Author Archive

Resources for the Visual Learners

Friday, May 15th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! My education as a fiber artisan has included a mix of classes and books. I love books (my mother was a librarian, after all) and I’m one of those odd birds who actually reads owners manuals. I can work my way through the descriptions and instructions at my own pace, stopping to try things out and taking inspiration from the gorgeous photos.

However, I know from my experience in classes that watching someone else’s hands demonstrate techniques increases my learning exponentially. Unfortunately, I don’t get to flit from conference to workshop gorging on the educational smorgasbord. And sometimes I just need a refresher or a close up of one specific piece of the process. So it’s off to the interwebs to find what I need.

I don’t even have to go far, because WEBS has its own YouTube channel with great videos of weaving techniques (knitters, crocheters, spinners, etc, can find video tutorials for their technique as well). Feeling hesitant about warping back to front? Watch Barbara Elkins, WEBS founder, walk you through it step by step.

Want to learn to step up your skills and learn to hemstitch your pieces on the loom? Check out this great hands on demo with yours truly.

Videos are a great way to see exactly what the hands are doing, with the added benefit of being able to pause, rewind and go through it again as you work on your own loom. We are adding to our resource library of weaving videos all the time. Coming soon – how to wind a warp with Barbara Elkins, a tutorial that not only shows the basics, but talks about how to place the cross according the the dimensions of your loom, how to wind with two threads at a time, and many other useful tips.

Technique videos are like having a personal coach to help you succeed and I encourage you to use them to up your game. As we continue to build our library, what would you like to see demonstrated?

A quick little something for spring

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
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After a long winter it seems like spring is taking forever to arrive. I’m ready to shed the heavy coats and scarves and I’m starved for any pops of color or hints of cheer. It’s the perfect time for a quick project, something fun and colorful. Something like………..collapse scarves! We have a trio of these, all using the same draft, #32 Collapse Weave Scarf,  but each with different color combinations. They are a light addition to the wardrobe and a delightful weaving adventure.

Draft #32 - Collapse Weave Scarf - available at yarn.com

Collapse weave creates a fabric with nooks and crannies and provides endless room for experimentation.  The pleating forms due to the weave structure and the combination of a weft that is much thinner than the warp. You can make it subtle or bold, spice it up with some glitz or play with stripes. It’s springy and sproingy and looks different from every angle.

We used 8/2 Tencel for the warp and 60/2 silk for the weft. The combination, in addition to making the great texture, is soft and slinky with lovely drape. We just changed to a smaller size cone for our 60/2 silk, which means you can get more bang (colors) for your weaving dollars. This draft is also a great way to dip your toe in the ‘weaving  fine threads pool’ by using the silk as weft. You’ll love how it feels and, I hope, encouraged to use it for warp down the road.

So have some fun weaving a little spring something to lighten your step and brighten your day. And don’t forget to share pictures – we love show and tell!

Keeping Track

Thursday, April 16th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! I am re-energized by the signs of spring popping up outside and excited to get started on new projects, both on my loom and in the garden. I am finishing up a rather complex weaving project, one that taught me patience and helped me refine my process for keeping track of my place. It is easy to get lost when your threading or treadling sequence is long, so I thought I’d share some tips that have helped me.

Keeping track of your treadling in weaving drafts - Leslie Ann has some great tips on the WEBS Blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Break it into manageable bits. I have read that our brains retain information in groups of 4 or 5, so I break the sequences into sections that are either 4-5 threads/treadles long, or contain a run such as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. I find that I can keep this chunk of information in my mind while working and then look back at my notes for the next chunk.

Write it out in a way that makes sense to you and display it so you can see it while weaving. Rather than working off a a typical charted draft, I rewrite my treadling on paper using thick markers (my eyes need all the help they can get!). I use the Knitter’s Pride Magma Chart Keeper to hold my notes and place it on the castle or on a table next to my loom. It has magnets to hold the paper on, and I can use the strip magnet to mark my place. It keeps my notes close at hand and easy to see and read.

Use visual cues to remind you where you are. The scarf I just finished was an advancing twill with many repeating sequences (see picture) and sometimes I’d have a momentary lapse in attention (okay, it’s true. Sometimes I just zoned out.) and couldn’t remember if I had repeated 3-4-1 two or three times. The sett was 56 epi which added to the challenge of finding my place, plus it just slowed me down to squint at those interlacements! What I did was to mark which side of the loom my shuttle would be on at the beginning of each chunk. You can see in the picture that I used Highlighter Tape (another indispensable tool in my kit) to mark the sequences where my shuttle would begin on the left. It really helped me to quickly identify which point I was at.

