When Jane asked me to create a monthly column that would be a dialogue with new weavers, I agreed enthusiastically and without hesitation. You see, I am a new weaver, and who better to understand your frustrations and successes than another new weaver? There are many wonderful and experienced weavers out there, but can they really remember what it was like? The focus of this column is issues that plague new weavers and to generally spread the joy of weaving to anyone who will listen. I would love your feedback, so please comment.
Without hesitation, I would like to jump into topic #1 – Selvedges. Was that a collective groan I just heard? Chances are you were told not to pick at your selvedges, but if you’re anything like me, that’s exactly what you did as soon as you were weaving in the privacy of your own home. I still pick at my selvedges, albeit less than before.
It seems that selvedges are one of the most obvious areas of critique when it comes to weaving. Have you ever handed someone a piece that you wove, and immediately blurted out something about how terrible your selvedges are? Isn’t it strange how sometimes we feel we must knock ourselves down to prevent someone else from doing us the same injustice? Be proud of your weaving.
Cut yourself some slack. Stressing about selvedges is a joy zapper. Strive for improvement, but over time, not overnight. Like any new thing you are learning, you can’t expect to be perfect right away. It’s important to set realistic expectations. You mustn’t forget that weaving is about creating something truly unique, made with your hands. Remember: improvement, not perfection.
A new weaver with questions about her current project brought it along with to Schacht when she came to take a tour of the factory. As she pulled her loom out of the bag, I was immediately taken by her beautiful use of color. It was quite stunning. And then she did it. She apologized for her selvedges. Ah, the familiar frustration I felt when I heard her. Aside from a bit of draw in, she actually had selvedges that were quite nice, but clearly their imperfection, no matter how minute, troubled her.
Let’s get this out on the table, shall we? The uniformity of your selvedges is important. I, however, would argue that it is sometimes important. What if they will never be seen? Let’s say you make a pillow with your woven material, and all of the edges are stitched inside, forever hidden from view. Would your less than perfect selvedges still taunt you from within?
The more you weave, the better your selvedges will become. In this month’s project, no one will see your selvedges. Use this as a practice tool and just weave. Let your body create a rhythm. Work on beating evenly and smoothly. Use the tips you have learned from other weavers, such as throwing each pick at a 45 degree angle to reduce draw in. Moderate your force until the passing of your shuttle is even from side to side, each arm mirroring the other’s movement. You’ll find that the less you worry, the more relaxed you’ll feel, and the better your weaving will become.
Look at your selvedges when you advance the warp. I’m willing to bet that if you wove continuously and fluidly without stopping to pick and poke, the selvedges improved as you wove. Initially this improvement can be quite marked. Pat yourself on the back.
I’d like to share a project that is both a stash-buster and low stress on the selvedge scale. The best part is that it uses an assortment of leftover yarn you have hanging about (it’s free!), but of course you are welcome to choose any material that suits your fancy. The bag will be fulled a bit to create a sturdier fabric, therefore I’m going to limit, but not exclude cotton and other non-fullable materials from the mix.
Decide how wide you would like your bag to be. I used a Baby Wolf loom to weave mine, though you could very easily use a smaller loom. In fact if I hadn’t had another project in progress, I would have been inclined to use my Flip rigid heddle loom.
I’d like to share a project that is both a stash-buster and low stress on the selvedge scale. This project is about letting go just a bit. It uses an assortment of leftover yarn you have hanging about (it’s free!), but of course you are welcome to choose any material that suits your fancy. The bag will be fulled a bit to create a sturdier fabric, therefore I’m going to limit, but not exclude cotton and other non-fullable materials from the mix.
I’m using an assortment of yarns in various shades such as Lamb’s Pride Bulky and Worsted, an old tweed from Tahki and some Bulky Lopi. I have used all of these in fulled projects, so I’m going to estimate about 25% loss in length and width after washing. I’d like my bag to end up about 10” wide and 5 1/2” tall (this gives me space for keys, phone, wallet and a few other random things). Therefore, I’ll need to make my fabric 13” wide. I’m not going to bother being too precise with my measurements because I don’t mind if the final product is a bit wider or narrower than 10”. Isn’t this great? We’ve barely measured a thing!
That 13″ determines the width of the loom you’ll need. I used a Baby Wolf loom to weave mine, though you could very easily use a smaller loom. In fact if I hadn’t had another project in progress, I would have
been inclined to use my Flip rigid heddle loom. So as long as you have two harnesses, you’re in business.
