Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Experiments in Weaving


For me, it feels like the old year was led out and the new one shepherded in by new craft activities. In December, I did a few courses - one, with a group of local friends, on Christmas wreath-making and another learning to lino-cut - and following the arrival of a small rigid heddle loom under the Christmas tree, I've spent the first days of the new year experimenting with weaving. Above, is my first piece of cloth.

The loom was a gift from my husband, although I'd done a bit of research before he bought it. In the end, I chose a little 15" Cricket loom, primarily because it's really small and you can sit and weave with it on your lap, which appealed to me, as when I think realistically about what craft-related things I end up investing a lot of time in, it tends to be those that can be done on a sofa, a bed or around the kitchen table, rather than ones that require me to sit tethered to a desk or be in a particular part of the house. The Cricket is made from nice, smooth bits of ply (I may be alone in this, but I find plywood oddly attractive and clean-looking, although I'm aware that the formaldehyde in the glue isn't a great thing) and it was relatively easy to put together - I did it one night as I sat up in my daughter's room and we discussed weekly goal intentions, inspired by a notepad that I'd bought her - we both liked that it required us to list how to make those things happen, rather than just what the end result should be. It's often easy to know where you want to be, but somehow harder to home toward that place if you haven't taken the time to think through the simple things you need to do to make it happen. I hadn't really been aware of wanting to set any weekly goal intentions prior to that evening, but I'm now thinking what a good thing it is and considering buying myself the same pad, as it feels akin to a weekly self-guided life-coaching session...I've never actually had a life-coaching session, but I imagine the end result is similar. I always feel wary of sharing the actual goals or things I'm attempting to do differently, as I've read that if you announce something before you've actually achieved it, you're far less likely to see it through, because just by vocalising it, the brain registers it as having already being done at some level. In my case, even sharing something that has become a fairly well-established habit - yoga lessons, spinning classes - seems to be the death of it for me, so I've learnt that I'm best keeping any positive changes in my pocket if I want to retain them!

So, back to looms. I'd done a lot of research into weaving over the last few months, as it had become something I was really desperate to try. I watched hours of tutorials about how to 'warp' up a loom, wondering whether I'd find that aspect too complicated or time-consuming, as before you can even start weaving (the weft), you have to thread all the warp strands onto the loom, keeping them under perfect tension throughout. In practice, warping is time-consuming, but it's also oddly enjoyable once you've got the hang of it. The first time, it took me a whole afternoon to do all the warp threads (partly because I was untangling a skein of yarn for every strand...more on that later in the post), but by my third time, it took less than an hour and the process of hooking yarn through the heddle slots is oddly absorbing.


That part of the process requires quite a large space, as the threads are all stretching from the loom, to a clamp placed a reasonable distance away - I took over our kitchen table with the leaves extended to warp my loom - as my husband was working on making a guitar at the breakfast bar, the whole thing felt quite sociable.


For both the warp and the weft, I used some really beautiful lace-weight yarn from Loop - it's (comparatively, at least) reasonably priced and seems soft, strong and not prone to shedding or fuzziness.


What I hadn't realised at first though, was that yarn in a skein needs turning into a ball before it's usable. My very first warping attempt was made much slower by being forced to untangle a little more of the skein each time I laid down a new strand. Much of subsequent days were then spent winding the wool into balls - my mum remembered her father moving the skein between his outstretched arms for my grandmother as she wound it into a ball, and so she did this for me, followed by my husband and then a friend who was visiting the following day. I also used two chairs placed back-to-back, as well as my knees at times. But it's quite physically exhausting when you have many skeins to work through, so eventually I ordered a yarn winder and swift (after googling how other people make balls of yarn) and the whole thing was done in under half an hour once they'd arrived. We'll call this No. 58 in a long list entitled Rookie Learning Curve in Working with Yarn and Learning to Weave, because it has felt like one long googling and YouTubing session, with everything from tying an overhand knot, to the right way to untwist a skein, requiring me to pause and consult a tutorial. It was an odd experience to be back at the beginning of something and out of my depth in nearly every way!


I've also realised that it takes a lot of experimentation to understand how colours will appear once woven. Whether you use a colour in the warp or weft, seems to have a sizeable impact on how dominant it will appear to be in the finished cloth. My husband also pointed out that once two individual colours are woven, they visually merge to create a third colour and it's often hard to predict whether it will look exactly as you were hoping for. I was also surprised by how difficult it is not to weave something that looks plaid...I'm not actually overly enamoured with linear-looking fabrics and I'm now experimenting with pick-up sticks (which can be placed behind the heddle to change which warp threads are being woven) to create a more textured, less linear pattern.


