Weaving a special gift

Last year my Mum had a special birthday, and I vowed to make something extra special to mark the occasion!  At first I was thinking of making a quilt, inspired by the lovely wonky circles done by Mari of TheQuiltingEdge. I still think that is a great idea (hi Mum!) but I knew I wanted it to be extra specially special. My Mum is really into earthy colours and crafts, and I thought maybe I should try my hand at some weft-faced weaving.

20140122-155546.jpgI assembled some materials that I thought would be just right for Mum: something really chunky and uneven to use as the weft, and then something nice and strong for the warp. I ended up with a simple neutral cotton for the warp, and added another ball of graduating colour yarn (I’ve forgotten what fibre this is! It’s awesome, though – single ply) to use between sections of the novelty yarn.

My plan was to try out some weft-faced weaving, as my only other weaving has been warp-faced (either on the inkle loom, or tablet-weaving). I haven’t got a loom, so I dug out my tapestry frame and set it up in the tallest configuration I could manage. Then I wound the warp around the upper and lower bars to get some basic tension going.

Warp on tapestry frame
Warp sample on the tapestry frame.

The sample looked pretty dwarfed by the width of the frame, but I figured that I might be able to use this set up for the full piece, which would use all the space available. You can see I’m re-using some shorter frame pieces as a heddle stick, and also as a shed stick. The ruler was to keep the shed open whilst I passed the weft (wound onto a bit of dowel, and a chopstick).

I’m using the same set up I’d use on a backstrap loom, except with a fixed tension warp. I was concerned my weaving would turn warp-faced if I tried it without an even, sturdy, tension.

Having warped the piece, I then started twining the first few rows, to make sure the warp stayed evenly spaced (since I don’t have a rigid heddle). I found the instructions on using a simple loom invaluable. These gave me confidence that my tapestry frame idea wasn’t a total bust! I also tried out the kitchen fork idea to tease the weft into place, and that worked like a charm on my narrow warp.

I started with some basic weft-faced weaving, to make sure I had the hang of it. Then I began playing about with how tightly I packed the weft down, revealing bits of warp here and there. Once I was sure I could create something pretty, I launched into the novelty yarn itself.

Start of the sample, showing basic weft-faced weave, and then getting fancier.

It wasn’t long before I figured this was looking pretty good! The tapestry frame was awkward to use as a loom because it went on my lap, and I had to manipulate the sheds whilst juggling the frame as well. The tension also became quite tight as the weaving advanced, making it harder to get a nice shed.

I think if I tried to do a full width piece like this, I’d need to stabilise the tapestry frame to have both hands free to fiddle. I don’t think I will find it easy to wind on a long warp, even though the tapestry frame bars can be rolled and re-pegged. What I really need is something like a Cricket loom. Time for some DIY! 🙂

I really love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment! :)

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