Recycle your Christmas cards!

Okay, the 12th day after Christmas has been and gone, the tree and decorations are down, and everything is ready to be thrown out or stored for next (sorry, this…) year.  But wait!  What are you going to do with all those Christmas cards?  Well, you could cut them up into gift tags for the next round of xmas presents.  You could also turn them (or at least some of them)  into a handy D.I.Y. weaving loom!

Find 2 cards that are the same size (or cut a second down to the same size as the first).  Glue them together, using a solid glue stick (eg Pritt Stick) face to face, back to back, or face to back – it doesn’t matter!  Glue down any open edge so that you have a single rectangle of fairly sturdy (and festive!) card.

Now all you need to do is mark & cut notches, and you’re ready to weave!  Follow instructions in FREE How to Weave on Anything PDF, using Christmas cards as your loom!

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How to weave on (almost) anything!

I handed out lots of business cards yesterday, which has motivated me to actually get into gear and start filling in all the ‘watch this space’ links that have been waiting for a while.  The business cards double as ‘handy’ D.I.Y. weaving looms – great for getting people started, but a little scant on instruction, as there simply isn’t very much space on a business card!  However, if you click here, I’ve just added a PDF with step-by-step instructions for warping & weaving the business card loom – or, in fact, almost anything!

Weaving ATCs

ATCs (Artist Trading Cards, to the uninitiated!) are something that have intrigued me for a while.  The concept is simple: an artist decorates a card (specifically sized 2.5″ x 3.5″), adds their contact details and any other information they want to, to the reverse, and then trades (never sells) this card with other artists.  It’s a highly personalised business card, in a way, building a community feeling among artists.  But also a huge online community has sprung up, creating and trading ATCs – and just in case I’ve given the wrong impression, this is a world open to any crafter/artist, not just ‘professionals’.

I think ATCs are a wonderful creative outlet.  They allow you to try out different techniques on a small scale, and the mixed-media cards I’ve seen can be quite stunning.  It’s one of those all-encompassing ideas that means whatever background you have, or medium you work with, you can play, too!  But I guess it’s the fact of communication, and the fact that it’s a personal, not mass-produced/commercial thing that makes it feel like a little oasis.

Although not commercial in the sense of trading rather than selling the cards, an industry has sprung up selling related materials to decorate and store your ATCs, and cool stuff like labels and rubber stamps to add your details to the reverse.  Being me, of course, I just look at the labels and then make my own.  I had the idea for a woven ATC, and while working on a design for the reverse, came up with a way to make a loom directly out of your ATC blank.  As I speak, I’m having rubber stamps custom made.  At the craft fair, I will have funky little (alterable) tins containing an ATC kit, with ATC blanks,  2 different ATC backs, needle, ‘shed stick’, instructions, etc.  You may have noticed, I’m really pleased with this idea.  I just want to get people weaving (another post will be coming shortly with more DIY ideas), and ATCs are a brilliant, sample-sized way to get people hooked!

This was my prottype ATC. I also have a slicker image as an option for the reverse, eradicating the tape measures.
This was my prototype ATC. I also have a slicker image as an option for the reverse, eradicating the tape measures; and a far simpler, more meditative weaving, currently half-complete.

In addition to the ATC kit, I will be (literally) giving away an ATC loom as my business card – the front has all my contact details, the back has instructions to turn the card into a loom.  The weaver, of course, is not obliged to mke an ATC, if they don’t want to; they also have the option of just slipping the weaving from the (re-usable) card once complete, and framing/mounting as they choose.

I can’t claim that weaving an ATC is an incredibly original idea, but it’s certainly not common.  Putting the concept out there in the hands of a wider audience of creative types, though, opens up all sorts of possibilities for combining weaving with ther media.  I think it’s just something that hasn’t really crossed people’s minds, but once the idea is there, it’s a very viable, adaptable option.  I’ll leave it up to the ATC community to explore further…!

The only person I currently know who is experimenting with woven ATCs is artist/tapestry weaver Laurie o’ Neill.  You can see her processes and some completed cards here.  I love this idea for using ‘thrums’ Jazzcat Thrums as an ATC background.  I’ve been using thrums to stuff the little Oddballs I’ve woven for the fair.  I think this is a far more decorative use for them, though, and you can still be just as creative with exploring colour combinations.

