A loom a-visiting

I am getting a housemate! And… she’s a weaver! In fact, that’s my fault, but we won’t get into the history of her yarn addiction.

So yes, there will be another – though temporary – member of the loom family. Another rigid heddle! In fact, I’m hoping my guys don’t get upset that this loom is fahnsy with its own stand.

There is also a small risk they’ll unionise and we’ll end up with formal representations about neglect and other working conditions. I think both of us humans have been guilty of loom neglect (yes the purple weft-float scarf is on the loom still). There may be dust complaints…

Of course the big question is whether more weaving will occur, because we can weave-inspire each other. Or, and this is possible, we’ll be too busy distracting each other! Could go either way really.

I am definitely looking forward to having an extra pair of hands for warping! I should write that into the rental agreement…

Weaving at home, with materials you already have!

Whether you’re looking to occupy kids, fill newly acquired spare time, or just get in touch with your creative side, weaving is an easy thing to do. Importantly, most people can do it without buying anything!

So here are some ideas to suit what you have on hand (the internet can provide further instructions where you need them):

“I have paper, scissors and glue…” – Take your paper, fold it into equal sections and then cut along the folds to make strips. You can then weave these over-and-under each other and glue the ends to hold it in place. Make paper place mats, a table runner or a bit of minimalist art for the wall.

“I have a small box / shoe box and wool…” – Wind the wool yarn around the box trying to keep the strands an equal distance apart . Pick a side of the box to create your weaving on, then use more yarn to weave over-and-under the first threads (easier with a needle, but you can use your fingers!). Slide off the box when you’re finished. Make a bit of wall art, a mat, or a little bag.

“I have an old picture frame and some wool…” – Wind the wool around the picture frame and weave, either one set of threads like in the box example, or weave the front and back strands of wool together to make a piece of art.

“I have some cardboard, craft knife, different coloured yarn/thread…” – Cut a rectangle of cardboard that you can hold comfortably, wind the yarn/thread around it. Cut your yarn into different lengths and weave it (fingers or a needle) over-and-under the first threads, in sections to make areas or lines of different colours, pushing the yarn/threads close together. This little tapestry can then hang on the wall, or be propped on a shelf.

“I have a matchbox / shoebox, thread, some small beads, a needle and something to make cuts with…” – Take the base of the box, cut little slits around the top edges to hold the yarn. Cut strands of equal lengths (you can go longer than the matchbox) and lay them across the base, using the slits to hold them. Weave over-and-under with the needle, adding a bead here and there. With a matchbox: Once you’ve woven the part on your tiny loom, carefully take it off, put a new section in the slits and keep weaving! Good for bracelets, teddy bear collars and other small decorations.

“I have some dense foam, nails and yarn/string…” – Make a pin loom using the nails as the pins and inserting them firmly into the foam. Then you wrap the yarn in a zig-zag between the nails. You can then weave over-and-under using your fingers or a crochet hook. Again you can make a little art piece, a bag, or make lots of squares and sew them together.

“I have a sturdy shoebox, craft knife, ruler and some yarn…” – This is all you need to make rigid heddle loom! Use the base of the shoebox as the frame and create slots and holes in the top of the shoebox, cutting it down in size to fit inside the bottom half. You can use the left over card to make small back and front bars if you want to get fancy! A bit more of a project, but a lot of fun. You can use it to make cloth for little bags, mats or pieces to be sewn together into a larger piece.

“I have a stiff cardboard, a craft knife, a hole punch and some yarn…” – This one is a bit more full-on, but with these materials make yourself cards for card/tablet weaving, and a cardboard shuttle. You can create a warp using your body and a doorknob back-strap weaving style, or make a frame out of a box. It come with a learning curve, but this makes beautiful bands.

“I have a picture frame / some wood for a frame / large piece of solid board, nails, a hammer and two colours of yarn…” – This is what you need to make a pom-pom blanket! It’s not what you’d traditionally call weaving, but includes a frame and the enclosure of threads so I think it fits! Worth watching a video on how to do this, but essentially you make a big version of a pin loom, and use one colour as a base and the other colour gets wound on, tied down and cut to make the pom-poms. Makes a fluffy fun blanket!

Happy weaving!

