Weave to wear: Make a dressy jacket (part one)

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Finished cloth

Finished cloth

Sal tells me I need to take more notes while I work. It’s because when she asks me for measurements and quantities I used for a project I usually don’t have a good answer.

Recently I finished weaving a length of fabric to make a dressy jacket and although I didn’t make any notes I’m going to put down some thoughts, tips and tricks here. This way Sal will have no excuse not to get started on her Chanel-style jacket. She’s going to weave and sew it for her next guild challenge which is all about tweed. It needs to be done by February. No pressure Sal!! 😉

Pick a commercial sewing pattern: If you are new to sewing or simply new to sewing with handwoven, don’t pick a pattern that’s overly complicated. Keep it simple. I picked NewLook 6351. The jacket is comprised of two sleeves, four front pieces, two back pieces and a facing piece. If you are using a thick piece of cloth, you need to think about how your seams are going to work and whether you will need a lining. That could be tricky to do with a thick piece of cloth.

Jacket Pattern by New Look

Jacket Pattern by New Look

Make a muslin: A muslin is a trial run of your garment that can be adjusted for fit. I use muslin cloth–a creamy coloured cotton–when I’m making dresses or trousers, because when you spend a lot of time making your own garments, you want it to fit. Check out the Tilly & the Buttons site for everything you need to know about muslin (toile) making.

I’ve never had a garment that I haven’t had to adjust. There is some great information about adjusting patterns on the Colette blog and Sewalongs. You don’t want to spend time weaving cloth and then sewing it only to have something that doesn’t fit. If you need help making alterations on the muslin, I would ask an experienced sewist for help.

Once you have your muslin completed and fitted, hold onto it. This is now your pattern.

You might want to try a sample garment in fabric in a similar in weight to your handwoven. Make your mistakes on the sample, not on your handwoven.

Direct warp

Direct warp

Do the math: The New Look jacket pattern calls for about 1.3 meters of 150cm wide fabric. I have a 80 cm (32 inch) loom and therefore I decided to weave 3 meters of cloth. I put a 4 meter warp (I wanted about 60cm extra warp for wastage) on the loom using a 50/10cm dent reed (12.5 dents per inch). I used almost the entire width –400 dents. Four meters multiplied by 400 dents equals 1600 meters of warp yarn.

I was far less precise with the warp meterage. My idea was to use stash yarn and luckily I had plenty.

I’d estimate I used 700 meters of yarn in the warp (3 picks per cm x 300cm x 80 cm/100). I used different yarn weights and even some roving in there, plus a bunch of my handspun bouclé, so that’s very much a ballpark figure.

How does your planned warp look?

How does your planned warp look?

Sample and warp: Before I dressed the loom, I made some cardboard squares to test out colour combinations. This was a quick and easy way to see how the colours and yarns I picked out looked together. I wanted to see the warp colour sequence and get a feel for how the yarns worked together.

The next step was to dress the loom (i.e. warp it) which I did using the direct warping method.

Once thing I wish I hadn’t done was use boucle in the warp. BAD IDEA. It stuck and snapped and was a total nightmare. Avoid!

Weave: Weave, weave and weave. I didn’t follow a pattern and just went with by colour and texture. I used this project to do some stash busting. Very gratifying.

add some weft

add some weft

Finish your cloth: Once you’ve woven your little heart out, remove the cloth from the loom. Give it a gentle wash in some hand hot water and a small amount of gentle soap. Rinse then carefully squeeze out the water. Do not wring your fabric. Remove excess water by rolling your cloth in a towel. Hang out on the line to dry.

Part two: Cutting your cloth. Coming soon. Once I do it.

Sewing a simple garment with handwoven fabric

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Whenever I show my mom one of my weaving projects she asks the same question: “is it a table runner?” The question sets my teeth on edge. Long and relatively narrow woven fabric could be mistaken for a table runner, but as my friend Sarah Howard has demonstrated many times over with a little imagination it can be so much more.

