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: }





What To Do…What To Do….

Some upcoming fiber shows:

I love taking workshops and going to galleries and talking fiber to anyone who has an interest. Last year was all about relocating and I didn’t have the time or energy to go to workshops or conferences. This year all bets are off, and I thought some of you might be interested in some events on my list.

I began my fiber journey by taking weaving lessons with my mother when I was in college. We both took to it immediately. I was a Second Grade teacher and did not have the money or the time to get as involved in the craft as my mother did, but we both joined The Handweaver’s Guild of America and attended many of the biennial Convergence conferences across the US and Canada. Weaving was hugely popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s but not so much these days, so the group now embraces all manner of fiber crafts. The 2014 version is in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of the amazing Rhode Island School of Design and an area rich in textile history. I just downloaded the class and workshop list. {..sigh…} There is a lot going on! This is on the maybe list.

Long on my bucket list has been to attend something at Asilomar. Many moons ago they had a rug hooking week, but popularity for that craft has waned. The winters are now filled with quilting workshops, called Empty Spools Seminars. The locale, on a peninsula near Monterey CA, is supposed to be amazingly beautiful and of course any time you can immerse yourself in a craft you adore with like-minded souls for 5 days is heaven indeed! I wanted to attend a workshop with Melinda Bula and do a flower of my own (remember the wonderful zinnia top that’s waiting to be completed???) but this isn’t the year. They always have the most amazing teachers….

The big rug hooking event this year will be rug hooking week in Ohio at Sauder Village, August 13 – 16. I very much enjoyed it when I attended a few years ago. It’s always a treat to see a lot of hooked rugs on display, but this year an exhibit of woven coverlets will be included! On my to-do list when I started weaving was to make a coverlet…… not so much now, but I still love to look at them. This is another maybe…

The American Quilt Society has added two shows to their list this year, and since they are nearby, I am sure I need to go to them! One is in Charlotte NC, on July 30 – August 2. The other is in Chattanooga TN from September 10 – 13. I am hoping to throw Peter and his bikes in the car and have a little vacation there; it looks like a lovely spot. And maybe I should enter the quilt I’m working on in one of the shows???

There are all sorts of small, local events that I will be attending and will share with you. One of the many reasons we chose this area (of SC, NC and TN) was because there are many craft related events that seem to be well supported and attended.

This is just a sprinkling of fiber shows you may not have heard about. Where are you headed this year to feed your creative spirit???

Ready to Walk On…..

As I was warping the loom for the looper rugs at the beginning of the year, I remember thinking about when the house would finally be on the market and how many months I would have to complete the rugs. In a small part of my brain, I thought “I hope I have to hurry!”.  And that is just what happened – I had to rush to get them done so I could dismantle the loom. Luckily, weaving the fat sock tips goes very quickly and they were done in no time.

Weaving loopers

Tying the fringe is exciting because it means I am about to cut the project off, but it’s tricky making sure that the rug doesn’t ravel. Deciding what edge to weave on such a thick rug is tricky and nothing looks great…..

Tying fringe

Unwinding a woven warp is pretty fun! And looking at this picture, I am so glad that I kept my Macomber loom. Because of its size and weight (maple and cast iron make for a very heavy piece of furniture) this was always the loom I thought that I should sell. Over the years of debate, Peter has always said that this was the one I should keep, and he was right. It is/was my dream loom and I can create anything I want on it. I’ve recently been inspired by Jo, who is new to weaving and full of excitement over what she’s doing. She’s been weaving overshot, which is a pattern family I used to love to weave. My Macomber has 12 harnesses and in weaving speak, that means I can create some pretty complex patterns.

Two looper rugs

Despite all that was going on, the cats did find time for a quality check. They too were surprised at how flat the old bathroom rug had become.

Quality checking

The new rugs feel so wonderful underfoot. We are looking forward to putting them on the bathroom floor very soon.

Settlement is in a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Color Block Runners are Completed

And my Schacht Spindle loom is gone….

I can’t quite remember when I bought this loom but I bet I’ve had it for 30 years. It’s a great loom but really, I don’t need two. I always thought that I should keep the Schacht Spindle loom, because it’s smaller, but Peter always thought that I should keep the big Macomber, which you can see in the back. He’s right; the Macomber was my dream loom – it has 12 harnesses and is so heavy that I can weave anything on it. When we settle in our next house I’d like to get back to weaving complex weaves. But back to selling the Schacht Spindle; I couldn’t be happier. I listed it on a local weaver’s guild’s site and got two e-mails within a week. The first one turned out to be a young lady about to graduate from The Art Institute School and she adores weaving! She brought a friend with her whose  love is beading and stitchery and has been accepted into the graduate school there. To say that I was talking to two “of my own kind” was putting it mildly! The young lady was so excited that she said she wasn’t able to sleep the night before. Wow. Perhaps it didn’t matter who bought my loom, but I’m still smiling about the delight on her face. I remember being her….

Farewell loom!

