Over the last couple of days, I have been weaving yet more postcards. Why? I hear you wondering… Well, partly to try out some different yarns, partly to try out some alternative woven postage ideas, and partly for…another reason. Where are the postcards going? What are they for? Well, this time I’m not sending them to myself, but I won’t say more than that for now – look out for updates!
My postcard from a couple of weeks ago (right) was woven with an aran weight knitting yarn. The ‘stamp’ was a very basic surface needle-weave which hid the background weaving nicely. The more recent postcards, however, were woven with a less bulky (dk) yarn – largely because I simply could not find the blues I was looking for in a heavier weight. (I always find it surprising that despite the vast array of yarns out there, sometimes it’s impossible to find one that matches the colour in my mind’s eye…)
I soon discovered that the same simple needleweaving came nowhere close to covering the background. I got around this by weaving diagonally (both directions) across the grid that was formed, and this did the trick.
For the sake of experimentation, I also tried weaving the ‘stamp’ as part of the main body of the postcard weaving, rather than as an embroidered addition on top. I instantly liked the way the splicing together of the envelope & stamp colours gave the appearance of a serrated edge (well, at top & bottom, at least) and will most probably use this method again.
I still also want to experiment further with the matchbox loom, though, and applique a tiny weaving onto the postcard, instead. Another day, though…!
Well, it could be. I’ve been meaning to make a matchbox weaving loom ever since writing my Borrowers zine, and today, I finally got around to it, and I even remembered to scan each step of the way:
Cut down to basics, all you need to do is:
Snip notches at approx. 3mm intervals along the short edges of a 32ct matchbox tray. (My advice: mark it out first! I ended up with 7 notches, but an even number will work better when it comes to ‘finishing’/removing from loom.)
Warp loom. I warped all the way from one end to the other, around the back of the loom and back to starting point. See finishing tips below for how the way you warp will affect your options.
Use matches woven under and over alternate threads to adjust tension, as required. I removed the matchsticks as the weaving grew, so that I could weave all the way to the top of the loom.
Weave! I used a (hand-dyed) variegated perle 5 cotton to get a stripy effect without having to change threads too often. Using a needle will help you when weaving. I used the needle I use for bookbinding, because it happened to be to-hand; but the book-binding needle is a sharp, and a blunt-ended tapestry needle would be far better advised! Visit my weaving freebies page for basic/additional weaving instructions.
Removing your weaving from the loom will depend on how you have warped:
If you have an even number of warps and warped all around the outside of the matchbox tray, snip across the threads in the centre of the matchbox reverse. Tie off warp threads in pairs, and trim to preferred length of fringe.
If you warped your loom back and forth around notches (across front of loom only), carefully nudge loops off notches and thread onto matchsticks for a miniature wall-hanging.
Well, it entertained me, so hope you will enjoy this little (no pun intended 😉 ) project, too. Let me know if you try this out – would love to see pictures!
I’ve had some great updates in the last week! And it’s always cool to see what other people are working on, so if you’ve been inspired to try something by one of my kits or zines, do let me know so that I can share 🙂
First up today is Sharon Schmeidel – back in January, she bought one of my ATC weaving kits and has been weaving away ever since. In her own words, tapestry weaving has become “another passion I should probably have done without”! The scale has increased somewhat since her ATC-sized beginnings – I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this wall-hanging is pretty awesome! Sharon is a member of the Iowa Art Quilters Group, and this piece has been on display in Grenell, Iowa, over the summer, at a show in conjunction with an area weaving conference. Cool!
I was also really happy to see Robin O. Mayberry’s post on her Alchemy Studio blog, about the bookmark she doodle-stitched, after I sent her a copy of my new ‘Contours’ zine, less than a month ago! The zine is all about doodles, and at the very last minute, I decide to include a bookmark as an extra. I didn’t have time to trial the concept first, so I just hoped that it would work – and it looks like it did – hurrah! Huge thanks to Robin for being my guinea pig & actually trying it out :-). If you would like to try it yourself, every bookmark that comes with the Contours zine is hand-doodled, and will be similar but different to Robin’s, so your doodle-stitching is guaranteed to be unique.
And last but not least, I received a great piece of post from Kristina Howells in France. I’ve been taking part in some faux postage projects, lately (although Kristina was very quick off the mark with this one, & I haven’t created, let alone sent my response, yet!). The envelope I received from Kristina had 2 ‘real’ stamps at the top, which had been duly postmarked, but also a faux postage stamp just beneath – and what tickled me was that the faux stamp had also been postmarked! I hadn’t got too far yet with my ideas for the faux postage project, but receiving this really prompted me to give it some thought & I’m itching to get started, now…
Arteth Gray has just posted the ‘before’ (pre-mail!) picture of the woven postcard I received, on her blog, so I thought I should do a before and after update here.