Saori weaving books show many of quick and creative ways to use handwoven to make simple garments. If you are looking for a tailored garment these aren’t for you. Take a look at what Sarah does.

What I like about these saori projects is their simplicity. You don’t need to be a whizz with the sewing machine and you don’t even need a pattern. What you do need is a tape measure and a pair of scissors (or a rotary cutter) a ballpoint needle for your sewing machine and maybe some iron-on woven interfacing. Ballpoint needs are used for sewing jersey fabrics and work great on handwoven. Definitely use one.

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I wanted to make the draping collar vest in the Beginners’ Saori Clothing Design book. The book is very clear that these garments are designed for the average Japanese woman—5′ 2″ (157 cm) and 120 lbs (54 kg). The draping collar vest “pattern” calls for fabric 40 cm (15 3/4 in) wide x 172 cm (1.88 yards) long. That piece is then cut into three–2 x 54 cm, 1 x 64 cm– two pieces of equal length and one longer piece which becomes the collar.

For my vest adjustments had to be made. I measured my back–from the neck to the top of my butt and from my shoulder to the top of my waist to get ballpark measurements for width and length. Keep in mind your woven fabric will shrink when you finish it. Whatever your measurements are, add on some more to account for shrinking.

I made my fabric about 50 cm (19 3/4 in) wide and ended up being 211 cm (2.3 yards). That was plenty. After washing the fabric by hand in hot water and a little soap I was ready to go.

First step was to figure out how long to make my pieces. I subtracted 172 (length of suggested fabric) from 211 (length of my fabric). That gave me 39 cm which I divided by three to get 13 cm. To increase the size of the original pattern, I added 13 cm to each piece, which gave me two pieces at 67 cm and one at 77 cm.

Now for the cutting. Saori weaving books suggests sewing two lines across the fabric and then cutting between the pieces. This is to minimise fraying. Remember the old saying measure twice, cut once? Definitely follow that rule when working with handwoven. In the photo below I’ve mapped out where I want to sew with a trail of pins.

pins in a line to follow for sewing.

pins in a line to follow for sewing.

I sewed to lines and then cut between them using a rotary cutter. Scissors are fine.

cutting between the lines

cutting between the lines

The next step is adding a hem on to the tops of all three pieces. I simply rolled the fabric over, pinned it and then sewed.

pinning and sewing the hems

pinning and sewing the hems

Once the hems are sewn, lay out the three pieces of fabric right side up. The longer piece is in the middle, lining them up at the bottom and overlapping them slightly. Pin into place.

lay out fabric right side up, sew on the right side

lay out fabric right side up, sew on the right side

On the right side, sew 5 cm from the shoulder to the arm hole, leave however much you want for an arm hole (about 25-30 cm) and then sew the rest of the seam. Repeat on the other side. Flip over and make a small hem on along the bottom (on the wrong side). I ironed on a small strip of interfacing and then did a zigzag over it.

Et voila!

Finished garment

Finished garment

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Summer of craft: portable projects, children’s activities

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Only a few more days of school to go and the UK branch of Sheep Cabana is getting ready for the summer holidays.

I tend to travel with fiber, handcards, a drop spindle, knitting and a crochet hook… you can see where this is going. No wonder my bags are always inspected by the TSA! When we go camping later this summer, my Ashford Joy will come with us.

Last year I considered bringing my 15″ Cricket loom with me on holiday, but decided against it. There are more portable weaving projects like tablet weaving, small tapestry looms and pin looms that are better suited to travel. One of those (or two) will be in my suitcase in the coming weeks.

Pin looms are also a great way to get children interested in weaving. They’re small and easy to handle.

Kids love rigid heddle loom

Kids love rigid heddle looms

That said, I recently set up the Cricket for my six-year old boy and he loved it. Imagine me glowing with pride as his project grew. Amazing!

