Advent Knitting

‘Tis the season for Christmas knitting! As I was reading through my blog subscriptions I was inspired by Glenna of Glenna knits to knit an Advent bunting. I had a quick rummage through Ravelry, and came up with this lovely (and free) pattern collection (the author simply asks that you donate to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation in lieu of buying the pattern). Since I am me, I am making a few tweaks to the designs by switching out some of the ornaments that are not really my style, and I plan to join them all together with a simple crochet chain.

Here are my plans by day (photos courtesy of Frankie Brown):

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8

Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12

Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16

Day 17, Day 18, Day 19, Day 20

Day 21, Day 22, Day 23, Day 24

The last day is Christmas day, when I will assemble all my tiny ornaments into a grand holiday bunting!

The patterns use fingering weight yarn and very small needles. Since they are tiny they only use a little bit of yarn – great for stashbusting and sock yarn scraps.

Would you like to join me on this adventure?

I Finished the Bag!

handwoven blue and green plaid bag

I am so pleased with how my handwoven and handsewn project bag turned out! It is a 7-8″ cube(ish), so it is quite roomy! For scale, this is a ball of Miss Babs Yowza inside and the beginnings of a shawl.

handwoven blue and green plaid bag with yarn inside

I worked this bag up in several different phases.

Weaving:

About a week ago I finished weaving the fabric. I detailed my finishing process here, and then handwashed it and hung it up to dry.

Sewing:

I recently read that sewing with handwoven cloth is harder than sewing with commercial cloth. I thought, “Huh. That’s interesting. I wonder if it’s true….” and then went on with my day. Once my fabric was dry I got to experience sewing with handwoven cloth, and it is definitely different than working with commercial cloth! I think it is because commercial cloth is a)finer than most handwoven cloth and b)more closely woven and thus more stable. The yarns in handwoven cloth are more likely to move around, making the fabric more stretchy and more likely to misbehave if you are not expecting stretch. The key is knowing what you are working with and managing your expectations. I sewed the thing together, took seams out and resewed, and eventually it was all done. Weaving the cloth in a square(ish) plaid definitely helped me to sew more evenly.

Finishing:

I started the finishing by sewing a 1 1/2″ ribbon around the outside edge of the bag. The ribbon acts as a binding, and I planned to turn it to the inside so the top of my bag would be nice and tidy. I was quite lucky with my sewing thread and ribbon, as both were from stash and matched my navy blue yarn almost exactly!

My finished cloth was quite soft and drapey. In order to give the bag more structure I bought a sheet of plastic canvas, cut it into 3 pieces, trimmed it to size for the front, back, and base of the bag, whipstitched these pieces together, and finally tacked them to the bag. Once this was done I sewed the ribbon binding down and steamed everything.

I wanted the top flap to have a little more stability, so I cut a thin piece of plastic canvas and sewed it down, then hot glued all the fringe ends of my weaving down. I added a magnetic closure to the flap and front of the bag, then turned it all over to hem the edges. I don’t usually use hot glue on projects like this, and it really messed up my sewing needle. But oh well, I have about a hundred needles, so I can afford to lose one.

handwoven blue and green plaid bag with magnetic closure

The last bit of finishing really brought the bag together. I took my remaining ribbon, snipped off a piece for the front, and braided the rest for a handle which I sewed onto the back of the bag. I tied the short piece into a loose overhand knot and tacked it onto the front flap as a decoration. It worked a charm.

Tadah!

Have you ever sewn with handwoven cloth? What did you think about the experience?

Twice a Bridesmaid, Already a Bride

I have the most wonderful story to share with you! A few weeks ago my best friend called me to say that her boyfriend had finally asked her to marry him. I squealed and congratulated her and she told me all about the proposal. They are just such a sweet couple. She didn’t say anything at the time about her wedding party. I desperately wanted to be a bridesmaid, but I live 2,000 miles away, so I thought maybe she had decided to ask someone closer to her.

About a week later she sent me this text:

This is the reason we are best friends. Who else would think to propose to a bridesmaid this way? I should add that she is also a knitter, and she is the one who taught me how to tat. Of course, I said yes.

So in May I will be putting on a blue dress to help her with her white dress. I can’t wait!

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?