More looms. There are, quite simply, always more…

I was harping on about the copper loom, and the Archie loom a couple of posts ago.  Well, I have just stumbled across another site, where you can buy a loom based on the same principles:Loom in a Tube.  This one is not copper, but is still aesthetically pleasing.  The text does not specify what it is constructed from; not being an expert, the best I could guess is that it looks ‘brassy’!

The additional novelty of this particular loom is that – as the site name suggests! – it comes in a tube, and (apparently) you can roll a partially complete weaving up into the tube, for easy transportation.  The only other loom I have seen that works on this premise is the Journey Loom from Weaving a Life.  The Journey Loom is wooden and comes with a whole spiritual ethic, so has its own charm, but the Loom in a Tube has a tensioning device, and the tube is far sturdier and thus more protective than the Journey Loom fabric case, so at $95 seems far better value to me than the Journey Loom ($88).   Each to their own, though!  I do like the philosophy behind the Weaving a Life site, even still.

But back to the loom in a tube: it feels as though it was designed for me!  At 12″ x 20″, it is exactly the same dimensons I had planned out when I was contemplating buying all the copper piping and constructing my own pipe loom.  I usually weave smaller pieces, it’s true; but it’s nice to have the option to work to a slightly larger scale…

I also like the books and kits provided on the same site.  The projects are all available as either book OR kit, to suit individual requirements and a lot of them incorporate beads as well as threads/yarns – something I have yet to try out, but is suddenly calling to me…!  One of the kits also introduces ‘eccentric weft’, a term I do remember once coming across in one of my vintage weaving books, but is in essence what you will find me referring to in my own work as ‘freeform’.  I really like to see that somebody out there is encouraging creative exploration in tapestry weaving; because  if you’re not into stripes, the majority of other tapestry kits available are simply not going to appeal to you…!

Well, I’ll let you know if and when I try any of these fun things out.  In the meantime, please post a comment if you have tried any of these looms out and/or have any advice!

Illoomination

Despite my recent posts about tapestry looms, and although I have been weaving a lot lately, it turns out that, actually, my recent weaving experiments haven’t been woven on any of my looms at all.  Instead, I’ve come to the realisation that (for me) weaving on cardboard is just as effective, and far more practical.  Admittedly, this is primarily because I like to work on a small-scale, and would not work so well for larger pieces.

I’ve been preparing for a craft fair that is coming up at  the end of November (www.thisisbazaar.co.uk – check it out!).  I’ve woven a couple of small ‘pictures’, amongst other things.  But instead of struggling with how to finish and frame them neatly once the piece is removed from the loom (or if not struggling, at least spending time on finishing that I would rather spend weaving) I have worked from the beginning of each piece with a piece of firm card cut to the size of the aperture of the intended frame or box mount.  I guess a level of foresight is necessary here, as this does (up to a point) commit me to using that particular frame for the finished piece, rather than deciding on the best way to mount the finished piece once it is complete…

But I haven’t used anything special.  The card is just ordinary card, cut from discarded packaging materials, notched with scissors.  I even discovered that a hairclip makes a brilliant weaving needle, with the yarn gripped firmly in place, and a curve to the clip easing the over-under motion (a needle of some descrption is probably still best for finer work).  This set me to thinking about how weaving as a craft is so simple to execute, with great results, and really doesn’t need any expensive equipment at all.  In fact, if you have a small stash of yarn (or maybe a woolly jumper to unravel!) you can weave with virtually no outlay at all.  It’s actually a brilliant example of the recycling-through-re-purposing ethic.

I had some friends round to my house yesterday.  There was lots of crafty stuff lying about, because we were planning to play while we chatted, so I put out a box with some oddments of wool, a couple of miniature looms I had putPlay Your Cards Right Loom together out of re-purposed playing cards, and a part-worked example I had been working on.  I didn’t make a big thing about it, but two of the girls picked up looms and started weaving straight away.  I had pre-warped them, so there was nothing fiddly to start off with.  One of the girls started using the hairclip; the other was using her fingers until I showed how it worked: both agreed the hairclip worked really well.

Trish's Pouch
Trish
Bernice's Pouch
Bernice

Both made cute litte pouches, and I was so impressed with the way they turned out.  The girls couldn’t have chosen more different yarns and colours from each other, so they were brilliant examples of what could be done, with a little imagination.

