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How To Wet Finish Your Handwovens

How To Wet Finish Your Handwovens

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is: How do I care for the piece I just wove?  The answer varies based on the fiber content, so we will share based on each of our yarn types below. But first a few general tips and observations:

1. All of the yarn in our shop is dyed with high quality dyes that are meant to be as washfast as possible--we have few complaints about dyes bleeding with the first wash. However, sometimes dark colors do still bleed into light colors - dark blues and dark reds are the most likely culprits for this. We recommend doing an initial wash in cold water to avoid bleeding. Using a color catcher (looks like a dryer sheet, found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store) in the washer can also help arrest bleeding issues.

2. Most of the yarn in our shop is dyed with wash-fastness as a priority over light-fastness, as weavers typically make garments of home textiles that need to be able to stand up to repeated washing. This means that if you create a piece of art, you want to avoid hanging it in direct sunlight/using it as a curtain etc., unless some amount of fading is acceptable to you.

3. All fibers will change from their loom state once they have been washed, so what you see on the loom and how it feels off the loom will likely be very different—most often softer and lovelier after washing than before!

Wet Finishing Handwoven Cotton

Our 100% cotton yarn is quite sturdy. This includes Mallo, Beam, 8/2 cotton, 8/4 cotton, and 8/8 cotton

You can machine wash and machine dry with regular laundry soap and it will hold up very well through repeated washings. Because of its thick, slubby nature, Mallo does shrink quite a bit in the first wash. This makes your finished piece even softer and more sumptuous, but make sure to plan for shrinkage when you are designing your piece. Please see our blog post on Sampling for Takeup and Shrinkage.

Wet Finishing Handwoven Cotton Linen Blends

Our cotton/linen blends (including Duet and our Italian Cotton Linen) are also suitable for machine washing. You can wash them with regular laundry soap on delicate in cold water, or by hand. They can also go in the dryer, however the lifetime of a linen piece is preserved longer if it is line dried and then ironed. Which direction you choose is entirely up to you. Personally, I machine dry my pieces because I find it much simpler. Linen often comes out of the dryer a bit wrinkly, but a quick steam iron makes it soft and smooth. Repeated use and washing makes linen softer and softer over time.

Wet Finishing Handwoven 100% Linen

Our 100% linen yarn can be machine or handwashed on a delicate setting, and choose whether you would like to machine dry or line dry. A quick dash under the iron really does bring out the softness and beauty of linen.

Wet Finishing Handwoven Alpaca

Some of the darker colors of our alpaca yarn can occasionally bleed, so I recommend making sure to do your first washing in cool water. Because alpaca is a more delicate, animal fiber, I recommend handwashing in the sink with some gentle soap suitable for wool garments. Let the alpaca piece soak in the soapy water for a while, and gently rinse it until the water runs clear.  Squeeze the excess water out, or roll the item in a very absorbent towel and press to remove the excess moisture—never twist or wring. Lay flat on a towel to dry. You can use a warm iron if you’d like. Our alpaca comes out so delightfully soft and scrumptious after it is wet finished. 

Wet Finishing Handwoven Wool

With wool, you need to be most careful to avoid felting. Felting happens with sudden changes in temperature (ie: plunging into hot water), changes in PH (which can happen with soap), and agitation. For our Suffolk wool, we recommend hand washing gently with a soap that is suitable for wool, gently rinsing, and laying flat to dry. Unless, of course, you’re trying to felt your piece! In that case, hot soapy water and lots of agitation will be the name of the game.

Wet Finishing Handwoven Silk

Our silk noil yarn shouldn't be machine washed. Handwash with a gentle soap, and lay flat to dry. A warm iron once it is dry will bring out the shine.

November 16, 2020 — Sarah Resnick
How To Weave Great Selvedges

How To Weave Great Selvedges

Your weaving looks like an hourglass...one side looks great, the other looks like it was woven by an over-tired two-year-old. Some picks look like they are choking the selvedge threads…others look like there’s a bubble-shaped force field between the war and the pick. 

Does any of this sound familiar? You are not alone, and despite your frustrations, this is a fixable problem that is not just about practice.  Understanding that the topic of neat selvedges can inspire fierce debate and strong opinions, we offer these techniques that have worked for this weaver as a way (not the only way) to smooth your selvedges.

