A Shawl or Table Runners?

Those of you who are weavers will groan, at my ________________ (stupidity, naiveté’, lunacy, you choose). Perhaps even those of you who don’t will understand why my latest weaving project was a recipe for disaster! 

The Greenville Center for Creative Arts where I volunteer and teach, has a members’ show each year. Last year I submitted a little framed quilt. This year, I decided I would like to submit a handwoven shawl; a lovely lacy one for Summer in the South. Much to my delight, in the May/June issue of Handwoven magazine (which I probably got in April…) I found a project that was perfect for my needs – a Swedish Lace shawl! (It’s what I call a recipe, with all the math and details spelled out.) When weaving was all I did, Swedish lace was one of my favorite pattern families.

Notice the date of said article – – – did I start the project back then? No, I did not. A few weeks passed and I decided that perhaps I should get going. (Part two of the fiasco begins here!) I have a lot of cones of yarn from decades ago that I keep moving around and I decided to use those. After all this time, the labels had fallen off and who knew what the ply was or the fiber content. I thought I’d use a smooth mystery fiber for the warp, it looked about the right size, and weave with the tiny boucle’ mystery fiber.

If you read my posts, you know that I have only woven rag runners for years and years. No threading issues with those; it’s one – two – three – four – repeat. There’s a lot more to a Swedish Lace weave. After the warp was wound on, I drew out the threading on a piece of graph paper. Then I began to thread. There were 330 ends to thread, and then I had to get them 2 per dent in a 10 dent reed. I was so careful!!! I really was.

Of course there were endless mistakes, despite the fact that I was so deliberate. I spent the better part of two days finding and correcting them. Finally everything was as it should have been and happily the tension seemed great and so I started to sample. The tiny boucle’ did not work! I was surprised and disappointed. It was just fuzzy enough that the pattern didn’t show. I tried an even teenier one with the same result. In eyeing the cone of the mystery smooth warp thread, I decided that I had enough of that to use…

Everything went smoothly for several days. And then (yippee!) I finished the first shawl. The deadline for my entry was looming so I decided that I should cut the first shawl off and re-tie the warp for the second shawl. I wanted to make sure that I was happy with the result. (Gizmo was!)

I was not. At first, when I tied the fringe and wrapped it around me, I was ever so happy.

Then I hand washed it several times to get the many years of dust off it and make sure that the fabric would be smooth.

I dried it. I pressed it. And then I wrapped it around the mannequin that I planned to display it on.

I wandered around it. I re-wrapped it. I tried draping it a different way. But still, the lovely lacy shawl of my dreams looked like a hand towel. Or a table runner. Or perhaps napkins? Cotton always blooms when washed and the feel of the fabric had completely changed.

The end of this tale is that I did not submit anything to the show and I am very sorry. The rest of the warp on the loom awaits my decision on how to proceed. The picture below shows what I thought this shawl should be like. It’s the 5 yards of Swedish Lace that I wove when I was a student at the Worcester Center for Crafts. It’s fabulous. The weave is perfect and the warp is a fine, crisp linen. It’s airy and light, wonderfully etherial and drapes beautifully. I can hardly believe that I wove it.

It’s the shawl of my dreams….

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Weave a Potholder!

About a year ago, I bought an inexpensive loom at a big box store. It was not called a potholder loom and when I opened the box I realized why – the loopers are nylon and would melt if gotten too hot! The loom is smaller than I remembered and I had forgotten how much the fabric “shrinks” after it is taken off the loom. It results in about a 5″x5″ square. Really too small for getting hot items out of the oven. The colors are very pretty and it certainly will work well as a mug rug.

Recently I broke down and bought a big Harrisville Designs loom. My excuse was that my niece and family were planning a visit and she always likes me to have a craft project for them. Peter and I both wove one and he didn’t think he had ever made a potholder before.

My niece had planned a busy weekend of college visits for her youngest and I thought there would be little time for play. I had this basket on the kitchen table when they came home one day and they all said “what’s this stuff???” During the weekend three of them found the time for weaving.

This size loom makes a very useable square – about 8″. And this project is a two-fer; it’s both fun and useful! A friend commented that the loopers are expensive. Yes, they are, but they are knitted in the US and they are cotton and they come in gorgeous colors. I bought the brights colorway plus white and black; you can also buy bags of single colors or several mixes. Harrisville sells loopers in the small size so you can order lovely loopers for the loom you have.

