You're probably thinking "oh no not another blog post about loom band creations" but do not fear - it's a blog post about my new Christmas present to myself - my first actual proper real loom !! Yaaay !
I've always loved loads of different crafts, but never ever thought of weaving before, I didn't realize that there were home-sized options, nor that you could weave with knitting yarn. That was until I read this post (http://mereknits-mereknits.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-table-runner-is-finished.html) by lovely Meredith on her brilliant blog Mereknits.
Maybe it was the gorgeous colours in Meredith's table-runner that grabbed me, or just the fact that here was another yarn-centric craft that I had yet to try, but the seed was sown. Over the last few months I've thought more and more about acquiring a loom of my own, and Meredith emailed me with some advice as to what to think about when deciding what to buy. After much research and reading of reviews, to cut a long story short I made a decision, and am now the proud owner of an Ashford Knitter's Loom. It's a rigid heddle table loom which folds up - this felt important because I want to be able to stow it away when not in use. (Which may be never as I am addicted already).
It arrived on Tuesday and I couldn't wait to get started. I picked out a green acrylic DK from my stash for the warp yarn, and a candy floss pink acrylic DK for the weft. A month or so ago I had no clue about any of this, and obviously I'm not any kind of expert, but during the research phase I've read loads of articles and can at least understand the whole new language of weaving.
And now for the science bit. Basically here's how a rigid heddle works.
There are two rollers and the middle bit (that looks whitish) is called a heddle. The heddle has about 80 white plastic vertical strips. Each strip has a little hole in the middle, and between the strips there is a vertical gap called a slot.
You decide how long and wide you want your project to be - I decided on a length of about 1.5 m, and about 6" in width (yes I am mixing my units). The first thing you do is set up the warp threads - these are the threads that run down the length of your piece. You need to set up the full length of the warp threads at the start, you can't easily add to this later on. It's not as fiddly as it sounds, but you set the loom up with as many warp threads as your project will need, threading the first one from the end of loom through a hole in the heddle to the end of the table (if that's the right length for your project).
The next thread goes parallel to the first, from the loom to the end of the table, but this time it goes through the slot between the vertical plastic strips in the heddle. The next thread goes through a hole, the next through a slot, and so on, alternating across, as wide as you need.
Now, once all the warp threads are set up, you don't want them flopping all over your kitchen table, so (and I think this is genius) you roll it all onto one of the rollers. In the picture below it's all rolled up on the roller on the right.
You then attach the loose ends onto the other roller. And it's sort of next to this roller that you do the actual weaving. As you weave more and more rows you need to roll the fabric you've woven onto one roller to get it out of the way, and release some new not-yet-woven warp threads off the other roller, ready to be woven. It's all so compact, I always assumed looms were either huge room sized things, or else so small that they produced tiny little samples. So clever! Who knew!
The reason for the hole and slot thing becomes apparent as soon as you start weaving. So, remember that heddle thingy - the whitey bit with all the plastic strips, and the warp threads alternated between hole and slot ? Well, the heddle can be in a few positions: up, rest (or neutral), and down. When you move the heddle up or down, the threads in the holes are moved up or down too. But the threads in the slots always stay where they are.
So you move the heddle up, the hole threads go up, you weave the weft thread (side to side), one way.
Then you move the heddle down, the hole threads go down, you weave the weft back the other way.
This is how you get the weft thread actually woven through the warp threads in that way that we all learned at school with strips of paper going over a perpendicular strip, then going under the next one, them over, then under, and so on.
So of course I got so carried away with the whole weaving thing, that 3 hours later I had no photographs but I did have a finished scarf :)
I'm so pleased with myself :) I think it's pretty good for a first attempt. I'd read lots of negative reports about using acrylic yarn for weaving, but I thought I had nothing to lose for a first practice, and it seemed to work ok. The resulting fabric (I made fabric! .... I know!) is very soft, and such a different texture to knitting or crocheting, yet made with the same yarn.
I was quite heavy handed with the beating - this is where you squidge each woven row up tight to the preceding row. I think I was a bit scared of the final piece being holey so I crammed them too close together. Keeping a neat selvedge (left and right edges.... why can't they just call them edges ?) was tricky but I think this will come with practice. And I'm sure my tension left a lot to be desired, but overall, not bad eh ?!
In other news, Little Miss had Victorian Day at school last week. They get to go to the local museum where they have a Victorian schoolroom set up complete with slates, chalk, dunce's cap and the dreaded cane! I spent a fun day at my sewing machine turning an old black top of mine, some random black cotton fabric, an old white sheet and bit of broderie anglaise type stuff that my friend gave me, into a Victorian schoolgirl outfit. It's maybe a bit more maid than schoolgirl, but she was happy.
The crochet hooks have been busy, scarves and washcloths for Christmas presents, and more progress on my Autumn Blanket - yes I'm aware it's really winter now but I won't tell if you won't :)