Bubble Your Weft

Because weft yarn travels over and under warp threads, it travels farther (and thus requires more length) than the measured width of the warp. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment: cut a 10” length of string, pass it through a 10” wide shed and see if the yarn reaches the edge. So to account for this “take-up” in the weft, you need more weft yarn in the pick to make the weft lay flat and not pull the side in.  

By “bubbling” the yarn (think sunrise, of sunset, or even create a mountain peak if you wish) you put more weft length into the shed so when beaten into place it will not pull on the edges.

The 45-Degree Pinch

weaving neat selvedges

This one can get a little controversial–some say never to touch the selvedge edge. When I started out weaving, I found it enormously helpful to hold the weft yarn against the selvedge thread while I created a 45-degree angle with my yarn from the fell line(serves the same purpose as the bubble). 

Then when I beat, the weft yarn was perfectly placed around the selvedge thread and the extra length of weft yarn created by the angle gave me a nice, smooth selvedge.

Feel For Resistance

The weaving teacher who told me never to pinch the selvedge offered this alternative—develop a feel for the weft yarn. As soon as you feel the slightest pressure of it connecting with the selvedge is when you stop pulling (note the angle of the weft – you still want extra length to accommodate take-up). 

I do have to admit, this has become my preferred habit – it is also probably the most subtle and requires the most practice. If you’ve ridden horses and understand the sensation of feeling the horse’s mouth, through the bit and the reins, in your hands, this will be a familiar concept. 

So try one, or all of these, and see how they work for you—and practice!

November 16, 2020 — Christine Jablonski
How To Buy A Used Loom

How to Buy a Used Loom

researching a used loom

How to Buy a Used Loom - Part One

One of the most common questions from friends and strangers eager to start weaving is how to buy a used loom. I’m always happy to help, but I never have a straightforward answer, which is perhaps a bit disappointing for someone looking for me tell them exactly what to get! But what works for me may not work for you, so in that spirit, I’ve compiled a few questions that I like to ask myself when looking at second-hand looms and where I like to look.

This article barely scratches the surface of buying a used weaving loom, so in part two I’ll be asking some weaving colleagues to share with me their top tips when looking at a loom for sale - keep your eyes peeled for that one coming in a few weeks. 

Three Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying a Used Loom

1. What do I want to make?  

When someone asks me about buying a loom, I usually like to enquire what they want to make. What you can make on a given loom is primarily limited by two factors: size and how many shafts/harnesses that they have (more harnesses = greater complexity in structure/pattern). Having an idea of what you feel excited about making can really help narrow your options down. For someone that wants to make scarves, small towels, or other narrow objects, a rigid heddle or table loom might be the perfect tool. If you know you’d like more flexibility to work in structures like twill or doubleweave, or make wider items like blankets or yardage, a floor loom might be a better fit. It’s hard to know what you want to do when starting though, so it’s always good to ask yourself… 

2. What size is practical for my home/my body?  

There was a time when I lived in a teeny studio apartment and was dying for a loom - but in retrospect, I probably would have had to sacrifice my dining table to fit it in (and I totally would have if the right one had come along - but that’s maybe another blog post!). Thinking about what size of loom is going to work in your living situation is an important question to ask yourself - looms tend to take up more room than you think. Some looms are solid objects, while others,  like the Baby Wolf, can fold and can be tucked away (or put into the car to bring to workshops or the cottage). You may have a spare corner of a living room or a disused bedroom, but in shared accommodations, your roommates may not welcome a huge loom taking up space. 

Another good thing to ask yourself is: will this loom work for my body? We’ve all got different needs and abilities, and it’s important to really think about what your body needs to be comfortable. I’m just shy of 6’ tall, and I know from sitting at different looms that the height of the breast beam seriously affects my comfort and ergonomics, so making sure that a loom accommodates my legs is key.  An acquaintance once sent me a loom listing they were really excited about, a 60” jack loom that was being offered at a great price. My first impulse was to be excited too, but then I paused - with a jack loom, you’re lifting the harnesses with your feet, and would I really want to be lifting 2-3 60” long wood and metal shafts every time I pressed a treadle? That’s heavy enough even without the added weight of thread! My acquaintance passed on this loom - which I think was a good idea for them. And this tale brings me to the next question… 

3. What loom type suits me?

There are four main types of used looms that I commonly see for sale in Canada and the US: rigid heddle, counterbalance, jack, and countermarch looms. Beyond these four looms you’ll also see tapestry looms, dobby, and other weaving systems - but as this is article is geared towards the basics, I’m keeping the list simple.  Each of these different loom types accomplishes the same task in a slightly different way.

