Handwoven faux postage #2

handwoven letter postcard by Su MwambaIn a recent post, I claimed that the stamp woven in the corner of this ‘letter’ was my first handwoven faux postage.  Who knew?  Turns out I was wrong…!  I just re-discovered an old post of mine from 2010 in which I wove a postage stamp on a tiny matchbox loom!

I had completely forgotten about this, but really need to try it again – it would totally be possible to embroider a little detail onto the surface of this tiny weaving…  

Matchbox weaving loom

Ironically, this miniature weaving probably took as long to complete as the handwoven postcards I have talked about recently, due to the fine embroidery threads used instead of bulkier knitting wools.  It would be possible to weave a quicker stamp using a bulkier yarn or thread, though – it would just afford less opportunity for adding finer detail.

See the original post for further details.

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Potentially useful stuff

In my office, I have drawer of ‘potentially useful stuff’ (or as Corey would prefer to call it, tat).  The contents range from postcards to pencils, doorstops to stones, from ribbon to a plate rack.  Today I was looking in the drawer for inspiration, and I found it!  Today I saw French knitting looms…:

knittingnancyI used to have a French knitting doll; you know the type.  Mine was called a Knitting Nancy.  I’ve also seen them called knitting spools, knitting reels, etc.  Traditionally, they are one of the ultimate re-purposed or at least handmade craft tools.  Back in the days before all cotton reels were made out of plastic, they were made out of wood; and in those days, french knitting dolls were made very simply by hammering 4 nails into the top of the wooden reel.  cotton reelI wanted to make a French knitter, but it’s impossible to get the wooden reels, any more (unless you are willing to pay ridiculously high price on an auction site).  However, my drawer of potentially useful stuff yielded all kinds of interesting possibilities, and I have spent a happy Sunday morning trying them out.

doorstopOnce you start thinking laterally, there are literally tonnes of everyday things you could potentially make a French knitter from.  For my first experiment, I used a doorstop, with 4 push pins pushed into the top around the hole, spaced at regular intervals.push pins The pins pushed in easily, but were held securely.  I used an ordinary paperclip with the outer ‘leg’ bent down into a straight line to hook the yarn over the pins.  The hole in the centre of the door stop narrows off to approx. 5mm diameter at the bottom, but the cord that was knitted expanded to ‘normal’ size once it came through.  A normal double knitting yarn or a thick embroidery cotton would fit through without a problem.

tapeFor my second experiment, I wanted to see how the size of the centre hole affected the thickness of the cord. I used a reel of brown insulation tape (I don’t think the colour of the tape matters, except perhaps aesthetically) with a central hole of approx. 3cm.  I didn’t use the tape up first, by the way (that’s still available for a future occasion); it doesn’t really make much difference either way.  My advice would be to push the pins into the inner cardboard ring, though, as when pushed into the tape they move about more.  Using 4 pins, the cord was about the same thickness as the door stop cord, but a much looser knit, because of the hole’s diameter (and therefore the wider spacing of the pins).  The cord was not as sturdy as the first cord, but if you especially wanted a looser, lacier effect, wider spacing of pins around a larger hole is the way forward.

For my third experiment, I used the insulation tape knitter again, but pushed in an additional 4 pins, spaced roughly 1 cm apart around the centre hole.  It was fascinating watching a real web build up between the pins, and it was obviously going to be a much closer knit than the previous experiment.   The resulting cord was far more obviously tubular than the previous cords.  The knitting looked like the finger of a glove (prompting me to ponder on the usefulness of ‘gloveless fingers’ as a substitute for fingerless gloves…).  The knit was just a standard tension, not especially tight or loose, just ‘normal’.

Conclusion: It is the spacing (and therefore number) of pegs that affects the diameter of the cord, rather than the size of the hole itself.  4 pegs would produce roughly the same diameter cord whether knitted through a 5mm or 5cm hole, but the knit would be looser, the more widely spaced the pegs are.  The larger the centre hole, the more pegs can be used, and therefore the diameter of the ‘cord’ increases accordingly  – and the less cord-like it becomes.

The tubular aspect of the third experiment prompts me to imagine all kinds of possibilities.  If you used a larger reel of tape as the loom, you could knit a drawstring coin pouch very easily.  Or if you knitted a VERY long cord, a tubular scarf.  If you found a much larger circle to use as a loom, and used a strong, non-elastic, yarn (maybe string, or garden twine?), you could knit a seamless shopping bag!

I have also previously made a successful knitter using the plastic centre of a cash till roll, with 4 paper clips clipped around the top edge.  The paper clips were held in place surprisingly firmly by a single covering of sellotape.  So if you don’t have push pins to hand, but you do have paperclips, you could try taping them around the inner circle of a reel of tape, instead.

Another thought: you could cut the base of a disposable drinking cup, and cut notches (like the turrets of a castle) along the rim to make a different sized knitter.   Honestly, if you think about it, you can use almost anything!

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…