First project

First project

The May/June 2015 issue of Handwoven featured two fun-looking projects for children. One was a Hula Hoop rug. I found this tutorial on YouTube posted by a young woman who made something similar for a girl scout project. I love the idea of children sharing their craft knowledge online.

The other Handwoven children’s project is sort of a mini-tapestry necklace or decoration by Jennifer Lee. All you need is some cardboard, yarn, a tapestry needle and maybe some beads. There are plenty of similar projects demonstrated online. I’m going to try this out with my little one. Once he gets into something, he tends to go into manufacturing mode. We shall see how many of these we have at the end of the summer.

Mini tapestries

Mini tapestries

There is also a free e-book on the Interweave site with weaving projects for kids. If you are massively ambitious and have tons of Lego, check out this automated loom. Wow. For those of us who prefer something low-tech, don’t forget the ultimate portable and child-friendly fiber project: pompoms!

Pompoms!!!

Pompoms!!!

Here’s another idea from Handwoven that caught my eye: grass cloth. For those of us wondering what it is, grass cloth simply is cloth woven with dried grass in the weft. Apparently grass cloth wallpaper is trendy these days. Who knew.

Weaving grass cloth is not really a portable project, but it does require grass that you might find when you’re strolling along the beach or through the countryside as part of your summertime ramblings. Handwoven’s grass cloth journal instructions for the rigid heddle loom can be found here.

What I love about this project is it can be made from materials gathered either in your neighbourhood or while on holiday. It’s sustainable, eco-friendly and a keepsake.

 

 

 

Many ways with warps on a rigid heddle loom

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Getting creative with warp yarns is a great way to make the most out of your rigid heddle loom. Using different coloured and textured yarns in the warp, ordering those yarns in a certain way or not at all will yield different, beautiful results without having to worry too much about pattern.

plain weave plaid

plain weave plaid

Let’s start with texture and colour. In this sample, I used two smooth yarns and two handspun boucle yarns in the warp. From right to left–  black, magenta, then the lighter

boucle and the darker one. For the weft I used the four yarns in the same order to create this nubbly plaid-like sample. Simple to weave, but lots of potential as a cloth. I could easily weave something similar and turn it into a Chanel-style jacket.

Randomly placed many-coloured warp

Randomly placed many-coloured warp

Next up is a piece I wove

recently entirely out of handspun. The plan was to make the warp yarns the feature. I randomly wound the three colours of yarn—pink, purple, green— onto the warping board. On the weft I used a single colour—a grey mohair and wool handspun with a few dollops of green and yellow as a feature. What I like about how this piece turned out is the strong warp colours slightly muted by the greyish weft. Also the slight unevenness of the handspun give the whole piece a subtle speckled effect.

Choosing handspun or many colours of yarn in the warp is one way to use colour and texture in the warp to great effect. A variation on this theme is the multi-coloured warp. Instead of using a few different coloured yarns in the warp, wind on a neutral coloured warp, carefully remove it and then put it the dye pot and apply colour.

Dyed warp

Dyed warp

In this sample, I used a commercial silk warp thread and dyed it with gold, purple, green and a little pink. Woven with a camel/silk handspun, with some saori-style accents, the warp still comes through, but this time with different colour pools.

Dyed warp, Saori-style accents

Dyed warp, Saori-style accents

You could take this technique further and go for an ikat-style weave by tie dyeing the warp or even painting a design onto it, then threading the warp onto the loom. Another approach is to take some self-striping or variegated sock yarn and wind your warp so that the colours sit together. There’s a great description of that technique here.

log cabin weave

log cabin weave

Log cabin weave is a rigid heddle loom classic. It’s simple, just alternating blocks of light and dark yarns (LDLDLDLD DLDLDLDL etc) in the warp and then weaving the same way. More about log cabin in my November post.

Using multi-coloured handspun or variegated sock yarns that have less contrast also create a nice effect. Check out this blog post on this variation on log cabin weave. I’ve also seen log cabin done with some saori-style embellishments that look fantastic.