So when it comes to the craft fair, I’m now decided that as well as finished pieces, I will also  have beginners kits, made up of re-purposed looms.  I liked the idea before, but seeing the results of my girly day yesterday, proved the results could be really worthwhile even using such basic materials.   Selling a kit may not seem quite in line with the re-purposed ethic, but anyone can go online and find out how to make a cardboard loom, if they want to.  The simple truth is that despite our current DIY culture, many people still prefer to have everything presented to them, ready to begin.  But once they have tried it out, seen what the kits consist of and how easy it is, perhaps they will be encouraged to make their own next time.  Well, maybe…

I got quite twitchy at the last craft fair I did, because there was quite a lot of time spent just sitting around when I felt as though I ought to be doing something.  I hadn’t been organised enough to take anything with me, and  sitting around doing nothing is NOT something I generally do a lot of! This time I will definitely be weaving as I sit, and I will have some sample looms to hand for anyone passing by to try out, if they show an interest.  Yesterday’s experiment has made me feel very positive about the whole thing. 🙂

More thoughts looming

Archie Brennan Copper Loom
Archie Brennan Copper Loom

Something I didn’t mention in my earlier post about looms is the copper pipe loom.  The original, Archie Brennan design is available online for you to make yourself – the photo shows a version constructed by Sara Lamb (pic borrowed from her blogspot).  I haven’t made one, but I’d really like to, as there’s something very aesthetically pleasing about the copper.  The Mirrix looms, although also copper pipe-based, don’t have the same aesthetic appeal for me. And I know a decision about buying or making a loom should be based on practicality rather than appearance, but despite their widely held regard and respect, the Mirrix looms are also expensive, and I just can’t bring myself to splash out so much.

Copper Loom Small
Copper Loom Small

I have just discovered that a company called Copper Loom is now putting out  a copper loom similar to the Archie.  The copper loom looks great, and I would definitely buy one (yes, of course I could make one myself, but DIY stores are not my natural habitat, and although one day I will bite the bullet and do it anyway, I would be very happy if someone just did it for me in the meantime, so I don’t have to…!) .

Copper Looms PVC loom
Copper Looms PVC loom

However, the Woolery site that distributes the loom only has a white PVC version of the same thing.  I can’t find it now, but I read somewhere that the Copper Loom designers have deliberately switched to PVC as the cost of copper has gone up.  I think this is a little short-sighted, as while the PVC version is indeed moderately priced at $25 (I can’t figure out from the woolery site if the stand is included as well as the loom), I think people would like the option of a slightly more expensive version made of copper, for its more pleasing aesthetic values whilst being similarly ightweight, portable and easy to construct.

Kids Weaving by Sarah Swett
Kids Weaving by Sarah Swett

Although I am still tempted by the PVC version to try the loom out, you can find detailed instructions on how to build a PVC loom in the book Kids Weaving by Sarah Swett.  I actually prefer this structure to the original Archie Loom, and would probably use these plans to build my own copper loom on the eventual day I get around to it.  I’m currently undecided on whether I would prefer an integral stand, as in Swett’s design, or separate, as the Copper Loom.  The beauty of buildng your own, of course, is that you can completely customise it to suit your own needs and taste, and have whatever size you need and structure you prefer.

Copper Looms Copper Loom
Copper Looms Copper Loom

Going back to the new Copper Loom, though, the authors have also written a book ($25), which tells you how to make and use your own loom, as well as a 4-selvedge finishing technique.  I’d be interested to know if the finishing technique is the same as the one on the Brennan-Maffei site, or the method outlined by Kathe Todd-Hooker in her book ‘Shaped Tapestry’ (available in the UK for £22.50, from George Weil Fibrecrafts, a wonderfully in depth site to explore).  I would just buy the Copper Loom book to find out, as I would like to read it, anyway; but it is self-published & the only distributor I can find is the Woolery, who warn of a $30 surcharge (in addition to shipping) for overseas orders…

Thoughts looming…

I go through phases, alternating between weaving and needlework (I never stray far from the lovely world of tangled threads).  Needlework expresses my orderly side, and I do take delight in the satisfying symmetricality of many of my patterns and designs (although I do also embrace the occasional asymmetric quirk).  This, of course, is because I have not yet really experimented with free embroidery, which I suspect might be quite a liberating experience.  However, needlework (for me) is the orderly craft, worked within its nice neat grids and charts.  Compact, yet beautiful.

Then after a while, I need to take a break from stitching, and weaving refreshes me.  Sometimes all I want to do is lose myself in the mind-freeing, zen-like over-under trance, and that’s when I like weaving for its basic, essential simplicity.  In those moments I’ll work a placemat on a small tapestry frame, or a rug on a peg loom, and just enjoy the process.  I like the small detail of embroidery, but sometimes I need to concentrate less, and clear my mind.

