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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
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
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
How To Fix A Broken Warp Thread

How to Fix a Broken Warp Thread by Amanda Rataj

Do you remember your first broken warp thread? I do - I was at my parents house alone, working happily on one of my mum’s looms when a warp end snapped. I had no idea what to do, and, if I’m being honest, I was too impatient to Google it effectively. I had been having so much fun! If I had only known how simple it was to fix a broken warp thread - I could have been back at it in only a few minutes. 

Regardless of how careful a weaver you are, we all break warp threads. Sometimes it’s because we’ve beamed our warp funny or we’ve been packing our weft a bit too enthusiastically. Whatever the reason is, a broken warp thread does NOT spell disaster (or ugliness!) for your finished textile - you likely have all the tools to do it already. 

The Method

1. Gather your tools


The first thing you’re going to want to do is gather your repair kit. You’re going to need 3 things:


  • a T pin or sturdy darning needle

  • an extra length of your warp thread
  • a weight


2. Measure out your repair yarn


Measure off a piece of your repair yarn. I’m using a red thread in these pictures, but in your project you want to use a matching thread so that your repair is seamless. The length of the repair thread needs to be at least the length of your remaining warp; I like to add an extra 10” to be safe. 


3. Clear the way


Remove the broken warp thread from the heddle - the piece at the back can be tossed over the back beam or left hanging down, and the piece at the front can be folded towards you. Draw your repair thread through the slot or hole using your threading hook and towards the front of the cloth. 

4. Attach your repair thread


Secure your T pin or darning needle in your cloth a few wefts down from where your thread broke. Then wrap your repair thread around the pin in a figure eight shape. I don’t worry too much about it being exactly lined up, but I do want to make sure that it’s tight on the pin and won’t slide off - that’s where a T pin is helpful. I’ve used a sewing pin in a pinch, but they’re not really sturdy enough - you want something strong, since your repair warp will be put under tension next! 

5 . Weight your repair thread


To complete your repair, you’re going to want to add weight to your repair end. There are a few things you can use to add weight: 

  • Ashford’s Warp Thread Weights are a great way to hold your extra repair threads and keep them under tension
  • I use an old film canister filled with pennies - medicine bottles work too!
  • S hooks & washers are also handy to have in the studio. The repair thread can be tied to one end of the S and washers added to the other

Hang the weight off the back of your loom and match the tension so that your repair thread isn’t tighter or looser than its mates - that’s why I like pennies and washers, because you can make small adjustments easily. Adjust the length that the weight hangs off your loom as you weave to keep it from coming up over your back beam and becoming loose. Keep in mind that when the end of the warp comes over the back, the mate of your broken thread will get loose - when this happens, attach a second weight to it to keep everything tensioned correctly. 


Another way...

If you’re working with a longer warp you can use your repair thread to bridge the gap between the break. The process is the same as above and illustrated using a blue thread - I make a repair warp end, attach it to my web and then weave as usual. When I’ve woven 5-10” I check back with my original warp - if it’s long enough that it can be drawn back through my heddle and wrapped around a T pin, I carefully take the weight off my repair yarn and bring its tail to the front of my weave. I reinsert the original broken warp and wrap it around another T pin, being careful to match the tension with the rest of the warp. Then I keep weaving! In this method there are two spare ends to needle weave in after you’re finished weaving, but it’s sometimes easier to reintroduce your original warp thread than having weights dangling off the end of your loom for the entire project.

Finishing

Once your cloth is off the loom, you can tidy up your broken warp thread. Remove the T pin and use a darning needle to needle weave the repair thread into your original warp - a few ends will do. Leave the ends hanging long and clip them close to the surface of the cloth after you’ve washed and finished it. 

Fixing Broken Warp Threads is Easy!

I hope that helps give you confidence in fixing your next broken warp thread - every time you fix one it gets easier, I promise! If you’re experiencing a lot of broken warp threads, it might be time to take a break and think through each step. Sometimes re-tying a warp helps to even out tension problems that are causing warp threads to break, while other times, I’ve tightened my warp too much and repeating rubbing from my heddle is causing ends to snap. Even the way we throw our shuttles (and whether we’re lefties or righties) can influence the wear and tear on our warps, so if you’re having persistent problems, take a closer look at your process. 

Good luck! As always - if you have any questions or feedback, send us an email!

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. 



September 22, 2020 — Amanda Rataj
weaving samples

Tips for Keeping Weaving Project Records

Do you keep records on your weaving projects? Sometimes in the rush of weaving and my excitement to wash a newly finished project, I forget to take detailed notes about what I’ve done - I am also in the very bad habit of using bits of paper to scribble things on and then leaving them around the studio and forgetting what they mean. 

Weaving project records are an important part of your weaving practice for a number of good reasons! For starters, they help you duplicate a project - by keeping all your information in one place, you can easily make a project again, no matter how long ago you made it. They also help you learn from your past experiences - by recording things like finishing techniques or that you had lots of extra warp at the end, you can make more informed decisions for the next time. A good record also helps you gain confidence as a weaver, because if something went wrong (or right!) you know to avoid it or do it again.

In my very first weaving notebook I took atrocious notes (see image! so much white space!) but I’ve gotten much better and developed a system that works for me. To start thinking about how to keep weaving project records, read on!

