Ideas, continued (expanded, modified, added to etc)

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

Just big enough for mobile phone, keys & loose change - perfect!
Just big enough for mobile phone, keys & loose change - perfect!

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.

Jazz weaving - a whole new concept in synaesthesia!
Jazz weaving - a whole new concept in synaesthesia!

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…

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Awesome easy quick (no-sew!) tapestry finishing technique!

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).

That’s it.

The hessian needs to be pulled taut against a picture frame back, or weighted with a dowel rod to keep it straight. A you can see from the picture, I have not done this, yet!
The hessian needs to be pulled taut against a picture frame back, or weighted with a dowel rod to keep it straight. As you can see from the picture, I have not done this, yet!

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!

Ideas

With the craft show looming (sorry) at the end of the month, I’ve been focusing on getting stock together.  But of course, rather than being actually focused, I have simply been stalked by new ideas, which I have then had to try out (some have worked, some not).  So I think it would be fair to say that my merchandise will be a fairly eclectic collection, with not more than a handful of any one concept.  There’s still time, though, so I might be able to increase quantities in some areas, yet (if I manage to keep additional ideas at bay).  I don’t really mind; there’ll always be another craft fair that I will have more time to prepare for.  But the long and the short of it is probably simply that I don’t have the inclination/discipline to create multiples of similar items.  Not consecutively, at least.

Anyway, here are some of the ideas I’ve been working on (pictures to be added shortly; sorry):

Oddballs1.  Oddballs.  These are little creatures (approx. 2-3″ tall) woven and stuffed with the leftover oddments of yarn, so every one is different.   I guess they will appeal to kids, and to those drawn to amigurumi.  My husband thinks they’re the best thing I’ve ever done, which is lucky, as all of the prototypes appear to have congregated on his desk…  The principle behind them for me is that I would rather use than discard short lengths of yarn, and they are quick to make.  But they are cute.  Feature-wise, I have given them blank expressions deliberately, because the marketing feature is that they are, essentially, an afterthought.  Oddballs will come in individual little cotton drawstring pouches, with the label: “I am an Oddball.  I just want to be loved.” (Currently superimposed on the picture above left.)   Emotionally manipulative?  Me?  😉

2.  Gossamer bookmarks.  The Oddballs are one of those little extras I think people will pick up because they’re cute and comparatively cheap.  But other people will find Oddballs a little whimsical, so the Gossamer Bookmark is the alternative quick-to-make souvenir item for those who don’t want to splash out.  The bookmarks are woven on 18ct tapestry canvas strengthened by a piece of card (glued to the canvas so that only a single row of holes are visible around the edge of the card).  The canvas is warped from end to end, by passing the needle through every other hole along the shortest edges.  Then using the same length of thread (I used a fine spun silk) I wove over and under the warp threads from side to side.  At each side, the needle passes through the canvas and back to the right side 2 holes along.  Once the bookmark is woven from top to bottom, I withdraw the outer thread of the tapestry canvas along each side of the ‘loom’.  All the edge loops can then be easily (carefully) slid from the loom, releasing the finished bookmark.  Because of stitching through the canvas at the sides thoughout the weaving process, the sides consist of even loops from top to bottom, and there is no danger of ‘drawing-in’.  The resulting bookmark is very delicate, though, and needs something extra to substantiate/protect it.  I thought about laminating, so that it would look like the bookmark is floating, but it’s not a very eco-friendly solution.  I think it would look nice mounted on a piece of textured, handmade paper or card, so that people could still touch the actual threads and textures.  Or in a world I have not yet investigated, I know there are stabilisers for delicate fabrics and clever disolving things, so perhaps I can do something with that.  (Any advice, or websites you can direct me to?)

The woven bookmark precipitated another idea that is still in the germination stages; but the process does create a very evenly spaced fabric (unlike densely packed tapestry) that is crying out to be embroidered…

There are more ideas, but the next two are related, and I’m running out of time, so I will post again, shortly…

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!