Author Archive

Year of the Sheep

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
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The Year of the Sheep, according to the the Lunar New Year, begins tomorrow and I am excited to celebrate. Partly because the sheep is described as a sign of creativity, but mostly because I love the soft, curly, squishy fleece sheep produce. Wool fiber and yarn are staples of the textile arts and for good reason. Wool is warm, making it perfect for winter blankets and throws, scarves and shawls and wraps. And it dyes beautifully, giving us colorful palettes of vibrant hues with which to weave cloth.

I love to weave blankets and wool is my fiber of choice, especially this year as I stare at the mountains of snow that are piled outside my New England home.  Jaggerspun Heather is a beautiful 100% wool with stunning heathered colors and a true bargain with 498 yds per 100g skein. The sett is 12 – 16 epi, which makes a cozy, warm blanket that weaves up incredibly fast. And – spoiler alert! – we will have a fantastic draft for a lap robe in deflected doubleweave available in early April!

Valley Yarns Draft #7, the Dornik Twill Throw in 2/10 Merino Tencel - available for download at yarn.com

Another of my favorite wool blends is Valley Yarns 2/10 Merino Tencel. The tencel in this yarn adds a lovely sheen and drape, making this a great choice for shawls that feel like a warm, comforting hug. We have experimented with the care on this yarn and have had good success washing hand wovens on a gentle cycle in cool water following by air drying. Check out Draft #61 Plaited Twill Shawl for an 8-shaft weave (I love the plaited effect that makes it seem like a weave within a weave) or try the Dornik Twill Throw, Draft # 7, for 4-shaft looms. Barbara just wove a new version of this throw in a different colorway; the color range of the yarn lends itself to many great combinations.

Valley Yarns Draft #67 the Zephyr Lace Shawl in 8-shaft Atwater-Bronson Lace - available for download at yarn.com

For pure luxury it’s hard to beat Jaggerspun Zephyr, which is a 50-50 blend of merino wool and silk. Although the sett is not too fine (20 – 30 epi), the yarn is soft and light and feels like sinking into a cloud. We combined two closely related colors to create a lacy shawl that is almost iridescent, with warp and weft floats that shimmer. There are lots of colors to choose from, so you can create your own combination to weave the Zephyr Shawl in Atwater-Bronson, Draft #67.

Leyden Glen Farm lambs - see more at getting-stitched-on-the-farm.blogspot.com

So start counting sheep and the ways we love them (as an aside – it’s lambing season, which is about as lovable and cute as it gets! Visit the website of your favorite sheep farmer to confirm this and say “awww”.). And since it is the Year of the Sheep, how will you celebrate with wool in your weaving?

Pattern Dictionaries – Springboard to Creativity

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room!

As the daughter of a reference librarian, I grew up loving books and using them to learn about the world. It was only natural, then, when I moved into the fiber world to continue to rely on books for knowledge and inspiration. One of my favorite things to do is sit down with a pile of pattern dictionaries and page through them looking for ideas, leaving a path of colorful page markers in my wake.

Weaving pattern directories - available at yarn.com

Weaving pattern dictionaries are books that present a plethora of pattern ideas that you can then use to create a project. They will show the threading, tie up and treadling for one repeat of the pattern and usually include photos of the resulting cloth. Oftentimes you will see multiple variations in treadling or tie up to produce different patterns from the same threading. My favorite books for weaving include the vintage and ever-popular A Handweaver’s Pattern Book  by Marguerite Davison and The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon which are both for 4-shaft looms. A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patternsedited by Carol Strickler is great for the 8-shaft looms and for rigid heddle weavers there is Jane Patrick’s wonderful Weaver’s Idea Book.

Four Shaft Twill Towels, Valley Yarns Draft #33 - available at yarn.com

One of the things I love about these books is seeing the variety of patterns that can be achieved with one threading, just by changing the tie up or treadling. I feel like I’m getting more bang for my warp, so to speak, and can put on a long warp and weave lots of things without getting bored with the pattern. When I designed the Four Shaft Twill Towels (Draft #33), I put on a long warp in natural and then varied things by changing the weft colors and also by changing the tie up. It felt like each towel was new, which kept it fun, and it allowed me to make sets of towels (and you know how much I love sets that are matchy but still uniquely individual!)

