Category Archives: weaving

Weaving project #3: a couch blanket

The third weaving project was one that I had in mind for months. At Olds College Fibre Week I purchased some dark grey and light grey rovings from a local producer. It wasn’t super soft, but it was beautiful greys. I spun them up (woolen) and when I lined them up next to the white yarn I made in Spinzilla 2015 – I new my dream for a blanket was going to be realized.

I planned to use the full width of the loom and to do a kind of checked pattern – 20 dark grey; 20 light grey; 20 white, and to weave it with the same pattern. But at the last minute, I decided to add a shot of red yarn to the pattern. So the threading became 18 dark grey; 18 light grey; 18 white, 6 red.

I was so excited to get this started that for a while I lost my mind weaving smarts. I couldn’t work at the desk in my studio because my youngest daughter was using the entire space as a study to finish up her final papers and study for university exams.

So I set myself up on the landing – it’s a large space and I believed it would be perfect for making the warp. Except for the fact that it didn’t have any solid heavy tables that I learned, serve an important function when making the warp. Tension. It holds the tension that is created when you are pulling the yarns through the reed and wrapping them around a warping peg on the other side of the room.

I also learned the hard way that the clamps they provide you with in the kit serve a function. They aren’t optional. And I also learned that when your loom starts to tilt and move towards the warping peg, threatening the length of future warp threads, duct tape won’t hold it in place. There were a few other rookie mistakes I made in the process of making the warp for this blanket, but that’s enough for now. I promise, I won’t be making them again, so no reason to re-live the humiliation.

Once I got the loom fully dressed and ready to weave, the weaving went well. The 100% wool handspun had a tendency to stick to each other sometimes, so I had to be careful when lifting or lowering the reed, that the correct threads were moving.

Here’s a a close-up of the fabric being made. I gently beat each strand into place, leaving as much space as the width of the strand itself.

Here is a shot of it right off the loom. 60″ x 30″. I had hoped it would be longer, but my bungles with the warping process is what reduced the length.

And here it is after it has been washed, bashed and dried in the dryer for 10 minutes. The yarn fulled and filled in the spaces, but because I kept the beat light, it is still very soft and has a lovely drape. The final measurements are 49″ x 25″.

I am officially hooked as a weaver. All I can think about is what is next?

A new fibre adventure: rigid heddle weaving

I love making yarn. That is one of my all-time passions. I love preparing fibre, strategizing how to manage colours, and playing with texture in my yarns. As a result of this passion, I have a lot of handspun yarn. A. Lot. Of. Yarn.

I’m not the most prolific knitter because when given the choice, I choose to spin. So my knitting is limited to my commuting time and some evenings in front of the TV.

A while back I decided that a way to use up my yarn was to start weaving. So I got myself a 4-harness floor-loom. I wove a scarf. Yay, I used up an entire skein of handspun. And then it sat. It sat for so long I forgot how to dress it again. And how to make a warp. And all the other bits that made sense when I did it the first time, put which flew right out of my head after the job was done.

So the handspun continued to add up. A few good years spinning during Spinzilla only added to the handspun stash. I decided I needed to get a bit more serious about this weaving thing, and then stumbled upon the rigid heddle loom.

The rigid heddle loom – the answer to my desire to have a weaving adventure. I called a fellow guild member who had showed her amazing handwoven/handspun shawls at our guild meeting and chatted her up about her loom and her approach. She has a 32″ Ashford rigid heddle loom and takes a Saori approach to her weaving.

I ordered one and it arrived within days of putting in the order. I sealed the wood and assembled it on Saturday morning. Saturday early evening I was making the warp and dressing the loom. Here’s the photo essay of my adventure.


Making the warp and sleying the reed. It was dead easy and fast.


Tying it onto the front beam.??????????????

Another view of the tie-up.


Weaving that I completed by bedtime on Saturday. I wove about 24′.


And here it is, off the loom at about 3pm on Sunday. Before I washed it, it was 67″ x 28″


I’ve washed it and it shrunk a bit. I still have to decide how I want to finish the fringes. So final photos will have to wait until I get to that on the weekend.

This was not made with my handspun, it was a bunch of commercial yarn from my stash. I wanted to practice with this before I dove into my handspun stash.  That will also happen this weekend.

Happy weaving!

Finally getting to weaving

This past weekend I finally got around to doing the weaving on my first floor loom weaving project.The weft is handspun Merino 60% Bamboo 30% and Nylon 10% in a colourway called “London Town” inspired by the 2012 Summer Olympics. But as I weave it up it reminds me a great deal of the colours of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This is three bobbins worth of spinning. I have four more available. The loom has its quirks, but I am getting used to it and am adjusting to the rhythm of it. Busy week so won’t get much more woven until the weekend. Stay tuned.

Weft yarn for my first scarf

Here is the yarn I am going to use as the weft for my scarf. The colourway is London Town, it’s from the Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club. The fibre blend is called Panda – Merino 60%; Bamboo 30% and Nylon 10%. Lovely, soft, silky and with an excellent drape. And at 420 yards, there is plenty for a scarf.
I spun this up during the Spinzilla contest. It was the last full braid I completed. 