One last technique that emphasizes warp is using the variable dent rigid heddle reed. It’s a reed that allows you to mix up the dent sizes in the reed to then use different weights of yarn. I haven’t tried out this tool myself, but apparently one of the effects you can achieve is a ribbed fabric.

All these techniques bring a lot of interest and texture without having to mess around with pick up sticks. Don’t get me wrong, pick up sticks are great, but don’t think you need to use them to get the most out of your rigid heddle loom.

Some resources for rigid heddle weaving:

Ravelry’s rigid heddle weaving group

Schacht spindle blog

Weavezine

Turning handwoven fabric into a garment

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Handwoven awaiting transformation

Handwoven awaiting transformation

Rigid heddle looms may not be fancy or complicated, but do not be deceived. You’re not going to weave acres of jacquard, but don’t think placemats, table runners, scarves and hand towels are your only options on a rigid heddle loom.

Two years ago when I bought my little loom I had no idea that with some experimentation, practice and patience I’d be able to make a garment from fabric I’d created. For one thing, the idea of cutting my handwoven cloth terrified me. Also as relatively inexperienced seamstress, I wasn’t confident I could create a wearable garment.

I took the small amount of fabric I’d woven on a 20″ (50 cm) Ashford Knitter’s Loom up to Clacton-on-Sea for a lesson in sewing with handwoven with Sarah Howard. Sarah, along with Elisabeth Kendrick, is the author of Get Weaving, which I blogged about earlier this year.

Sarah helped me find a pattern that would work with the 175cm of fabric I had. We used a commercial paper pattern to get an idea of size and shape and then made some modifications for fit and the fabric.

The next step was to make a paper pattern to use to then sew up a calico to see how the garment looked. I used some denim for the calico. It allowed me to see where changes were required (in the armpits!). Once that was done, I went a way with instructions to test out the pattern on store-bought fabric. Sarah says it’s important to do a trial run before diving into your handwoven. Lots of issues can be sorted out on the sample piece. For example, I found I needed to change the shape of the side pieces slightly. Making a sample made me think about bias binding and lining too.

sample garment

sample garment

My sample looked pretty good, but I realised I would have to do the pockets a bit differently on the final piece–ie with biased binding and the fabric backed by iron-on woven interfacing. I also decided that gold/black lining would not look good with the handwoven and went for a solid blue silk.

Here’s a couple things to keep in mind when you’re placing your pattern on your handwoven:

– Make sure all the pieces fit. Measure the length of fabric without the fringe.

– Think about the best use of your fabric’s selvedges and hemmed ends to reduce the potential for fraying and binding.

– Make a note of the direction of warp and weft in your fabric. How does that influence how you place your pattern on your fabric? You probably want all your pieces going with the warp.

My layout looked like this:

layout

layout

I was careful to place the pockets to match up with the stripes on the two front pieces.

The next step was to cut out the pieces.Once I did, I carefully applied strips of iron-on woven interfacing to the fabric to prevent fraying. Then I zig-zag stitched over that.

I sewed together the fabric pieces as well as the lining. I didn’t sew in the lining, but bound the piece together all at once with bias-binding tape. I made it myself, which wasn’t difficult, but it was time consuming. However, store-bought bias tape is pretty poor so I do recommend taking the time to make it yourself.

Et voila! Garment!

finished garment!

finished garment!

A few things to keep in mind when sewing with handwoven.

– Remember your woven fabric may be quite thick. How is that going to impact your seams? Will your garment work well with chunky seams?

– Use iron-on woven interface to prevent fraying. It also makes it easier to sew.

– Go slow! Once you machine sew handwoven fabric, it’s really hard if not impossible to pick out without destroying the fabric.

– Handwoven is stretchy. Think about how that might cause difficulties when sewing up or when putting in a lining.

applying iron-on woven interface

applying iron-on woven interface

Saori-style weaving on the rigid heddle loom

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fork, scissors, tapestry needle

fork, scissors, tapestry needle

While I still have loads of yarn piling up and access to the guild’s Ashford knitter’s loom I’m putting both to good use. On Friday I threaded the loom with almost five meters worth of warp and set forth on another weaving experiment.

