My Weaving Ways (Winter 2019)

Are you tired of reading about weaving? If so, avert your eyes!

But unless you want to read about my outings with my mother or going to the gym or learning to give subcutaneous fluids to my cat, weaving is currently what I’ve got to talk about.

It’s the craft I’m doing now, every day if I can.

Since I last reported the details, I’ve woven some scarves. I don’t actually love them, although I loved the variegated thread I started with. It’s Tencel, called Painted Desert– this combination of colors just moves me.

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But, as I tend to do, I feel like I over-complicated things and sort of lost the beauty of the thread. I made two long scarves and one that I sewed up as a cowl.

I made a set of 8 placemats for my sister’s friend, to coordinate with towels I wove for her last year.

And I wove my shawl, my gift to me.

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I’ve also woven new iterations of projects I’ve made before.

I know lots of people never want to make the same project twice but I quite enjoy it. The first time I go through the process, I learn SO much, it seems a shame not to apply the lessons.

These placemats, however, took that concept to the extreme. I had made them in off-white and in turquoise last year. This winter I made 10 in the light gray, for a customer who then decided the color wasn’t right (grr), and then made 12 more in the off-white for another customer, who loves them.

Each time I wove these I learned more about doing them efficiently and I made small changes that improved them each time.  Truth be told, I got a little bored with them and yet . . . I have a color combination in mind that I really must try. Soon.

And I’ve made these tab towels again, for the fourth time. I just really love making them. They sell well, they allow me to use up colors I’m running low on, and, because they are smallish and I can change colors with each, I never get bored. I made 12 of them from the last warp!

Right now, I have projects on two looms. I gave you a glimpse of the veggie towels last week and, to use up more odds and ends of leftovers and stash yarns in cotton, I am making these towels of bright stripes.

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And I’m thinking about what comes next.

The arrival of nice weather means I’ll have access to the loom on our glassed-in porch again. It’ll mean I can drag my small band loom outside and weave by the water. I have plans for scarves (ones I like better, I hope!), coasters, maybe a rag rug for the kitchen—think how much the cats would enjoy destroying that!

And in a few months I can write about My Weaving Ways, the summer edition.

A Gift to Me

What was the last thing you made for yourself? Just as a special gift to yourself?

If you had asked me that question a couple of months ago, I would have been completely stumped.

I mean, I have handwoven dishtowels I use every day but I only keep the ones that have small mistakes that make them unfit for gift giving or selling.

I have orphan placemats, too. I might set out to weave a set of six, to sell on Etsy or at a craft show, and end up eking out 7. So I keep the extra one.

And, of course, I have kept quilts I’ve made but I don’t really think of those as something I made for myself. I just make them because I have an idea I like and then tend to stick them in a closet and forget about them.

But I’ve been working on a couple of custom orders and doing lots of making for other people lately and I simply had a mind to rebel.

I made something for myself.

Just for me.

Something sort of frivolous and not really my style. 

I made a big, comfy shawl. 

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I rarely go anywhere that this shawl would be appropriate. My clothing style runs to jeans and turtlenecks and sneakers.

And I can’t really use it at home because I am rarely without a cat on my lap and cats have claws . . .

But I love my shawl.

I chose colors that make me happy—the very low-key blue and tan go with every single thing I own, like denim jeans!

The fiber is a blend of alpaca and silk. It’s soft and light as air, and warm as well.

I made the shawl big and long and wide, in a pattern called a plaited twill. 

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The weaving of it was fun and just a little challenging. I bought one pound of yarn in each color and used almost every last inch of both.

I’ve worn the shawl twice so far, once out to dinner and once to a concert in a chilly theatre.

And it made me feel like a queen.

I intend to make more gifts just for me!

I’ll ask it again—what was the last thing you made, just for yourself?

I hope it was something wonderful—you deserve it.

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Scrap Happy, Interrupted

It was to be the perfect scrap happy project. Scraps of leftover handwoven fabric, scraps of leftover commercial fabric, scraps of sweet-smelling filler what had been languishing a long time.

And, yet, it has not come to pass.

It seems that whenever I weave multiple kitchen towels, from lovely cotton and linen, I inevitably end up with a piece of pretty fabric that is too short to be a towel.

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I’ve tried passing them off as bread basket liners or small table mats but discerning folks seem to know that they are simply too-short towels.

What to do with pretty scraps? I mean, it’s woven by hand and I can’t just throw it away!

Well . . . how about combining them with scraps of white cotton fabric, leftover from some long-finished quilt project, and adding some balsam or lavender or even cedar shavings, all of which I have on hand (I know—that’s odd, isn’t it?) and making sweet sachets?

