I think my favorite part of this particular endeavor of mine was that there are so many different parts that might inspire others. With both the article and the project, it could be avocado dye, spinning different types of fibers, resist dyeing, ikat-inspired projects, or just the finished project itself that sparks someones artistic journey. I feel like it is such a lovely way to share an idea, or family of ideas, that a person can really make their own. Some projects do not always lend themselves to this kind of creative flexibility. Goodness, this journey has inspired my own creative bug in a million different directions.
I hope you are able to access the article/project and enjoy all the pages have to offer. I am proud of this work. It pushed me as a fiber artist to really learn more of the many layers that go into a finished project and really more of myself as I deepened my relationship with fiber craft.
Feeling quite proud of myself, I was creating a lovely Huck lace Brooks bouquet combo inspired by curtains. Once I got the hang of the yarn and stopped kicking myself for picking something so persnickety when I had absolutely no time for mess ups, things sailed fairly smoothly. Sneaking in between Christmas festivities, cookies and waiting until the baby was sleeping, progress was being made! A true Christmas miracle! But then...disaster struck!!! Somehow I had mis-measured my warp. That has NEVER happened to me before. I usually do the math, measure, remeasure, do the math again. Of course this was the project, though. My warp was about ten inches too short! It messed up the whole symmetry of the wrap I was trying to create. There was no going back, either, and trying to adjust the symmetry. That is difficult to do with cooperative thread, but it is near impossible with sticky thread. I cried. Not gonna lie. I was hanging by a proverbial thread.
After I was done crying, I tried to figure out what to do next. Change the pattern, right? That was the only logical thing. So, instead of making a large wrap, I'd made a small poncho that did not require the same symmetry. Presto change-o, the project was saved! Granted, it wasn't what I really wanted, but like I said, the end result was still quite pleasing.
If you are interested in making your own version of this woven lace poncho, or perhaps creating the intended wrap version of this project, the pattern is available in the most recent issue of Handwoven; the 40th Anniversary September/October 2019 issue.
The scarf itself was a combination of plain weave clasped weft and overshot. The clasped weft was between the dark green and dark brown cotton colors, as you can see in both the picture of the warp threads and the weaving. I did not want such a stark straight line of color down the side of the scarf, so I tried keeping the blend of clasped weft organic, never passing more than an inch on either side of the color change in the warp, but allowing the clasped weft to fall in different places as the scarf progressed. Perhaps a straight color line would have been better? I like the back and forth play, but I can see peoples' tastes leaning for a cleaner line, too.
The overshot was throughout the solid green portion of the scarf, creating subtle diamonds in the scarf body. The scarf was finished with a twisted fringe (which looked AMAZING with the American Maid cotton).
If you are interested in the pattern for this scarf, is is available in the Loom Theory scarf collection for rigid heddle looms linked earlier in this post. The ebook clocks in at $12.99, which is not bad considering the number of quality patterns it contains. There are a total of seven different scarf patterns. And even if this scarf does not strike your fancy, if you enjoy rigid heddle weaving, you should check out this book. Every scarf in the collection is designed with a specific, curated yarn by a different artist and the end result is a beautiful and diverse collection of both aesthetics and skills. I think there actually might be something in there for every type of rigid heddle weaver. I'm going to try my hand at Tammy Bast's "Rambling Rosepath." I had no idea you could do that on a rigid heddle loom!
This project was woven on an Ashford, 32" rigid heddle using two 12.5-dent reeds to create a fine gauge cloth. I used the wonderful Vale yarn from Brooklyn Tweed...I love Brooklyn Tweed. Vale is their lace weight yarn.
The wrap itself features a lovely Spanish lace, which adds the slightest texture to either end. You have to be dedicated to hand-manipulated techniques to tackle Spanish lace in lace weight yarn. It takes a long time. Also, while I absolutely love Brooklyn Tweed, they create yarns with the knitter in mind, not the weaver. Vale is lovely, but it is sticky and stretchy. Sticky and stretchy are not your friends when you are weaving. Particularly when you are weaving persnickety little lace waves with over 400 ends to contend with. Perhaps a different yarn choice would have been wise, but, as I've mentioned, I just love Brooklyn Tweed. In fact, I think the yarn of this piece deserves its own photo. Here it is.
Such nice yarn. How could I say no? I couldn't.