One of the boys used the colors of SC State for his potholder. I told him that he could say that his great aunty made it, but he said, no, he would certainly tell his roommates that he had made it. Good man!

If you are a weaver, you can use the potholder loom to play with color & weave effects. The green, black and white potholder (in the Philadelphia Eagles colors!) is a 3 strand repeat, for instance. And to make this design process even more fun, Harrisville has a potholder designer! Check it out here, it’s lots of fun to fiddle with.

When was the last time you wove a potholder? When you were small, did you have a potholder loom? I do recall making them, but can’t remember where or when. If you like to make pretty and useful items, then I do suggest you buy yourself a loom – they are not just for kids. And if you have fun-loving relatives, then you must get one. I have already started a new one…

{N.B. I am not promoting Harrisville Designs for any reason other than they make a great loom! And they are the only ones who make a large size loom.}

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Fibonacci Striped Runner

When I took the last warp off the loom, I said to myself – “I am not going to make any rag runners for a time” – but here I am, weaving more. We have a wedding coming up and I do think this bride will appreciate a hand-made gift (as well as a gift card!). When I was asking her mother what colors the bride might like, I asked her, (she is a dear friend), if I could make a runner for her October birthday, and she happily agreed. Weaving something I’ve done a lot of in the last few years seemed a good idea because I wanted to try some of the tricks and techniques that I learned at the Vavstuga workshop. I fiddled a good bit while I was warping the loom and I am happy to say that it is a great warp! Nice and tight; nice and even!

The bride wanted blues, and my tendency is to use navy and white, because I have so much Asian china. When I scrounged around in the closet where I keep the carpet warp, I found a navy and a bright blue, so I used them in the warp. Then I debated whether to do a random stripe, which is what I generally do, but then I remembered the Fibonacci sequence, which I was discussing recently with a friend, and decided to try that out. For reasons that I won’t bore you with, I have cut off the bride’s runner/mat.

 

It is always hard to photograph runners, but if you look closely, you can see 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-8-5-3-2-1-1 sequence in different blue color stories. You can also see that the bright blue warp only shows up in the hem. I thought that might be the case but I didn’t feel like ordering more carpet warp. I’m glad that I cut this off because now I can use it as a reference for how the fabrics look when squished and woven. The bride’s mother wants blues and greens and I am fairly sure that she will not be as happy with dark values. I will use the lighter blues and those with white backgrounds and see what green fabrics I can add.

This is quite different from my usual runner/mats, but I do think it will look nice when in use. The wedding is in Vermont in a few weeks and I hope to have some fun things to share with you….

 

Hemming Handwovens…

I recently spent an amazing week attending the Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School. In the class, we learned so much about looms, fibers, drafting, project planning and we completed four projects. And now I’m hemming them. This is the hand towel I wove.The warp is cottolin and the weft is linen.

Everything at Vavstuga is handwoven and here are the hand towels that were in the bathroom all week for our use.

Everything! Meals were served in the lovely diningroom with this (rainy) view of the Deerfield River…

… and at each meal, different cloths were spread down the middle of the table. Every day we had different woven napkins to use too!

This is the small tablecloth I wove with cotton and cottolin. One thing I was anxious to learn about was how to use a temple. What is a temple? The wooden bar along the front of the weaving area is one and it is used to get nice straight selvedges. I have hemmed it and it’s waiting to be washed.

Here are some of the fibers and colors that we were able to use for our linens….it is a color lover’s paradise.

The third project was a throw made of wool warp and weft. It was fringed on the last morning and here it is waiting to be washed and fulled. Many, many years ago I wove with wool a lot but now that we live in the South, it doesn’t appeal. Too hot; too fuzzy!

This is the other colorway for the throw. Cutting off the pieces is Becky Ashenden, the owner and founder of Vavstuga Weaving Studio. In all my years of taking weaving classes, I have never met anyone like her. She has been weaving her whole life and has endless samples and knowledge to share. No question went unanswered and each mistake was met with “Oh good – let me show you how easy it is to fix this!”.