Exploring huck patterns with Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo - available at yarn.com

Learning this process of translating a weaving pattern into a project draft has been very liberating for me. I often fall in love with the feel of a specific yarn and then get stuck trying to find a draft that fits. Last summer as we prepared for Convergence, I knew I needed to dress a 4-shaft loom for the floor model. I wanted to use our Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo which is soft and drapey and perfect for scarves and shawls. I looked through my pattern dictionaries, fell in love with a huck pattern and the result is the Lemongrass Scarf (draft will be available for sale in April).

So cozy up with a good book and start translating inspiration into handwovens! I’d love to see what you create.

‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
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Some see the rigid heddle loom as a gateway loom – a great way to check out weaving that eventually leads to more and more complex structures and looms and a lifelong addiction passion for fiber. Others love these looms for their speedy set up, accessible and easy weaving style and economy of space, warp yarns and investment. I came to rigid heddle weaving after learning to weave on a multi-shaft floor loom, so I consider myself to be pretty loom-neutral and simply dodge the question when asked which one I like better.

Weaving with knitting yarns on your rigid heddle loom can have fantastic results!

I will tell you, however, that one of the things I love about my RH is working with knitting yarns. Because, frankly, knitting yarns get a lot more exciting and different every day. The beautiful hand dyes! The wild and wacky textures and fiber combinations! A lot of times the yarn doesn’t need anything more than plain weave to showcase its beauty. (By the way, I hate the term ‘plain weave’ because plain implies mundane and boring, which it is not!)

The Variable Dent Reed for the Schacht Flip Loom - available at yarn.com

One of the new ‘toys’ that has come our way is the Variable Dent Reed (VDR) made by Schacht for their Flip Rigid Heddle looms. Ever wanted to mix it up with different weights of yarns in one piece? Then this is your tool! It comes with an assortment of the plastic sections of the heddle in various dents, which you then fit into the heddle in any order you wish. One of our weaving instructors, Paula Veleta, designed and wove this beautiful scarf that combines hand dyed sock yarn with bulky novelty yarns. The result is a stunning and fashionable scarf that is lots of fun. We will have this draft available for sale in February, or you can create your own version. If I were more inclined to math, I would tell you how many different combinations you can make with the VDR, but you’ll have to settle for my approximation – an awful lot!

Plainweave with a variable dent reed - read more at blog.yarn.com

And if you want to take your rigid heddle weaving down other adventurous paths, Paula is teaching a new class – Advanced Beginner Techniques for Rigid Heddle Looms – that will take you through a multitude of techniques to create unique and beautiful pieces. Each month will focus on a topic such as color and weave, finger manipulations to create lace and texture, using pick-up sticks and more. It will open your eyes and give you the skills to take your weaving to a new level.

What will you weave next?

What to do with Weftovers

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
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Weftovers - projects for your leftover weaving yardage on the WEBS blog - blog.yarn.com

I don’t know about you, but I hate to waste anything. This leads to cones with less than 10 yards (could be an accent thread), chokes ties straightened and rehung on the warping board to use on the next warp and piles of cloth scraps trimmed from the ends of woven yardage. I compound the ‘problem’ of scraps by my typical sampling method – I usually add an extra yard or two to my warp so that I can test different weft colors, treadlings and even setts. It’s a great way to test out ideas and provides me with a record of what I’ve tried.

Weftovers - projects for your leftover weaving yardage on the WEBS blog - blog.yarn.comAnd it leads to these piles, just begging to become something more. Usually these pieces are on the smaller side, which means petite projects. I’ve been inspired by other weavers and have to show you some of the great things they’ve come up with. Of course, you can start with the easy-to-sew rectangular pouches – cases for eyeglasses, phones and other devices. But let’s add a little more pizzazz!