It's worth mentioning that although you can weave a piece of cloth as long as you like, the width of the fabric you produce is always determined by how wide the loom is (although you can weave pieces narrower than the width of your loom, just not wider). I'd thought that a 15" loom would allow me to make cushion covers, but actually, once the fabric has suffered from a little 'beginner's draw in' at the edges, it's not quite wide enough to make a standard square cushion cover....it's really more use for making one of these long thin cushions (pictured below), which I made a few years ago. If you're thinking of getting a loom, I'd suggest you buy one as wide as your space will allow to maximise the things you're able to make, although the Cricket offers a really nice entry to weaving and is a good way of trialling whether weaving is something you actually enjoy before committing to a larger loom.


In other thoughts, I realised at the end of last year that I was spending relatively little time reading blogs, even though it's a medium I enjoy far more than Instagram or Twitter. When I eventually took half an hour to look through the blogs that I followed on Bloglovin', I realised that many had either disappeared or were no longer updated, which, with so few posts appearing in my feed, had given me the feeling that far fewer people were reading and writing blogs now. Although that may be true to some extent, when I went hunting for new ones to fill my feed with, I found all sorts of good things and it made me happy to think that blogging isn't the dying form I'd started to think it may be. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear what your current favourites are, as I'd still love to discover more (they don't have to be sewing related - one of my favourite blogs is still Cup of Jo, which is completely un-craft-related).

Like much of the rest of the country, my husband has spent the first days of 2018 (including his birthday) with an awful cold and flu bug that seems to involve sleeping all day and then being awake for most of the night struggling to breath. Even singing happy birthday wasn't permitted, due to its potential to hurt his head and many of his presents stayed wrapped. I seem to have finally caught it myself too now. Very early this morning, we went on a slightly surreal emergency mission for satsumas and Neurofen, before scuttling back home where I think we may stay for some time, although I am determined not to become as ill as he's been with it.

Finally, when I read Sonja's message recently, wishing people 'health, wholeness and hope' they felt like three perfect words for welcoming a new year, so I'm going to shamelessly steal her greeting and end this post by wishing you the very same thing. I hope it's a very good year for you.

Florence x

25 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you feel the same about reading blogs! So many of my favourite reads have faltered due to the ease of posting a 'story'(?) on instagram (I don't use Instagram so can't be sure I've got that right)but I like the conversational tone of some blogs even though I know they're hard work. My own blog fell by the way side a long time ago although that was mainly due to the awful quality of the photos, I wasn't proud to have them speak for my crafty endeavours.

    I have a question about your loom as weaving is something I have been contemplating for some time although I really don't need another hobby. Do you know if you can weave with fabric on it also? I'm thinking of the scandinavian style rag rugs and table runners. I would love to be able to make 'memory pieces' using worn but beloved duvet covers and dress making remnants in this style.
    Thanks for still blogging!

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    1. Thanks you so much for your comment, Jennifer. I'm fairly sure you could do that, although you'd have to use some kind of yarn for the warp, I think you can use pretty much anything for the weft. This loom would be fine for the width of a table runner, but you may struggle to make rugs with it, unless you join them in some way. I hope that helps.

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  2. Yay for weaving! your first piece looks fantastic.I predict you'll be investing in a wider loom before you know it (although I have debated adding a little cricket so I can weave on the go!). As for blog reading, I still enjoy it too! there's a list of my favs on my blog (www.ellynsplace.blogspot.com). I need to clean it up though as several of my favs have also stopped posting.

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    1. Thanks so much for the link to your blog - some good ones there and I liked that it lists how long ago since they last posted too, as it's a quick way of spotting where the new posts are! Thank you :)

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  3. Your weaving is just beautiful and I've had my eye on that Semilla organic wool for a while. Obviously I'm one of the guilty ex-bloggers, but I do still enjoy reading yours and other people's! I might revive mine this year... One of my current favourites for sewing is the still-prolific Fiona of chainstitcher.blogspot.co.uk - she blogs in great detail about her garment-making. Also impossibly stylish Sasha of secondopiano.space (she also weaves!), and recent discovery compulsiveseamstress.com who seems like a very skilled and knowledgable sewer. Carolyn at handmadebycarolyn.com.au still blogs a lot as well. Happy New Year! Hope the flu pisses off quickly. x

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    1. Thank you so much - I have added all four of those to my feed, Nina! Who knows, they may even inspire some dressmaking for me this year - I did actually do quite a bit last year, but it doesn't feel like it, as I didn't document it either here or on Instagram...mainly because I prefer photographing quilts, rather than myself...the only time it didn't feel like a chore was one time when I just asked my daughter to take some for me when we were out walking Nell - I'll have to discuss with her whether she'd like to become my permanent impromptu clothing photographer!