I feel kind of bad, because the ‘before’ picture is so lovely (look how straight those edges are!), and you can see just how much damage the journey did to it. On the other hand, the whole point of mail art is that the journeyis a part of both the process and the artwork, so I’m still exceedingly happy to have received it, & I still think it’s brilliant. Thanks again, so much, Arteth!
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 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 cardshere. I love this idea for using ‘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.
Since my last post about ideas for the craft fair, Gossamer Bookmarks have fallen by the wayside. They did, however, lay the groundwork for idea number 3:
3. Patch Pouch. I have found a good supplier of plain cotton canvas
pouches, which I have bought up stock of, for packaging kits and artworks. It occurred to me that some of the smaller pouches could be decorated with a simple patch of weaving. The weaving area is smaller and therefore less time-consuming to produce than the bookmarks (I increased the weaving time marginally by weaving an additional square directly onto the first patch). I used a lower gauge canvas (13ct) and a thicker yarn, resulting in a nice, sturdy little patch which was then ironed onto a canvas pouch.
4. Swirl Pouch. Although this funky little pouch (just big enough for a mobile phone) will be available to buy at the fair, it is NOT something I will be going into mass production of! My husband is a jazz musician, and I wove this during a gig he played with Arun Ghosh a couple of weeks ago. Despite the curvy edges, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I know I am supposed to strive for even edges in tapestry, but in this case I really think the curves enhance the design. Although I can’t say I was weaving in response to the music, it is an entirely freeform design (slightly different on both sides) that created itself. Although I do think people would like these pouches, I don’t think I could charge enough for one to justify the time it took to weave. Shame, though.
Seems that I can only manage a couple of ideas at a time. Watch this space – more to follow, shortly…
Okay, perhaps everybody else has already come across this idea and I’m just behind the times (wouldn’t be the first time!); or perhaps it’s just because I work on a smaller scale than the majority of tapestry weavers and it wouldn’t work for larger pieces. Anyway, I had this idea, tried it out, and was SO impressed that it worked brilliantly!
Anyway, once you have finished weaving, here’s what you do:
1. Tie off all the warp threads into tassles. It doesn’t matter if they’re looped or not.
2. Take a piece of hessian AT LEAST the same size as your weaving. If using a larger piece, centre your weaving aginst it, so that there is an even border (or as you prefer).
3. Once you have lined up your weaving, use a needle to prod or thread the top left tassle through the hole in the hessian ‘grid’ that aligns with the top left corner of your weaving (before tassles begin).
4. Pull the tassle so that the knot pops through to the reverse side of the hessian.
5. Re-align your weaving, laying it flat against the hessian, and working along the row where your first tassle is pushed through, use your needle to prod/thread the next tassle through the hessian (and the next, etc).
The knots from the tassles provide sufficient resistance that they will not slide back through the holes in the hessian. Of course, it my take trial and error to ascertain what thickness of warp thread can work with what gauge hessian. If unsure, try knotting different thicknesses of warp thread and push them through different gauges of hessian until you find the right match. (Do this before warping your loom!)
Depending on the weight of your weaving and/or your preference re appearance of the finished piece, you may want to push the bottom row of tassles through the hessian, also. This will alleviate pressure on the top row, and prevent gradual slippage. If you prod in the lower tassles, make sure your weaving is lain flat against the hessian as you ascertain which row to prod through. The weaving will bow forward if you prod the lower row in too high. The hessian will rumple and not lie flat if too low.
You may want to add a few discrete stitches down the reverse of the sides of your weaving, giving the hessian greater support, and preventing bowing. This is also an alternative way to prevent gradual slippage of the top row of prodded tassles, and would facilitate use of the technique for larger pieces.
Once tassles are prodded through, your weaving will have a lovely rustic border/backing, and can be mounted on rod or in frame as preferred.
Although I have lots of background in embroidery, actual practical sewing terrifies me. I also get put off working pieces if I know the finishing processes will be slow and tedious. In addition, I don’t really want all of my work bordered with tassles. All in all, I’m very pleased to have discovered hessian backing!
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!
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 put 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.
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. 🙂
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.
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).
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.)
In comparison to the Good Wood Loom, the C. Cactus FlowerMiniature Loomis 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.
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.