Small: three ways to make yarn without a spindle or wheel

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Small

This post is part of our series about small things you can make with what you’ve got to hand. Projects don’t always have to be big, complicated and involve buying lots of new and possibly expensive materials.

Let’s start with yarn. Making yarn might seem daunting but the truth is there are lots of simple ways to make it. You don’t need any special equipment to make yarn. Just scissors and maybe some handcards.

sock becomes yarn

Rag yarn

Let’s start with some old socks. You know the ones where the heels and toes have worn out but the rest of the sock is fine and even made out of some warm fluffy material? Do you throw these away? Or make them into yarn?

Start at the cuff and cut a spiral around and around the sock, avoiding bits that are worn.

It knits up nicely

This yarn can be knit up, but unless you have lots of identical socks you’re not going to get tons of yarn from a pair. I would use this yarn for rag weaving. (future post!)

Obviously you can cut up any fabric and make it into yarn. There’s a cool Saori-made tool called a Sakiori cutter designed specifically to cut fabric into long strips for weaving.

Silk hankies

a dyed silk hanky

Silk hankies are squares made of cocoons that have been softened and then stretched onto a frame-layer upon layer. The hankies can be dyed and spun, but you can also use them for paper making or felting.

knitted silk hanky–no spinning

You can also knit straight from the hanky–no spinning! There are a lot of great youtube videos on silk hanky and silk cocoon uses. I’ve made a pinterest board showing some of them. Here’s a video on how to knit from the silk hankies–featuring a cat.

Silk hankies are cheaper than most silk you can buy to spin. You can even make your own. Here’s another helpful video if that’s something you’d like to try.

Finger-twisted ‘pencil’ roving

You don’t need to spin wool to make it into yarn. There are lots of roving-like (unspun) yarns on the market. Noro does one called Rainbow Roll. So does Alafoss an Icelandic yarn brand. It’s called Plotulopi. You can easily make your own using the finger twisting method or simply by pulling some combed wool through a diz.

I used my handcards to make some rolags which I then pulled out into a long, thin rope. You can knit right away, adding a little twist with your fingers as you go. Don’t worry if the yarn breaks. You can reattach it simply by twisting or rolling the two ends together with your fingers.

rolag rolled into a ball

small

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Start small. Start with a scrap of cloth, a drop spindle, a silk cocoon, a few yards of yarn or grams of wool. See what you can make.

Start compact, like a seed, and grow into something bigger. Maybe your project is a seed intended to be a dye garden.

Think small environmental impact. Take something worn and repurpose it. Make rag rugs or an upcycled yoga mat. Get inspired to mend in the Japanese boro style.

weaving on cardboard

Use small tools– a felting needle, a drop spindle or a postcard-sized piece of cardboard repurposed as a loom.

Silk cocoon ornaments, Kyoto

Unravel a silk cocoon. Knit a fair isle square and then another. Crochet a toy for your child. Knit a sweater for your favourite teddy bear. Make a pompom. A tassel.

We’ve started a pinterest board with ideas for small projects. Throughout 2018 we’ll be developing this idea and seeing how big it can get.

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.

Gift Ideas for the Fiberista

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Rachel suggested we put together a list of fun or useful gifts for the fiber fanatics in your life. Which is funny, because every year before Rachel’s birthday or Christmas I get an email from her husband asking for gift suggestions. In Rachel’s case I’m at an advantage, because we talk about our fiber plans daily, but putting this list together I’m at a disadvantage because nothing on this list is on the list I made for Rachel’s husband! My spinning Guild also has it’s year-end gift exchange in a couple of weeks, so it seems like there’s always an opportunity to buy (or make!) a well-received gift.

Here are some useful tools:

a ball winder

a ball winder with yardage counter

a yardage counter

a swift

Ball winders and swift

Ball winders and swift

a niddy noddy. Make a custom-sized one on the cheap out of PVC.

small scissors

measuring tape

a wraps-per-inch gauge

blocking pins

a diz:

Diz

a hackle

a blending board

a dog comb or flick carder for preparing fleece

a few extra bobbins for their spinning wheel. These are always welcome, but be sure you know what kind of wheel your friend has—different manufacturers make different sizes and they’re not always interchangeable.

soap nuts

spinning wheel oil! I’m always having to depend on my fellow Guild members when my wheel starts whining during meetings, because I don’t have a small travel tube of it.