Singles ready for plying.

Newly plied yarn in a skein, ready for a bath.

Now I just have to finish dressing the loom, and then can get started on the weaving. I haven’t made any additional progress on dressing it since my blog post about it. And tomorrow the knitting Olympics start, so not sure what kind of effort I’ll have for weaving.

Will keep you posted.

Dressing the loom

Okay, so I now have a loom. It’s not as easy as just sitting at the loom and starting weaving. Before you do that you have to dress the loom. That’s planning out a project, doing the math to figure out how much yarn you need for the warp and the weft, winding a warp, sleying the reed and threading the heddles. Sounds like a new language, well it is in many ways.

Here is my first project. It’s going to be a 10″ x 60″ scarf. The warp is commercial lace weight merino/silk blend. It’s being wound onto a warping board. The warp is 3 yards long. I had to make 160 ends. That’s a lot of wrapping.

You keep your threads in order by doing this lovely cross. Lovely indeed. You have to remember to do it each time, below on the way down, up on the way back. Easy rule, but just as easy to forget.

You take it off the warping board by making a gentle series of loops, like a crochet. You would not believe the amount of work this wee braid represents!

Then you do all this other stuff with the assistance of lease stickes, and start sleying the reed. That means putting the warp threads through the reed, in order. This is an eight point reed and I am putting two threads in each slot.

After that I have to thread the heddles.  This is going to be a plain weave; up and down. Plain and simple. So the pattern for threading the heddles is one thread in a heddle on shaft 1, next one in a heddle on shaft 2, and so forth. Keeping the order perfect.

Well I am not there yet. That’s my next task.

Will keep you updated, and next post will show you the hand spun yarn I am using for the weft.

A new addition to the studio

Here is a new addition to my studio – a handmade 4-harness loom. It’s 32″ wide. I don’t know much about weaving, so I am at a loss for describing it.

I decided I wanted to learn how to weave because I want to try to use up all the hand spun I’ve been producing. And, I want to make those lovely soft cotton/linen tea towels that I see at our guild sale.

A fellow guild member was selling this loom. We ended up trading this loom (and a bunch of other stuff that goes with it) for the Thumbelina spinning wheel I refurbished. I don’t have the space to be a wheel collector, so I was happy to do a direct trade.

Getting this loom has been a good thing. It motivated me to tidy up my studio and to organize things in a much more efficient way.

I don’t even know where to start. . . well, yes I do. It involves inviting a certain special guild member over to my house for a cup of tea and a beginner lesson.

Let the games begin!

Bradner Flower Show — Sheep-to-Shawl demonstration

Last weekend the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild spent time at the Bradner Flower Show doing a sheep-to-shawl demonstration.  The fibre we used was actually alpaca, but that doesn’t have the same alliteration as sheep-to-shawl, and the idea is the same.

A sheep-to-shawl is a popular competitive event amongst spinning and weaving guilds. Yes, competitive.  You have a clearly defined team, four spinners, one plyer, a weaver and an interpreter.  The interpreter is the person who speaks for the team, answers questions and helps the general public understand what’s going on.  The loom is warped ahead of time, but the fibre, while washed, is unprocessed.  The task of the team is to card, spin, ply and weave the yarn into a lovely fabric:  a shawl.  The team scores points for completing their shawl within the timeframe, usually 4 1/2 to 5 hours.  The also get (or lose)points  for the quality of the yarn, the complexity of the weave pattern and the finishing. 

We didn’t want to be part of a competetion, but thought that this kind of event would be just the match for the Bradner Flower Show. 

Here’s a photo essay of the various aspects of the sheep (alpaca)-to-shawl event.  Below is stage one: after the shearing that is.  This is the carding phase.  This is where we take the fibre shorn from the lovely alpaca, see her photo there?  and card it into fluffy, manageable batts for spinning singles.

This next photo is a shot of one of our guild members spinning the alpaca into a fine single.  The weave pattern for the shawl is a twill pattern with different coloured warp threads, so we wanted the warp and weft yarns to match.  Near her wrist you can see the lovely fluffy, carded fibre.

This is the plying stage.  We take two bobbing of freshly spun singles and ply them into a balanced 2-ply yarn that we can weave with right away. After this is done, the yarn is loaded onto the weaving bobbins and handed to the weaver.

And the weaver weaves.  The cream coloured alpaca matches wonderfully with the purple, green and yellow of the warp yarns.  Making for a wonderful, springtime shawl.

We finished this shawl on day 2 of the flower show and started on a second one.  The second one has a slightly different weave pattern — still using the twill idea, it is a zig-zag twill.  I am sure there is a better name for that pattern, but I’m not a weaver (yet) so I have to name them as I see them. 

After it’s taken off the loom, it will be washed and fulled and the fringe will be twisted.  The completed shawl will be actioned off at the Beyond Fibre — Annual Artisan’s Sale that the Langley Weaver’s and Spinner’s Guild hosts every year.  This year it’s taking place on Saturday, November 3rd and Sunday, November 4th at the Community Hall on Glover Street in Fort Langley BC.  Hope to see you there.