I was nine months pregnant when I started this project and my baby was born the day the project and pattern were due. Ha! But I saw that one coming, so I got it done a little early. You can see my rather sizable belly intruding on the loom in one of the photos below. However, even with my let's-get-ahead-of-this-baby-being-born planning, it was a definite crunch to get finished. Not only was there the delicate lacework, but I also did a twisted fringe. I really like the look of a twisted fringe, I think it keeps the wrap looking very clean and neat, even after a few uses. I guess it has a more formal looking finish to me that is not inherently fragile. The down side to a twisted fringe is that it, too, takes a while to complete. And I did little bundles. Why did I do little bundles? I thought I was going to lose my mind by the end of it.
At the end of the day, though, I was really very pleased with how this project turned out. And while it was not the first project to hit the presses, it was the first project I had submitted that was accepted to a major publication. It will always have a special place in my heart because of that. I still feel like a sloppy amateur trying to keep up with great fiber artists, but this project got me one step closer to believing that one day I will be able to count myself among the inspiring in the fiber world. I really hope people like the wrap and that perhaps someone out there is crazy enough to create their own version of my vision. That would be the greatest honor of all.
And just for fun, I thought I would share with you some of the work that went in to the pattern that found its way into Spin Off. This project started with fluff. I spun three different yarns to create, what I hoped to be a tweedy look for the cowl. It was fun, I used three different preps of fiber, as well. There was a beautiful art batt with a mix of fiber from Purple Lamb, there was combed top, and there was roving. The color palette was warm, with a lot of orange. To give it a little punch, I used some blue.
This project was designed for a rigid heddle. It is a plain weave, so it is very friendly for even the most novice weaver. I like using rigid heddle looms with my handspun yarn, it is much more forgiving. There is less tension and the the plastic reed is less abrasive.
I used my Ashford, 32" loom, but I certainly did not need so much room. To be honest, I just really like that loom. I find the reed size is really nice, it gives me a really even beat. My 15" loom is more practical in size for a lot of my projects, but for some reason, with that loom, I always have one hand that wants to pull the reed more than the other one. Using two hands to pull my reed always feels a little more natural to me, but I have to switch to a one hand pull when I use my smaller loom to remedy my own fault of unevenness.
I really liked the look and feel of then final cloth. It was fun to create the cowl, which has its own secret pocket to stash cash when traveling. I hope, if you have a chance, you can take a look at the project in Spin Off. Maybe even create your own Traveler's Cowl. I would love to hear your thoughts or see your own projects!
I am currently 38 weeks pregnant and feeling...well, 38 weeks pregnant. I am really excited I got these receiving blankets finished, though! They were my own design- and by "design" I mean the were more or less an experiment in waffle weave on my rigid heddle loom. I used a 60/40 cotton/hemp blend in 8/2. Turns out 8/2 is pretty darn fine, so I held it double and used my 12-dent reed on my 32" Ashford for 24 epi (sort of) but warped as a 12 epi project. This was all good and well except I had to measure out 400 ends for this warp! I don't know about you, but I usually do not think of rigid heddle projects as having 400 warp ends. Obviously they can and do.
I also held the weft double to keep everything matchy matchy. This created 12 picks per inch as I wove. I'm glad I held the weft double, I really like the way the burp cloths feel, they washed very well with a lot of texture and are very soft. Hemp is supposed to get even softer with use, so I think these are going to be really baby friendly. I cloth diaper, as well, and know a lot of the cloth diaper inserts also use hemp for its long, comfy ware and its natural antibacterial properties. But enough about hemp, let's talk about the patterns that emerged.
I had sampled on my 15" Cricket before I started these blankets. Even though I did not have a strict pattern in mind, 400 ends are a lot of ends that I did not want to waste. I discovered there was about a 15-20% shrinkage in all finished fabrics of both my single waffle weave and my double waffle weave. This was to be expected, though, with take-up and the fiber choice. I wove a two-inch header that was hemmed under when the towels were finished.