I won’t call this Saori weaving–rather Saori-style. It’s hitting a lot of the right themes for me–using up stash yarn, making use of the Ashford loom, thinking about color combinations (in this case pink, orange and brown) and learning new techniques. Saori weaving is also a perfect canvas for art yarn– you know all that fanciful stuff we love to make, but sometimes struggle to use.

art yarn

art yarn

Saori-style weaving is ideal for those of us with rigid heddle looms. It’s a plain weave, experimental, free-style approach to weaving pioneered in Japan. (The Saori website has all the history.) Saori emphasises finger manipulation techniques, color, texture and self-expression. I’ve seen it likened to painting with yarn.

I threaded (warped) the loom with some commercial mohair and boucle yarn from Texere. Loading five meters’ worth took awhile, but I’m hoping the length of fabric will give me something useable for a garment at the end.

warp

warp

For the weft yarns I’m using a mix of handspun and blue-faced Leicester pencil roving which I dyed. The roving is lovely and soft–well-suited for weaving. What attracted me to Saori-style weaving was the clasped warp technique (useful video here) which would allow me to make a zig-zag weave.

clasped weft

clasped weft

And as the “plan” for this project crystallised I realised it would be a perfect time to use this handspun that’s been in my stash for three years or so waiting for a project.

Using a fork as a beater and a tapestry needle to weaving in extra color here and there the fabric is shaping up. I’ve alternated the colors on either side of the fabric–pink and orange first of the left and then on the right, swapping the brown over. Then I’ve used the brown tailspun art yarn for some additional interest.

filling in

filling in

One of the preconceptions I’ve had to jettison is the idea of pattern. There are some themes in terms of color and texture in the piece so far, but no pattern. How is that going to translate into a garment? My guess is that while I would like to make a jacket out of this piece, I might have to challenge that idea and make something else!

Plain weave & pick up sticks on the rigid heddle loom

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The stormy weather and holiday break gave me the chance to do some weaving. Finally.

I’ve taken possession (temporarily) of my guild’s 30 cm Ashford knitter’s loom. I had all these crazy ideas about making wider fabric and then cutting and sewing it into a vest like this one from Purl Soho: Quilted Vest. Whether I take the plunge and cut my fabric and sew it into a garment will depend on how brave I’m feeling.

Freestyling stash buster plain weave

Freestyling stash buster plain weave

For this project, I used commercial yarn for the warp and a variety of handspun from my stash in the weft. It’s either Ryeland or BFL and there is some silk in there too. There is also some yarn I spun from a luscious combination of camel/seacell/faux cashmere from HilltopCloud

Honestly there was no real plan for warping. I decided how long I needed the warp to be and how wide and then made do with the yarn I had. I used a navy silk/wool, alpaca (turquoise) and some black super wash–all picked for sturdiness.

Similarly there was no plan for weaving–except I wanted to use as much of my yarn as possible! (There’s still a little left.) The only somewhat fancy technique I used was to make little loops by randomly picking up the weft with a long knitting needle, packing the weft with the reed and then pulling out the needle.

If I’m brave this cloth could become a fancy vest. If I play it safe, it will be a cosy wrap.

I wove my second project on my own 15″ Cricket loom. I used hand spun suri alpaca for the warp and some of the left over camel/silk for the weft. This technique is called faux twill, which is described by Jeen in the rigid heddle looms group on Ravelry. I’ve been wearing this project as a scarf.

Faux twill and fabulous

Faux twill and fabulous

The third project was also woven on my Cricket loom. I used commercial yarns from my stash. The warp is a champagne chenille and the weft is Noro silk/cotton sock yarn and Brown Sheep chunky in a mossy green. Nice right?