A break of cleansing weaving then frees my mind to focus awhile on my other weakness: tapestry weaving.  This is where  I find expression of more free-flowing, organic ideas, the swirls and curves and natural shapes, far less formal than counted thread work.  Like the freeform bargello I have been experimenting with lately, my tapestry weaving is also freeform.  I let the warp thread form its own shape within the weft,  then work around and into it, and find natural landscapes building up of their own accord.

Before anyone begins imagining rooms covered in tapestry wall-hangings, let me clarify: my weaving is as small-scale as my needlework.  I take great delight in being able to sit with my weaving resting in/on my lap, wherever I happen to be, and I have looms ranging in size from a self-made 1.5″ x 2″ to – well, actually a floor loom, but that hasn’t been constructed, yet – let’s say instead 18″ x 18″, to almost everything in between.  The largest two of these smaller looms are structured so that they can sit upright on a desk or table top, still very portable and fuss-free.  My tapestries are generally miniatures, explorations of curve and colour; sometimes I play with texture, tufting, needleweaving etc.

I do have a lot of small looms, it’s true but I always need more!  I love to experiment with new, different, interesting looms.  Stash-hoarding needleworkers and fabric addicts will understand what I mean; those who don’t, just never will.  I usually weave on basic frame looms rather than anything with a complicated (or even simple) heddle system – given the scale I work, it’s far easier just to manipulate the warp threads manually, which is part of the process that I enjoy.

Good Wood Frame Loom
Good Wood Frame Loom

You wouldn’t think there would be too much variation in simple frame looms, but there is, you know, there is.  I love the sturdiness of these frames from Good Wood.  They have a ‘magc heddle’ bar which I like, but would only use if weaving something with very plain stripes (it happens sometimes; I like stripes).  But you can remove the heddle bar and just warp it without.  At $58 for the 6″ x 10″ version, perhaps it seems expensive, bt there’s something about the solidity and simplicity that appeals to me (and the wood seems a lot nicer – and sturdier – than the cheaper frame looms you can buy).

Trishary Travel Loom
Trishary Travel Loom

Now this is what I really want to try, even though the weaving area itself is both tiny and primitive: the Trishary Travel Loom.  The loom was designed and is sold by Scottish tapestry artist, Trisha Gow.  Her work is strongly influenced by the Scottish landscape, the lovely muted colours a result of using wools hand-dyed with natural, locally sourced dyes.  The loom has a weaving area of just 9 x11cm, with no added extras to aid tension or shedding etc.  But it is (obviously) a gloriously portable size, and even better, your piece can remain on the loom in its finished state, ready-framed!  No more fiddling about weaving in loose ends, knotting fringes, or any of the other time-consuming finishing practises – hurrah!  (And at just £26 per hand-made loom, it’s not unrealistic to simply buy a new loom for your next piece.)

Cactusflower Miniature Loom
Cactusflower Miniature Loom

In comparison to the Good Wood Loom, the C. Cactus Flower Miniature Loom is an absolute bargain at $78.  This is a loom in the traditional Navajo style, measuring just 12″ a 15″.  I’ve never tried a Navajo loom, but this is the one I’m going to start with.  It’s got a clever peg & spring tensioning device, as well as a peg bar for easy warping.  Hand-crafted in a choice of woods (price varies with wood-type), they also do a package that includes batten and Navajo weaving instruction book.  Yum.

Beadlooms.com
Beadlooms.com

But you know what?  For practicality and fine work, the best looms I’ve found aren’t tapestry looms at all, but bead looms.  Using a warp of medium silk or perle cotton, I love the coils for even warp spacing, and the tensioning is the best I’ve found. Most people probably know that Mirrix make some of the most highly regarded tapestry/bead looms in the business.  Unfortunately, I can’t afford one of those.  Instead, I currently have a 12″ x 18″ loom (one of my largest) from beadlooms.com.  As well as the even warping and tensioning advantages, this particular style of loom is very sturdy, and if turned on its shortest end will sit very comfortably on a tabletop (or your lap), tapestry loom-style. It also has the warp bars and different heights, so the working area is tilted, which can really help if you find weavng makes your back ache.  I want to get the 6″ x 10″ version for smaller pieces.

Some other places worth checking out are Bearcat, Crazy Acres Wolf Ranch and Boomerang Professional.  Please post if you have experience of using any of the looms I’ve mentioned – could be interesting!