Stop only at the end of sequences and mark where you will resume. I try to work through a full pattern repeat before I step away from the loom. In the case of long repeats I will at least finish a complete chunk. And do not fall prey to the voice in your head that says you will remember/will be right back – always write down where to start again. In words that you will understand – cryptograms are best saved for code breakers.

A toolkit of techniques is great to help you stay on track whether your draft is simple or complex. What tips work for you?

Weaving Sourcebook

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! I hope you have seen our new weaving catalog – the Weaving Sourcebook 2015! I’m especially excited because we have so many new drafts to inspire you. Barbara and I went through all of our drafts last fall and talked about which needed to retire or hibernate for a while and – most importantly and most fun – we had a creative brainstorm and came up with lists of new projects to try. We looked at new yarns, different weave structures that we haven’t featured before, changing up the colorways from the blue spectrum that both us love to work with, and new tools for weavers.  The result is a collection that we are really proud of.

WEBS 2015 Weavers Sourcebook, shop online now at yarn.com

We also have some talented local weavers who created designs especially for WEBS and after keeping these pieces under wraps for a few months, I’m happy to share them with you. Elisabeth (Lisa) Hill has spent years delving into and developing designs in deflected double weave. She came up with the Labyrinth Lap Robe – a beautiful blanket woven with Jaggerspun Heather with strong geometric lines and a wonderful intermingling of colors in this intriguing weave structure. The yarn weaves up into a thick and cozy wrap that is snuggly soft and the heathered colors infuse it with richness and depth.

Dishtowels are a staple item for many weavers – it’s easy to churn out a stack on a long warp and have plenty for gifts and for home. Chris Hammel worked with our new 8/2 Cottolin from Brassard and designed the Cabana Towel – a towel that is refreshingly different, with great texture and pops of color. Easy to weave on 8 shafts, the towel features Canvas and Basket weaves. The Cottolin comes in 37 colors, which means lots of fun colorways to play with. And the cotton portion of the yarn is organically grown, always a plus for me.

One of more recent tools to hit the scene is the Variable Dent Reed from Schacht for use with their rigid heddle looms. It allows you to easily combine yarns of different sizes in the warp and Paula Veleta came up with a stunning scarf that showcases this. The Ginger Chocolate Scarf combines hand painted sock yarn with several novelty yarns to produce a scarf that is stylish and hip. Rigid Heddle weavers have so many possibilities to work with in the explosion of colors and textures these days; let this draft be a jumping off point for your creative appetites.

These drafts are just the tip of the iceberg. The Weaving Sourcebook features 5 more new drafts, 3 updates with new colorways of old drafts and Barbara and I are still weaving many more things from our creative confab last fall. What’s next on your list?

2015: A Weaving Odyssey

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
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We get many visitors each day in the weaving room. Some are weavers looking for tools and help, some are future weavers beginning the exploration of what it entails, and some are looking to while away the time waiting for their relative or friend to finish the seemingly endless yarn shopping. So, we spend time answering questions, giving tours and demonstrating. This is one of the best parts of my job, because I love to talk weaving whether it is exchanging ideas with a fellow weaver or enticing someone to step down this rabbit hole and embrace weaving themselves. And I understand the curiosity, because looms can be complex machines with lots of parts, and it’s fascinating to see the transformation of a bunch of threads into a beautiful piece of woven cloth.

Toika computer assist looms are available at yarn.com

Of course, nothing is more astonishing than when they spy the Toika Eeva and I tell them it is a computer-assist loom. What?! How does that work?! Isn’t that cheating?! Even experienced weavers can have their minds boggled, so I’ll try to explain how these looms work. Let’s start by clarifying that these are computer-assist looms, not computerized looms. What that means is that the computer assists by lifting the shafts – and that’s all! The weaver still does everything else – warps the loom, throws the shuttle, beats the cloth, advances the warp.

On a manual loom the weaver steps on the treadles to raise (or lower) the shafts and open a shed. The Toika has a single pedal that is connected to a box that sits on top of the loom and is attached to all the shafts. A computer with weaving software is connected to the box and when the pedal is pushed the box lifts the appropriate shafts for the draft. Each step on the pedal advances the shafts to the next pick.