The next step is to raid your yarn stash. Assemble a decent collection of leftovers from which to choose your warp. I’d like a bit more consistency in my warp material, so I’m using all Lamb’s Pride Worsted in varying colors. I’ll be more whimsical with my weft yarns.
How long to make the warp? You will weave a length of fabric of which 2/5 will form the front, 2/5 will form the back, and 1/5 will form the flap. Your selvedges will be concealed on the inside of the bag and also obscured when fulled, therefore eliminating selvedge stress from the weaving process. Hooray!
I’ve planned for my bag’s finished height to be 5 1/2”. Multiply that by 2.5 (1 for the front, 1 for the back and a half for the flap), and you get 13 3/4”, plus I’ll need to add an inch on each end for seam allowance. I’ll also need to account for loss of length once the piece is removed from the loom and fulled, so I’m going to weave 20” of material. Here’s the fun part. If you’re going to go through the trouble of warping your loom, why not use your warp for more than one project? I have two sisters-in-law, plus I’d like to make a third bag for myself. That makes 20” x 3 = 60”. I’ll need to leave space between each panel of fabric, say 4”. With three panels, I’ll need two spaces. That brings my total weaving length to 68”.
I’ll need to add warp length to account for loom waste. When weaving on my Baby Wolf I generally add about 30”. That brings my total warp length to 68” + 30” = 98” or two and three-quarter yards. I’m using a variety of yarns, many of which are heavier, so my sett will be an average of these yarns at 8 ends per inch. I’m not going to bother making sett adjustments by yarn type. Any variation in the finished product will simply make it more unique. I’ve got 13” of weaving width at 8 ends per inch, which gives me a total of 104 ends.
Once your loom is warped, use any combination of materials and colors that suits your fancy. You will find a natural variation along your selvedges as you change from, for example, a sport weight yarn to a bulky yarn. Just weave away and don’t worry about your selvedges.
Once you have completed the weaving process, you’ll remove the fabric from the loom. If you have a sewing machine, zigzag stitch along the edges that will be cut on each panel. You can also hemstitch along these edges as you are weaving if you don’t have a machine. Trim the outer fringe edges down to about three or four inches. At this point your panels are still connected.
It’s time to full your fabric. This can be done either in your washing machine or by hand. Soak your material in hot water with just a smidge of gentle soap for about five minutes. I usually do this in my washing machine and simply pause the cycle once there is enough water to cover my material. Once the material has had a chance to soak, run the washing machine or hand agitate your material, checking periodically on its process. I ran mine on a full cycle. Once it has achieved the look you want, remove excess water using the spin cycle or by rolling the material up in a towel, and set it out to dry.
Press your material with a hot iron, covering it with a dishtowel to diffuse some of the heat. From here you can cut your panels apart. I usually cut just to the outside of my zigzag stitch. The fulling process bonds your weaving materials together, and much of the fraying you might normally get along a cut edge is eliminated.
On to sewing! Fold one of your cut edges over and stitch it down to create a finished edge. I like to fold the edge over twice to conceal the cut edge, but this may not be necessary depending on how well your material is fulled. This will be the front edge of your bag under the flap. Take this edge, and pulling it up, fold 2/5 of the length of your material over onto itself leaving 1/5 of the panel free to become a flap. Be sure that the cut (inside) edge you just hemmed is facing out. You’ll stitch along the left and right edges of the material you just folded to create the sides of the bag. Turn the bag right side out.
Only two steps left. The remaining 1/5 of the length of your material forms a flap to keep the contents of your bag secure. You can fold over the cut edge to finish the hem or leave it raw depending on the look you’re going for. My material bowed a bit as the weft yarns I used fulled at different rates. I like how it gives the bag a swoopy look, so I’m going to leave the edge raw, but run a zigzag stitch across to keep things in place. I’m also going to stitch on a button. There is a nice little tutorial here: http://www.wikihow.com/Sew-a-Button if this is a new process for you. If your machine has a buttonhole maker, you could make a buttonhole. Another option would be to crochet a quick single strand to form a loop that would slip over a button and keep the flap in place. You could even use snaps or Velcro or just plain nothing. The finish work is up to you.
And there you have it – a stash busting, handwoven clutch for only the cost of the button.
For the curious: