My son had this hat that he wore ALL THE TIME. It was his signature look...buffalo plaid with ear flaps. Hey, you know, whatever floats your boat, he rocked his hat and he rocked it hard. So, when I was browsing to make him a new snuggle blanket for his bed, this Fireside Afghan seemed the perfect match. My son is only 4-years old, though, so he is a little guy. I crocheted the full width of the blanket but only half the length, which kept the proportions correct for the blanket but made it a much more manageable snuggle size for my son. (Note: The original width becomes the length of the blanket and the length the width…if that makes sense.) The finished dimensions were 30” x 48” and it was perfect for him. And he was so patient. Even half the size took me a strangely long time. I think somewhere in my head I convinced myself the crocheting was somehow faster than knitting. That is entirely not true, especially when making such a dense, squishy cloth as this.
That leads me to the stitch. I learned a new one! This blanket is created with what is called the star stitch. It is a little more complicated than your basic stitch collection in crochet, but can be easily mastered with a few practice swatches. The stitch itself is lovely, making an almost waffle like texture over the blanket. Also, the wonderful thing about the 3D nature of a crochet stitch is that you carry all of your colors through your current stitches. This does two things: it completely hides your color floats and it really adds some nice thickness to the fabric of your blanket. I chose to crochet this blanket in acrylic because it was for a small child and will likely need to take numerous journeys through the wash. However, this would be a very warm blanket if it were made with wool. Oh, and perhaps the best thing of all is that there are no tails to weave in when you are finished! I know, right? Miracles do happen.
The color scheme of this blanket is modeled after a traditional buffalo plaid, mimicking the warp and weft relationships beautifully with the black, wine and red colors. However, this can be accomplished with many color combos, so you should not feel limited to this traditional palette. You simply need a light and dark of the same hue and black (or grey) to create this shadowed, pure color alternating plaid motif. You could also go with tints instead of shades and couple two tints of a color with white.
Summary: This is not quite a true beginner project, mostly because of the color changes and the length of time it takes to complete. However, I would label it great for an adventurous beginner and beyond. And the finished project is such a wonderful and thick blanket, it would look really at home in a cabin or lake house...or on your 4-year old's bed.
This was my largest project to date. I had to put myself on a fairly strict schedule to get it finished by the deadline, but I did and am really pleased with the results. Also, it was my first project in Handwoven since they changed ownership. Once owned by F+W Media operating under the name of Interweave, Handwoven, along with Spin Off and PieceWork faced an uncertain future when F+W Media filed for bankruptcy in 2019. Enter here the pioneer of Interweave Linda Ligon along with partners Anne Merrow and John Bolton and our beloved fiber magazines were saved! Not only were they saved, they were improved. If you have not had the chance to check out these great magazines, I highly recommend it...now they even have spines visible when sitting on the shelf and the most beautiful thick and glossy pages. The improvement in the quality of the paper in the magazine seems like a small thing, but it makes such a difference when the publication is in your hands! It continues to be an honor to contribute to their content.
This particular blanket uses a shadow weave structure. Shadow weave is a really neat technique, as you can choose a standard weaving pattern and punch it up visually by playing with dark and light colors. This means that a crucial step in the process is choosing colors with a nice contrast. For this blanket, I wanted to make sure I had dark, medium and light toned hues that had great contrast but also cohesion in hue. Choosing a cohesive color scheme was the straight forward part. Ensuring the colors I chose had the contrast I wanted was less obvious. One neat-o trick for determining contrast (this can also be used when knitting color work) is to take a picture of your fibers with the black and white filter of your phone. This eliminates hue and shows only the tones. As you can sea here, my three colors really truly were light, medium and dark toned. I think this went a long way in the visual success of the shadow weave.
When warping for shadow weave, you alternate between your light and dark (or medium) tones in an ever-other-end fashion. This means I alternated between blue and yellow across the weaving width when I warped. This particular pattern had lighter stripes along the outer edges and the darker, deeper contrast running down the center of the cloth.
Alternating light and dark is critical in the weft, as well. This is what completes the look of a shadow running through your pattern. So, for the warp, I alternated picks of the banana color and the darker blue color. To do this, you simply maintain two shuttles while weaving. You simply carry the thread up the side of the weaving for every pick a color skips. This sounds confusing in words, but you simply weave with the two shuttles, taking turns. To keep your edges consistent and tidy, you can make sure to set one color in front of the other every time you switch shuttles. For example, if I finished a pick of yellow, I'd set the shuttle down in front of my blue shuttle before picking up the blue shuttle for a pick. Then, when I finished the blue pick, I would set it down behind the yellow shuttle. This keeps the way the threads carry up the side of your cloth consistent. It's a small detail, but can really make a nice visual for edging. For this cloth, the fabric was cut and seamed to make the blanket, hiding the edges. For something like a shawl, however, these edges would be highly visible and the attention to detail along the sides would make a significant difference.
