Weaving Lessons

Lesson #1:

O weavers, heed my tale of woe and beware of false shortcuts!

I’m new to weaving. My first weaving project was mostly completed under the guidance of my lovely friend who actually knows what she’s doing (she also works at the yarn store, the lucky duck!). So when I started my second project I tried to remember all the very wise things she told me. I also wanted my second project to be a plaid, and I didn’t want to cut and tie my yarn every time I switched colours. I planned a 1″x1″ plaid, and when I warped my loom I didn’t cut my yarn every time I changed colours. I thought I would save myself a little time and a few knots, so I just crossed the yarns over each other like you would do with knitting. BIG MISTAKE!

warped rigid heddle loom

The beginning of the project was easy to weave. But by the time I got to the last few inches of warp my sheds were barely opening and it was hard to pass my shuttle through the opening.

It turns out the yarns were twisting around each other and pulling their neighbors up or down, resulting in a very narrow shed and some skipped threads.

woven plaid with skipped threads

I had to weave with some care to keep the pattern going (plain weave), but eventually I finished it and cut my weaving off the loom Yay!

woven green and blue plaid

Lesson #2:

Thou shalt stabilize all thine edges before cutting anything!

After I cut the weaving off the loom I tied both ends of the warp in overhand knots. I had woven three separate sections on the same warp, leaving a little space between each section for finishing. Alas, I did not leave myself much space and I cut some pieces apart before the edges were stabilized.

Oh the drama! The Agony! As soon as I realized the error of my ways I put the pieces down and walked away from my project. I needed time to formulate a plan of action before all of my beautiful weaving came undone. I looked up how to hemstitch the edges (this tutorial is great), gingerly picked up a piece, and hemstitched as well as I could by holding each short piece of yarn against my leg to keep it from slipping.

Unbelievably, my plan worked! After a few sessions of intense sewing, both of the prematurely severed pieces were stabilized. I had two more pieces to cut apart, but I was wiser this time and hemstitched before I cut.

hemstitching woven plaid cloth

See: I can learn from my mistakes!

What beginner mistakes have you made (in any yarn-related craft)?

Cables and Garter Stitch

My husband and I moved to a new apartment last week. I know myself well enough to know that when my life is in uproar I need something simple and soothing to knit. One of my knitting friends just gave me the most gorgeous skein of yarn (it’s Ella Rae Lace Merino DK in colour 201), and rather than tossing it into the stash I decided to cast it on right away. Originally I planned to make a Rikke Hat, but I just cannot stand the jog you get when knitting garter stitch in the round. So what is a knitter to do, but design her own hat?

yarn cake

I made a swatch and blocked it before measuring my gauge (Can we just take a moment to discuss how important blocking is? If you plan to wash your knitting ever, you need to wash and block before checking your gauge. Wool reacts to water. Sometimes it grows, sometimes it shrinks. Sometimes there is no noticeable difference. But you don’t know until you block it. Block your swatches, people!). Then I measured my head, calculated the number of stitches I needed, and cast on.

knitting garter stitch in the round with cables

In order to avoid the dreaded garter jog I added a cable to my hat. Simple, effective, and very cute. I can’t wait to wear this thing!

What kind of project is “comfort knitting” for you?

Calculating Yarn Usage for a Rigid Heddle Loom

When I had my weaving lesson last week my teacher gave me a weaving planning sheet.

project sheet

The sheet takes you through all the calculations you will need to determine how much yarn you will need for a given project. For the warp (vertical yarns) you start with the desired dimensions of your finished cloth, add in extra for take-up and shrinkage, then calculate how much yarn you need based on ends per inch (epi, this is the weaver’s term for how many strands of yarn are in an inch of warp) and the length of your cloth. The process is very similar for the weft (horizontal yarns). The main difference is that the number of ends per inch is predetermined for your warp by the heddle you use (The heddle is the plastic thing in back of the loom that you thread all the warp yarns through. You can buy heddles that have more or fewer ends per inch to weave a coarser or finer cloth.), but the number of picks per inch (ppi, this is the weaver’s term for how many times the yarn crosses the warp in an inch) is determined by how closely you beat your weft.

Confused yet?

So for a “balanced weave” I would have 8 strands going vertically and 8 strands going horizontally. But if I beat my weft closer I could end up with 8 strands going vertically and 9 or 12 (or any other number) strands going horizontally. This also goes the other way. I could have fewer weft (horizontal) yarns than warp (vertical) yarns.

So why does this matter?

The more closely packed your weft yarns are, the more yarn you will use. So if you are really close on yarn it is a good idea to do a few inches as a sample just to make sure you will have enough.

The picture you see above is my planning sheet for a plaid project bag. I want the finished bag to be an 8″ by 8″ cube with a fold-over top. I planned for the front, bottom, back, and flap to be all one piece, then for the 2 sides I skip an inch or so and start weaving the next pieces. My EPI (ends per inch on the warp) is 8 and my PPI (picks per inch on the weft) is 12. But my original calculations assumed a balanced weave. I started the project with almost twice the yarn my calculations said I needed, so even though my math was way off I went ahead with the project.

blue and green plaid fabric on a rigid heddle loom

I guess it’s a good thing I paid attention in Algebra!

Do you have a process for calculating yardage for your weaving? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

I Wove a Scarf in One Day!

I have been coveting the Schacht Cricket looms at my local yarn store for months now. So when they offered a coupon good for any one item, I took the plunge and bought my loom!

schacht cricket loom

Happiness! Joy! Excitement! I took my loom home and immediately set it up. The instructions were clear and the pieces all fit together quite well with the exception of one hole that Schacht forgot to drill. Hubby fixed that with no questions asked.

schacht cricket loom

I wanted to warp my loom and start weaving on the spot, but I was afraid I would completely mess it up, so I settled for reading the book I bought with it: Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom. Wow is this book comprehensive! If you have a small loom or if you are thinking about getting one, you need this book! It starts with the basics of weaving and gets progressively more complicated until you are weaving with 3 heddles that act like 4!

