When you work at a yarn store (like I do), things start to pick up in mid-October as more and more people start mentioning certain end-of-the-year holidays. As the calendar inches closer and closer to December, the number of people asking for quick and easy projects rises too—but lucky us, weavers have lots of options!
Whether you’re celebrating a religious event like Christmas or Hannukah, a secular celebration like Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or just have a few appreciation gifts to hand out to friends and colleagues, a handwoven element to your wrapping is a nice touch. If you have a rigid heddle loom or shaft loom there are plenty of last-minute stash busting weaving projects to make, both on-loom and off. Here are a few ideas:
Every few projects I end up with a small pile of bobbins that have anywhere from a few inches to a few yards left of yarn on them—a bit too small to be used for big projects, but long enough that it feels wasteful to toss them in the bin. These lengths, plus any long thrums (loom waste) go into a bag in my closet and pulled out for various needs, like spreading a warp or tying the tomatoes up in the garden.
These odds and ends can also be repurposed to tie on gift tags or presents. Here’s a simple way to make your own multi-color twisted cord:
I once received a gift with a little pompom attached on top in lieu of a bow—they’re a great way to use small lengths of weaving yarn to adorn your gifts. Pompoms are fast stash busting projects, and, bonus, they're perfect for little fingers. A quick Google search should return many different how-to’s using a small piece of cardboard, but you can also buy reusable plastic makers too. Pompoms work best in wool or animal fibers, but there’s no reason why you can’t add in a bit of cotton and linen.
Related to the pompom is the tassel. Again—they’re very easy and quick to make with small lengths of yarn and a piece of cardboard. Like pompoms, they can be made into a garland or tied onto gifts. I made mine using Beam in Mist, Duet in Marble, and Mallo in Denim using Martha Stewart’s instructions.
I’ve also been using longer ends and thrums to make woven bands. While these aren’t as quick to make as twisted cord, I plan on using them to wrap extra special gifts and as gifts themselves. Woven bands can be made using an inkle loom or a band heddle—in the picture you can see one made by Kerstin Neumüller.
If you still appreciate sending and receiving mail like I do, you’ll love this idea from my friend Megan Samms of Live Textiles. She sent me this handmade card with a small swatch of handwoven fabric sewn to the front. I’m always wondering what to do with the little headers and spacers that end up as waste—cutting them off and sewing or glueing them to a card is a perfect way to keep them out of the bin. Megan told me that the textile on this card was made stash yarn and leftovers from previous projects, another plus.
(PS: Megan has a wonderful online shop full of ready-to-go textiles, weaving patterns, and even homemade body care products. She’s also working towards fulfilling her longtime dream of building a weaving residency at her home in Newfoundland—you can visit her website here.)
I’ve used leftover paper, newsprint, and even magazine pages to wrap my gifts—for this article, I used paper I’ve doodled on with watercolors. But my all time favorite thing to wrap gifts with is (no surprise here) textiles!
Not only is this better than single-use paper or plastic, it looks beautiful and can be part of the gift too. In these photographs I’ve used my own Wrapping Cloth pattern (which uses Duet in Pear and Rust as accent colors), but you might also like to try adapting the Running Stitch Napkins by weaving them in a larger size (a rigid heddle friendly project).
Not everyone can make a scarf in a weekend, but narrow-width weaving projects are often the solution when you're in a time crunch. If you still have a weekend (or two) to make some handwoven gifts, I have a few suggestions for you!
Last winter (since we were all washing our hands so much!) I designed a small weaving project for 4-shaft weavers that makes soap bags. Designed to use up small quantities of yarn, the warp is 8/2 Un-Mercerized Cotton, and the weft is very flexible—I made a few using Duet as my pattern weft. If you've got some time to weave a few more gifts, see the full details here.
If you’re really pressed for time, I’ve come up with a super quick and basic weaving project using my Gist Yarn remnants: Simple Woven Coasters. Narrow width? Check! Single or multi-color? Check! Finished on the loom? Check! This project is extremely fast to warp and weave, just choose from your stash of Beam, Mallo, or Duet and make a set of four in an afternoon. This project is appropriate for rigid heddle or multi-shaft looms.
Small project like this are a great way to try out color and yarn combinations outside of your comfort zone and practice techniques like hemstitching. I made two warps (one in Beam and the other in Mallo), and chose a different set of colors and yarn for each coaster, mixing and matching Gist’s yarn bases. I’m going to package them up in mismatching sets and wrap them with a twisted cord for a ready-made gift.
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.