Like I mentioned earlier, this was the largest cloth I had woven...ever. I used my wonderful PVC pipe table loom, and it was really put to the test. I was worried the cloth would not fit on the front roller. It was close, but we made it. It was really fun to unroll this beast, though. We almost didn't have a stretch of floor big enough in our house to see the whole thing unfurled! To construct the blanket, it was cut in two places to create a three panel blanket, as shown in the picture. I used the yellow to graft the panels together. It is not my strongest skill, but I think I did pretty well lining things up and seaming them together. There are little bumps where it is seamed along the back of the blanket, but it not really visible at all from the front.
The blanket was soaked in a dilute vinegar bath to help keep the colors from running. The dark blue did run just a little, making the yellow just a hair darker in the end compared to how it started. I think they did a lovely job staging the blanket for the pattern pics in the magazine. I am actually a little bit proud of how this baby turned out.
This was a fun project and would be a neat way to get in to a spin-to-weave project for someone nervous to take the plunge. It does not require you to spin a ton of any one fiber, you could really play around with the colors, and the end result is a cool cover for your project notebook! I spun this on my Ladybug using Neighborhood Fiber Co wool/silk blend. The warp and weft were 2-ply and there is an accent color that I chain-plied. The cloth was woven on a Ashford rigid heddle in a honeycomb weave using two pick-up sticks. I have all of these details for you in the Ply Magazine Prep Issue, so I won't bog down this post with them.
I was really happy with the end results. As with all of my creations, though, there are things I would change. I think I would have liked a little more twist in my yarn. Also, I loved the colors as I was spinning, but I don't love them as much in the way that I wove them. If I did this project again, I might swap the warp and weft colors or even do the accent color as the main attraction. I'm not really sure, but I would change something. However, I really love the pattern. I love how it fits the book and I love having a woven cover on my notebook. I think it is a solid recipe for future projects, especially because it is quick to spin and weave.
It is always such an honor to contribute to publications such as Ply Magazine. They are publications I really respect and turn to as references in my crafting life. Being able to be part of something I value so much is a little unreal. I definitely feel a little like an imposter, like I'm not nearly as good as the other fiber artists that grace the pages of these magazine. But you know what, I love submitting and trying and creating anyway! Maybe one day I'll feel more like I belong or like I really stuck the landing; but really that's the beautiful thing about crafting, it's all about the journey. (And now I can chronicle more of my making journey in a notebook with a cool cover! Haha!)
I hope this little project inspire someone out there. That is really the best part about reaching a wider audience. I love my sources of inspiration out in the world, wouldn't it be super cool to be someone else's?
One of the great things about this pattern is that the sleeves are up first. This means you get them out of the way before you get the chance to feel too terribly stuck on sweater island. The sleeves do look a little stumpy when you knit them on their own, but remember, you will be adding length in the shoulder as you knit them into your sweater. (These sleeves have live stitches that you pick up when you get to the armpit of your sweater.)
I chose to use the recommended Shelter for this project. It's no secret I love Brooklyn Tweed. (Have I told you how much I love Brooklyn Tweed?) I did choose a different color- this sweater was knit in cast iron, which is pretty much black with little flecks of color throughout. This yarn is a woolen yarn, which is great for sweaters as it is super warm but not heavy. However, be mindful, the yarn is easy to break. You don't want to put too much tension on your thread as you knit, a truly woolen yarn can pull apart quite easily. My grabby baby's hands broke quite a number of working yarns in this project. Do note, the fabric, when knit, is strong- so don't feel like you should avoid the woolens lest your sleeves fall off your sweater or some other crazy calamity. (Woolen yarns do tend to pill, though, so make sure you treat your sweaters kindly and give them a little shave when they need.).
I was really happy with the results of this pattern and I am so glad I was able to make something so special for my dad. I think it really looks nice on him, too. Even the shawl collar is lovely yet still very masculine, especially with the addition of the toggle buttons. I would definitely recommend this sweater for anyone looking for a nice, clean men's sweater that has a few special touches but isn't fussy. It is also a great design for dressing up or down. So if your recipient is a jeans person or a slacks person, this sweater would be a nice addition to their wardrobe.
