Monday, 25 April 2016

Learning Basic Weaving Techniques

For many people the idea of buying a loom, then weaving on it sounds complicated and confusing, something best left to professionals and textile artists. This is how I felt whenever I contemplated the practical use of ‘heddles’, ‘warp and weft’ and many other weaving terms. However this week I found myself surrounded by opportunity, we had decided to offer customers the chance to buy 5 of our Mini Looms for the price of 4. The extra stock and extra interest lead me to having a go myself, a test to see how fool proof these starter looms really are.

Understanding the Warp

The Mini Loom is small and compact, whilst still having enough strength to cope with the kind of tensions that weaving creates. I was pleased to discover the loom comes already warped (this is yarn which is tied onto the loom for weaving under and over to create the cloth), so I could get started right away. The front beam and the back beam have slots cut along their length approximately 50mm apart so that the lengths of warp can be tied on securely. The beams are attached to the frame with butterfly nuts which when loosened allows them to rotate. This means that the warp threads can be longer than the length of the frame and wound onto the back beam until they are secured at the correct tension.

Starting to Weave on the Mini Loom

Inside the box were also 2 stick shuttles, and a comb for beating down the woven yarn. I decided to use doubled yarn for my weaving, it gives a great multi-coloured effect and I felt the thickness of the two yarns would mean faster progress. I loaded up my shuttle by winding yarn onto it and began to weave.

At first I was confused as to how to separate alternate warp threads and assumed I would be at it for hours, until I discovered the simple ‘rocking’ motion of the heddle that smoothly lifted and lowered alternate warp threads allowing me to pass the shuttle through the now open shed (space between the warp threads). My weaving started to build quickly and easily, under and over, beating the yarn down, and I believe that even when using the finest yarn you would see rapid growth in a very short time.

Basic weaving with double yarn
The edges (or the selvedge) of my weaving is a little wavy. This is because I pulled the weft through too tightly. A trick to control the tension on the weft is to push the shuttle through the warp at a slight angle, making the length of yarn a little longer between the edges. This technique helps prevent the warp threads from being pulled together. Practice makes perfect.

Multiple colours woven onto the Mini Loom

Reloading the Shuttle and Changing Yarn Colour

Changing colour in weaving turned out not to be as hard as I expected, it just takes some nimble fingers and patience to get a seamless colour swap. Weave the last row of your colour up to a point where you have around 6-8cm of yarn left, and ensure you stop at a point where the yarn should be going under the warp thread. Leave this hanging out the back of your weaving. Select a new colour/thickness/type of yarn and wind it onto your shuttle. Leaving a tail the same length as the end of the last colour, begin weaving from where you left off. Ensure that you continue onward going over and under the alternative warp threads of the previous row of colour - don’t make the mistake I did with my first yarn change or you will end up with a row of double stitches! Continue to weave for several more rows until you have a strong, compact weaving that will not slip around on the warp threads.

Winding On

As my weaving grew, and the length of the warp shortened, it began to get difficult to move the heddle smoothly to create a shed for the shuttle. Luckily, this versatile little loom has a solution to that very problem, rolling on. I loosened the front beam (this is the front edge nearest to your body when weaving) and the back beam, and rolled them towards me. This allowed extra warp thread to be released from the back beam and a length of my weaving to be rolled on to the front beam, creating lots more space to weave freely.

Winding on allows you to weave a much longer continuous length of material

What to do with Yarn Ends

This next step can be done during or after finishing weaving - how to hide the end and start of the change in colour without knots and to help prevent holes.

Make sure to leave enough excess yarn when you start/finish with a colour
Thread the yarn end onto a tapesty needle and locate the very last warp thread that this yarn is woven around. Using your needle, thread the yarn end through at least 4-5 rows. Make sure you are doing this on the side of the correct colour, this way it will be camouflaged by the rest of the weaving.

Follow your warp thread when threading beneath rows
The yarn should now be firmly squeezed into your weaving and will be held in place without the need to tie it. Caution, a very non-compacted weaving will result in the yarn being held very loosely, which can lead to your weaving unravelling, make sure to use that comb beater!

Pulling the end through
A finished example before trimming
Do the same for the end of the other colour, again ensuring you thread it into the area of the same colour. Carefully trim any excess yarn that remains. You should end up with a seamless change in yarns/colour that leaves no ugly bumps or knots in your finished piece. Not too bad for a newbie!

Liam Farlow