I love this idea. Easy to make, cute to behold, perfect for a little gift.

Off I went to make a prototype. I had fusible web already cut in 5-inch squares from another project. I stabilized and cut my handwoven fabric, I cut my backing, I sewed them together, I clipped the corners, and turned it all right side out.

I cut the top off a plastic soda bottle to make a little funnel.

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And I went to dig out my bags of balsam, lavender, and cedar shavings that had been languishing.

Languishing far too long, as it turns out.

They all, every one, have lost their scent. Nothing sweet, or spicy, or woodsy left at all.

And what is a sachet without a scent? Just a bag of organic matter . . .

The scentless stuff won’t go to complete waste—it will add depth to my compost pile, I’m sure.

I know where to get more balsam, and lavender, and cedar shavings. Scraps of fabric, both commercial and handwoven, seem to multiply while I sleep.

This scrap happy project has not come to pass. But it will.

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ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen and Connie

Happy Weaving and Spinning Week!

I’ve recently learned from Chris, at Acton Creative, that this week is Weaving and Spinning Week!

How did I not know that?! Heaven knows, after the news of the last couple of weeks, I need something to celebrate . . .

And it seems the perfect excuse to show you what I’ve been working on since the last update.

A long time ago (May, in fact), I showed you this project of two scarves in pink and white while they were still on the loom. It’s a good example of how the weft color changes the overall look.

Let me explain a little—in weaving, the warp is made up of the long threads that are attached to the loom and are vertical when I sit facing the loom. The weft threads are the ones that come out of the shuttle as I weave and are horizontal.

In this project, one scarf is done in just two colors—rosewood and white—for both warp and weft.

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The other has those same two colors in the warp but the weft is lighter pink.

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Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve sort of been in placemat mode, too. It turns out that buyers like placemats and I like making them. I get the satisfaction of achieving a “finish” pretty quickly since each individual mat is fairly small and quick to weave up, even though the entire project may be on the loom for a while.

I did this pattern in off-white—it uses two weights of thread in both warp and weft, which creates the nice texture.

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I liked the results so much that I went ahead and did it again. The second time, I used two shades of blue. The effect is tweedy and interesting.

I keep thinking of other color combinations I could try. Maybe dark brown with the lighter-weight thread in a bright yellow-green? Or bright orange?

And, of course, I’ve made more towels. I wove the striped ones I’ve already shown you and six of these.

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And this boring-looking bunch of threads will turn into towels, too. I hope they’ll be more interesting soon!

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Some of my projects have been repeats of ones you’ve seen before. I know weavers who never, ever make the same pattern twice because they want to move on to something new. SO much to weave, so little time!

As much as I like new, I do have some favorites and I really like doing them over. (I’m the same way with books—I love re-reading my favorites, as visiting old friends, and will cycle them through my reading every few years.)

So, my weaving re-dos are more of these placemats (buyers like placemats!) I hemmed them this time, instead of leaving fringe. I like the look of the fringe better but it means the mats can’t go into the washer and they are white, after all.

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And I making more of these Christmas towels. This shot is a good demonstration, again, of how the weft color can change everything. You can see the unwoven warp on top, then, going around the front, a towel where I’m using white as weft. Underneath the loom, you can see what that same warp looks like when I used red as the weft.

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Here’s another view of the red weft and the obligatory photo of the weaver’s apprentice.

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And that’s it for this update, with many ideas percolating in my mind! Thanks for celebrating this special week with me!

One Day, Weaving

There was a time, when I first retired, when the hours that stretched before me every day seemed endless. I was a little anxious about that—what would I do to fill my time? 

I started selling vintage linens on Etsy.

I started making candy.

I found unfinished quilts to work on and undertook new ones.

I began blogging.

I took up weaving.

My days were full and utterly my own.

Times have changed and I have some different responsibilities now. I embrace those responsibilities but they mean that I haven’t unlimited time for all those other things I did, and enjoyed. I gave some up and all get less of my full attention.

So, yesterday was super special—all I did was weave.

I didn’t do any of those other things and I didn’t work outdoors, either, because we had a day of welcome rain.

I worked on a warp that will become two scarves, pink and off-white. Not my colors at all but I had this yarn and wanted to use it. I have to change colors every 16 passes of the shuttle so the process is slowish. But the pattern is interesting, as I watch it develop.

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Then, when I’d had enough of that, I moved to the loom with the scrappy striped towels, and I finished the weaving of these! It’s actually going to end up being 4 towels and one longer runner and I’ll tell you more when they are completely finished. For a project that began as a way to empty some bobbins, I love the way these are turning out!