- A rigid heddle loom is the equivalent of a two harness -  they tend to be smaller and narrower than floor looms, and are very portable and easy to set up. While it’s easiest to weave plain weave on a rigid heddle loom, you can see from Gist’s pattern collection that there’s a ton you can do on a rigid heddle.

- Counterbalance looms generally come with four harnesses. They operate using pulleys and gravity - when you press a treadle, the shafts attached to the treadle fall, and the opposite harnesses rise (IE - 1 and 2 fall, 3 and 4 rise). They’re called sinking shed looms. 

- Jack looms generally come in 4, 8, 12, and 16 shafts, and are called rising shed looms. Instead of being connected to one another, each harness is works independently and is raised using a series of jacks connected to your treadles.  

- Countermarch looms are kind of a blend between jack and counterbalance - they raise AND lower threads at the same time. But they are also more complex to tie up, since every treadle needs to be tied to every harness, and tend to have the biggest footprint of these four types of looms.

But how do you pick between these four? What’s ‘the best’? That’s where the three questions come in handy. If you know you want to weave lots of rugs (which need strong equipment!), a small folding loom may not have the rigidity and strength you need. Or maybe you have knee or leg issues, and the gravity-assisted shed of the counterbalance may help keep you comfortable and healthy. For the most part, when it comes to floor looms counterbalance and jack types are the most common because they’re the most flexible when it comes to the type of projects you can make and very easy to learn on.  ‘The best’ is ultimately what works best for you - and it may take you a loom or two to figure this out! 

Where to Look for a Used Loom

Depending on where you live, there may be a lot of resources to help you buy a used loom. 

The best place to start is your local weaving guild. Not only will you connect with a group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable weavers, but most guilds offer classes or courses where you’ll be able to try out different looms - and nothing beats taking a loom for a test drive. Weaving guilds also have great for sale bulletin boards, and buying a used loom from a weaver can be a great way to get a well cared for tool.  

In America, the Handweavers Guild of America affiliate guild directory can help you find a local guild to connect with.

In Canada, the Guild of Canadian Weavers breaks things down provincially.

I’m Canadian, so I like to look at Kijiji, a national online classifieds site - you may have a local or state-wide equivalent that you can look at, such as Craigslist in the USA. Ebay and other similar online auction sites are also a great way to search long distance. I work at my local yarn store and we sometimes have people asking for looms or for a place to post a for-sale ad, so it’s worth it to start your search close by.   

Homestead Weaver also has a regularly updated North-American for-sale and wanted ads where you can find looms, spinning wheels, and other tools. 

How to Buy a Used Loom - Part Two Coming Soon

Buying a used weaving loom is exciting! But if it’s your first loom or you don’t have a lot of experience, it’s hard to know what exactly to look for, so for my next article we’re going to dive into the nitty-gritty of buying a used loom. What’s a deal breaker? What IS a deal? What should you do about missing parts or rust? Please let us know if you have any questions that we can answer and we’ll do our best to include them in the next article. 

November 09, 2020 — Amanda Rataj
How To Weave With A Floating Selvedge

How To Weave With A Floating Selvedge

In many of our multi-shaft weaving patterns, you will see that they call for using a floating selvedge. Floating selvedges are an easy way to have more even selvedges with twills or other patterns. What is a floating selvedge? When should you use a floating selvedge? How do you make a floating selvedge? All of the answers are below! This post is for multi-shaft floor and table loom weavers, and is not applicable to rigid heddle weaving. 

What Is A Floating Selvedge?

The selvedges are the left and right edges on the sides of your piece as you are weaving it on the loom. A floating selvedge is an extra warp thread on both the left and right side of your weaving, that is threaded through the reed but not through a heddle. It is called floating because every time you open your shed, these will appear to be in the middle, about halfway between the threads that are lowered and the threads that are raised.

When Should You Use A Floating Selvedge?

When you are weaving a twill pattern, or other pattern that does not naturally capture the selvedge with every pick back and forth, using a floating selvedge will give you much neater edges. You do not need to use a floating selvedge with tabby weave, as the pattern naturally captures the selvedge with each pick. Using a floating selvedge with twills is easier and faster than having to hand manipulate the last thread each time you pass the shuttle through the warp.

How Do You Make A Floating Selvedge?