My friend Amy took the beginning weaving class a few years ago and before the 7 weeks were done she showed up with these wonderful zippered bags. She lined them with commercially made fabric, inserted the zipper and created one-of-a-kind bags that can be used to hold everything from knitting/weaving tools & projects to travel accessories. These are fun and can be made in any size, can traverse weft color changes, etc.

Another co-worker, Marthe, took it one step (several steps, actually) further and created this fancy clasp purse. She backed her handwoven cloth with fusible interfacing and a silk lining, added a metal purse frame and embellished it with beads. Another example of a creative person who just can’t stop!

Although I do have a profusion of weftovers in my weaving studio, many of them are pretty small. I just can’t toss them, so I have delved into the world of functional small objects. I started with lavender sachets, sewn from the 60/2 silk scarf I mentioned in my last post. The cloth is delicate and fine and seems perfect to nestle in a drawer of clean linens.

The next set of tiny squares I stuffed firmly with fiberfil and they became miniature pincushions, perfect for the high castle of my loom or in the drawer where I keep my hand sewing supplies. I chose cloth with a tighter weave and sturdier structure for these. The red one is an overshot done in 40/2 linen with 20/2 linen for the pattern weft, and it’s so tiny that you wouldn’t even know there’s a treadling error if I didn’t tell you (now you’re going to look, right?). The pincushion in blues was a sampler of weft colors for a huck lace scarf in tencel. Although I stuffed my pincushion with fiberfil, I have heard of folks using emery (the gritty stuff I remember that sharpened the needles in my mom’s pincushion) and ground walnut hulls (which are sold as bedding material in pet shops).

And, speaking of pets, I know how much my sister’s cats (Pip and Squeak) love to chase small things. So I hunted down a pattern for a mouse and made a catnip toy for them. The pattern is incredibly simple – cut out a heart-shaped piece, fold it in half and sew along the open edges, leaving an opening to add the catnip. After the catnip is stuffed inside, hand stitch the opening closed. I have to admit my ‘mouse’ looks a little angular, but that’s mostly due to my clumsy sewing and a too-small seam allowance. Next time I will start with a larger heart. I’m pretty sure that cats will not be picky about the odd shape and will have fun batting it around the house.

What do you do with your weftovers?

New Year – New Weaving

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! As 2014 winds down and we wrap up our 40th Anniversary celebrations, I am looking forward to the new year and the new beginnings that it will bring. I am not much of one for making resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals. I am easily distracted so having goals helps me to stay focused and to move forward. And, of course, there is such a great sense of accomplishment when I achieve them – another chance to celebrate!

Tablet Weaving Made Easy DVD with John Mullarkey - available at yarn.comIn the next year I am looking to stretch myself as a weaver – try new weave structures, looms, fibers. One thing that has been grabbing my interest lately is card weaving, also called tablet weaving. I am fascinated and mystified by how it works. I love the beautiful bands you can weave, and can see many ways to incorporate them into projects. We have a great DVD from John Mullarkey – Tablet Weaving Made Easy – that’s filled with instruction and inspiration. Schacht recently started making cards for tablet weaving that look perfect for beginners – the edges are color coded to help you keep track of which way to turn them. If I really get into it I may even try the six-hole cards from Unicorn.

 

One of the things I love about working at WEBS is the easy access to a great line up of classes and instructors. For those who live in our ‘neighborhood’ (which seems to include most of the Northeast, judging from the folks who have taken classes with me), our weaving classes offer the ideal setting to learn new techniques with hands on instruction. I am excited to take the Rug Weaving class with Jason Collingwood. His designs are beautiful and I look forward to learning from such an acclaimed teacher.

Valley Yarns #37 Finnish Pattern #1 Draft PDF - available for download at yarn.comAnother perk of WEBS is the daily inspiration of my colleagues and our customers. Several years ago a few of us decided to do a weaving challenge and we all chose the same draft and then individually picked our yarns. I took the word ‘challenge’ very seriously and decided to use 60/2 silk (and even chose colors that I never use). It was both terrifying and exhilarating and though I loved the end result, I have stayed away  from fine threads since then. Until now. In the spirit of new (or re-newed?) beginnings, I am going to weave with 60/2 silk again. We have a 4-shaft variation on that snowflake twill I made before and I am going to weave some new scarves.