My first blanket incorporated a 2x2 waffle weave framing a 1x2 waffle weave to create a square within a square. (When I say "2x2" I mean I used my pick up stick to pick up every other 2 warp threads in the down shaft position and then two repeats of the waffle weave sequence. For a 1x2, I picked up every other warp thread in the down shed and did two repeats of the waffle weave sequence.) The 1x2 waffle weave really stands out more than I expected with this monochromatic palette. This is the blanket shown on the far left. Then, I tried a larger waffle and did a 3x3. I really like how it puffed and crinkled for a ton of texture when it was washed, but I feel as though the warp and weft floats are just shy of being too long. I think the more the cloth is washed, the less this will be an issue, but it wasn't my favorite result for something where baby fingers could get snagged. Bottom line, I liked the look but maybe the 3x3 wasn't practical for this particular purpose. (With a little color play, it could make a really nice spa cloth or pillow.) The last burp cloth was a combination of plain weave and a 1x1 waffle. I really liked how this turned out, too. The only hiccup with this pattern is that there is significantly more draw-in with the waffle weave than the plain weave, which is to be expected. But this leads to some undulation along the side of the cloth that looks a little less clean than I typically like. However, if you keep the stripes small (mine were four inches), the flux along the side is minimized and I do not think it detracted too much from the finished product.
Summary: This was a really fun exploration in waffle weave and I love the resulting cloth it made. To think, with one pick-up stick you can make such varied textures! It also is not a time-consuming technique but makes a cloth that looks a lot more complicated than what people expect from a rigid heddle. My biggest tips for creating a waffle weave is to make sure to consider the different draw-in a waffle weave can create and also to be mindful of how long a float can get, since waffle weave is nothing more than combining warp and weft floats in a pretty pattern. Also, speaking of floats, keep in mind that a weft float on the front is a warp float on the back of your cloth. Don't forget to consider the back, which can be full of surprises when you pull your project from the loom!
The blanket was woven using weft floats (which look like warp floats on the reverse of the fabric). Weft floats are when your weft thread passes over top of more than one of the warp threads at one time. As a general rule regarding floats, if you are creating something that is worn or handled a lot (like a towel or blanket) it is a good idea to keep your floats to something like an inch in size or smaller. Larger floats can get caught on things and can quickly become an annoyance if a fabric is handled frequently. I created a fabric with two stacked weft floats combined in an offset, all over pattern. I really like the affect it had on the fabric, these little oval shapes were created from the draw-in that I found to be very pleasing. The weft floats themselves were created using two pick-up sticks in the back of the loom to create faux shafts on the rigid heddle. (I actually used one pick-up stick and loops on a stick to create a string heddle as my second set of pick-ups. This was just so I did not have to keep removing a stick when weaving. It is a cool trick that I will do a tutorial on soon.)
It is a little hard to see, but there are subtle, thick, vertical striped in the blanket created by alternating between the ivory and maize colors in the warp. I used only the maize color for the weft. You can see these colors in the fringe of the blanket. It was purposeful that it would only be a subtle striping in the blanket itself, as the colors themselves were very close in hue. The photographs below show the blanket before it was finished with washing and a close up of the final texture after finishing.
This is a stroller blanket, measuring 25x40" (with the fringe). It was woven in acrylic, so there was really no shrinkage after washing, though there was a 10% draw-in from the weaving. I have two, well, maybe three comments about the yarn choice. First, as mentioned above, I raided my mom's yarn stash and was grateful for whatever yarn she was willing to part with. I feel I got lucky, these colors turned out great together and I am very pleased with the look and feel of the blanket. That leads me to the second comment about the yarn. I do not generally use acrylic yarn for my projects. However, for baby blankets I know will get a lot of use and abuse, acrylic is a great choice. It washes and dries well, it is easy to clean, and it is very strong. I do not like the feel of some acrylic yarns, they are sometimes stiff and almost plastic feeling, but these two yarns my mom had were very soft. Very soft. And it was great, after I washed and dried this blanket...they were even softer. That leads me to my last comment about the yarn. Acrylic yarns do not "bloom" when you finish them, but these yarns did feel even softer after I washed them. The blanket also seemed to fill in a little, mostly because the yarn was allowed to relax and re-distribute itself after I took it off the loom and put it through the wash. (And I literally threw it in the wash with a bunch of other clothes and dried it on medium heat in the dryer. Like I said, I show acrylic yarns no mercy.)
I love it when something looks a little more complicated than it actually is. I had some leftover yarn from a Christmas gift I had knit and I really liked the yarn too much to leave it in my bin of discards. (Who doesn't love Malabrigo, really? Can't leave that laying around.) Even though I have been warned against weaving with single-ply for warp, I decided I'd risk it and try out a houndstooth cowl idea I had bouncing around my brain. Rigid heddles are more forgiving of single-ply and handspun yarns than their shaft counterparts (though it's not impossible to use either on a shaft-loom...if it were, there would have been centuries of naked people in history). Rigid heddle looms put yarn under less tension and often, because of the plastic heddle, are a little less abrasive to the fiber.
