Author Archive

Warp Speed Ahead

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! Let’s talk warping, shall we? I’m not talking about how to get it on the loom, but figuring out how much you need. It’s one of those things that seems so basic once you know how to do it, but until you cross that threshold of ‘knowing’, it can feel as intimidating as solving algebraic equations the first time. I am here to be your empathetic life coach and gently show you that you can be the master of this, you can free yourself and weave 4 towels when the draft is written for 2, and you can use online tools to help!

Begin with what you are making. How about some towels? I want them to be 28″ long when they are finished – off the loom, hemmed and washed. Hemmed (or fringed) means that I actually weave a bit more cloth to turn under for the hems or leave out for fringe. That means I will add 2 more inches (1″ for each end) to the total length for each.

Figuring warp yardage, some simple measurements and a handy online calculator. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Now, how many towels do you want? We’ll go with a lovely set of 4 for Aunt Betsy and 2 for me, but remember the finishing I mentioned above? We have to account for that, too. When you take the cloth off the loom, the yarn relaxes and there is some take up where it goes over and under the weft threads rather than lying in a straight line. Additionally, the towels will probably shrink some in the wash. It’s important to allow for this in your planning. A general rule of thumb is to add 10 – 15% to the length of your warp.

Finally, we arrive at the all-important ‘loom waste’. This is the beginning and end part of the warp that attaches to the loom, but is never woven. It runs from the warp beam in back to the back of the heddles, and in the front it is the amount used to tie the ends to the front apron rod. Necessary, but never part of the woven project, this amount must be added to your total warp length. You may know the amount your loom uses for waste, and in cases of yarn shortages or expensive threads you may want to measure it precisely. But for most floor looms 36″ is sufficient unless your loom is very deep.

You can use this handy calculator from Weavolution to do all the math for you, but here we come to the part where I beseech you to err on the side of excess. I round up to whole numbers, partly because it’s just simpler with my warping board, but mostly because of the freedom it gives me to play with weft colors, different treadlings and sett. And – gasp – I will often add an extra yard just for such purpose.

And that’s how simple it is! And now that you get that part, you’ll see how easy it is to take a draft for 2 towels and add enough warp to make four.

Go forth and warp with confidence.

Hand Held Happiness

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! I don’t know about you, but I love the beautiful grain lines of wood almost as much as fiber. Since I am not a woodworker, this means that I treasure and appreciate hand-crafted wood tools to use in weaving. And that has lead to an excited buzz around here as we unpack the boxes of beautiful looms and shuttles from Jim Hokett of Hokett Would Work. It’s always fun to get new things here, but you know it’s really special when the staff are already laying claim to most of the first order.

The Hand Looms are sweet, small looms perfect for tapestries and weaving small samples to test ideas, colors, hand, etc. The center part is shaped so that you can hold it in one hand while weaving with the other. We have 2 sizes plus it is available in a kit which includes a little beater, tiny stick shuttle, needle stick, skewer and enough carpet warp for a couple project and instructions for warping and weaving.

Hokett hand crafted weaving tools and looms. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

And then there are the end-of-warp shuttles – petite and gorgeous (sigh, that wood grain gets me every time!), these shuttles have a very narrow profile, making them ideal for situations when you have a small shed. Instead of a bobbin, the shuttle has a paper quill held in place with a spring-loaded bar (kind of like those pins in watch bands) which is easy to pop in and out yet stays firmly in place while weaving. Although the name specifiies skill in narrow sheds, I also plan to try them with my rigid heddle because their light weight should allow them to sail across a wider warp without nose diving to the floor.

Tapestry weaving in progress on a Hokett hand crafted loom. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

And, finally, my nominee for the “Genius why-didn’t-I-think-of-that Idea” are the Floating Sues. They look so innocuous, yet are brilliant in function. Hang them from your floating selvages with the hook on one end. If you need more weight, add it to the hook at the other end. Voila! Couldn’t be simpler. They also work well with broken warp ends and I love that I will no longer search for random stacks of pennies.

I’m now pondering my first foray into tapestry weaving and looking forward to working with such beautiful tools. Do you have special hand made tools that you use for weaving?

Vacation Weaving

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
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We have reached the dog days of summer and time for vacation. Days of relaxing on the porch, sipping iced beverages and, of course, creating something with fiber. For many years my projects centered around knitting, mostly because it is so portable. But two years ago my sister hauled her 4-shaft table loom along and I became inspired to venture outside my usual travel boundaries.

Weaving on your summer travels. Read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Last summer I had just learned to weave on an inkle loom and decided that our family vacation would be the perfect time to learn new techniques and play with ideas. I picked up Anne Dixon’s The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory and packed up my trusty Inklette and some yarn and headed off. I felt pretty confident with the basic warping and weaving, so I chose to tackle something more adventurous and turned to the section on pick up. The book is not only filled with gorgeous, inspiring bands, it gives you multiple design options on a single warp. So I warped it up and started to play with weaving different motifs and patterns. It was fun watching the designs emerge and since it was for sampling, once I got bored adept with one, I’d move on to another. And the best part – when I pulled it off the loom I cut it into sections and gave my family “commemorative” bookmarks from our vacation.