Honeycomb

Honeycomb

I used a pick up stick to achieve this honeycomb pattern described in Jane Patrick’s The Weaver’s Idea Book, published by Interweave. This book is invaluable for RHL newbies like me who want to push themselves and try out many different patterns and techniques. Indeed the rigid heddle loom group on Ravelry has a thread devoted to those weavers working their way through the book. Check it out!

Learning: I want to try out the guild’s four-shaft table loom!

Get Weaving in 2015

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It’s worth repeating that there are lots of benefits of joining a weaving, spinning and dyeing guild and that rigid heddle looms are simple yet powerful tools.

During the Guild’s fleece to scarf challenge in November I got to know two of my fellow guild members better–Sarah Howard and Elisabeth Kendrick. Sarah and Elisabeth are accomplished weavers, knitters, spinners and sewers. They have a few books out (Creative Weaving, is one) and Get Weaving is the latest.

Sarah and Elisabeth have inspired many over the years–including me–by showing there’s a lot more you can do with a rigid heddle loom than make scarves or table runners. Their new book demonstrates how to make garments from fabric handwoven on small looms (mostly 20 inch width).

I’ve picked out a few favourites.

I love this poncho. It’s made from several panels of fabric sewn together and as Sal pointed out, it has a pocket!

poncho

poncho

This bodywarmer is made from fabric woven with roving (ie unspun wool). What a great idea. This kind of garment is definitely a project I want to try.

Body warmer

Body warmer

And I love this jacket. It’s made from strips of rags. Just beautiful.

rag jacket

rag jacket

There’s lots more in the book–trousers, shorts, skirts and blouses. All made from fabric woven on the rigid heddle loom!

 

 

Log cabin lessons: exploring the rigid heddle loom

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Finished log cabin scarf

Finished log cabin scarf

Impulse buying rigid heddle looms is just one of the things that happens at Sheep Cabana.

Last summer,I was out in Cambria, Calif., and stopped in at Ball & Skein. The store is chockablock with gorgeous fiber that I could barely resist, but I did. Instead I walked out with a 15″ Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom, which I brought back with me to the UK.

I have used the loom a few times and have been muddling along with it–not making any serious improvement to my weaving skills. Then I came across a new book Woven Scarves by Jane Patrick and Stephanie Flynn Sokolov and published by Interweave. Full of beautiful projects and easy-to-follow instructions I felt more confident to try this log cabin scarf.

The plan was to spin some of my newly acquired and stashed heritage- and rare-breed fleece to create this beautiful log cabin weave. The log cabin pattern, I thought, would be great to show off the rare and heritage-breeds’ natural colours. One of the great features of Woven Scarves is there is a scale (actual size) photo of the commercial yarn used in the sample scarves alongside the instructions.

Shetland and North Ronaldsay handspun

Shetland and North Ronaldsay handspun

When I went to spin 200 yards each of Shetland Moorit (chocolate brown) and North Ronaldsay (white, specks of grey), I kept the book to hand and referred back to the pictures every so often to check the yarn thickness. I did blend some darker Shetland roving with the Moorit that had flecks of dyed silk in it. It gives a subtle effect in the finished object–just little bits of color.

The instructions for this project recommended using the indirect warping method. This requires a warping board, which I made out of some pvc piping. Honestly, I should have just bought a warping board. No matter.

warping

warping

Warping the loom was probably the trickiest part of this project for me. There was some considerable faffing with the warping board as I figured out how to use it.

Once I got the loom warped it was smooth sailing. Log cabin weave is a simple block plain weave. The pattern comes from the way the loom is warped (for example, light, dark, light, dark, then dark, light, dark, light, etc) and then woven alternating dark, then light, until switching to light then dark. There’s no call for pick up sticks or any of the other techniques you can use on a rigid heddle weaving.

weaving

weaving

However, it’s important to remember that before you go zooming off to weave yards and yards of fabric–you must hemstitch the beginning of the fabric and repeat the process at the end. It makes life a lot easier.

Next up in weaving: Attempting to sew a garment (or bag) out of handwoven fabric.