I warped my 15" Cricket using the full width of the heddle. I warped a 2x2 color scheme, meaning I had two teal feather warp threads then two natural warp threads all the way down the heddle. Then, with the same two colors for the weft, I had a 2x2 scheme weaving, as well. Two picks teal than two picks natural. Because there was a color change ever two picks, it was not practical to cut the thread each time, so I carried the colors. (Sometimes, if you have more than a few picks, a carry can look messy or cause a loop that can get caught on things. I found that with the 2 picks, the float carried up the side for each color change was minimal.) Tip: Choose one color on your bobbin or shuttle stick to place "in front." For me, my natural color was always the shuttle closest to my fell line. When it was not in use, I rested it either in my lap or on my woven fabric. When I was done with the teal shuttle stick I always placed it behind the natural shuttle stick before picking up and weaving with the natural color. This created a consistent look with my floats along the side of my woven fabric because the carries always overlapped each other in the same way.
I am an advocate of hemstitching fabric. Even if I plan on doing a folded hem or seam later, a hemstitch at the beginning and end of your fabric really helps hold things together when you take it off the loom. For this cowl, I ended up sewing a zigzag stitch along the hemstitch and then completely removing any fringe before folding the ends under and sewing a hem with my sewing machine. Then, with both ends neatly hemmed, I used a tapestry needle and some extra Malabrigo to seam the two hemmed ends together mattress stitch style.
I am pleased with the results. I think it was a great use of extra yarn and I had no problems with the single-ply warp.
I am on a mission to learn more about the mechanics of weaving. I really want to understand how weaving works as I am making a project. With this mission in mind, I am really enjoying Patty Graver's book, Next Steps in Weaving, which I reviewed in a post here. The first section in this book is on twill, so I thought: "Hey, that's a good place to start." I decided I wanted to sample some twill. There is no rule I know about that says you cannot make a functional sampler, so while each sample was rather large, I decided to sample different manipulations of the warp/weft relationship to make kitchen towels. I grabbed a piece of paper and Deborah Chandler's book, Learning to Weave. With her equations, I worked out how much warp I needed to make four reasonably sized kitchen towels. Without diving into the math, which perhaps would make a lovely post at a later time, I worked out that I needed five yards of warp and 288 ends to make four 20"x30" kitchen towels. I adjusted the 288 to accommodate the rosepath twill I wanted to play with, so my final end count was 285 ends. This was roughly 1,425 yards for the warp, which required about 8 balls of Knit Picks Dishie. (While typically a knitting yarn, this cotton yarn seemed perfect for a kitchen towel AND I happened to have a lot of it on hand.)
I tried four different combinations with the rosepath warp. The first towel, the green one, was the traditional rosepath. I think it looks lovely. Twill is a common weaving technique in which you have a staggered overlap of weft over warp threads. In the case of a 4-shaft loom, a balanced twill would have 2/2 twill, or rather two weft threads crossing (or floating) over two warp threads. With the way my loom was warped, I was also able to do the extended pointed twill (or a zigzag) in a balanced 2/2 twill. That is the pink towel. It is actually my favorite. Both of these towels feel really thick there is really a nice balance to the pattern. No float is too long and there is a nice diagonal flow to the twill. I used almost the entire ball of Knit Picks for each of these towels, meaning each towel took a little less than 190 yards of weft thread. This yardage includes a hemstitch. In the photographs below, you can see each of these towels, front and back. And interesting feature of the twill is that if the pattern is more weft facing on the front, it will be warp facing on the back. This means if you are using different colors for the warp and weft, the back will be the inverse color pattern of the front. This was more noticeable in the rosepath twill than the extended point twill. (The front of the towel is in the top of the photograph, the back is on the bottom.)
After these two balanced twills, I decided to go crazy and do an unbalanced twill. I did a 1/3 twill where 1 weft covered three warp threads at a time. This is the brown towel. The result was charming. It is a more symmetric version of the rosepath twill in green. While the green towel had two different diamonds that emerged, the unbalanced twill had only one diamond. This towel does not feel quite as nice as the balanced twill, the threads feel a little looser, but it does not impede the usefulness of the towel. It still feels nice and thick, just maybe a little less durable. The warp/weft inversion is much more noticeable on this towel than the previous two. The front of the towel is weft facing, the back warp facing- the difference is striking.