      Flu is yet to go, but I don't have it as badly as Ian has had it (it's more of a bad cold for me), so hand-stitching has continued throughout...so I'm kind of enjoying the hibernation time!

      Happy new year to you, lovely Nina - I hope it's an excellent one! x

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  4. Your weaving is gorgeous! Please keep sharing. I like the blogs: Modern Mrs Darcy ( all about books and reading), Posie Gets Cosie (craft and family) and Dinner a Love Story (food but also life).

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    1. Ooh! I hadn't heard of Modern Mrs Darcy before, but that looks excellent - thank you so much!

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    2. Ooh! I hadn't heard of Modern Mrs Darcy before, but that looks excellent - thank you so much!

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  5. I find your manner of giving anything new a go incredibly inspiring! I love your weaving, it’s stunning. I hope you have a wonderful 2018, I look forward to continue reading your blog!

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    1. Thank you, Anna! Wishing you a wonderful 2018 too - I hope it's full of all the best things, including lots more of your beautiful dressmaking (although I've just popped over and now also seen free-motion too and realised I somehow wasn't following your blog, so have fixed that now too :) I'm looking forward to your posts)! x

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  6. Love the colours of your weaving, I look forward to seeing it made up. Weaving is addictive, all the possibilities of colour and pattern. Have you seen the book "Weaver's Idea Book" by Jane Patrick. It is a fantastic resource for the rigid heddle.

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    1. Thank you so much for recommending it - yes, I have it! It's a fantastic book, isn't it. x

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  7. Your weaving is beautiful - I am quite drawn to straight lines and I find your cloth very pleasing and soothing to the eye. I spent a weekend weaving with my friend Emma Jo once, she is a tapestry weaver and creates the most stunning portraits. I imagine you would be able to work on a picture, you have the creative energy needed and an eye for detail. Here is a link if you have time to browse: http://emmajowebster.com/tapestries/. I own a little piece of art by her, similar to the one with rainbow squares. I wish you a happy crafting year, and health and wellbeing for you and all your family.

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    1. That must have been an amazing experience - her work is incredible. And all on a frame loom too, from the picture on her blog? I've now followed her blog and will look forward to seeing more. Thank you for recommending it. Wishing you a wonderful year, Christina. x

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  8. Such an exciting venture, and you take your learning curves at a gallop! I'm looking forward to seeing how you non-linearize your weaving results. I follow a tapestry-maker (not sure what the proper term is for one who makes tapestries...perhaps "magician"?) on twitter, and the work just boggles my mind.

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    1. Oh Quinn, that seems particularly unfair to mention following a mind-boggling tapestry magician and then not reveal who it is! Please do return and let me know as soon as possible! x

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  9. I've always wanted to have a go at weaving, there's something about it that really appeals to me.

    Some of my favourite blogs are: junkaholique.com, lovetaza.com, nanacompany.typepad.com, ikatbag.com

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    1. I follow Amy's lovely blog too - so much inspiration there! Thank you for the other recommendations also.

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  10. Really glad you’re enjoying weaving and getting to grips with your loom. There are various ways you can piece together handwoven cloth to make bigger pieces too. Blogging is something I’m hoping to get back to too this year so will see how it goes.

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    1. I've looked into them, but wish it didn't involve having a seam of any kind (so basically, wishing for magic). Wishing you a wonderful year, possibly including blogging :)

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  11. Your weaving looks gorgeous (and lots of fun!), and thanks for the link to the laceweight - the colours it comes in are gorgeous and I'm already wondering what I could knit with it! I hope you feel better soon xx

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  12. Hello! I read your blog regularly but never remember to comment - and your bit about the enjoyment of reading blogs prompted me to remember to come and say thanks for yours!

    The weaving is beautiful, too.

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  13. I love your woven cloth, you are sure to have many, many happy hours experimenting with colours and textures. I still enjoy reading blogs, although do not comment very often and will try to do so more. Instagram is a brilliant medium, an instant snap and we can flick on - no words needed beyond the #, although I am spending less time on it and that has squed the way photo's come up and therefore the enjoyment has lessend for me.

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  14. Love the Weaving style, great design and one of the best learning experience as well through out the blog.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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