Does your friend weave? How about a travel loom, a pin loom or an inkle loom? There are plenty of instructions online on how to make a PVC inkle loom.

Inkle loom

Inkle loom

Does your friend only spin wool or alpaca roving? Maybe a gift of cotton, flax, an interesting synthetic fiber, or silk hankies. Rachel and I have found that spinning different types of fibers really helps with our overall technique. A tip: if you give silk hankies, include a bottle of talcum powder. It smooths over the rough places in your hands and makes mawata spinning a breeze.

Does your friend have a drop spindle? A Turkish drop spindle? There are lots of beautiful hand-made spindles out there. Look on Etsy or search online for hand-crafted spindles.

Turkish spindle

Turkish spindle

Notions. I love giving and receiving buttons. I find they inspire new projects, and you can usually find designs for anyone’s favorite interests. Etsy is also a great place to find handmade notions and shawl pins, by artists local to your area or from around the world.

Locally crafted ceramic buttons made by BeadFreaky that I found on Etsy

Locally crafted ceramic buttons made by beadfreaky that I found on Etsy

A salad spinner. These work great for getting the wet out of small batches of fiber. If you think your recipient will be confused, include a little unwashed fiber in the basket. Another tip: if your friend is in need of a salad spinner for, well, salad, definitely get her two! Thrift stores are a great place to find perfectly good second hand salad spinners for fiber processing.

Knitter’s graph paper. Great for charting things or keeping track of where you are in a pattern (ahem, Rachel). We happen to have a handy-sized Sheep Cabana version available in our brand new Etsy shop:

Sheep Cabana Knitter's Graph Paper

Sheep Cabana Knitter’s Graph Paper

Books. We are a bit on the fence about books. I like ones that are reference books, stitch dictionaries, and other how-to types.

If your friend really likes making socks, the latest sock-pattern book might be up his alley. I would check out his library first. Your friend’s Ravelry queue or Pinterest boards are also good places to check for favorite designers and designs. Some designers on Ravelry also give the option to gift patterns electronically, which is great. Support your indie designers!

There are some novelty books out there which non-knitters tend to give knitters. Coffee table books, if you will. If you’re tempted by something like that, ask yourself how many faux-taxidermy meerkats or rustic-modern crochet ponchos your friend is going to make. If it’s a resounding “That many!” then go for it. But still: if your friend has an e-reader, consider the e-version of the book.

One last idea is project bags and small notions cases. Lots of people make these, probably people you already know in your Instagram feed.

If I’ve left anything off this list, it’s because it’s on Rachel’s surprise list. However, as far as gift giving goes, if in the long run your recipient would rather have something useful than be surprised, just ask them what they might want! I find that that’s often the most appreciated gift of all.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

But is it yarn?

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Art yarn?

Art yarn?

Ah the allure of Art Yarn. Behold its super-chunky sparkle, its beads, its coils and luscious locks. Resistance is futile. Or is it?

When I started to spin I announced to Sal that all I wanted to make was art yarn. I probably told her I wanted to explore colour and texture. I was making it up.

Sal told me something like this: If you’re ever planning to make anything like a sweater or a wearable garment you should think about making less-arty yarn.

She had a point.

These days I think about hand spun yarn completely differently. What I used to consider art yarn, I now classify as novelty yarn.

Most of the time I’m experimenting with new materials and techniques. I’m spinning to weave or to knit. My use of art yarn is sparse. That’s partly thanks to my fairly boring sartorial habits. Sal tells me that’s a trend now! Yay!

So what about art yarn?

Last month Alison Daykin gave my guild a talk on art yarn (see below). Beforehand I was curious what she would have to say and it got me thinking. What is art yarn? Is it yarn for yarn’s sake? Is it a novelty item? Does anyone actually use it?

I still make a lot of art yarn, but I call it handspun. Like most spinners I’m experimenting with colour, texture and gauge. Most of it isn’t sparkly or bejeweled. The excitement is in the color or the materials.

Here’s some sport weight yarn I made for a weaving project.

Blue yarn

Blue yarn

The blue colorway is a combination of natural coloured and dyed fleece.

