Wedding Pillow

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I have a little project for you this month inspired by my upcoming marriage. Now before you stop reading, this really is a project for anyone. It’s completely customizable, AND you get to use graph paper. Who doesn’t love graph paper! Yes. I’m a geek. For those of you who haven’t ventured into the world of pick-up sticks, break ‘em out. It’s time to wander a bit further into the world of the rigid heddle loom.

When my brother got married, my 3 1/2 year old nephew was the ring bearer. He was very serious about his role, and when one of the rings accidentally fell off of the ring pillow as he was walking down the aisle, he quickly picked it up, and placed it firmly on his little thumb. After that he wasn’t too keen to give it up, but eventually relented. Well, he’ll be reprising his role in May when my sweetheart and I tie the knot. He is now an even more responsible 9 year old looking forward to his special job, and I plan to make him a drop proof ring pillow for the event.

I have been experimenting using pick-up sticks with my Flip rigid heddle loom, and as I was weaving supplementary weft patterns (why must we use lofty terminology in weaving), I thought, “Hmm…if I could figure out where to place them, I could use the little blocks I’m weaving to create letters.” I had been thinking about making a ring pillow, and this seemed like an interesting opportunity.

Pick-up sticks enable you to create patterns in your weaving without needing extra harnesses or heddles.  The rigid heddle loom is especially well suited for pick up because of the slot threads are easily manipulated. Sometimes I find that the idea of something seems far more complicated or tedious than it really is in practice. Pick-up sticks fell into the tedious category for me until I tried them out. If you’re simply using one pick-up stick to create a just one pattern, aside from initially having to insert it in your warp, there is very little additional work required. Rather than throwing a pick (passing your shuttle through) in either the up or down shed, you simply turn the pick-up stick on edge (while the rigid heddle is in the neutral position) to create a pattern shed. Looking at it another way, the pattern stick lifts some of the threads that otherwise live passively (neither up or down) in the slots of your rigid heddle, essentially creating a third shed.

The Project

Download the Wedding Pillow Draw Down

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So on to the project.  I wanted a pillow that measured roughly 9” x 7”, and since I was using pearl cotton, I estimated about 15% shrinkage. Allowing for 1” hem, 1 1/2” of take-up, 1” of draw in, and 18” of loom waste on my 20” Flip; I decided to thread my loom 12 1/2” wide with a 1-yard warp.  For my warp threads, I used 10/2 pearl cotton, color #140 Safari, threaded two ends per each slot and each hole in my 10 dent rigid heddle for 20 ends per inch. You’ll need about 250 yards total (250 ends).  I treated each pair of threads as a single thread as I wanted to use this color, but didn’t have it in a 5/2 to match the weft material. Feel free to use 5/2 pearl cotton here. Halve the yardage and number of ends, and only thread one end in each slot/hole. One thing to note here is that if you have an even number of ends your center point will be the space between two threads, however, since I was threading two ends per slot and two ends per hole, my center point was a pair of threads passing through a slot. I marked this (treating them as one thread), for easier counting when inserting my pick-up stick, by tying a bit of yarn around it.

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For the weft I used 5/2 pearl cotton in color #73, wine tone. You’ll need about 130 yards at 18 picks per inch, over 18 1/2” of weaving.  My weaving was broken down into five segments, three sections of plain weave, and two sections of block design as follows:

2” plain weave

~ 7” block design (front of pillow)

4” plain weave (this is where your fabric will be folded)

~ 7” block design (back of pillow)

2” plain weave

In retrospect, I would have added an extra 1/2” to the 2” segments at the beginning and end of the weaving for the seam. My design ended up being a bit off-center without this seam allowance.

I used a very basic block design, with each block equaling eight pattern picks followed by 12 plain weave picks. This is sounding a bit complicated to me as I write this, so perhaps an illustration would help. I created what’s called a draw down to give you a graphic representation of how this works. The draw down represents only those threads in the slots (the threads that are left up when your heddle is in the down position), as these are the threads you can pick up with the pick-up stick. Read the draw down from the bottom of the graph paper to the top as this follows the direction of your weaving.  If there are no colored-in blocks in a given row, this means you weave that row plain weave.

Here is the pattern sequence for the double Xs (one kiss for me and one kiss for my sweetheart – cue the sappy music). The wider block between the Xs is where I plan to tie the rings on.