When winding your warp, wind two extra warp threads. When winding on, don’t thread these through the heddles, just sley them through the reed on each side. When you are weaving, put the shuttle over the floating selvedge as you enter the shed, and under the floating selvedge as you exit it. 

After a few passes, it will feel like second nature and you should get the rhythm of it.  Some people like to add a bit of extra weight to their floating selvedges, to keep them tight. You can do this by adding a thread weight or other DIY way to add some tension to a specific thread on the back of the loom. 

Happy weaving!

 

 

 

November 05, 2020 — Sarah Resnick
How To Calculate Takeup And Shrinkage In Weaving

How To Calculate Take-Up and Shrinkage In Weaving

It’s happened to all of us—we warp up a gorgeous yarn, so excited to weave a beautiful project for ourselves or someone else, only to discover once finished it’s not at all the size we anticipated.  While few people love sampling (don’t we all just want to get right to the weaving?), it is an incredibly helpful tool that can save you a tremendous amount of time, money and heartache. 

Knowing the accurate shrinkage of your yarn for the project you want to weave before you start will give you a far better result than just guessing – or as I call it, Pick and Pray.  

Here is a quick lesson in how calculate you take-up and shrinkage. I always weave a 10x10” sample because it yields a large enough size to give me a good sense of the hand of the fabric, and it makes the math easier!  

Calculating Take-Up and Shrinkage in Weaving

Here I wove plain weave that measured 10x10” under tension. 

Calculating Take-Up and Shrinkage in Weaving

But after washing and drying it measured 9” wide and 8.5” long.  

Ok—you’ve got your measurements, now what?

While there are different approaches to calculating shrinkage, I prefer to think of shrinkage as the relationship of what I started with to what I ended with.  

Dividing my beginning measurements by my ending measurements will give me a ratio that will tell me how long and wide a warp needs to be for me the get the finished measurements I want. 

So in this case, my 10” long fabric ended up 8.5” long. Dividing my starting measured length under tension (10”) by my finished length (8.5”) I get 1.176 (10”/8.5”), or the ratio of my beginning measurement to my ending measurement. 

Therefore, if I want my finished woven fabric to be 10” long, I multiple my desired length by the ratio I just calculated to get the length I must weave. In this case, 10 inches x 1.176 = 11.765 inches. 

If I wanted a 15” long fabric, I would weave for 17.64” (15’ x 1.176). 

Similarly, for the width, I dividing the 10” I started with by the 9” I ended with I get a ratio of 1.111. So my warped width, to achieve 10” finished, is 11.11” wide at the reed (or 10” x 1.111). 

For a 15” wide fabric, I would warp 16.65” wide. 

Now you know how to calculate for take-up and shrinkage! 

About Christine Jablonski

In addition to being GIST's Operations Manager and Wholesale Director, Christine is a weaver and exhibiting fiber artist. She scampered down the rabbit hole of rigid heddle weaving several years ago as a way to use up her knitting stash and never looked back. In addition to very practical cloth woven to adorn home and body (tea towels are her favorite home linen projects to weave), Christine also weaves conceptual works that explore themes of mood and memory, strength and fragility, and often reflect on the current political and ecological landscape. Her work is held in private collections across the country and is shown regionally in New England galleries. To see more of Christine's work, check out her Instagram.  

 

November 05, 2020 — Christine Jablonski
weaving techniques

Weaving Techniques

There are many types of weaving techniques that can be used to create different fabrics on multi-shaft and rigid heddle looms. Below are descriptions and photos of some of the most popular techniques, as well as links to download the pattern and purchase a yarn kit. Explore all of our patterns here

Color and Weave Towels

Color-and-Weave: A technique of creating a visual pattern by alternating colors in both the warp and weft, shown in these Color-And-Weave towels by Jenny Sennott. Often referred to as shadow weave. Download this pattern.

Cafe Table Runner

Float: Warp or weft threads that pass over clusters of the opposing threads without interlacing. Intentionally used for design purposes such as in lace. Shown here in the Cafe Table Runner by Sarah Resnick. Download the pattern.

Tabby Weave Handwoven Towels

Tabby (aka Plain Weave):  The most basic weaving structure where warp and weft threads pass over and under each other evenly. Shown here in the Citrus Towels by Emma Rhodes. Download the pattern.  