Many years ago, on the “Cast On” podcast by Brenda Dayne, I heard the phrase “Begin as you mean to go on” and I think of it every time the new year cycles around. I am beginning my weaving year with a warp on the loom and new things to learn. How about you – what will you begin with your weaving in 2015?

 

Gifts for Weavers

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
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Stumped by what to get for the weaver in your life? It can be tricky when you do not speak the language or know the tribal customs of this particular breed of fiber enthusiast. But fear not, for I am a professional weaving enabler and I can provide insight into this dilemma. As with most of my gifting, I try to look for something special, something that the giftee might not necessarily buy for her/himself. The choices range from tools to enhance the weaving process to luxury fibers to make a unique woven piece.

Schacht variable dent heddle for rigid heddle looms - available at yarn.com

 

Schacht’s Variable Dent Heddle (for the Flip Rigid Heddle Loom) allows weavers to create one-of-a-kind pieces by combining different yarns together in a single warp. The heddle consists of a frame with sections of varying dents that can be combined in any order, providing limitless possibilities for beautiful woven projects!

 

Yarn to Yards Balance - available at yarn.com

 

Those of us who have been grabbed by fiber lust often find ourselves with mystery cones and skeins with no labels, leaving us to wonder if we have enough yarn to weave that special *thing*. The Yarn to Yards Balance is here to answer those questions with a simplicity that is ingenious. A length of yarn is balanced on the device and then measured to find yards per pound. No fuss, no muss, and no batteries needed.

Another tool new weavers often delay getting is the indispensable Bobbin Winder. Sturdy and simple, these tools last forever and take the drudgery out of winding bobbins of thread to weave. They offer a distinct advantage over homemade options by allowing a degree of control that produces a better wound bobbin (one of the keys to good selvedges).

Jade Sapphire Silk Cashmere - available at yarn.com

 

Silk. Cashmere. Need I say more? Okay, maybe some specifics – how about a skein of Jade Sapphire Silk Cashmere, the epitome of luxury in a skein. These skeins have great yardage, with enough in one skein for weft for a softer-than-soft scarf. It pairs beautifully with our 2/10 Merino Tencel as warp (ask me how I know).

Schacht Inkle Loom - available at yarn.com

 

Then we have a fun loom for kids and adults alike – the Inkle Loom. This loom is for weaving narrow bands that are great for belts, guitar and camera straps, and as strips to piece or weave together into larger projects. We sell the Schacht Inkle Loom individually, or as a gift set that adds in a shuttle to weave with and Anne Dixon’s great book, The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory, which is filled with colorful, inspiring designs in addition to basic weaving instructions. A smaller version of the loom is also available, the Ashford Inklette.

And, finally, no wish list would be complete without mentioning gift cards, the present that fits everyone regardless of size, color and fiber preferences!

Surprise your favorite weaver with something special and watch the fun as the creativity is unleashed!

Optical Twill Rug – new draft from Jason Collingwood

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
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Weaving a rug is one of the great satisfactions of a weaving life and we are happy to feature the striking Optical Twill  Rug from Jason Collingwood in our series of drafts celebrating WEBS 40th Anniversary. Jason is known internationally as a teacher and weaver, and continues the family legacy of rug design and weaving.

Optical Twill Rug draft designed by Jason Collingwood, woven with 8/5 Wetspun Linen Warp and Valley Yarns Collingwood Rug Yarn - draft and fibers available exclusively at yarn.com

What I love about this rug is that Jason has set it up as a simple 2/2 twill and then shows how to add motifs that reverse the direction of the twill. His version has a central motif with two smaller ones at each end, but the instructions show how you can vary the size and placement of the motifs to create a unique rug.

The rug features Collingwood Rug Wool, an exclusive line offered by WEBS, with 36 beautiful colors. The broad color range allows you to match the decor of any room. And the wool is spun specifically for rugs so it will hold up to any tap dancing hordes that inhabit your home.