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And then I turned to my band loom. I need handing tabs for those striped towels and I love dragging the little loom outside when the sun shines. This time, though, I made a gazillion little mistakes and had to fuss and re-do and mess round some more, just to get this narrow, ultra-simple strip. 

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After that slog with the band loom, as an antidote, I played for awhile with a new loom. Actually, it represents the first weaving I ever did, as a child.

Did you have a potholder loom?

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A month ago or so, my blog pal, Debbie, who is a quilter and weaver, wrote about one of these looms and I knew immediately I needed one.

This is not your grandchild’s potholder loom! Unlike the ones you can buy now for children, which are plastic, small, and use nylon loops, this loom is sturdy metal, 12 inches across, and uses all-cotton loops.

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The end products are potholders or hot pads that are large (about 8 inches), thick and beefy, and can actually be used to handle hot dishes out of the oven without melting.

This silly loom has given me hours of fun lately. I sit on my deck with my big bag of loops. I dump the loops on the bench and root around to find colors I like. The cats come and root around, too. 

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My only complaint with this loom and its use is that the loops are expensive and come in bags that have a modest amount of a lot of colors, in one the three different colorways. One can choose either brights, pastels, or “designer” colors, which is what I chose. I ran out of the colors I liked early and have been challenged to find color combos that work with colors I like less or, in the case of this medium brown on the right, loath.*

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Today, it’s back to the other things that need to be done. The sun is shining, the weeds are growing, my mother’s summer place needs to be cleaned out and readied for sale. Our house needs to be spiffed up for company, errands must be run, chores must be checked off the list.

But, I had my day of weaving, and I know I’ll have more. And I’ll appreciate that time all the more, I suppose, because it is no longer unlimited. I hope you get a day, soon, to fully devote to something you love to do!


* The company, Harrisville Designs, does offer smaller bags of single colors but then the cost of the loops gets even more expensive.

Scrap Happy Weaving

Scrap happy? 

What’s so happy about scraps?

Scraps are just unwanted leftovers, right?

Not so fast, my friends!

For a substantial group of people scraps are the source of great happiness. Blogger Kate, from Tall Tales from Chiconia, has provided a space for happy scrappy crafters to showcase the ways they make beautiful things from bits and pieces that others might consider trash.

Why do scraps make us so happy?

Some of us are frugal and scraps used represent money saved.

Some of us are committed to sustainability and limiting our use of raw materials to make new when we can make do.

For some of us, scrappy is a preferred aesthetic. We like the look of a casual, unpredictable mix of colors and patterns, nothing too matchy-matchy and fussy for us.

And sometimes, using scraps solves a practical problem.

My scrappy project, a set of kitchen towels I am weaving, could be said to fall into all of these categories but it is primarily motivated by the last.

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The section at the bottom is woven with sewing thread and will be folded up as hem. This towel has small chevrons in the stripes.

Weavers deal with warp and weft threads. The warp is composed of long threads that are attached to the loom and the weft is made up of the horizontal threads that are interwoven into the warp. This interweaving is done with bobbins of thread placed in a shuttle. Each color thread uses a bobbin.

The amount of thread on the bobbin does not always run out at the same time the warp thread does.

We have dozens of bobbins here but, with two weavers weaving and leaving leftover thread on bobbins for nearly four years now, all the bobbins were used up! 

I could either buy more bobbins or free up some of the ones I had by using up the scraps.

My towels are made up of those scraps. Each warp stripe is 6 threads wide and I used scraps of colors interspersed with scraps of neutrals. All the threads are cotton or linen or a blend of the two.

Each warp thread is over 7 yards long and there are about 450 warp threads so my project used a lot of scrap!

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This is the warp, ready to go on the loom. Each thread is about 7 yards long.

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There are 24 ends, or threads, per inch

And I freed up a lot of bobbins and even a few cones.

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Empty bobbins mean potential weaving!

I should be able to weave 4-5 towels from this warp but may make a table runner with part of it. I’m doing the second towel now.

I quite love the look! I’ve learned that I must lean toward fairly subdued colors that are sort of “grayed”—my scraps contained very few clear bright colors and very few pastels. I have a lot of scraps of neutrals but more were unbleached or natural than pure white.

I dressed them loom with a very simple twill structure and I can change the look of each towel a little by the way I press the treadles. The towels will be first cousins, not identical twins!

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The first towel had little chevrons in the stripes. This one has little florets.

I will admit, I love getting a big box of new weaving yarn in the mail. I like planning a project and then purchasing the colors especially for that project. 

But as happy scrappers the world over know, there is something even more satisfying, and just as lovely, that comes from using what we have.

Are you, too, a happy scrapper? You might want to contact Kate and get in on the fun of sharing your creations!


From Kate: ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn,  Lynda,

Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,

Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys and Claire