Almost two months ago, my doctor decided that I needed to go on bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy. This meant no walking to the library. No gardening. No trips to visit friends and family. I wasn’t even allowed to be in a seated position, which meant, if you can imagine, no weaving. I had myself a good cry and then decided that I wasn’t going to let this get me down.
So what’s a weaver to do when she can’t sit up and weave? Well in my case, you find a way to weave lying down. Enter the Schacht Mini Loom. Before you stop reading, this month’s project can easily be woven on a Cricket or Flip rigid heddle loom, so please press on.
The Schacht Mini Loom, at about 8” x 8”, is lightweight and just about as easy to use as you can get with a loom. And you can warp and weave on it lying on your side! Tell a weaver she can’t weave and she’ll find a way to prove you wrong.
I’m going to wander off on a bit of a tangent here. I have the very good fortune of being in a phenomenal weaving guild, North of Boston Handweavers (http://nobohandweavers.com/). I have mentioned the benefits of guilds before, but you should know that if there isn’t a guild currently in your area, perhaps you should consider starting one. Our guild started two years ago with a small group of like-minded weavers, and we are now over 30 strong. We have a wonderful schedule of speakers and we are developing an educational curriculum as well. I can’t imagine life without my guild. I also can’t imagine bed rest without my guild. They have sent me updates and photos from our meetings and kept me involved even when I couldn’t be there to participate. It makes me misty-eyed just thinking about how supportive and wonderful they have been.
One of the benefits of being a guild member is getting to spend time with people like Margaret Russell. Those of you familiar with Wild Fibers Magazine (http://www.wildfibersmagazine.com/) may recognize Margaret as a contributing editor whose articles on rare breeds are always educational and entertaining. I find Margaret’s devotion to weaving with rare breeds and natural fibers inspirational.
Our guild has developed a special fondness for rare breed sheep, and our Old England/New England woven bookmark exchange (http://nobohandweavers.com/archives/519) was even featured in the May/June issue of Handwoven Magazine (http://www.weavingtoday.com/).
I wanted to make a special toy for my baby, and with the Mini Loom in mind, I decided a squishy cube would be the way to go. I was so thrilled when the aforementioned Margaret very generously sent me a cone of Southdown. The Southdown is listed as recovering by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/southdown.html), and was one of the breeds included in our bookmark exchange. Their wool is a beautiful creamy white color and oh so soft. Perfect.
Here are the details:
Schacht Mini Loom (kit includes shuttles, beater and weaving needle)
Worsted weight wool – I used Southdown, but you can use anything fairly soft and preferably not superwash. I say that because you do want a bit of fulling to occur when you wash your fabric so that the cube is sturdy and the stuffing stays put. About 100 yards combined for the warp and weft.
Six yards of contrasting yarn for embellishing your squishy cube.
Warp: 36 ends, 8 ends per inch
Weft: 8 picks per inch
This will give you a finished fabric that has an obvious grid upon which you can then easily embellish letters, numbers or whatever tickles your fancy.
This project involves weaving six squares 4 ½” x 4 ½”. You could also weave one long piece of fabric, 4 ½” wide by 27” long, cut it in half with each half representing three sides of your cube. Or, if you prefer not to cut your fabric, weave two pieces each measuring 4 ½” x 13 ½”. If you’re not using the mini loom, you will need to add loom waste to your materials calculation. I usually add about 10” to the length of my ends to account for waste when weaving on the Cricket and about 17” when I am weaving on the Flip.
To weave your squares on the Mini Loom, warp a total of 36 ends following the instructions in the manual (http://schachtspindle.com/our_products/
mini_loom.php). This works out to be eight ends per inch. Leave a tail just over three times the width of your weaving so that you can hemstitch the edge securely. You’ll then want to weave a plain, balanced weave, eight picks per inch. After throwing five or six picks, hemstitch your edge following the instructions in Yearning to Weave Lesson 2. (http://schachtspindle.comyearning%20to%20weave/lesson_02.php)
I found that when weaving on the Mini Loom, after placing each pick at about a 30 degree angle, if I beat starting at the open side of the angle created by my weft pick and the fell line, moving toward the opposite edge, this enabled me to control draw in more effectively.
Continue weaving in plain weave until your weaving measures about one or two picks longer than 4 ½” long. Your warp shouldn’t be under too much tension, which means when you remove it from the loom, there should be very little loss of length. If you use a fairly stretchy yarn, throw a few extra picks to compensate for take-up when you remove your piece from the loom. Hemstitch the edge and remove your weaving from the loom. I simply popped the loops off of each tooth to release my woven piece from the loom. Weave a total of six squares.
In keeping with the baby theme, I decided to embellish each side of my cube with a letter or number. I used a standard cross stitch technique and freehanded my letters and numbers, A, B, C, 1, 2 and 3. If you want your letters and numbers to be precisely designed and placed, you can use graphing paper. There is a quick tutorial on how to cross stitch at http://home.comcast.net/~kathydyer. I used the Danish method, which involves stitching one half of all of the X’s and then completing the X on the way back. Be sure to do this before you stitch together your cube and before you wash your squares. (You may find it convenient to do the cross stitching while your piece is on the loom.)
After your cube sides have been embellished, you can start stitching the sides together. I set A, B and C next to each other in sequential order and stitched A to B and B to C. I then did the same thing with 1, 2 and 3.
To stitch the sides together, simply use a length of your weaving yarn and with the right sides facing each other, draw your yarn between successive picks all the way up the side.
Once you have your letters stitched together and your numbers stitched together, you’ll start to form your cube. Stitch the left edge of your number 1 square to the top edge of your letter B square. The top of 1 is then stitched to the top of A, the top of C is stitched to the bottom of 1. The left side of A is then stitched to the top of 2 and the right side of C is then stitched to the bottom of 2. If you don’t trim off the warp loops, they may get in the way a bit, but I managed around them.
At this point you’ll have a box with an open flap top. Stitch two and a half of the remaining sides together, leaving half a side open to turn your work right side to. At this point I hand washed the cube in warm water and gentle wool soap. After letting it soak for about 20 minutes, I agitated the cube to ever so slightly full it. I spun the water out in the washing machine, put it in the dryer for 20 minutes, and let it air dry the rest of the way.
To stuff the cube, I used bamboo stuffing, as I like its naturally antibacterial qualities. I also stuffed my cube a bit on the loose side so that little fingers could easily grip and hold onto it. Once stuffed, stitch the last bit closed using your weaving yarn or a slightly thinner yarn of the same color. Voila!