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…)

String heddle options

Something I did on my recent pattern that needed string heddles, was to try a different way of doing making the heddles. Didn’t like it as much as my usual way! I’m sure it could be refined though, so here is a comparison of the two methods…

A: As outlined in my older string heddle post, this involves using a continuous length of yarn/thread and pulling up loops with a hook, or finger tips. The dowel/shuttle/knitting needle – whatever you use as a backbone – is inserted through the loops. Finally, stick down with tape.diagram of method APros – I find this fast to set up, easy to adjust so all the loops are the same height (giving you even lift of warp threads) and your string heddles cannot come undone.

Cons – If you make a mistake you often have to undo all the heddles to that point to fix it and you have to start from scratch for each project.

B: You take a rigid heddle (or put two nails in a bit of wood a “heddle distance” apart) and you wrap your yarn/thread around to measure a loop, then tie the ends together to close the circle. Each loop you make is one heddle. You then squash the loop and put a twist in the middle. Feed one end under the warp thread you need to add to that shaft and slip both ends of the loop over your dowel/shuttle/knitting needle. Finally, stick down with tape.Diagram of method BPros – You can reuse the loops in future and the loops are easy to redo/adjust if you pick up the wrong warp thread.

Cons – I found the loop lengths varied making the lift a bit uneven, the knots occasionally came undone (I also broke one, but that might have been my thread choice) and they pulled sideways more, causing my tape to lift in places. Now that last point doesn’t matter too much, except it seemed to contribute to the knots coming undone.

In my very non-scientific single attempt with B heddles, I also thought it caused more abrasion of the warp threads…so overall, not a success for me. But, I did see a weaver online somewhere using this technique – cannot remember where – so others go okay with it!

Might need to try both methods side by side in a half and half to really test which works best…

Deploy the string heddles!

A have a whole lot of weaving drafts that have the words “wacky threading” in the title. Because that’s how I warn myself that however pretty the pattern is, getting it on the loom will require mental gymnastics and, probably, string heddles.

Case in point: my most recent project. I’ve mentioned it a few posts back, but I thought it was worth a more detailed look at how I do these kind of patterns – ones with varying sized bunches of threads on one shaft – on a rigid heddle loom. Because that’s the thing… on a bigger loom the threading wouldn’t be wacky at all. It’s the “rigid” part of rigid heddle that creates the challenge.

In this pattern I had a warp that essentially had sections of plain weave, basket weave and… whatever you call groups of triple warp ends…on one shaft. Ditto the second shaft.

Option 1 is to use a reed meant for double the yarn size, so the basket weave (two warp ends together) keeps its normal spacing. Means you get a bit of an airy weave in the plain weave (single warp end) areas and crowding in the triple warp end areas, but that might settle out of the cloth when you full it, depending on your yarn. It usually means that your floating selvedge – generally a must with patterns – will be on a wider spacing than is ideal, too.

diagram of option one
blurry diagram of option 1

Option 2 is to ditch the reed and use string heddles and/or a pick up stick. This removes all spacing issues. Though it introduces a bit of a beating issue and your threads may twist/cross as you work. The first of these can be solved by having a reed – using only slots – though this can lead to lines where the heddle creates gaps between warp threads.

diagram of option two
blurry diagram of option 2

I went with option 2 because I was planning on working with wool and so didn’t think the open/crowded spacing would wash out. And I did leave my reed in place for beating.

The trick is to do a few other things to get around the problems a slot-only, string heddle solution introduces…

      • run two rows of plain weave, using scrap yarn and a needle, just in front of the back beam, to keep your threads from twisting (as you wind forward, wriggle these to the back so they don’t squish your shed)
      • whether you use one string heddle or two, use pick up sticks to make your shed every time (i.e. just use the string heddle to insert the stick), as this gives you a bigger, cleaner shed and is easier on your body!
      • whenever you insert a pick up stick, insert a strip of card into the shed at the fell line to check you haven’t missed any threads (if you have, check you haven’t broken a string heddle)
      • use your reed to beat, but have a needle handy to reposition any warp threads that are developing a gap

And, of course, if you’re using one string heddle and one pick up stick, then remember the string heddle needs to sit between the reed and the stick or you won’t be able to push the stick to the back beam and lift your string heddle.

With floating selvedges, remember not to include them in your string heddle/s!