You may remember that I put  on a long warp on for color block rag runners and luckily had been weaving a bit each day, so the warp was almost done. Before I cut them apart and washed them, I spread the runners on the studio floor to admire.

A lot of runners

I wove two runners in a check pattern, working on the color block idea. It seems like it would be quite easy to do, but it’s not. When you weave, the warp is wound very tightly on the loom, so the warp is stretched out. Then the rags take up some space. To guesstimate whether you’ve actually woven a square, you need to loosen the warp and measure and make sure that the check is actually more of a rectangle. When the runner is washed, it shrinks a bit as well. I did fairly well on this runner.

Color block runner

It’s always fun to just weave randomly without all the measuring need for checks. All in all, I’m happy with the runners. I’m not sure if they will be on display when the house is listed, but they will definitely get lots of use next Fall, wherever we may be.

Random rag runner

Color Block Woven Runners

I know it seems crazy for me to be starting a lot of projects, but there’s a method to my madness. The looms are always a bit of a problem when the house is on the market. They do collapse a bit, but they are large and are not something that we will take to the storage place. The best idea is to warp them and have something pretty to look at – they are great pieces of furniture. An then they are warped, I can pack up a lot of the weaving supplies.

This is a rag runner that I made several years ago. Sitting on it is our Dansk wedding china. Even after all these years, I still love it and am so happy to get it out every winter. I like this runner and thought I would make more runners or some placemats. I like to use runners around the house in the Fall and Winter .

Dansk china

Here are the colors I used for the last warp, in the order that I used them. They were nice, but nothing exciting. I have a box of cotton rug warp and I dug through it to see what I might have with more contrast.

Previous warp

And these are the choices. I dreamed up some interesting weaving/color plans and then on the day I started to wind the warp I thought “keep it simple”. {This should be my mantra for the forseeable future!} And honestly, there really is not much sense in threading a complicated pattern and then weaving a variety of busy fabrics through it. The pattern won’t end up showing much.

All the choices

This is called a warping reel with part of the warp on it. It’s a great tool but takes up a lot of space.

Warping reel

Here is the warp ready to put on the loom. I decided to use almost all of the possibilities in a color block sort of design. I can weave randomly, or in stripes or I can try for checks.

Color block runner warp

Ta da – – -Now that I am finished making warps, the warping reel comes apart for easy storage, moving and transport.

Collapsed warping reel

This little Schacht Spindle loom is for sale, so a rag runner warp will be a good thing for prospective buyer to test drive the loom. I’m weaving away on the runners so I won’t mind cutting the warp off at a moment’s notice.

Schacht Spindle loom warped

Weaving a Looper Rug

I know it seems crazy for me to be starting a lot of projects, but there’s a method to my madness. First of all, the looms need to be warped so they look attractive. I find that people are always drawn to something being handwoven, and then the realtors don’t hound me to move them. Since I “work” at home, I need projects to keep me busy when waiting for the house to sell. And then when the looms are warped, I can pack up the weaving supplies. First warp is going on my big Macomber loom.

I can’t remember when I might have discovered loopers, but I have had a big box of them for years. Can you guess what they are?


Sock ends!!! Take off your tube socks, turn them inside out and look at the toes. Imagine that end being sewn together and then for a neat edge, a machine or a person cuts off the excess – and there’s the loop. When you were a child at camp, you used smaller, probably nylon ones to weave on the potholder looms. Mine are cotton so that I can dye them. Here is the looper rug which we use by the shower. I’m thinking I wove it before we moved to Asia, which would have been about 1992. You can see it’s quite faded, and flattened, but it still feels nice underfoot.

Old looper rug

I did a little research and it turns out that you can still buy loopers! I have no idea where mine might have come from, but here are two sources. Great Northern Weaving has loopers and is an actual B&M store in Kalamazoo MI, that looks quite interesting. Cotton Clouds carries loopers too. They have been in business for many years and I used to buy lots of fibers from them. They are a great resource for cotton and I was interested to see that they have loopers. Should you want a completed rug, there are also weavers on Etsy who sell woven rugs in very pretty designs.

I dug around in a box of carpet warp looking for colors for the rugs. Here are some choices certainly influenced by the dark and dreary weather we’ve been having.

Warp choices

Surprise – {not if you read my blog a lot} – I decided to use all of those colors. Does this warp look too bright? I’ll let you decide as I show you the progress. I wound a warp for two 24″x 36″ rugs, I hope. There is a lot of take up when you weave with loopers. What that means is that the loopers are fat and fuzzy and very irregular sizes, so they take up a lot of room as you weave them.

Looper warp

Another reason for the large amount of take up is the way that the loopers are joined. If you look at the wound ball as well as the woven section below, you can see that I join the loops by knotting them together. This creates a large bump, which takes up a lot of room going under the warp. {The bumps feel really nice on your bare feet!} The knots and irregular sizes of the loopers also make it difficult to get a nice selvedge, or edge. Looper rugs are always look handmade and a bit rough and shaggy, but that’s their charm. It will be great to have a new one in the bathroom.

