Posts Tagged ‘weaving’

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

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

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 or I’m excited to see who takes home this treasure.

The Warp and Weft of Generations

Monday, February 16th, 2015
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Store Sales Associate Marthe Young’s daughter Lilah is getting married in May, and Marthe’s wedding weaving preparations are not only heroic, but poignant as well. She is weaving together three generations of handmade cloth to give her daughter a beautiful wedding gift of her talent and her love.

Marthe is know to our customers as a knowledgeable instructor for many of our rigid heddle loom classes as well as a knitter, crocheter, and expert seamstress. Her weaving education began right here at WEBS, more than 30 years ago. In 1979, the then-single Marthe took a weaving class with Barbara Elkins when WEBS was in its infancy. She loved it and bought herself a Harrisville design loom that she put together from a kit. On that loom, she wove her own wedding ensemble with yarns and fiber obtained from WEBS, using the same warp for her cocoon jacket, dress, and belt.

WEBS retail associate Marthe and her mother on their wedding days with the fabric Marthe wove for her own dress - read more at

A 25″ Schacht Rigid Heddle Flip Loom is what Marthe used to weave her daughter’s wedding shawl. You can see the photo of this airy, delicate shawl, but what you can’t see from a picture is the intricate patterning of the tone-on-tone fibers, the tiny sequins, and the gossamer weight of this heirloom. When Barbara found out about Lilah’s engagement, she gave Marthe a cone of pearls on thread (which Marthe calls “Barbara’s Pearls of Wisdom”). Marthe plied those with her own home-spun BFL — because of course, Marthe is a spinner, as well! She used a combination of rayon chenille, silk, merino, and , because the wedding will take place on an alpaca farm, some baby alpaca as well. At the edge of the shawl woven next to the pearls is the yarn used in Marthe’s own wedding dress. Once woven, it became apparent that the shawl wasn’t quite long enough — Lilah is a tall drink of water! — so Marthe knew she’d need a border, and when looking for something to use for that border, she came across some scraps from her mother’s hand-sewn wedding dress from 1948. Obviously it was perfect, and that became the end-borders of this lovely shawl.

The wedding shawl Marthe has woven for her daughter Lilah using miltiple fibers including yarn from her own wedding dress and satin from her mother's - read more at

Marthe’s current loom, a collector’s-item cherry Norwood, is what she’s using to weave shawls for each of the bridesmaids. You can see the template she’s using, with the charcoal-colored warp of Colrain Lace, Plymouth Gold Rush, Cascade 220, a mystery rayon closeout yarn, and Valley Yarns 5/2 Bamboo. The weft is 5/2 bamboo as well, and the deep color will set off the accents of mint green that the groomsmen will be wearing in their bow ties and sneakers (!), as well as the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Shawls woven for Marthe's daughter's wedding party - read more at

On her wedding day, Lilah will be wearing elements of both her mother’s and her grandmother’s history. Those legacies are woven together in each generation like the warp and weft on a loom. Like living history, all of these garments tell a story about their owner, and they give us a springboard to the future.

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

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

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

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

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 -

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 -

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?

Bouquet of Hearts Baby Blanket draft designed by Leslie Ann Bestor

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
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We began our 40th anniversary series of drafts with a beautiful 16-shaft twill design from Barbara Elkins and end the year with a lovely baby blanket woven on a rigid heddle loom and designed by Leslie Ann Bestor, the new Weaving Manager for WEBS. It is a set of bookends that describes the weaving community in so many ways, touching on the breadth of experience, fibers and looms available.

Draft 12

The Bouquet of Hearts Baby Blanket, woven with Valley Yarns Longmeadow, showcases both the simple beauty of plain weave and the ability to add intricate details that rigid heddle looms do so well. Brook’s Bouquet is a technique of wrapping small bundles of threads to create lace-like windows in the cloth. In the blanket, the motif is a heart, but you can graph out and add your own motif – anything from the baby’s initials to other shapes.

Another key piece of the design, says Bestor, was to encourage weavers to work beyond the width of their looms and weave panels that can be seamed together. The seam can be done by hand or machine, invisibly or as a decorative accent. However it’s done, putting woven panels together expands the width – and the possibilities – of your loom.

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?


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

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

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?

Celebration – Overshot Runner draft by Ute Bargmann

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
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This month’s special 40th Anniversary Draft, the Celebration Overshot Runner, was designed by Ute Bargmann and is worked in our 10/2 Valley Cotton and our 5/2 Valley Cotton.

Celebration draft promo

About designing the draft Ute says, “I’ve known Barbara Elkins as a weaving wonder since the 1980’s. I wanted to create a design that reflected my respect while celebrating this wonderful 40th anniversary. This runner is an overshot name draft derived from the phrase: WEBS – 40 Great Years for Weavers. I hope it conveys my best wishes for the next 40 years!”

Celebration FB size promo2


She also suggests, “Wind a 2-yard warp of 368 ends. This includes 1 floating selvedge, Use the last warp end on the left as your left floating selvedge (do not thread through heddle, but sley in its own dent). And you will have enough warp to weave a sample to practice your beat and familiarize yourself with the treadling. I suggest this!”


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