This summer I plan to continue my newly created tradition of learning new techniques and giving family members a handwoven souvenir from our week at the lake. I’m still debating whether to take my Zoom Loom or forge ahead with my newest weaving obsession – tablet weaving. (Who am I kidding? They are both going into the suitcase!)

Do you weave on your vacations?

More Inspiration

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! It’s been a great year for weaving books, with many new and revised editions being released. The latest to catch my eye is Lucienne Coifman’s Rep Rips Reps. I have not yet tried my hand at Rep weave, but there are a couple of projects in here that inspire me to warp something up.

REP, RIPS, REPS Weave by Lucienne Coifman, available at yarn.com

The book is filled with gorgeous photos of colorful, stunning weaving. She starts with an overview of the technique and special considerations, including setting up the loom, reading rep weave drafts and finishing the pieces. There are many inspiring projects to weave and I love that she gives options for 2-, 4- and 8-shaft so that you will be able to join the fun regardless of your loom set up. Rep is commonly used for rugs, placemats and wall hangings and there are plenty of these. But, wait, there’s more! Lucienne gives us game boards and mazes and bags. My favorite are the delightful boxes that I can picture holding jewelry or treasures on my bureau.

The appendix rounds out the instruction by talking about different threadings and tie ups as well as how to design your own project on either 4- or 8-shafts.

Join us on Saturday, July 11th at 12:30 pm for a special book signing with Lucienne at our booth at the New England Weavers’ Seminar in Northampton.

Cone Cornucopia!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! We received a shipment of mill end cones this week and I am having trouble concentrating on my job. This is what happens when you work in the candy shop of the fiber world. I keep making ‘detours’ as I walk through the warehouse and find myself standing in front of these lovelies. My desk is filling with cones in different color groupings, adorned with sticky notes listing yardages, setts and calculations for projects.

It’s always a heady atmosphere when we get mill ends because they are so hard to come by these days. I have 2 coping strategies, but unfortunately they directly contradict each other so I only have a 50-50 chance of getting it right. The first one says – ‘surround yourself with the beautiful colors and feels, give it a few days and maybe you’ll realize that as much as you love it you’re never going to get to that project.’ This strategy has saved many a paycheck (and also led to a few regrets). The second theory goes – ‘this color/hand is stunningly awesome and it’s going to go really fast and if you don’t grab it now it will be gone forever.’ This has led to my embarrassingly large stash and membership in Hoarders’ Anonymous (and some great finds at the year-end guild auctions).

But enough about me! You really just want to know what’s back in that warehouse, right? Okay, this is what we got:

Mill End cones on sale at WEBS - more on the WEBS Blog, blog.yarn.com

 4.1nm Cotton Viscose Mill End is a delightful blend, with a thick & thin cotton core wrapped with viscose. The viscose gives it a beautiful sheen and the varied thickness will add great texture to your weaving. Suggested sett is 20-28 epi, but remember to always weave a sample before starting your project. 54% Cotton/46% Viscose. 18 colors

$12.99 by the cone, full cones only. Cones weigh approximately .55 lb., with ~1320 yards.

30s Yorkshire Wool Mill End on 250g cones is a finely spun, 100% wool, single ply weaving yarn with a spectacular range of colors including some rich, heathery shades. The fine weight will weave up into beautiful yardage for garments as well as lightweight throws, blankets and more. Recommended sett is 30 – 35 epi, but remember to always weave a swatch before starting your project.  55 colors

$12.99 by the cone, full cones only. Cones weigh approximately .55 lb., with ~4224 yards.

2/16 Lambswool Mill End is not only gorgeous, soft and cozy, but it boasts some incredibly rich heather shades that will add depth and color to your weaving. This 100% wool yarn comes on 250g cones. Recommended sett is 24-30 epi, but make sure to always weave a sample before starting a project. 28 colors

$12.99 by the cone, full cones only. Cones weigh approximately .55 lb., with ~2464 yards.

9.4nm Wool Nylon Mill End 250g weaving yarn is a springy, tightly spun blend of wool with a little nylon. It has great texture – almost like a bouclé – and is available in a lovely array of colors. We see this working as a wonderful weft yarn, used alone or in combination with other yarns. Use as warp only with great care as it’s rather stretchy. Always weave a sample before starting a project. 93% wool/7% nylon. 56 colors.

$13.99 by the cone, full cones only. Cones weigh approximately .55 lb., with ~2475 yards.