Handwoven Linen Towel Pattern

Twill: A basic weave structure that creates a diagonal line. Shown here in the Coastal Linen Towels by Christine Jablonski. Download the pattern

Overshot Handwoven Towel Pattern

Overshot: a weaving technique of intentionally skipping warp or weft threads to create floats that create a pattern. Overshot is traditionally secured with alternating tabby picks between overshot picks to stabilize the fabric. Shown here in the Tidal Towels by Amanda Rataj. Download the pattern.

Rya Pillow Handwoven Pattern

Pile (Loop/Rya): a design technique of leaving long loops (cut or not) of weft thread protruding from the woven fabric, which is generally a tabby weave. Shown here in the Gosling Pillow by Arianna Funk. Download the pattern.

Skip Dent: The technique of leaving empty spaces in the reed to intentionally create gaps in the weaving in order to create texture or visual interest.  Shown here in the Skip Dent Scarf by Sarah Resnick. Download the pattern.

 

October 20, 2020 — Christine Jablonski
Weaving Accessories

Weaving Equipment Terms

People who are new to weaving can often be intimidated by all of the new terminology, but we are here to help! This blog post explains all of the terms you might be unfamiliar with. If you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact us or email hello@gistyarn.com.

Bobbin: A tube that holds weft yarn in boat shuttles. Buy bobbins

Dent: The spaces in a reed (slots and holes in rigid heddle reeds, slots in multi-shaft loom reeds) that yarn passes through to create the warp. 

Dents Per Inch (DPI):  The number of spaces per 1” in a reed. Often corresponds to how many warp ends per inch are specified in a pattern or draft. For example, if a pattern calls for 10 epi (ends per inch), then you would use a 10 dent reed. 

Harness: See Shaft

Heddle: In multi-shaft weaving, heddles are wire strands or texsolv cords with an eye at the midpoint for threading warp yarn in multi-shaft weaving. In rigid heddle weaving, the heddle and reed are contained in the same frame, called a rigid heddle or just “heddle.” 

Heddle Rod: Most often a dowel that supports string heddles. Used when multiple patterns sheds are required in rigid heddle weaving. 

Jack Loom: A multi-shaft loom where the shafts rise to create a shed (also called a rising shed loom). Buy a jack loom

Pick Up Stick: A long slender stick used in front of or behind a rigid heddle; warp threads are “picked up” on to the stick and create a pattern shed when the stick is slid forward to the reed or turned on its side at the front or back of the reed. Can also be used in multi-shaft weaving to create patterns in doubleweave. 

Reed: A frame with evenly spaced dents (or slots and holes in rigid heddle reeds) that warp yarn is threaded through. In multi-shaft weaving the reed also serves as the beater to pack the weft yarn against the warp yarn. In rigid heddle weaving, the reed is also called the rigid heddle, or heddle; it also serves as the beater, and when raised and lowered creates the sheds to allow for weaving.  Buy reeds.

Rigid Heddle Loom: A loom where both the heddles and reed are contained in one rigid frame, the lifting and lowering of which creates sheds. Buy a rigid heddle loom.

Shaft (also called Harness): A frame containing heddles that rise or lower in multi-shaft weaving to create sheds. 

Shed: The open space between warp threads created when the reed (in rigid heddle weaving) or shaft (in multi-shaft weaving) is raised up or lowered to allow a shuttle to pass  through. 

Shuttles: A boat shuttle is tool utilizing an inserted bobbin wound with weft yarn to pass through the shed.  A stick shuttle is a tool that weft yarn is wound onto and passed through the shed. Treadles: Pedals on a floor loom or levers on a table loom that raise or lower the shafts to create sheds. Buy a boat shuttle. 

 

October 20, 2020 — Christine Jablonski
introduction to multi-shaft looms

Introduction to Multi-Shaft Looms

What is a Multi-Shaft Loom? 

A multi-shaft loom has frames, called “shafts,” that contain heddles through which warp yarn is threaded. Treadles on a floor loom, or levers on a table loom, control the shafts. They raise and, in some cases, lowering, them from a neutral position. Raising and lowering the shafts creates a “shed,” a space between the warp threads through which weft thread is passed to create woven cloth.

What Are the Different Types of Multi-Shaft Looms? 

A jack loom has a rising shed, meaning that the shafts lift when the corresponding treadle or lever is depressed. As the shafts can operate independently, jack looms are very flexible for weavers wanting to experiment with many different patterns because it is relatively easy to change the tie up (the instruction detailing which treadles are connected to which shafts to create a pattern shed), but they can require more physical exertion than counterbalance or countermarche looms. At Gist Yarn, we carry jack looms made by Ashford and Schacht. 