The red is a blend of acid and natural-dyed fleece as well as natural coloured. To me these are rich in colour and texture. I’ve made little aesthetic decisions throughout the making process.

Red yarn

Red yarn

Is it art or is it yarn?

These are some examples of what are more commonly considered to be art yarn. There are the dyed locks, the thick/thin look and some bouclé-like yarn.

Bouclé, sort of

Bouclé, sort of

P

Thick thin

Yarn or art? Both?

Lexi Boeger sees it this way: “I believe the onus is on the buyer to look at the yarn and be able to determine an appropriate project to use it for. This puts more work on the buyer, but ultimately it will make that person also more creative..” (See Spinartiste)

Boeger goes on to say that art yarn can help the knitter (or weaver for that matter) think beyond the pattern and become a designer. My reading of that is: art yarn can be a starting point. It asks the question: what can you make with me?

It’s worth pointing out that Lexi Boeger isn’t making art yarn anymore.

Locks

Locks

JazzTurtle has a long list of patterns that can use art yarn. But to me art yarn is perfect for weaving–especially saori weaving, which is all about experimentation and personal expression. It’s not really concerned with pattern or convention.

This saori-inspired piece uses some art yarn. For me this piece was a big departure from the norm. Here are colours and textures far from my comfort zone. It marks a step in a creative journey, but I’m not sure the path ends at art yarn.

Weaving with art yarn

Weaving with art yarn

[Sal here. I’m going to horn in on your post for a minute]

I would argue that handspinning is technology, and as such there is an intrinsically practical component to the resulting product. Some yarns take a good deal of skill to make well (bouclé for example), or have aesthetic consideration in their colors or textures (as yours do above), and this intersection of technical skill and aesthetic consideration I would call “craft”. Calling something “art yarn” is almost oxymoronic. Yarn for yarn’s sake, as you say, really makes no sense— like building a chair that you can’t sit on. But I know plenty of people who spin and never do anything with the yarn because they don’t knit or crochet or weave, and are perfectly happy that way. I suppose there is a Venn diagram we could make that shows the people who like to build chairs, but don’t actually sit down. I think one could certainly make yarn that’s an end in and of itself, and it could be considered art instead of artisanal, but I think the intention behind it is key, because it would be subverting the concept of yarn. The rest, as you say, is novelty yarn. I’m curious what your guild speaker had to say on the subject. And if they have any good patterns.

[Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post ;)]

Fancy Yarn and permission to spin

When Alison Daykin came down from Derbyshire to talk to the Mid-Essex Guild about art yarn, like Sal I was curious what she had to say about art yarn. One reason for that curiosity was I suspected [knew] many guild members were dubious of art yarn. Many–not all–take the view that art yarn is what you make when first learning to spin. “Don’t worry,” they tell new spinners. “You’ve just made art yarn!” And then everyone laughs.

Alison Daykin described what she makes as fancy yarn, not art yarn. Fancy yarn, Alison explained was any kind of yarn you made that’s non-standard–core spun, bouclé, crepe, thick/thin–that has some irregularity in the making. That irregularity could be introduced in any or all of the steps for making yarn: prepping fiber, color blending, spinning and finishing.

According to Alison, fancy yarn isn’t anything new,  in fact Mabel Ross, author of The Encyclopedia of Handspinning, was an early advocate of fancy yarn.  However, when Alison started spinning in the late 80s/early 90s she felt spinning non-standard or fancy yarn was discouraged. She was taught that the point of spinning was to churn out yards and yards of yarn that looked like it had been made in a mill.

“I wanted to make different yarn and I felt inferior, because I didn’t want to spin plain yarn,” she said. But after taking a course on spinning and dyeing for tapestry weaving from Bobbie Cox, Alison felt she had, “Permission to spin whatever I wanted. Once you know the rules, you can break them.”

Art yarn, Alison said, is a term that grew out of a trend of making yarn out of recycled materials like plastic bags and cassette tape. She did not see the point in putting yarn in a bowl or hanging it up to admire.

“If I can’t use the yarn, then I’ve wasted my time. Use it to make a garment look different. If you use a little yarn in a piece, it can look lovely. Art yarn has got to be practical as well as beautiful,” she added.

 

 

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!