The advantages of this are many. For starters it allows weavers to be free of the physical challenges of lifting shafts with their legs. Many people have issues with hips or knees that make it difficult to treadle a manual loom and a computer-assist loom makes it possible for them to continue weaving. Plus, you don’t have to crawl under the loom to tie up the shafts!

Computer assist looms make the treading as simple as can be! Read more at blog.yarn.com

Then there is the matter of keeping track of larger numbers of shafts. For those who like to weave complex patterns that require 8+ shafts, threading the loom can be daunting as you try to keep track of which shaft is which. One of my favorite things about this loom is that you can have it treadle the threading. What that means is that it will lift the shafts one at a time in the order they are meant to be threaded, all you have to do is grab the heddle and thread it and move on to the next thread. This saves me hours of threading time, trying to make sure I’m on the correct shaft, and threading errors are nearly nonexistent.

And then there’s the other mental task that frequently trips me up – tracking my treadling. I’ve become skilled with long treadling sequences, but it’s liberating to not have to worry about it with this loom. I can shift my focus to my beat and the process and throwing the shuttle. It’s not like I weave on autopilot – I do watch the cloth to see the pattern develop – but I can relax more and enjoy the rhythm.

And we have some great news for those who may be thinking about getting a computer-assist loom – we will have one set up at the New England Weaver’s Seminar July 9 – 12, 2015 and we will be pre-selling the floor model at a 15% discount. It’s a great opportunity to save a significant amount and expand your weaving horizons.  We are offering the deal on a first come, first served basis, with a deadline of April 15. You can choose either an Eeva or a Liisa, from 40″ – 59″ and 16 – 32 shafts. The loom will come with all the usual accessories (software, bench, reed, heddles, etc) plus you can add any extras like second back beam, sectional beam, etc. for the same 15% discount. We set up the loom with a warp and display it for 4 days and then help the lucky buyer take it down and load it up at the end of the conference. For any questions or to place an order contact us at labestor@yarn.com or barbara.elkins@yarn.com. I’m excited to see who takes home this treasure.

Weaving Community

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
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I love meeting the weavers who come into the store. Weaving is a somewhat solitary pursuit as many of our looms are large and not portable, so it’s great to talk to other weavers about what they are making and share our enthusiasm (and frustrations) with the craft. Although we often set up looms at fairs and schools to showcase weaving, I have yet to hear of a “Weave in Public” day similar to what knitters do. (Though I must admit I chuckled as I pictured weaving on my 36″ 8-shaft loom at the bus stop, library or park.)

Learn about weaving guilds, seminars and conferences on the WEBS blog - read more at blog.yarn.com

Nevertheless, we weavers are also social creatures and it’s wonderful to spend time with others who speak the language and share the passion for making cloth. Weaving guilds are a great resource and provide the opportunity to share, inspire and learn. I belong to two local guilds and love the way they enrich my weaving life. We have time to socialize and catch up with each other, show what we’ve been working on, and listen to speakers on a broad range of topics. Guilds often have study groups for those who want to immerse themselves in a particular structure and members learn much from each other. Check your area for guilds as a way to connect to other weavers, and do not worry if you are a beginner – we are more than happy to welcome new members and grow the weaving community.

Another place to gather with like-minded artisans is at the numerous weaving seminars and conferences that take place each year. These events provide the opportunity to take classes with nationally known teachers. Classes are a terrific way to not only learn new techniques and/or structures, but to observe other weavers at work on their looms. I always pick up some good tidbits by seeing how other folks throw the shuttle, wind a bobbin or sit at the loom. Even if you don’t take any classes, most of these affairs will have gallery shows filled with eye candy and inspiration. In my corner of the world we will have the New England Weavers Seminar this summer and I am looking forward to meeting up with fellow weavers and engaging in lively discussion.

For those who live remotely and far from guilds there are still ways to connect. There are several online communities such as Ravelry and Weavolution that have discussion groups, weave-alongs and more. They bring together people from all over the world who share the love of weaving and allow them to post pictures of their projects, pose questions, chat about ideas, techniques and sources for supplies, and make long-distance friendships. The trick with this platform is to avoid the rabbit hole of over-posting/reading while your loom sits lonely (ask me how I know).

Community is important to our craft. It keeps strong our connections to other weavers, refreshes the wellsprings of inspiration, and provides a bridge to pass generations of weaving knowledge into the future.

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?