A counterbalance loom has pairs of shafts (usually 2 or 4) that work opposite each other on rollers or pulleys. Sometimes a counterbalance loom is described as a sinking shed loom because two of the shafts sink when the other two rise. This symmetrical operation of the shafts makes these looms great for balanced weaves like 2/2 twill, but challenging for unbalanced weaves like 1/3 twill.  

A countermarche loom combines the independent shaft movement of a jack loom, with the symmetrical shed opening of the counterbalance loom. Each shaft is connected to all of the others, so when some shafts rise, all the others fall. This means that the tie-up can be complicated and time consuming.

What’s the Difference Between Table and Floor Looms?

Table looms are smaller than floor looms, often fold for storage and travel, and can be used on a table top or on a stand. The shafts are raised and lowered by levers on the top or side of the loom. We sell table looms by both Ashford and Schacht, across a variety of widths and ranging from 4-16 shafts. A floor loom is larger and far less portable than a table loom, although some fold for more efficient storage. The shafts on a floor loom are controlled by treadles depressed by the weaver’s feet, leaving hands free for throwing the shuttle and beating.

How Can I Buy A Loom?

We carry floor looms and table looms from Ashford in New Zealand, and Schacht in Colorado, and they all ship free within the US. Both are highly respected family-run companies known for making quality looms. We are happy to answer any questions about these looms to help you make the best decision for your weaving interests and budget. Contact us or email hello@gistyarn.com.

 

October 16, 2020 — Christine Jablonski
How To Hemstitch on the loom

How to Hemstitch

How to Hemstitch on the Loom

Of the many ways to finish handwoven textiles, I love the look the look of hemstitching the best of all. Today we’re going to show you how to hemstitch on the loom, a simple and easy process that results in a clean, neatly finished cloth. If you’ve ever felt stressed about your projects unravelling or if you don’t have a sewing machine or serger to finish edges, hemstitching secures your raw edge into tidy little groups while it’s still on the loom. Once you’ve cut your cloth off, it can be left as is, used to twist fringes, or folded under a hem. Best of all, it requires no fancy tools -  all you need to hemstitch is a darning needle (which you should probably have to fix broken warp threads anyway!). Read on for our hemstitching tutorial and learn how to do it on your next project!

Part I - Starting with Hemstitch

1. Weave three picks. The first pick should have a tail coming out of the right hand selvedge that’s approximately 3x longer than the width of your cloth - IE the width at the reed is 10”, your tail should measure 30”. Your hemstitch will be traveling from right to left.
 

2. Thread the tail onto your darning needle and bring it over 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these 4 warp ends and through the loop that’s been created by the start of the tail. Pull tight.
 

Step 1

Step 2

3. Moving to the left, your needle passes behind three weft picks in the space between the first group of stitched warp ends and the rest of your warp. The needle goes from the top to the bottom. 

4. Pass your needle over the front of the next 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these four ends and bring it to the front of your work in the space between this group and the last group. Pull tight. Note that you are not making a loop or a knot - just wrapping this bundle with your tail.

Step 3

Step 4

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 across the length of your warp until you reach the final bundle of four. 

6. You will secure the last group of warp threads by passing your needle through the loop created by the tail. Tuck the remaining tail into your warp with your next pick of weft, and continue weaving!

Step 5

Step 6

Part II - Finishing with Hemstitch

1. When you reach the end of your weaving, you’ll want to finish with your tail at the left selvedge edge - you’ll be travelling from left to right this time! Trim the tail so that you have approximately 3x the width of the cloth. 

2. Thread the tail onto your darning needle and bring it over 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these 4 warp ends and through the loop that’s been created by the start of the tail. Pull tight.

Step 1

Step 2

3. Moving to the right, your needle passes behind three weft picks in the space between the first group of stitched warp ends and the rest of your warp. The needle goes from the bottom to the top. 

4. Pass your needle over the front of the next 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these four ends and bring it to the front of your work in the space between this group and the last group. Pull tight. Note that you are not making a loop or a knot - just wrapping this bundle with your tail.

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Washed and finished!

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 across the length of your warp until you reach the final bundle of four. You will secure the last group of warp threads by passing your needle through the loop created by the tail. To secure your hemstitching, needle weave the tail into your warp - I usually like to go to the selvedge and then return towards the middle of the cloth for a few picks. 

