Finished Object: Bulky Ruana

When I was a new knitter my first big yarn purchase from a proper yarn store was 6 skeins of Brown Sheep Burly Spun for a bulky knitted jacket. The yarn store owner ordered the yarn for me and when it came in I paid a shocking (to me) amount of money for it. That’s where the problems started. I swatched (see, I can learn!) with several different needles, but couldn’t get gauge. So the yarn languished in my stash. Looking back I wonder why I thought I would need a bulky wool jacket in the warm climate of the Southeastern US. Clearly I didn’t think it all the way through.

Last November I bought a 15″ Cricket loom. I’ve been on a little bit of a weaving jag since then, and I am having so much fun learning what I can (and can’t) do with this piece of equipment. I don’t have a sewing machine or a serger, and I’ve read that handwoven fabric is not as stable as commercial fabric, so I’m reluctant to cut into my fabric, but I still want to make wearable garments with it. So I set out to determine what kinds of garments can be made with squares and rectangles. Number 1 on the list is a vest. The vest can be long or short, but since it’s made of uncut rectangles it will end up blocky.

Recently I’ve been trying to use my stash instead of always buying new yarn . I mean, that’s what stash is for, right? (Note that I have not stopped buying new yarn, I’m just trying to also use some of the yarn I already have) I unearthed my Burly Spun and had a thought: if I used a fingering weight yarn in the warp (vertical) and sett it pretty wide, then I could use this Super Bulky in the weft (horizontal) and end up with a fabric that would (hopefully) not give me heat stroke. I did some measuring and some math, and found 2 fingering weight yarns (red and white) in my stash that coordinated well with my main yarn, then I warped up my loom and started weaving. I’m pleased to say that everything I used in this garment came from stash.

How I constructed the garment:

  • A Ruana is a fancy name for a long vest. I took my measurements and wove 2 back pieces and 2 front pieces. The red warp yarn blended in extremely well with my weft yarn, so the woven fabric almost looks like brick.
  • I used mattress stitch to sew the side seams, leaving slits for the arm holes and vents below the waist.
  • I sewed lace along the outside top edges, turned it to the inside for a clean seam line, then sewed the shoulder seams at a similar angle to the slope of my shoulders.
  • Using my red warp yarn I picked up stitches along the fronts and neck and knit a garter stitch collar using short rows to shape the bottom edges. I also picked up stitches along the side vents and armholes and knit a 3-row garter stitch edging to stabilize and clean up the edges. Conveniently my knitted stitch gauge was the same as my woven row gauge.

What I learned from this weave:

  • If you use a fine yarn in the warp and a big yarn in the weft your fabric turns out super interesting and textured. I must do this more!
  • Weaving with super bulky yarn goes incredibly fast! Talk about instant gratification!
  • The finishing on a sewing project can take as long as weaving the fabric and doing the basic construction (I hate the finishing work).
  • Projects only get done if you work on them. I started this project in November, and after the first panel was completed inexplicably stopped until mid-June. Maybe I didn’t want to deal with warping my loom?
  • When weaving multiple panels of the same width, weave them all on the same warp if possible. This eliminates time spent warping and helps with loom waste.

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 processĀ 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?