Loomy-goodness

As you may know, I didn’t do much weaving in 2018. It was a low project year. But 2019 is looking not too shabby as we head to the mid-point, with three completed projects and one on the loom… so much fun!

What started out as a plain weave scarf, ended up – due to plain weave fatigue – as an experiment in using up some thrums doing… well… it basically tapestry. Can’t wait to see how it fulls.

Cloth woven by laying in rows of different yarns to make shapes and textures
In a good/bad result – this didn’t use up as much of my thrum stash as I expected!

Then I decided that I should do something with my vari-dent reed… poor thing has been unloved since I bought it. Of course I didn’t use it for different gauge yarn – why would I use something for it’s intended purpose?! – instead I used it to play with spacing. Very pleased with the result!

Yarn threaded into a reed containing mixed heddle sizes
You can see the sections of 30/10 and 20/10 reed – I used the larger size to double up my 8 ply
A section of cloth with different warp spacings from using the vari-dent reed
A quick (and lumpy) photo of the finished cloth

For the first time in 3 years or so, I did twill. Just a 3 shaft, straight treadling, but it was useful to find all the things I’ve forgotten about twill! Pic might come later… accidentally deleted the pic of it on the loom… ahem.

What’s on the loom right now is an optical illusion 2 shaft pattern… soooooo enjoying this. And it meant I got to do string heddles and have all manner of fun with calculations… but, honestly, I’m in it for the way it messes with my eyes!

Cloth on the loom showing a black and white pattern that looks like the cloth undulates
Isn’t this pattern a doozy?

The weaving itch

It’s been a while since my rigid heddle loom has been dressed and I gotta say there’s an itch growing.

Unfortunately I’ve been a laggard about painting my walls, so the craft room is still drop-sheet land. I do have my test patch done though and I think it’s going to look a-maze-ing!

When the woman at the paint shop popped the lid for the mandatory inspection, the two other customers at the counter made various exclamations about the… um… intensity of the colour. One bloke commented that you wouldn’t want to wake up to it with a hangover! Good thing I don’t sleep in the craft room, ey?

I like my walls to have visual interest.

As evidenced by the metallic, coffee paint I used in my guest bedroom. No one quite got it until they saw the end result. I’m thinking that’ll be the case for this room too, because everyone seems terrified of the fuchsia.

Anyways, I’ll be weaving again before xmas… hopefully.

Putting the loom away seems weirdly wrong

You might have guessed that I haven’t been weaving much recently. Thus the lovely sound of “crickets” on the bloggy. But just because I’m not weaving, doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about weaving, or looking at the loom and going “you’re naked – you need dressing”.

Today, however, I had to pack the loom and all the bits into it’s nifty carry bag and it felt wrong. Like I was saying out-loud “no weaving to see here, move along”.

Of course no weaving can happen in my craft room while it undergoes a bit of renovation – that’s why the loom is in a bag for a few weeks.

What are the odds that I will end up dressing it and weaving in the loungeroom again? Just to prove the point that I don’t agree with this enforced non-weaving period. Yep, that’s quite likely.

Having fun with the loom

I’ve had a bit over a week off work and there was a list of errands and chores as long as my arm to keep me busy. But then came the weather. I’m no one’s friend when it’s either humid or over 33C so, as I said in my scarf in a day post, I was hiding and weaving.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d weave quite this much!

Finished scarf on the table
The first hot day weaving project…
A black scarf with a stripe of varying shades of pink and mauve
Having some leftover of the variegated so I decided to use it for a stripe, so here is the second hot day scarf…

I did a yarn audit in the middle of the week, so I have an excuse to buy more yarn… okay, technically it was to refresh my memory of what’s there, but the shopping part of my brain had an eye on whether the yarn store had space to grow (it does… squeeeeeeeee!). The other result of the audit was finding balls of colours that I don’t normally use.

Lemon and white scarf
A pale lemon scarf with white stripes was the result!

I did a subtle pattern of stripes on the lemon scarf and it has turned out beautifully. It also got me thinking about patterns. I haven’t done one for a while…

Black and brown warp on the loom
I love colour-and-weave patterns and I think this two-tone chestnut will look great with the black

So I’ve warped a colour pattern and, for something different, I threaded before winding on the warp (that’s the back beam in the foreground there).

The pattern will slow the weaving down some – not as much as being back at work though!