CYO Caroline: Adventures in Weaving

I have steadily and firmly resisted the siren song of many hobbies over the years as I simply don’t have time for them all. However, anything to do with fibre fascinates me, and that means that I have dabbled throughout my life with embroidery, hardanger, bobbin lace, crewel work, rug hooking (ok I may have done more than dabble in this one), felting, and a wee bit of weaving (5 place mats and one tea towel that has sat on the loom now for 8 years… Oops.)…all in addition to knitting and crochet!  

Alas, in spite of resistance, one of these delightful arts recently managed to sneakily insinuate itself back into my life. This is all the fault of Interweave, with their oh-so-helpful books and magazines, the wonderful weavers who keep doing amazing things with Ancient Arts yarn, and last but not least, my local store putting their rigid heddle looms on sale. Combine those three factors and you have the perfect recipe for weaving to worm its way into your life. I am not alone in my adventures, however – Shasta cat has been there every step of the way supervising me.

This is a gorgeous scarf woven by Constance Hall in our Merino Silk yarn; she has graciously given permission to use this photo of it. The colourway is Hot Flash (available via special request as it has been retired). It is a colour pooling yarn and very effective in weaving!
This is a gorgeous scarf woven by Constance Hall in our Merino Silk yarn; she has graciously given permission to use this photo of it. The colourway is Hot Flash (available via special request as it has been retired). It is a colour pooling yarn and very effective in weaving!

This all started back around Christmas, and the first project I wove was made with yarns that were left over from knitting projects. I wanted to WEAVE – who has time for yarn choice? Or colour choice, for that matter? This left over yarn was already in balls just begging to be used. I made no effort to choose the colours carefully, I just grabbed three balls out of a bag and started warping. I ended up using a BFL/nylon yarn, a pure merino yarn, and a merino nylon yarn.  

Weaving Progress: This one fascinated me because of how the colours changed. They are purple = Beaujolais Neauvoux, lilac is French Lilac, and the colour that looks green is actually fog warning which is greys with a touch of turquoise. Put it in here and it looks very green!
Weaving Progress with Beaujolais Neauvoux (purple), French Lilac, and Fog Warning (the colour that looks green, but is actually shades of grey with a touch of turquoise).

The end results are surprisingly acceptable, especially given the complete lack of forethought and the very different elasticities of the three yarns, but I learned that colours do very different things in weaving as compared to knitting!

The finished scarf, fresh off the loom (a little rumpled as it is not yet fulled). Shasta left me a wand toy end for contrast in this photo.
The finished scarf, fresh off the loom (a little rumpled as it is not yet fulled). Shasta left me a wand toy end for contrast in this photo.

For the second project, I did do some thinking: Aha! Here was my chance to use some of that ikat style dyed yarn I have been making for many years! My ikat dyed yarns for knitters use the same principles as those dyed for weavers, so I was pretty excited to actually see them do what they are supposed to do in weaving – produce a colour pattern in the final textile. I chose to work with Reinvent, and went with a new colour called Blue Jean Blues for the warp, and plain white for the weft. Much to my joy it worked! The scarf has distinct patterns thanks to the way the yarn is dyed, and this yarn worked REALLY well for weaving! Sweet!

Fact: Cats are excellent weaving supervisors. Here, Shasta assists with my second weaving project using ikat yarn.
Fact: Cats are excellent weaving supervisors. Here, Shasta assists with my second weaving project using ikat yarn.

So for the third project in my weaving journey, I decided to up the ante. I blame Shasta, who was being super cute and short circuiting my thought processes. The goal I came up with is to make myself tea towels. This venerable woven item seems to be a staple for many weavers, and I have visions of beautiful plaid tea towels draped artistically all over my kitchen (and my dye studio, where I can use them for drying my hands). So off to the yarn store I went for cotton and cottolin yarns, feeling like an utter traitor to my lovely wool yarns. I may have had a little trouble choosing colours and it’s possible that I tried to buy them all. And for the most part, I succeeded: I can now weave my way across the city and never run out of yarn. Oops.  

So how on earth to narrow it down into ONE set of tea towels? I turned to my trusty feline side kick who has been there throughout this entire process of learning to weave, and consulted with her. As always, she was super helpful: there she was, sitting on my favorite knitting bag, and giving me the hairy eyeball. Of course! Just make something in the colours of the knitting bag! I love that fabric and the colours on it work together nice – and I have all five corresponding yarn colours, so the stars have aligned! This will make a nice plaid, and it’s just what I want (bonus points for being Shasta-approved). So I started warping, using the direct warping method where one puts the warp straight on the loom and a single peg. This method is very speedy and simple, and of course  the cat helped  by throwing herself to the floor, grabbing the cones of yarn, and kicking them violently if they looked like they wouldn’t behave. As the chief feline in charge of quality control and yarn inspection, that is her job, right?

Project 3, ready for weaving once I finish tying on and accompanied by the project bag which inspired this project's colour scheme.
Project 3, ready for weaving once I finish tying on and accompanied by the project bag which inspired this project’s colour scheme.

It will be very interesting to see how this latest project turns out. Like a fool, I went from a simple plain woven scarf to using two heddles, 400 thread ends, making planned plaid, and of course adding in weft and warp floats for texture. Surely nothing could go THAT wrong? Stay tuned and I shall report back! In the mean time I can highly recommend rigid heddle looms for weaving all those lovely knitting and crochet yarns that you may have piling up in your stash. It’s a great way to take advantage of the best properties of hand dyed yarns in particular, as you can play with the colour repeats in pooling yarns to get amazing effects, and the variegated yarns add a lot of depth.

Wish me luck on the tea towels!


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