New looper rug

When I get the other loom warped, fabrics dyed and quilting projects re-started, then I can seriously pack up and thin the overwhelming studio. Pictures of all this to follow…

Weaving the Christmas Runners!

Late afternoon and early evening are times when I am restless and can easily get into some trouble – like noshing in the kitchen, so I have been working at the during those times. Here is the warp all ready to weave. Looks a lot tidier now, doesn’t it? This is an important step as it (hopefully) gets the threads evenly tightened. 18″ looks very wide for placemats or a runner, but there is take-up when you weave. That means that the selvedges (edges) pull in. There will be strips of fabric woven through the warp, which also takes up space. And finally – when you wash a newly handwoven item, it shrinks as well, so you have to figure all this in. I will use these as runners in the center of a table and also as a placemat/runner for the two of us. Years ago, I determined that I liked a wide mat so the plate and napkin and glass have plenty of room to sit on the mat. Don’t you hate it when your glass tips over because the mat is too small?

{And now, for those of you who are quilters or sew garments, can you see why the length of the fabric is so strong?  It is literally one length of thread. Next strongest is the width or the weft.}

I use my trusty rotary cutter to cut the rag strips. For rag rugs, I like a thick piece of fabric, but for anything I use on a table, I cut 1.5″ widths. And then comes the fun part – seeing how all these crazy fabrics I collect will look when they are all squashed up in the mats. I used to use a rag shuttle for the weaving, but now I prefer to have a basket with all the strips of cotton in it. Then I pick and choose what fabric to weave next. And these are not quilting fabrics! Rag runners use gobs of fabric and so I go to the fabric stores with the awful cotton that feels like cardboard and is printed poorly and also wait until they go on sale. These fabrics are perfect for rag runners; all I’m looking for is good color and pattern.

Ta da! Here is one runner finished and the next one begun. The space you see in between the runners is for the fringe. At the beginning and the end of  each runner I do hem stitching. Can you see the stitching that gathers the warp threads into tidy bundles? This is perhaps overkill for rag runners, I learned to do it when I was weaving linen ones, but it’s a nice edge. It also means that when I take the woven runners off of the loom, all I have to do is carefully cut across the open threads and I am done!

This photo shows you the front beam, where the fabric is rolled up on when it’s woven. It’s exciting to see it accumulate as you work away.

I keep these mats rolled up in a Chinese cupboard and pull them out for the appropriate occasion! Here is a Summer runner that I wove to match these great (old) napkins I bought at Crate and Barrel. (This runner usually means that we are having margaritas….)

And here is a blue and white one which I use a lot on the sideboard to display my Asian blue and white collection.

It’s fun to plan these runners and collect fabrics for them.

Fiber Shows & Summer Plans

Peter and I just took a walk and it barely feels warm enough for Spring, much less Summer, but I continue to get e-mails about shows and thought I would share again. Should you want to enroll in classes, it’s always wise to do it as soon as you know registration is open.

June 24-25      Midwest fiber & Folk Art Fair Grayslake IL

  • Celebrating its 5th year, this is a wonderful and growing show. There are lots of great vendors, a show to enter and classes. I am teaching primitive rug hooking  this year.

July 9                Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show Sisters,OR

  • This is a very famous one day show where about 1300 quilts (!) are hung all over town! I believe there are other events connected to this show.

July 13-16       American Quilter’s Society Knoxville, TN

  • This show is in its 3rd year at this location. Sounds like there is a lot to see and do there!

July 29-31       International Quilt Festival Long Beach,CA   (March 23 online registration)

  • This is still a fairly new show for the Quilts, Inc. people. I always want to go to take the tours to fabric designers’ workshops and see all the amazing local quilt stores.

Here’s an idea : have you ever considered going to a crafts camp for a week or two? I went to the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina many years ago for a two-week weaving workshop. It was a fabulous experience. Working in the studio every day, I was able to look out over a large field with the Smokies in the background – a piece of heaven for sure! Studios are open for 24 hours so you can work as much or as little as you like, and there are so many interesting people to talk to. Classes include hot glass, ceramics, paper, jewelry, blacksmithing, and more. The food was wonderful. There were nightly lectures by the teachers and I went to every one, regardless of craft. It is overwhelmingly stimulating and you will be buzzing with ideas for weeks after. Here are some other notable places like Penland to check out:

Arrowmont in Tennessee

Haystack on an island in Maine

Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island near Seattle

Peter’s Valley Craft School in New Jersey

Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire (weaving & knitting)

And while we’re talking about summer plans,  don’t forget to check out when your county and state fairs are to see quilts! Peter and I went to the Iowa State Fair a few years ago and were amazed at the number of quilts displayed (see photo above) as well as a lot of beautiful needlework. Our Lake County Fair had some quilts last summer, but I think perhaps I should enter this year… Something else for the to do list?