Here is what we referred to as “the block weave”. The warp is natural linen which is such a dark beige color, so I chose magenta linen to brighten it up. It was so enjoyable weaving the blocks in a damask pattern.

Here it is hemmed and ready to use. (The colors above are more like the original.)

On Friday morning we had our class photo taken with all the projects cut off the looms and ready to go home with us. It was a great group and it’s always so good to be with “your own kind”! Becky is on the right and not in the picture are the rest of the Vavstuga gang – Kim, creator of delicious meals, Bettie, the office manager and someone I so enjoyed talking with, and Tonya, former apprentice and jack of all trades in the store and studio.

I could go on and on about all the we did and learned and shared, but you get the idea. For more about this amazing experience, please check out this post by Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome.  She made me want to find out more about Vavstuga and the wonderful Becky. And I encourage you to do the same!

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Late Fall Colored Placemats

To my mind, Fall has two sets of colors – early Fall when everything is bright and sparkly and late Fall, when the colors are weather-worn and dull. I know many people don’t enjoy late Fall or Winter, but I do! It’s so nice to be indoors and making. (The current trendy name for creating, or crafting, which I do dislike.)

I said I was not weaving rag items for a while, but I have various guests coming who will enjoy a weaving demo and one in particular who is staying long enough and might enjoy weaving a runner or some placemats for herself. I have changed things up a bit though – I’m making some finer ones. I enjoyed the 8/2 cotton that I used for the dish cloths, so I sent for these yummy Late Fall colors from Halcyon Yarn. The color is off a bit – the tube that looks grey is actually a paper bag sort of brown.

Late Fall placemtas

With a finer warp, I need to use finer strips of fabric, so I have been cutting them 3/4″ wide. Here is placemat #1 woven and hemstitched.

Late Fall placemat

I am writing this on a cool, cloudy morning, hoping for some more rain. When I came upstairs, I pulled this cat bed out of the closet and I see Jasmine has already claimed it. I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are!

Jasmine's basket

Handwoven Dish Towels!

It has been a long, long time since I have woven anything that feels like cloth and I used to do it a lot! I showed you the weaving in progress and I have finally finished the dish towels.

They felt stiff when I cut them off the loom, and it is obvious that I had two threads in each dent of the reed – – – can you see what I mean in the top picture? How is it possible to make these towels look and feel soft and absorbent and function well? By wet finishing. I’ve been reading various posts and articles on the Internet and I had to laugh a bit. Wet finishing seems like a funny term for washing something before using it. I always wash handwoven fabric after I weave it. And I always wash the fabric I use for making quilts and weaving rag rugs as well. To me, a fabric isn’t finished until it’s been washed.

Before washing

Before washing

 

After washing

After washing

Big difference, isn’t it? And I was so pleased to see how they thickened up. Fulled is the word used for wool; I’m not sure it applies to cotton.

In case you think I am crazy for doing this, I have been inspired by several bloggers who weave dish towels. Kerry at Love Those Hands at Home has made a lot of them. And Karen at Warped for Good makes some beauties as well.

When I was Googling to see who else made “useful” woven items, I found Marilyn.  Please take the time to read her lovely piece about weaving such time-consuming textiles at Whimsy and Tea.

I must say that 8/2 makes for a nice weight in a towel. Now that they are hemmed, they are on the rack to be used tonight! And I’m looking forward to making more.

Handwoven dish towels!

 

 

Weaving Inspiration: Plaids & Stripes

I have decided to join the many weavers who are weaving dish towels…. It’s about time I gave rag runners a rest and got into some fabric making!

Designing an interesting plaid or stripe fabric isn’t as easy as it might seem.I like to look around me for inspiration. When a fabric catches my eye, I check out the width of the stripes, whether a plaid is balanced or unbalanced, and unusual color combinations. I even have a stripe page on Pinterest. But my favorite place to look is men’s shirts! Men are so lucky! For some reason, their designers come up with luscious color stories. When I am in a store with both men’s and women’s clothing, I find myself on their side…

One of the many reasons I love living in the South are the colors of the clothing. Here is a selection of juicy (men’s) shirts. Whether or not they are the colors I want to use, these plaids give me inspiration.

Men's plaid shirts

In the end, I didn’t warp anything of great interest. For my humble dish towels I chose a simple unbalanced stripe, which can be woven in a stripe or in checks.