6. Cut your project off - you’re all done!

Tips for Hemstitching

- Before you start hemstitching you’ll want to do a little math and figure out how many ends you have in total and how it might evenly divide into groups. My sample warp has 32 ends, which neatly divided into 4 - so I used that number to write this hemstitching tutorial. Depending on the end use of your cloth and the thickness of your ends, 3-6 threads per group is usually a good place to start. 

- Some warps just don’t want to divide evenly - when this happens, I like to put extra ends in the selvedge groups - it’s usually only one or two extra, and isn’t noticeable in the finished cloth. You could also spread them out evenly over the total width. 

- The number of picks that you pass your needle around can be greater than 3 - it simply creates a longer looking stitch. 

- I used a green thread for this tutorial so that you could see what I was doing, but of course you can do your hemstitching in your main weft colour too. I made a second sample and washed both so that you can see how seamless it looks when it’s done in a matching weft.

About Amanda Rataj

Amanda Rataj is an artist and weaver living and working in Hamilton, Ontario. She studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and has developed her contemporary craft practice through research-based projects, artist residencies, professional exhibitions, and lectures. Her textile focus of the material and conceptual nature of vernacular, everyday objects used for the home and body; her work (and weaving patterns) are available at her website, and at Guildworks, or by commission. 

October 13, 2020 — Amanda Rataj
Tips For Weaving With Linen

Tips for Weaving with Linen Yarn

Linen yarn by nature requires a little more care while weaving but the finished results are so rewarding! This is especially true if you are using a rigid heddle loom, as the heddle applies more friction to linen warps. For rigid heddle weavers, we recommend trying Duet Cotton/Linen, which is suitable for all loom types and is strong enough to be used as a warp. If you are weaving on a multi-harness loom, you can also try Italian Cotton/Linen or 18/3 Linen

Tips for Weaving with Linen

Try it as a weft yarn first

If you are brand new to weaving, try a cotton yarn such as Mallo in the warp and Duet in the weft. 

Mix with another yarn in the warp

Mixing yarns in the warp can be a fun experiment to see how different fibers take-up and shrink. I wove a sample of alternating Duet and Mallo warp and weft stripes to see how they would work together. Linen has a lower shrinkage rate than cotton and blending them together actually kept the cotton from shrinking as much as it normally would!

Try shorter warps 

Thankfully warping up a rigid heddle loom is fairly quick, so try a short and simple project like the Running Stitch Napkins to get a feel for how the yarn behaves.

Advance your warp often

Linen, while having one of the highest tensile strengths of all fibers, can abrade easily. The motion of the rigid heddle reed against the fibers can create weak spots and eventual warp breakage. Advancing your warp more often (say every 1-2”) will help distribute any wearing along the fibers and make for a smoother weaving experience.

Fine-tune your tension

The benefit of advancing your warp often means you have the ability to find the “sweet spot” of how much tension the yarn needs to weave easily. In my personal experience, linen blend yarns like Duet do well with a steady tension that is not overly tight. My trick is to tighten the tension to where I would normally weave, then back off one “click” on the tensioning knob, so the warp threads are not quite taut and not quite slack.

Use a pick-up stick on the back beam

Put the heddle in the down shed, insert a pick-up stick behind the reed between the slot and hole threads, and rest it on the back beam while weaving. This can give you just a little extra tension on the warp. If your rigid heddle loom does not have a back beam, rest the pick-up stick on the warp beam.

Try adding some moisture

Some weavers find that misting the linen warp with water, or weaving in a room with a humidifier can help with tension issues and breakage.

Try warp thread weights

Sometimes despite our best efforts, some threads just want to be slackers. Try hanging warp thread weights off the threads behind your loom to restore even tension to your warp. 

Try these tips and let us know what you think!

About Christine Jablonski

In addition to being GIST's Operations Manager and Wholesale Director, Christine is a weaver and exhibiting fiber artist. She scampered down the rabbit hole of rigid heddle weaving several years ago as a way to use up her knitting stash and never looked back. In addition to very practical cloth woven to adorn home and body (tea towels are her favorite home linen projects to weave), Christine also weaves conceptual works that explore themes of mood and memory, strength and fragility, and often reflect on the current political and ecological landscape. Her work is held in private collections across the country and is shown regionally in New England galleries. To see more of Christine's work, check out her Instagram


September 29, 2020 — Christine Jablonski