The rain here in New England has finally let up, and I am feeling like summer might actually be here to stay for a few weeks. To me, summer in New England means spending every possible waking moment outdoors taking in the sun and the air and just generally enjoying life.
This leads me to the topic of picnics. Who doesn’t love a good picnic? You pack up a portable, summery lunch along with your picnic blanket, find yourself a lovely spot in the great outdoors and plunk your self down to enjoy a bit of nature. Though, much like camping, I like to pack as efficiently as possible to keep the lugging of stuff to a minimum.
With the idea of picnics in mind, I took out my Cricket loom, Schacht’s smallest rigid heddle loom, and drew up a design to weave a roll-up picnic silverware holder/mat. Last month I talked about weaving with linen on the Flip rigid heddle loom. With my discoveries in mind, I decided to use cottolin for this project. This generally 60/40 blend of cotton and linen is a nice way to get a linen-like look with the forgiving nature of cotton. You’ll notice the difference between linen and cottolin most markedly in the wet finishing process. Cottolin will fluff and settle in, somewhat diminishing any inconsistencies you may have in your weaving. Linen tends to look a lot like it did when it came off the loom.
This was the first time I had woven the full width the Cricket loom allows, 10”.I warped eight inches in a natural linen color and added two one inch stripes of gray set in an inch from each side to add a bit of visual interest.
Your sett for this project is 20 ends per inch, so you will use a 10 dent rigid heddle threaded with two ends in each slot and hole. When direct warping draw a loop, each loop creates two ends, through each slot and each hole. You will then simply cut your warp threads at the end around the peg and wind on your warp. No re-threading of the heddle is required.
Here are some tips I’d like to share to help you along your way when weaving the full width of the Cricket loom:
1. Your apron bars are cut to fit just shy of the full width of the warp and cloth beams. While this gives you the ability to warp the full width of the loom, it also means that you need to take care when winding on and advancing your warp. Center the apron bars and make sure they do not catch against the ratchet gears. This is important in order to maintain even tension on the warp.
2. I use brown paper shopping bags cut and taped together to separate my warp threads when winding on my warp. My paper is cut very precisely to equal the length of the apron bars. Whatever you use for warp packing material, be sure that the threads along your edges don’t slip out. Again, this is important to ensure even tension.
I wasn’t paying attention when winding my warp, and two threads slipped out from the edge of my paper. I had to weight them down using a hook, a bit of ribbon and a film canister containing a few coins.
3. Clamping the Cricket loom to a table helped me to beat more evenly. This is particularly important when weaving with finer threads with a material that doesn’t have a lot of give. Cottolin does not having the same sponge-y quality of, for example, worsted-weight wool.
4. Your tension can be tricky when weaving with cottolin. I opted to begin winding my paper around the warp beam right away to create a smooth layer over the texsolv cord. You could also use a bit of paper on the cloth beam to prevent the small bumps you might otherwise get as the apron cords distort the surface of your cloth.
Sett: 20 ends per inch, two threads in each slot and hole in a 10 dent rigid heddle
Warp length: 48”
Total warp needed:
214 yards natural 22/2 cottolin
54 yards gray 22/2 cottolin
Width in reed: 10”
Picks per inch: 20
Weft needed: 220 yards to weave 36”
Weave the full length of your warp in plain weave. This should give you roughly about 36” of fabric if you are beating a balanced plain weave. Balanced simply means that you have the same number of weft picks and warp ends per inch. After you finish weaving, cut the material from your loom, leaving about a 1” fringe, and zigzag stitch along the cut edges. You’ll cut this fringe off once the piece is washed and pressed. Toss your fabric in the laundry (washer and dryer) with your clothes and steam press.
Pre-wash dimensions: 36 3/4” x 8 7/8”
Post-wash dimensions: 35” x 8 1/2”
The piece is now ready to be cut in two, leaving you with two 17 ½” x 8 ½” pieces of fabric.
I’d like to talk a bit about using a sewing machine with your handwovens. I love to use the walking foot for this purpose. The walking foot contains a second set of what I like to refer to as grippy bits. So not only do you have the grippy bits integrated into the sewing machine guiding your fabric along from the bottom, but you have a second set of grippy bits attached to the walking foot that help pull your fabric along the top as you are sewing.
Because I love a good experiment and am happy to do
what needs to be done to best illustrate an idea, I stitched down two seams of our cottolin fabric, one using the standard zigzag foot and the other using the walking foot.
You can see that the seam sewn with the zigzag foot got a bit more squashed and puckered, and at the end of the seam, the top and bottom layers of your fabric do not line up. The seam stitched down with the walking foot, however, looks nicely sewn. I used a zigzag stitch and my walking foot on all of the seams in this project as the zigzag stitch visually blends a bit better than a straight stitch.
So now you have two pieces of fabric. Using your iron, press a ½” seam along one of the cut edges of your material, folding this over again and pressing to hide and protect your cut edge.
Along the opposite edge, you will make your silverware pocket. Start by pressing over just a single layer ½” seam. Get out whatever cutlery you might like to fit in your roll-up, and determine how much fabric you need to fold over in order to create a pocket of the correct size.
Press the edge to form your pocket. When you stitch this in place, you will also stitch along the bottom edge to create the pocket, leaving one end open into which you can slip your cutlery.
You’ll need a tie to keep everything in place. You could use ribbon or twill tape, but I opted to make some twisted cord. Schacht sells something called The Incredible Rope Machine. This is based on a gadget that Barry used as a Boy Scout, back in the day, and I promise you that you will find a use for this thing, even if it’s only entertainment for your kids. You could also use a fringe twister, or manually twist or braid some lengths of yarn. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even use an inkle loom to make some very cool ties.
I used a bit of the cottolin and also some 3/2 pearl cotton from my stash to create my ties. The final length of each tie was about 20”, and this was just the right amount to wrap up a fork, spoon and knife of average size. I hand-stitched the cord at its mid-point to the center point of the seam on the non-pocket side, stitching it on the outside/underside of the mat.
And there you have it. Simply pop your silverware in the pocket; start rolling from the pocket edge until you meet the opposite side of your mat, and tie to secure. The fun thing is that once unwrapped, you have a nice little picnic size placemat or napkin. Double duty.