Dishtowel start

I haven’t woven anything so fine in forever and thought I should start out simply. It’s slow going, (I’m using 8/2 cotton) but the rhythm and the process of making cloth is wonderful.

Weaving towels

 

The Last Runner/Mat…

… was annoying to weave! I carefully calculated the length of the warp allowing plenty of room to make three mats. I decided to knot the fringe after weaving, which was where things went wrong. I feel as though I allowed too much space for the fringe and ate up too much of the warp. By the time I got to the third runner, I knew it was not going to be long enough for the kitchen table. It is not fun to keep weaving, and advancing the warp, and weaving and wondering how long the &%^%^# thing is going to be!

Here you can see the cardboard I put between the mats and how much space is left for knotting. {It was too much!} I should have done hemstitching on the loom, which I much prefer to do, or perhaps I should have hemmed them, as Karen at Warped for Good did.

Fringe for the mats

It is barely long enough to be usable on the diningroom table, but it does work.

Navy rag runner/mats

Ah well. On to the next project!

More About the Woven Runner/mats

When I first wove rag runners many, many years ago, I would sit at the sewing machine and sew the strips together on the diagonal, as I would for a quilt binding. When I had a fat ball, I’d wind it on a shuttle and weave. At some point I realized though it wasn’t as tidy-looking, it was much faster to cut and overlap the fabric pieces as I go. It’s also more fun to weave because I can place the colors where I want them.

Splicing rag strips

Look at that fat roll of runners on the beam! And look at the floor around the loom! I usually don’t tidy up until the project is finished.

Woven runners, scraps

This second runner wasn’t as much fun to weave as the first one. I loved these sunny Summer colors when I picked them out of my fabric bags, but the weaving of it was boring. Luckily it looks happy on the table. This is the kitchen table and Peter and I sit across from each other the long way. With the shrinkage, this one is just long enough so the fringe hangs down…

Kitchen table runner/may

The strips are cut 2″ wide which is what I use on the floor as well. It’s a good thickness for sturdy runner/mats, but I really like to use 1″ strips for a more “elegant” feel. A good width to make these mats is 17″ – 18″ wide so that the plate and napkin and silverware are on the mat. And the fringe should hang over the edge but not be so long that it sits in your lap and you pull the runner off when you stand up. ;-D

 

The First Runner/Mat Design

Did you notice that I am weaving again???

Peter took the loom apart more than usual for the move and so I needed his help to get her together again. While gathering her pieces, he decided that she needed to be oiled and cleaned. Wasn’t that nice of him? Doesn’t every girl like to be fussed over? While he was working on her over several days, I got cold feet about what I might weave on her first. What did I want to weave and would I remember how to do everything? I feel this way after every move. So of course I decided to start simply and making my usual rag runner/mats seemed safe. My first idea came from a quilt on a Modern Quilt website that I thought it was a bit dull for a quilt, but seemed like it might make an interesting rag runner/mat. I found some leftover muslin fabric from Santa making for the center section and I have lots of  bits of hand dyed cotton samples which I stripped into 2″ pieces to add at either end. It was a bit fussy to weave, but I am very pleased with the result.

Fussy striped woven runner/mats

I meant to measure the runners before washing them, but I was too excited! Shrinkage after washing is a fact of weaving and it annoys me when weavers sell pieces (which will eventually need to be washed) and don’t wash them! When it looks entirely different after washing, the customer thinks something is wrong or that it was poorly constructed…

These mats are much “messier” than I usually weave with rags. Adding colored strips on either selvedge is a bit tricky and then the spliced overlap of the natural and colored fabrics really shows. After working on it for awhile, I decided not to fret. I like the nubbly texture and the selvedges are pretty darn even given what I was weaving. I don’t usually do anything special where the center of the runner/mat will be. That area usually has candles, or a bowl of fruit or things like salt and pepper or pickles or jam!

I was planning to use this runner on the kitchen table, but decided I would prefer it in the diningroom. I put the runners across the table, so we can use them as placemats, hence the term runner/mat. I bought these multi colored plates many years ago at Tang’s Department store in Singapore. I have always loved them and I think they look very special on this runner/mat.

It feels good to have finally woven something!

{Should you need tips on Macomber looms:  http://macomberloomsandme.blogspot.com }