No, this isn’t a post about deception – but I couldn’t think of any other quotes which had the word ‘weave’ in them.
I have always been intrigued by the craft of weaving, and my interest has been further piqued by seeing various looms and examples of weaving at various craft shows. Sadly looms aren’t exactly cheap, and of course they generally take up space (which is something I lack), so it’s one of those things I’ve longed to try but have kept putting off.
Last year I did a bit more research, convinced that there must be a cheap and easy way to try it out. You see, I love making blankets (either crocheted or knitted), but I really wanted a different texture – the sort that only weaving can provide. So I Googled away, and eventually found lots of information on backstrap looms. These seemed the perfect solution: they can be made very easily, the components pack up into a small space when they’re not being used, and it’s a portable craft (as I sometimes craft in my studio, and sometimes in the house, portability is a very attractive thing).
I found a great article which described in detail how to construct a backstrap loom, and it’s so well written I won’t bother trying to rewrite it – just click here to visit the site.
So, I had a rummage around the house and garden and came up with all the bits and pieces I needed: an old broom handle, sawn into four lengths (two for the loom bars, one for the roll-up stick, and one for the shed rod), a knitting needle (for the heddle stick), a wooden ruler (for the sword/beater), a pashmina (to use as the backstrap), and a bit of mountboard (cut up to make a shuttle). I chose some wool I bought in Amsterdam which I thought would make a nice vibrant bit of weaving, and off I went!
I started off in the studio, as I needed a table onto which I could clamp some wood to wind the warp around. This took a while, and then there was the tedious business of making a continuous string heddle. This probably all sounds like gobbledegook, so I would suggest having a read of the tutorial if you’re a bit lost!
I eventually got that sorted out, transferred my warp to my loom bars, and then went back into the house to find somewhere I could sit and weave.
I ended up sat in front of a chest of drawers, with the top loom bar trapped inside one of the drawers (the instructions say to hang it from a door handle or hook, but I didn’t have any that weren’t in terribly inconvenient places).
The weaving was straightforward, and I soon got the hang of shifting between the heddle and shed warps.
However, I soon ran into problems because I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the tutorial which says, when deciding which yarn to use, “Choose yarn that is not loosely spun or fluffy.”
Yes, well, this is very good advice and I really wish I had noticed it before I started out on this little experiment. The reason you should choose a smooth yarn is very simple – if you don’t, the wretched stuff will catch on itself and end up felting together. The further along I got, the harder it was to shift between the heddle and the shed.
Here you can see that I’ve clearly not switched cleanly between the warps, as there are (for want of a better phrase) dropped stitches. However, I’m fairly stubborn and thought I’d persevere…
It was at this point that I realised it was an exercise in futility and gave up. It was infuriating! More so because the bit that I had managed to weave was perfect texture-wise: lovely and soft, with a good drape. I dream of one day making a blanket this way!
I decided to give it another go, using a smooth cotton for the warp this time, but still using the same wool as the weft… and then learned that this wasn’t going to work because backstrap weaving puts the warp to the front, which means you see the warp and not the weft in the finished fabric.
This was a huge disappointment, and it was at that point I decided to shelve the idea of backstrap weaving for the time being until I can afford to invest in some suitable yarn for it. It was a good experiment though, and proved that it is possible to weave with minimal outlay on equipment. I fully intend to return to this at some point, hopefully within the next year.
That wasn’t quite the end of my experiments in weaving though. I still had some time to kill, so thought I would go right back to basics and try a cardboard loom. This is very simple, and the instructions can be found by clicking here. It was an easy, fairly quick, project and here’s how it turned out…
..it’s actually still in that state because I got distracted by other things, but I do intend to go back and finish it. As you can see I was a bit overenthusiastic and ended up pulling the edges in a bit, which is A Bad Thing as it warps (sorry, no pun intended…) the shape of the fabric. However, I have a vague plan to finish this piece and then weave the next piece directly onto it, which I hope will help straighten it out a bit. This might be a long term project that I pick up every so often, as it really does take up minimal space, so I will post another update in due course. The only disappointment with this type of weaving is that it doesn’t give as nice a texture as the backstrap weaving.
It was interesting to compare the two different styles of weaving: you can see that the backstrap weaving is a warp-faced weave, whereas the cardboard loom yields a weft-faced weave. I prefer the former (which seems to have a softer drape), but beggars can’t be choosers!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little foray into weaving, and would love to hear if you have any tips to share.
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