3.5nm Flan Mill End is a fun yarn on 250g cones that’s 100% cotton, and will provide lots of interest and texture to your weaving. It’s got a zig-zaggy texture throughout, with variations in thickness, almost like a flake. Recommended sett is 16-24 epi, but remember to always weave a swatch before beginning your project. 40+ colors

$12.99 by the cone, full cones only. Cones weigh approximately .55 lb., with ~957 yards.

Mill End cones on sale at WEBS - more on the WEBS Blog, blog.yarn.com

The two wools have me thinking of yardage for a winter coat, while the 3.5nm cotton is jumping up and down, begging to be combined with an 8/2 or 6/2 cotton for textured snuggly baby blankets. What can you see weaving with these yarns?

Reading for Inspiration

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! I love books and my personal reference library is full of everything from pattern dictionaries to technique books, structure-focused tomes and classics from weaving icons. I keep an eye out for new books coming in to the store, looking for inspiration and education.

I have found myself restless of late, yearning for my weaving to be more than just squares and rectangles. And then…..Simple Woven Garments, by Sara Goldenberg and Jane Patrick arrived this spring. Filled with gorgeous photography and layouts, this book is a great springboard into the world of sewing handwoven cloth. The project photos, of course, fall into the category of eye candy but I really loved that they took equal care in providing detailed, close up photos of techniques. Another nice feature is the use of side bars with suggestions for other fabric ideas and alternate styles. I’m a big fan of projects that encourage you to say “what if” and offer suggestions for making it uniquely your own.

The book starts with an introduction to sewing handwovens with information about shaping, sizing, cutting and sewing. I found the techniques to be simple and a great place to start (as opposed to feeling faint and intimidated at the thought that I need to learn French seams right away!). All the projects can be woven on either rigid heddle or shaft looms and the authors discuss the considerations for using one or the other. Some of the projects also incorporate knitting and I gotta say I love a good bi-craftual project.

Flame Lace Top from Simple Woven Garments by Sara Goldenberg & Jane Patrick - read more on the WEBS Blog at blog.yarn.com

Of course I checked to see which projects used WEBS/Valley Yarns and found the Flame Lace Top with 8/2 Tencel and Variegated 8/2 Tencel combined as the weft. I love the lacy texture of the weave and the clever pulled threads to provide shaping. I wasn’t sure, however, that the blouson look  was for me. After reading suggestions in the “Alternate Styles” box, I realized I could make one of those long open vests I’ve been coveting by increasing the length and cutting it down the center front (and perhaps making an inkle facing?). I could also use Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo for the warp (single stranded) to give it that wonderful drape……………

See, this is what happens when you read books – you get inspired and start to dream of what you can create!

And to further inspire you, Jane Patrick will be in town this summer to teach at NEWS (New England Weavers Seminar) and she will be signing books in our booth (bottom floor of the Campus Center at Smith College) on Thursday, July 9th from 6:30 – 7:30 pm. We will have Simple Woven Garments in addition to her other books – The Weaver’s Idea Book and  Woven Scarves. We hope you can join us!

May Sales bring Summer Weaving

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
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Greetings from the Weaving Room! What a glorious holiday weekend! I was reveling in that sweet transition from spring into summer, trying to maintain my personal balancing act between weaving and gardening. Having transplanted the seedlings into the gardens, now I turn to organizing my summer weaving. It’s the last week of our Anniversary Sale and there are some great yarns for warm weather projects.

Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo, on sale through May 31, 2015 in WEBS Anniversary Sale at yarn.com

One of my personal favorites is Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo. I love the subtle sheen of the yarn and the beautifully soft drape that makes it a perfect choice for summer scarves. We have some stunning drafts for this yarn, featuring a variety of weave structures. For a striking pattern in subtle tone-on-tone colors, try Draft #72 Advancing 5-end Twill Scarf. The Lemongrass Scarf, Draft # 78, is a simple 4-shaft scarf with two contrasting colors that really pop. And then there’s Virginia West’s delightful and colorful Lattice Scarf, Draft #04 from our 40th Anniversary series. A fun adventure in deflected double weave, it uses the bamboo to add an overlay of texture and depth to a tencel scarf.

Valley Yarns Fine Linens, on sale through May 31, 2015 in WEBS Anniversary Sale at yarn.com

Another good summer yarn is linen and we have most of our fine linens on sale this month. Linen is crisp and cool and lends itself well to towels, runners and other household textiles. Most of which, I might add, make magnificent wedding and housewarming gifts! And, naturally, we have some fine drafts for you to use in creating such heirlooms. The standout is Scott Norris’s Foxhead Towels which he designed as part of the 40th Anniversary series, it is #05. A classic overshot on 4-shafts, the draft combines 40/2 and 20/2 linen and gives the weaver several options for varying the pattern. Another classic that is beautiful in its simplicity is Draft#46, Atwater – Bronson Lace Table Runner. The detail of the lace creates a lovely texture in the half-bleach 20/2 linen.

The Anniversary Sale runs through May 31st. What will you get to seed your summer weaving?

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?