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!
Right now, I have one pullover that I have finished knitting and am now seaming together. (That is an awesome "almost done" that just hasn't finished yet.) I also am working on a few garments from Alabama Chanin's Build a Wardrobe 2018 line. (Alabama Chanin and The School of Making- check it out if you haven't heard of it. AWESOME.) There is a lovely tunic top from Purl Soho I have finished sewing and am now working on embellishing with some hand stitching. And that is pretty much the long and short of it. Pretty good start, I just need to get in gear and complete some things- otherwise my me-made wardrobe is woefully unwearable.
I have a lot of big plans for 2019. Both personal goals and ambitions for my website and contributions to the fiber community. I am playing it fairly close to the chest until I am a little closer to reaching some of my goals. The last thing I want to do is fall short on you, my lovely reader. But I will say I want to have some fun and have decided, among other things, that 2019 will be the year of socks! Hold me to it. They belong in a me-made wardrobe, too. I want a pair of socks a month. Of course that won't happen, but I'm going to try!
Someone very near and dear to me struggles with severe anxiety. This post is not about that, though we should all speak up more for mental illness. This post is about a blanket I made to help my loved one transition away from pharmaceuticals. (This transition away from medication was guided by a physician and not something I would advocate without first talking with a medical professional/therapist before attempting. It was the right move for us, it is not the right move for everyone.)
When the decision was made that a natural approach was going to be attempted to battle somewhat severe, sometimes debilitating anxiety, we knew that it was going to be a difficult journey. However, tackling it together and finding different means to ease panic and anxiety has made all the difference. One of the things we discovered were weighted blankets. These blankets were originally conceived, I believe, to help children with autism. The weight of the blanket, which is significantly heavier than a normal blanket, helps your body release natural, calming chemicals...sort of like a hug...and assists a person who is feeling a large amount of stress and anxiety find their way back. Well, if that is what it does, it makes sense that even more people have found aid in a weighted blanket than just those with autism.
My sons and I decided to call our weighted blanket the "Feel Good Blanket." Seemed better than "Weighted Blanket." These blankets can help people with anxiety and depression as well as help people who have trouble sleeping at night. Really, something like a hug could probably help a whole lot of people with a whole lot of stuff. They are available commercially, but can be a little pricey when you get to the larger sizes. Because I was looking for a feel better blanket for an adult male, I was looking at upward of $100. With a little internet research, I figured I'd just make one myself.
This type of blanket should weigh 10% of the body weight of the person using it. (I believe it is 5% for small children.) That meant I needed to create a blanket that weighed 20 lbs. I wasn't kidding when I said it was heavier than a normal blanket. I might go so far as to say significantly heavier than a normal blanket. It is also narrower than a normal blanket, as it needs to fit just over the person. If it hangs down, it will likely keep slipping off because of the weight. Also, you want 20% of their weight on them, not swallowing them up all around them on a bed. I decided to add batting to my blanket, as well, just to help with the noise the beads filling the blanket make. Then, like the scattered, silly person I am, I sandwiched it together like a quilt when sewing the edge borders, meaning I could not simply flip the blanket like a pillow case and sew the channels, which is how most of these blankets are constructed. However, there were a lot of stitches that would have needed to be picked out, so I decided to trudge forward and just keep making it like a quilt. The only really significant difference was that I had a raw edge that I had to add a binding to after I finished the blanket. (This was harder than it might at first sound...try sewing on a 20lb blanket. It's intense.)
I used the recommended poly-beads, which were the most expensive part of the blanket, but I think worth it. I chose two fabric colors, a dark blue and a grey, one on the topside color the other for the under-side color. I wanted to keep it masculine looking, a little sleek, and still calming. There are a number of YouTube videos available that show how to construct the blanket- sewing the channels, filling, and seaming each column shut as you move up the blanket. I used a kitchen balance so that I had exactly the right amount of fill in each of my squares in the blanket's grid, though I have seen some people use a pre-measured mark on a cup. I will not go too much into the details of construction here, this post is already long enough, but I will say those little beads get everywhere- I recommend a funnel and patient hands.
The blanket was easy to construct, but did take a bit of time. (Some of the time came from my error in construction. In the end, I really liked the binding, though.) It has been a helpful tool in our arsenal of coping with anxiety.
*We do not let our children use this blanket. It is very heavy and not intended for little people. Every feel good blanket should be tailored to the individual who needs it.*