Ahoy hoy. So it's about time I showed you some of my recent makes. Well, my crochet's going verrrrrry slowly at the moment. I'm trying to knuckle down and carry on with making my large scale crochet artwork collection that I eventually want to show in galleries etc. The thing is, it takes a lot of time to make each of them, and as it's lots of geometric panels they're not great blog content until it's all finished.
But recently, you'll remember, I bought a loom (of the Rigid Heddle variety). I got it from the Bristol Wool Fair, and it's made by a company called Ashford Wheels and Looms. A few weeks back I started playing with it, and I just so happened to have a week off work where I mostly just tried to learn the basics of how to use my loom. Fortunately, the Ashford website has some really great videos of how to get started setting up your loom, which is good as it's quite fiddly. But once you're all set up and ready to go, it's nothing but fun!
Doing your basic plain weave is the obvious place to start, it's a good way to learn basic weaving techniques and is pretty relaxing at the same time.
The basic premise of a loom is that you have the warp (the vertical threads attached and wound onto the loom at the start) and the weft (the horizontal threads that you weave across/in and out of the warp). For my first project I used some brown and blue variegated yarn that came with the loom, and I switched between blocks of colour on the warp so you get these stripes going down the length of the work. Then I just switched colours occasionally on the weft and that's how it gets this kinda checkered stripe look. If you were more mathematical about it and used more solid colours this is (in principle) how you would get plaid type effects.
So, first piece of weaving done. What I love about all crafts is that whatever you make, it's all good experience as you learn from your mistakes. With this one I learnt how to control my tension a bit better and that you need to be careful with your edges - too tight or too slack and the work will stretch in or out. But mostly, just spending time watching the way the threads move and how the loom acts is how you kinda figure it out and suddenly it starts to make a lot more sense.
Onto the second piece. I enjoyed the blocks of colours on the first piece but wanted to try and develop a bit from plain weave.
I took a look at a few videos on YouTube and decided I would try making something using pick-up sticks. Pick-up sticks are basically a bit of wood (or a long knitting needle) that you put under certain warp threads so that not every thread is covered/worked by the horizontal weft threads. I went through my wool stash and picked out some nice soft variegated yarns that were of the same weight, and got cracking. After a bit of weaving, I noticed how these warp threads that I was 'picking up' were making the grey warp threads visible on top of the work, which was interesting but not what I thought was going to happen. Then I looked at the underside of the work...
...which looks much cooler. On the back of the work I was effectively making what I later found out were called 'floats'. As I liked this effect I carried on going with it......but then, oh no, I ran out of yarn. Despite learning from my first piece of weaving where I made the warp threads too short, this time I made them long enough but didn't have enough weft yarn to get to the end of it. Unfortunately it was too short to be the scarf I wanted it to be, so it'll just have to be a table runner or something (who am I kidding, it'll probably just end up being put away in the wardrobe).
Right, what to do next. Although YouTube can be a great resource, it only goes so far. I decided that really I ought to get a book so I could learn more techniques. I decided to get the Weavers Idea Book as it's specifically written for the Rigid Heddle loom. Just flicking through the book gave me loads of ideas, but I decided I needed to keep to simpler weaves to start off with (I still can't work out how the diagrams for lots of patterns in the book work, need to study it a bit more). I decided to try some pattern work with weft-faced weaves, and, as shocking as this may be to traditional weavers, I used some acrylic blended with a small amount of wool. I mostly did this because, as you'll know, I'm a big fan of acrylic and I wanted to see what it would look like when only a minimal (if any) felting/shrinkage is possible.
Personally, I love it. It really reminds me of Native American weaving, even though that was completely unintentional. As my second scarf was too short, I went the other way with this one, it's ridiculously long! I made it for one of my best friends who just got married, so I guess if I wanted to be sappy I could say its a scarf long enough for two. But if we're being sensible, it's one of those sort of wide long scarves that you can wrap around multiple times to get that big cosy scarf look. As for using acrylic, well as I thought it didn't felt or tighten up much, but as I'd been quite tight with the weave it didn't really matter much. I gave it a wash with some wool softener to try and make it a bit more comfortable, then packaged it up in some dinosaur themed wrapping paper (most appropriate), and handed it over at the wedding.
So that's my weaving so far. I thoroughly enjoy it - whereas the lovely wife thinks it just looks like a massive headache, I personally love the challenge of it. I've got a long way to go to advance from being a beginner, but I'm gonna keep at it (not that it'll ever overtake my love for crochet).
That's all for now, I'll have some crochet for you soon...promise x