A few days after I got my loom I had a lesson on how to use it. We warped it using the direct peg method.

warping a rigid heddle loom

Then we threaded the heddles and adjusted the tension.

warping a rigid heddle loom

Finally I got to start weaving!

weaving on a rigid heddle loom

I wove and wove and wove some more.

And finally I had a finished scarf! Start to finish it only took me a day!

When I first took it off the loom my scarf was stiff and not at all drapey, but after a wash it softened right up. I am never knitting a scarf again.

Do you have a loom? What is your favourite thing to weave with it? Do you have any tips or tricks on how to weave better?

My Brioche Bandana Cowl

I just told you about what I crocheted on vacation, but I knitted while I was on vacation, too.

I’ve been eyeing the Fingering Brioche Bandana Cowl by Lavanya Patricella ever since it came out last year. Early last month I finally took the plunge and bought the pattern. I wanted clear but moody colours, so I used Hedgehog Fibers Sock in Nutmeg and Knit Picks Stroll in Midnight Heather. The beginning of the cowl was a challenge as I re-learned how to work brioche and how to fix mistakes. Once I figured it out, though, I brioched night and day!

The pattern directs you to knit the top of the cowl 5″ long, but I wanted mine extra warm and snuggly, so I knit mine 8″ long before starting to decrease for the bandana. I’ve never worked decreases in brioche before, so that was a learning experience. All in all, I very much enjoyed this knit and I want to knit more brioche. All the Brioche!! It’s so squishy and snuggly!

And brioche is reversible! I prefer the Hedgehog side because it is more colourful, but the navy blue side is quite pretty as well. You see it a little in the bottom of the second picture.

There are so many pretty brioche patterns out there. Do you have a favourite? What do you think of brioche knitting?

How to Crochet a Broomstick Lace Bracelet in 9 Easy Steps!

My husband’s grandma is a crocheter. When we visited them recently I showed her a picture I found on Instagram of a bracelet made of broomstick lace. We realized that we could totally make that, and before I knew it we were in her yarn closet (She has a yarn closet! I knew I married into the right family!!) picking yarn and finding a dowel to make broomstick lace with. She rooted out her crochet notebook from when she taught Home Ec. in the 80s and found the directions for Broomstick Lace:

broomstick lace

She guided me as I awkwardly made a chain and single crocheted a few rows before starting.

broomstick

The bracelet was a rousing success! So fast! So easy! The hardest thing was picking out buttons. I decided to go with blue, since my wardrobe has been skewing toward blue recently.

crochet lace bracelet

It would be super easy to make up a whole set of bracelets in different colours – something for every occasion!

If you want to make a bracelet just like mine, here is what I did:

Materials: 

  • Yarn: 10 yds fingering weight yarn
  • Hook: 3mm
  • 4 buttons, sized 1/2″-3/4″
  • Dowel: 1″ wide and at least 6″ long – it helps to have a very smooth dowel with a rounded end, so take the time to sand your dowel down if it’s not already smooth

Method:

  1. Ch 21, turn work
  2. Skip 1 ch, sc 19, turn work
  3. Ch 1, sc 19, turn work
  4. Ch 1, sc 19, do not turn work
  5. With crochet hook pull up last loop and place on dowel held in left hand. Insert crochet hook in each st of ch, pull yarn through and place on dowel (20 sts).
  6. Insert hook in center of first 5 loops, holding these loops together as one, yarn over and pull off needle, ch 1, and work 5 sc in first set of loops. Work 5 sc in each set of 5 loops until no sts remain.
  7. Repeat rows 4 and 5 six more times, or until the bracelet is just long enough to go around your wrist. Cut yarn and hide the end.
  8. Sew 4 buttons to the foundation rows.
  9. Wear your new bracelet with pride!

Have you ever crocheted Broomstick Lace? What do you think of it?

Happy hooking!

My Vacation Part 3: Colonial Williamsburg and my 25th Birthday

Last week my husband and I went on vacation. We split our trip up into several stages so we could see and do more things (read Part 1 and Part 2).

I have wanted to visit Colonial Williamsburg for years, so this year when we planned our vacation I asked if we could go. We stayed at one of the inns right in Williamsburg, which made coming and going so easy!

We had so much fun walking down the streets, seeing carriages and wigmakers and people in historic dress. We went to a talk about the heritage animals kept in the stables. I somehow didn’t manage to get a picture of the Longwool Leicester sheep they had, but Longwool Leicesters are the ancestors of modern day Blue Faced Leicesters, Border Leicesters, and Corriedale, as well as several other breeds.

We visited several woodworking shops, all with different skills and purposes.

I loved visiting the tailor’s shop and talking with a very knowledgeable tailor about the materials and fashions and methods of making clothes. This hand sewn corset was hanging in the corner. Isn’t it just incredible!

corset

We saw a few famous people in Williamsburg, too: The Marquis de Lafayette spoke about his part in the American Revolution and Thomas Jefferson told about his belief in personal liberty and his work in founding the United States as we know it.

In the evening we watched the militia practice their military drills.

October 24th was my 25th birthday. We spent the day in Williamsburg, then went to a cute little cafe for dinner. After dinner, my husband disappeared for a few minutes and came back bearing a tea light, which was the only candle the cafe had. He sang Happy Birthday to me, and then we devoured a pumpkin cupcake. Later that evening we went to a strings recital at Bruton Parish Church. All in all, it was a lovely vacation and a great birthday.

Well, that concludes our vacation. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.

Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg? What did you enjoy most?