″) than my other one (70cm/28″).

As someone once said to me, looms are herd animals. My herd has begun to grow! (Baby loom photos will follow…)