December 9, 2009


I'm trying something a little different this year, and making a few woven scarves. I've written before about the appeal that weaving holds for me, and it's still true.  I'm never going to be someone who forsakes knitting for weaving, and there's still the little issue of not being able to tuck my loom in my purse to have something to do while I'm out of the house - and actually, square-footage wise, a loom does eat up a little real estate, which is a pretty big disadvantage for me. (The irony that I'm actually saying that while knitting takes up so much of my home is hysterical, but let's overlook it for now.)  I do have room for my little Cricket loom though, and it's perfect for wee weaving projects, especially since I got my hands on this really neat book, Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom .  In it is a pattern (is it a pattern if it's weaving?) for a plaid scarf, and yesterday I went on a hunt for yarn to make one - thinking that it would make a good present if I could pin down some manly colours.

A couple of years ago I made the Sunrise Circle Jacket, and I used a great coned tweed yarn from WEBS. For knitting, I skeined and  washed the yarn first to get an accurate knitting gauge ( you can see the difference in that old blog entry if you click, coned yarns usually are quite compressed and have spinning oil on them) but for weaving that's apparently pretty great, since you weave first, then wash out the oils in the finished project, and the yarn blooms then and fills in all the weaving holes.  (Technical term.)   Steve had given me the test cone, which had small amounts of several colours on it, plus I had the leftovers from the jacket, so I chose three I thought would look very manly together, and I warped the loom in what I hoped would be a really funky plaid.

Actually, I warped it three times. The first time, as I pulled the warp yarn through I totally missed a slot, so had to pull back and start again. (I'm sure the experienced weavers would have a better solution, but right now I'm new, so I can only do it the way that Denny taught me and no other way.) The second time I got it through all the slots, and actually got so far as to wind the warp on, and pull the warp through the heddles... (one yarn goes in the slot, and then the next one goes through the hole) and had the whole thing done and tied off before I saw that I had missed a hole.  I untied half of the warp then (all the while considering my premise that weaving is faster than knitting) and rethreaded it properly, then promptly discovered that I had been totally screwed from the get go, because the hole was empty because the slot next to it had two threads in it, which means that I had to do the whole thing over again, when really - if I had demonstrated any sort of attention to detail in the first place, would have meant that really, I just needed to move one thread rather than half the whole warp twice.  That was when I got a beer.

This morning I started weaving.  I put the three colours on shuttles, and I wove the weft to match the warp - with the same numbers of the colours.  My warp went: 2 charcoal, 4 mustard, 4 grey, 2 charcoal, 10 mustard....

So my weft went the same - 2 charcoal, 4 mustard, 4 grey, 2 charcoal, 10 mustard... etc. I followed the pattern until I was out of room to weave, and then cut it off the loom and tied the fringe, 4 strands in each overhand knot.

All that took - at most, with time out for coffee, work, email and the phone, about 3 hours.  With the 2 hours for warping last night (which really could have been an hour if I was smarter more experienced) that's a men's scarf, about 18cm/7' wide and about 150cm/60' long, in five hours.  Five.  Totally just five.
(If you can't see what implications that would have for your Christmas list, I can't help you.)

I took it upstairs and gave it a good rough wash to get the spinning oils out and to fluff up the yarn, and then dried it in the oven.  (Sometimes I can't wait. 30 minutes at 225F got it bone dry,  if you're going to try it.)

I love the result.  It's soft, funky,  has a really cool 70's feel, and looks to me like I snagged it out of a vintage shop rather than made it in just five hours.  (I feel compelled to keep saying that.) I love the really obvious difference between the unwashed fabric and the post bath one - everything about this project worked. (Except for having to re-warp the loom, but I'm thinking about that the same way I would ripping out something that had a mistake.) It's got that great handmade vs homemade look, and I considered keeping it before checking the date.

I'm feeling pretty keen to make another one - maybe using the other yarns in the same family in another combination. For the time being though, it was so much fun so fast, and made such a good gift so quickly, that it's influenced today's Gifts for Knitters.

Day 9:  A simple rigid heddle loom, like a Cricket or the Ashford Knitters Loom.  (Mine is a Cricket and came from The Spinning Loft). While you're at it, maybe send your knitter to Syne Mitchell's WeaveGeek blog. Looms are fun, funky and don't take up much space, and really don't take a skill set that your knitter can't manage. Promise. (I'm not sure the same can be said of a big loom, but the weavers will chime in, I'm sure.)

Just to sweeten the pot?  If you're one of those non-knitters who wishes there were less yarn in your house? Weaving uses a lot of yarn, really fast. That closet space you had before knitting? This could really help you get some space back.*

*Weavers, just shut it.

Posted by Stephanie at December 9, 2009 3:39 PM