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)?

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.