It’s officially that time of year. You know – the point where winter starts to wear out its welcome, at least for us folks in the snowier parts of the world. And according to at least one groundhog, spring is still a long way away. So rather than moping about it, I’m going to laugh in the face of old man winter and make another scarf…or two.
I have received lovely letters from folks who have passed along some excellent suggestions. One reader wrote that she planned to weave last month’s gift bag, which I intended for wine, to use as a carryall for her drop spindle and fiber. Brilliant! The response from rigid heddle weavers has been especially strong, and I plan to keep designing many of my projects with this loom in mind. I also have a bit of interesting news to pass along. For all of you rigid heddle weavers, word on the street is that Jane Patrick is working on a new book just for you. But you didn’t hear it from me.
So I struggled a bit this month with my project. This story might take a while, so bear with me. When I took my first weaving class, an intro to weaving that met weekly over the course of a couple of months, we covered many of the basics: tabby, twill, stripes, plaids, overshot, lace and so on. The one rule was that we had to focus on learning each technique, and once the class was over we were free to break the rules as much as we liked. Well I liked the idea of breaking the rules. I learned each technique and put my best effort into weaving projects to demonstrate my understanding. Soon the rule breaking would begin!
The part of the class I enjoyed most was seeing what my classmates had woven. I generally felt good about my projects, but then I would see something that someone else had woven that was beautifully executed or in an interesting material I had never thought of using, and I quickly remembered how little I knew. Soon the idea of breaking the rules seemed less important than learning. How could I be a weaving rebel if I barely knew my craft? And that’s what I like about weaving. I could weave all of my life and never know it all. Every project is a new opportunity to learn. But for some reason, I’m stuck on this idea of trying to identity what type of weaver I am.
My first big project after finishing my beginning class was weaving cloth for a skirt. I immediately wanted to move beyond rectangles. I wanted to wrap myself up in handwoven fabric. I wanted to go big or go home. I wove several projects and cut my fabric up with reckless abandon. Chop! Chop! Chop! Ha! Ha! Ha! In my mind I was becoming a weaver who wove to sew. That is until last week.
I purchased some rayon-cotton-flax mill end cones from Paradise Fibers and wove a length of 2-2 twill fabric on my Baby Wolf. I had seen a spring top that caught my eye, and I was going to make my own version with the fabric I had just woven. I had started by weaving a sample (sample, sample, sample), and then set out to confirm that my fabric would happily survive being laundered in a washing machine. The sample survived, so after I wove up my length of fabric, I tossed it in the wash, threw it in the dryer and gave it a good steam pressing. Looking good. I gently folded up my material and set it aside to work on my shirt pattern.
The fabric sat on my workbench for a couple of weeks before I finally got around to making a pattern. I cut and pinned and trimmed my muslin until I was happy with the end result. Then I unfolded my fabric, wrapped it around my shoulders and looked in the mirror to make sure I was happy with the drape. What met my eyes was the perfect wrap. Oh the confusion! “But”, my mind screamed, “I’m a weaver who weaves to sew!” Well apparently not. At least not today. So where did that leave me?
I’ll tell you where it left me. Suddenly the rectangular projects I was avoiding didn’t seem like such a bad idea. And suddenly I wanted to make a scarf. I have been reading a wonderful book that Jane gave me called On Weaving by Anni Albers. There are many interesting weaving examples in this book, and I started thinking about how I might incorporate some of the design ideas into my own work.
A technique briefly diagramed in the Albers book is a basic tapestry technique used to create a warp-wise slit, or keyhole, in one’s material. This reminded me of a scarf that my mother knit a couple of years back. It had a hole near one edge that you would use to thread the other edge through – no tying or wrapping required. Well we all know that the great weaving secret is that it’s faster than knitting, so I’m guessing I could weave a few of these up in a day using my new tapestry technique. Without further ado, I present the Way-Faster-Than-Knitting Neck Cozy.
Malabrigo Kettle Dyed Merino, worsted weight. I used one skein, 216 yards, for the blue scarf and just over one skein, about 250 yards, for the peachy scarf.
Miscellaneous spinning fiber and a few yards of handspun (or any other fun fiber you’d like to use).
Any size Flip or Cricket rigid heddle loom, or any loom that allows you to weave plain weave.
Warp an 8-dent rigid heddle 9” wide x 73” long for the peachy scarf and 9”wide x 60” long for the blue scarf. For my peachy scarf, I skipped every other slot/hole. You’ll see that the finished dimensions are narrower than the blue scarf which I warped without skipping any slots or holes. The finished blue scarf feels a bit more substantial, which I like. You’ll want to thread your loom for plain weave. You’ll have almost no loom waste if you opt to have fringed edges on your scarf.
I wanted to incorporate some texture into my scarf, so in keeping with my tapestry theme, I opted to lay both some handspun yarn and, in the case of the blue scarf, some bits of spinning fiber into my weaving periodically. This is a straightforward technique.
With the spinning fiber you simply take a small amount of it in your hand creating a section of fluff narrower than your weaving width.
Open a new shed, lay the fiber in the open shed, gently beat it into place, and then, without changing the shed, throw a pick of your weft yarn. When I wanted to lay in some handspun, I used this same technique.
To create some of the snake-like effect, I would pull the handspun yarn up through my warp, after laying a bit into the shed as described, change the shed, and feed it back down into my weaving, continuing along as I pleased.
During this process, you still continue to weave with your primary weft yarn, so your weft yarn will lay into each shed with your handspun or spinning fiber.
One thing to note about the Malabrigo is that it is a loosely spun singles yarn. You will want to keep your tension light and your beating light. It fluffs up beautifully when washed.
The blue scarf is woven a total of 37” with the keyhole started 15” from the beginning of your weaving. The peachy scarf is woven a total of 52” with the keyhole started about 20” from the beginning of your weaving. I am calling the blue scarf my “Fringe on Top” scarf, as the length and keyhole placement is such that the end you feed through results in the fringe displaying nicely just under your chin. It feels very festive. You can alter the location of the keyhole to suit your preference.
Note: I designed these scarves to have one short end that is showy at the neckline of a coat; the other, longer end, tucks inside the coat. If you want both ends of your scarf to be the same length, then weave the peach scarf 9” shorter (weave 15” to key hole, weave 5” for key hole, end with 8”) and the blue scarf 8” shorter (weave 12” to keyhole, weave 5” for keyhole, weave to 4” finish).
I wove 5” keyholes. Essentially you are creating a space between the left and right halves of your weaving that, for a short time, means that you are weaving two separate lengths of material.
When you are ready to begin your keyhole, wind a second shuttle with a few yards of yarn. Open a new shed. You should have the existing shuttle in one hand, and your new shuttle in the other hand.
With the new shed open, find the center of your weaving, and pick both shuttles into the shed and up and outside of the warp at the center point. Change your shed and send both shuttles back down into the new shed and back out to where they started, one at your left selvedge and one at the right.
Be sure you have hooked all of the warp threads into your weaving. Once you have woven a few picks, the keyhole will start to become obvious.
One thing to keep in mind is that while you are weaving the keyhole, you will have four selvedges. I had a bit of draw in, but wasn’t too worried about it as I planned to feed my resulting scarf through the hole, thus eliminating the issue.
To finish, I tied overhand knots across the ends to create a nice fringe, hand washed both scarves separately (this yarn tends to bleed), spun the excess water out in my washing machine, and set them out to dry on my clothes drying rack. I’m not overjoyed at how the peachy scarf turned out aesthetically, but I’m loving the blue version. If you wanted to go crazy, you could create two keyholes that would enable you to thread the scarf through itself differently.