My last towel was the reddish one. It is awful. It is almost a broken twill, but not quite. A broken twill would be if I switched the zigzag every two weft picks. I, however, decided to completely eliminate the overlap of the wefts, which left a very loose, rather ugly cloth. I would have been better to try the broken twill on this one. Also, while all of my other towels allowed one ball of Dishie to give me a towel approximately 28" in length, I used significantly less weft thread on this towel and ended up with a goofy long towel. There was very little vertical draw in for this towel. To keep this towel functional, I did not make a fringe but rather hemmed the edges rather drastically. I must say, though, this is a towel I might hide away or keep for particularly messy kitchen adventures. The pattern itself is not terrible, but the feel of the cloth is very thin. It just feels a little off. The back and the front of the towel are indiscernible, but I think it is because it is really not, by definition, a twill and does not have the same warp/weft relationship.
I am very happy with this adventure. I learned a lot about twill in this project and am definitely going to explore it more. I also learned a lot of general odds and ends about my looms functionality. Like I skipped a dent in my reed when sleying and had this lovely gap running up my weaving for all of my projects. I was using a rather thick thread (probably the upper limit) for my 12-dent reed, so it was noticeable. However, the gap has all but disappeared in the first washing of the towels. With some use and a few more washings, it will be gone completely. I also learned that I need to pay attention to my pattern. Skipping a pick is easy to do and very noticeable in the finished projects. If you catch it in time, definitely unweave and fix it. I did not notice my mistake until I took my towels off the loom, so it will have to stay. (Check it out up close in the photograph below.) I also learned I might need to leave a little more space between my towels if a plan on doing a knotted fringe, even if it's short. All's well that ends well, though, and I am very pleased with my towels.
I have seen many SAORI projects, and while many of them are not to my particular taste, there are quite a few that really catch my eye as something special. I mean, there is something truly wonderful in a 100% unique fabric. No two SAORI-styled weaves can ever look the same. I tend to be a rule follower. I like things organized. I like directions. I like to kind of know how something will turn out before I start. It seemed like maybe it was time I turned my habits on their head and tried something WAY outside my comfort zone. You know, let my spirit free. I decided I would use three ArtYarn skeins I had from a Yarnbox Luxe in addition to a special yarn (that clearly was not as "nice" as the ArtYarns but equally special to me) that I had picked up with my mom while on vacation. The "add-on" yarn had these fun sequins throughout that I really enjoyed but had no intention of trying to knit into anything. It's strange I even bought the yarn, I'm not usually one for bling, but that made it even more appropriate for this project.
The four yarns I was using were all very different: a merino, a mohair, a silk blend and...um...sequins. Ready, set, go! I warped my loom as free-spirited as I could, making stripes of each of my yarns as I felt, none of them the same size and in no particular order. Be free, my spirit, be free! Part of me felt a little guilty I was using such expensive yarn for this experiment, but I hushed that voice and assured myself this was a good project worth the yarn I was using. My spirit deserves nice yarn, right? With the loom warped, I made myself two makeshift cardboard stick shuttles to accompany my Schacht shuttles to accommodate all four of my yarns and I was ready to go.
I want to tell you it was a wonderful, zen-filled experience weaving this scarf. That it was a peaceful journey where I listened to my soul as I painted with yarn. I want to tell you that, but I can't. Don't get me wrong, I actually love the end result and the journey was enlightening, but this was probably one of the most stressful weaving projects to date. I don't even know where to start. Mohair is sticky. Different yarns have different elasticity. Sequins do not fit through the holes of a 12-dent rigid heddle reed very well. Abrasion is a thing. Consistent tension is a bitch. The list is longer, but I think you get the idea.
Like I said, though, the journey was enlightening. Imperfection is okay and even beautiful. I leaned so much from this project I have certainly become a better weaver for it. It will probably be a good long while before I let my spirit go again, but I am glad I did it. Even if I had to cut each sequin off the yarn on the warp thread as I went, this scarf really reminds me that you live and learn and you should always dream big. Because I wove this after the kiddos were in bed, and to remind me of the journey, I have decided to call this scarf "Midnight Meandering." One of the best parts of this project was unrolling the cloth from my front roller on my loom. It was great seeing how my weaving turned out. I had an idea of what it was going to look like, but I did not really know how it would all look together. I am not gifting this scarf to anyone, I am going to keep it. It is mine...my self expression despite frustration and a reminder that sometimes we just need to let go, even if it doesn't always work out the way we want or expect-it can still be beautiful. (And every journey really is one of a kind.)