Optical Twill Rug draft designed by Jason Collingwood, woven with 8/5 Wetspun Linen Warp and Valley Yarns Collingwood Rug Yarn - draft and fibers available exclusively at yarn.com

The other feature of this rug that I find so beautiful is the edge finish. Jason uses a half-Damascus edge which creates a braided look along the edge that matches the braided fringe. The result is a professionally finished edge that looks beautiful and will wear well.

One of my goals as a weaver is to ‘clothe’ my house with handwovens. I’ve made the piles of dishtowels, some lovely table runners and blankets and I’m working on the design for lace curtains. This rug would look great in my front entry and I may have to wander past the rug yarn today and contemplate colors. What have you woven for your home?

Holiday Weaving

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
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Holiday WeavingCelebration Runner weaving draft available at yarn.comI am a great lover of family traditions and one year I decided to start a new one for our family and wove each of my sisters a holiday dish towel/bread cloth. I wanted them to be related, but not identical, so I chose a twill pattern that I could use different treadlings with. I also mixed it up a little by using two different weft colors and varying the proportions, so one had stripes, one a broad band of contrast, etc. The result was a gift that wove us together as a family and yet was unique and special to each person. Sets maximize your warping time by allowing you to make many pieces from one warp. Each piece becomes different through the use of different weft colors, treadlings or tie ups. This strategy works for everything from dish towels and bread cloths, to scarves, table runners and more.

I categorize my holiday weaving in two groups – gifts and decorating my home. My categories overlap sometimes, because I often weave festive pieces for other people’s homes. For the gifting I tend to keep it simple and go with the Set Theory, which can play out in numerable ways. Your handwoven can be the crown jewel in a basket of goodies – a bread cloth with a loaf of home-baked or artisan bread, spa cloths with bath salts, a sewn bag filled with game pieces (chess, anyone?) or a bottle of wine. A set of coasters (aka mug rugs) is a quick gift as well as a great way to sample new techniques.

Color options for weaving drafts on the WEBS blog

And then there’s home dec. I love linens (a term I use generically that does not necessarily involve the use of the linen fiber) that can be special accents for holidays. Table runners, place mats and coasters are great for this. These are pieces where I rely on color to carry the theme, choosing those that are associated with the family/faith traditions of the recipient. The examples below are based on one of our most popular drafts – #64 Modified Star Work Dish Towel.  For a table runner – make it narrower and longer and add some lovely twisted fringes. Place mats – hemmed rectangles, maybe with some stripes along the edges to frame the pattern.

What weaving projects are you planning for the holidays?

Shuttle Shenanigans

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
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Beginning to weave is an exciting adventure that opens the door to so much – creativity, color, texture, pattern and more. It is also overwhelming at times to learn the new language (sley? heddle? tromp as writ?!) not to mention the huge variety of tools.

One of the most basic tools is the shuttle, which holds and carries the yarn to weave the cloth. Sounds simple enough, right? Then why are there so many different ones and how am I supposed to know which one to use?! It’s enough to make you cry, but that will stain the wood, so let me break it down for you. We’ll start with the major types of shuttles.

boat shuttlesBoat Shuttles

Boat shuttles are longish, narrow wooden shuttles that are open in the center with a long metal shaft that holds the bobbin of yarn. Boats can be open underneath the bobbin or closed (solid wood) underneath. The profile of a shuttle refers to its height; a slim shuttle will be shorter and fit into a narrower shed (the opening between the threads that the shuttle passes through). Double boat shuttles can hold two bobbins of yarn. The yarn in a boat shuttle feeds off the bobbin and through a slot or hole in the side of the shuttle.

Stick Shuttles

stick shuttlesStick shuttles are thin flat pieces of wood that have notches at both ends. They also come in a variety of lengths, anywhere from 6” up to 30”. It is much easier to work with a shuttle that is slightly longer than the width of your project. If it is too long, you will end up whacking the walls and doing a bit of flailing; too short and you will have to reach into the shed  to grab the shuttle. A Belt shuttle is a short stick shuttle that has one beveled edge so that it can be used to beat the yarn in. Belt shuttles are often used with inkle, card and backstrap weaving.