Up = Up shed pick

PU = Pick up shed pick (heddle is in neutral and your pick-up stick is turned on its side to create this pattern shed)

Down = Down shed pick

Each block is woven as follows: Up, PU, Up, PU, Up, PU, Up, Down

Follow this with 12 plain weave picks, and then weave your next block. There are five blocks total in this design, but you can make as many as you’d like.

Here is how to place your pick-up stick. There are three pick-up patterns: A, B and C and the five blocks are woven A, B, C, B, A to create the X shapes.  Place your heddle in the down position, working behind the heddle with only the threads in the slots (each pair counted as one if you are using the doubled 10/2 cotton), insert the pick-up stick as follows for pattern A:

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Under 6, over 3, under 15, over 3, under 9, over 3, under15, over 3, under 6

This forms the feet of your kisses. The other two pick-up sequences are as follows:

B: Under 10, over 3, under 7, over 3, under 17, over 3, under7, over 3, under 10

C: Under 15, over 3, under 11, over 5, under11, over 3, under 15

And now we put it all together.

Weave 2” (or 2 1/2”) plain weave.

Insert your pick-up stick for pattern A, and weave block A (up, PU, up, PU, up, PU, up, down).

Weave 12 plain weave picks starting with an up shed pick.

Insert your pick-up stick for pattern B, and weave block B (up, PU, up, PU, up, PU, up, down).

Weave 12 plain weave picks starting with an up shed pick.

Insert your pick-up stick for pattern C, and weave block C (up, PU, up, PU, up, PU, up, down).

Weave 12 plain weave picks starting with an up shed pick.

Insert your pick-up stick for pattern B, and weave block B (up, PU, up, PU, up, PU, up, down).

Weave 12 plain weave picks starting with an up shed pick.

Insert your pick-up stick for pattern A, and weave block A (up, PU, up, PU, up, PU, up, down).

Weave 12 plain weave picks starting with an up shed pick.

Weave 4”. This is the mid-point of your weaving.

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For the back of my pillow, I opted to use blocks to create my first initial and my sweetheart’s first initial, M and K.

Using the draw down method I showed, you can determine where to place blocks to create your own initials or design. Graph paper is very handy for this. If you don’t have any on hand, you can download it from www.printfreegraphpaper.com. You can also leave the other side of the pillow blank. Measure the total length of your weaving before the 4” segment listed above, and simply weave an additional length of plain weave equal to this distance.

The finishing is nice and simple. I made a pillow insert stuffed with roving at the moment, which is a bit lumpy. I plan to fill it out a bit with some lavender. Since the insert won’t be seen, your sewing job doesn’t have to be that pretty. I cut my weaving off of the loom, zigzag stitched across each cut edge and hand washed it in hot soapy water. The wider block that I’m using to tie the rings on to the pillow might make some weavers uncomfortable. When I was learning to weave, I was told that wider floats aren’t a good idea, but I really think it boils down to function and personal preference. I’m threading a 1/2” ribbon through these floats, and after the ceremony, it’s probably going to be tucked away somewhere safe. If I were making this for a little kiddo, I would probably make the floats narrower so that their little fingers would be a bit less likely to fit underneath and have fun pulling on the threads.  It’s all up to you.

I cut the insert fabric the same size as the pillow fabric, and stitched about 3/4” in along each side. Remember to leave an opening so that you can stuff in your stuffing. You can just hand stitch this closed. When stitching the woven exterior, I decreased the seam width to 1/2” to allow a bit of wiggle room for the insert. Stitch up two sides of your woven material, outsides facing in. A third side is your fold, so you should now have three closed sides. Turn the pillow right sides out, hiding your seam, and insert the insert. Fold the open edge of your material in to create the last seam. Hand stitch this closed. I used thread to match the warp, catching only the matching warp threads.  It doesn’t take much time or effort, but magnifying glasses sure do help out.  Voila!

Jane has a free pattern in the Spring 2006 Newsletter that uses pick-up sticks to create fun tufty bits on a pillow if you’re looking for more ideas. As always, I welcome your comments or questions.

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Melissa Ludden Hankens

You can find Melissa designing weaving projects for the Schacht blog and E-news. Melissa is also online at www.mlhankens.com and on Instagram as mlhankens (https://www.instagram.com/mlhankens/ ).