Rag, Rug & Ski Shuttles

rag, rug & ski shuttlesRag shuttles look like two thin tapered pieces of wood with columns in between. This is so you can wind a lot of strips of cut or torn rags, which are rather bulky, onto the shuttle.

A rug shuttle is used as its name suggests – to weave rugs. It is a solid, square-ish piece of wood with groves along the sides and notches at the end to hold the yarn (I think of it as a stick shuttle on steroids); it needs the extra heft to carry the heavier rug yarns. As with stick shuttles, choose a rug shuttle based on the width of your project.

A ski shuttle has a wooden base with upturned ends (like a ski!) and an upright center to wrap the yarn around. It can be used for yarns that are too bulky for a boat shuttle, but it slides along the warp which is an advantage over a stick shuttle.

How to Choose a Shuttle

First you have to choose the type that is suitable for your loom and project. Boat shuttles feed yarn more evenly and quickly because of the bobbin and are generally the shuttle of choice for multi-harness looms. Rigid heddle weavers will sometimes use boats, though in my  personal experience I limit them to narrower warps as they can nose dive to the floor on wider warps. Stick shuttles work well for rigid heddles and other smaller looms, as well as for some hand-manipulated weaves on larger looms. Rug and rag shuttles – self-explanatory.

Photo by Lindsey TophamBoat shuttles have a number of variables to further influence your choice. Open or closed bottom? Closed bottom will glide more smoothly, open bottom allows you to use your fingers as a brake on the bobbin and are lighter in weight. Weight is an important factor in choosing a shuttle. In general, you want to pick the lightest shuttle that serves your weaving needs, to lessen the strain on your hands, though on occasion you may need something heavier to throw across a wider warp.

If you have the chance to try shuttles in person, take advantage of it. Hold it in your hand and mimic your throwing motion. Evaluate how it fits in your hand, how easy it is to grasp. As with many fine tools, it often comes down to personal preference so listen to your body and don’t be afraid to experiment with different shuttle types. You will probably also find that different projects require different shuttles (which is how we end up with a variety on the shelf next to the loom!).

WEBS 40th Anniversary Shuttle

 

 

Weaving Contest Gallery Show

Sunday, October 12th, 2014
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Our yearlong celebration of WEBS 40th Anniversary has included a wide variety of fiber-related events, special yarns, drafts and patterns. One of my favorite parts has been the 40th Anniversary Weaving Contest, which focused on WEBS’ beginnings as a weaving store.

cones tencelThe concept of a contest sounded great to us – show us the beauty you can create with our yarn. However, we had no idea what kind of a response we’d get and as the months passed by with only a few responses, we felt like the kid wondering where the party guests were and had everyone forgotten? And then the floodgates opened and we were overwhelmed with the huge outpouring of ideas that had been developing on the looms of our weaving friends. We ended up with more than 140 entries from 30 different states across the country!

Aside from the sheer volume of entries, we were amazed and impressed by the skill of the weavers and beauty and workmanship of their pieces. Although we specified four categories for entries, the works spanned everything from scarves, shawls and clothing, to towels, table linens and curtains, to decorative and artistic wall hangings, rugs and bowls.

 

 

beautiful woven jacketWhat I found equally fascinating were the stories that came with the pieces. I grew up surrounded by classical music so I was delighted when I read that Deborah Lewis-Idema designed the cloth she wove for her beautiful jacket using the first four measures of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. Another design, from Cindie Kitchin, came out of a weaving guild challenge. They each pulled the name of a country out of a hat and designed something inspired by that. The result is her lovely Iranian Tiles Scarf.

 

beautiful woven tencel scarf

 

 

The 40th Anniversary Weaving Gallery Show will present all of the weavings that were selected as finalists in the contest. Free and open to the public, the show will take place at WEBS retail store at 75 Service Center Rd, Northampton, MA. The show will kick off with an opening reception from 6 – 7:30 pm on October 16th and then be open from 10 am – 5 pm on October 17 & 18. Please join us to see the exquisite beauty and to celebrate 40 years of WEBS and weaving.

 

woven runner