What Type of Information to Keep

There are a few basic things you’re going to want to write down in your weaving records:

  • Date: When did you make this project? 
  • WPI: Wraps per inch
  • EPI: Ends per inch
  • Total ends: The total number of ends you warped. 
  • Warp yarn & weft yarn: I like to list where I got it, the name and size of the fibre, and the colour, including the number.  
  • PPI: Picks Per Inch will tell you how tightly or loosely to pack your warp - if my pattern has a ground thread and pattern thread, I’ll record the number for each. 
  • Draft: I either draw it out on graph paper or print off a copy of my computerized draft. I also note where I found the draft and what page it was on. 
  • Width in reed: This is important for figuring out shrinkage.
  • Length: Measure your length in the same conditions in which you are weaving. 
  • Finishing techniques: How are you finishing this textile? Is it hand washed or machine washed? Warm or cool water? 
Finished width: Measure after washing. 
  • Finished length: Measured after washing - I like to record the finished length before hemming. 
  • Notes: I write loads of notes - if my project take-up was more than expected, I make a note. If my warp was breaking a lot, I write down that information and what I did to solve it. Anything about the weaving process or finished cloth that may be useful for the future, I make sure to note! 

I always record these fourteen points about a weaving project, but there’s lots more information that you might want to keep. Here are a few more ideas: 

  • Warp calculations: I write down all my calculations (and recalculations) in my records. 
  • Warp and weft samples: I tie or tape a little piece of my warp and weft to my weaving project notes so that I have a small sample of the unwoven fibre. 
  • Warp length: This might information might be useful to you if you want to redo a project or increase the number of items you want to weave (IE make 4 Citrus towels instead of 2!)
  • Type of Weave: Marking whether this is a plain weave, overshot, twill might be a useful organizational category for you. You can also record whether you were aiming for a balanced, warp, or weft faced weave. 
  • Shrinkage: Having these numbers ready can help you plan a similar project using the same materials.
  • Loom: If you have more than one loom, you might want to record which one you used for the project. 

Tips to Help You Keep Better Weaving Project Records

I have a wonderful colleague that keeps the most intriguing notes in meetings - she writes in little bursts across the page, cramming things in and making little groups or bubbles. It looks unintelligible to me, but it makes perfect sense to her, and I think the same goes for weaving notes! If you keep your weaving records in whatever way makes the most sense to you, you’re more likely to actually keep notes and then be able to use them when you need them. That being said, my five tips to keeping better weaving project records are…

  • Keep them together: I use a spiral bound sketchbook to keep my weaving records organized and in one place, but you can also keep your records digitally or print them out and keep them in a 3 ring binder - whatever suits you!

  • Store your samples with your records: Depending on how you keep project notes, you might be able to staple or attach your samples right to your records. As I shared in my article on making samples, I attach a tag to each sample that includes some of the basic information like material, sett, etc. Each tag also has a number on it that corresponds to the project records in my notebook - so that the full details are easy to find when I need them. 

  • Collect more information than you think you need: One thing I have been very guilty of is thinking “I won’t need to know how wide this was/what sett this sample is made at/what yarn this is - I’m just trying this yarn out.” Let me tell you - this has come back to bite me more times than I would like. Now I try to collect all the information for everything - even when it’s just plain weave in one colour and one type of yarn. I like to think I am going to remember how I made something two years down the road, but it just isn’t true. 

  • Take notes while you weave: I keep a little pad of paper and a pencil on my weaving bench - it’s within reach and not precious, so I can scribble things down as I’m working and cross them out and not worry about making a mess of my main weaving project records. Once I’ve cut a warp off, I make the time to take this pad to my desk and transcribe the useful information from it in to the main record. 

  • Number or categorize your projects: I give all my projects a number, because I find that identifying my projects in an objective way is important - “blue tea towel” is just a bit too vague when I’m trying to find an old project. Numbering helps me link similar projects made over time (IE, I can make a note that reads “See project 55”), and can help categorize projects too. I also know some weavers like to keep similar project notes together, such as having all their rug projects in one book, scarves in another, etc. 

How do you like to keep your weaving project notes? What sort of strategies have you developed to organize your projects? I know there are a ton of great ideas out there, and I’m always changing and updating my own process to suit my needs as I grow my skills and become a better weaver. If you’re new to keeping records we’ve made up a handy downloadable PDF with some of the basic categories on it and a handy empty graph for drawing in your threading, tie up, and treadling. I hope it helps! If you have any great suggestions on keeping weaving records, let us know! Get in touch with me on Instagram or by email and share your favourite ways to keep weaving project records. 

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. 



August 25, 2020 — Amanda Rataj
Balanced Beat Weaving

Finding Your (Balanced) Beat

                     
                     

Finding Your (Balanced) Beat

by Christine Jablonski

What is a balanced beat and how do I know if I have it?

Achieving a balanced beat (also known as balanced weave) means that the number of weft picks per inch are the same as the number of warp ends per inch, and thus the warp and weft are equally visible. Many of our patterns call for a balanced beat, or very close to it. 

However, when looked at on the loom under tension, a balanced beat can look a little loose, often prompting the weaver to wonder, am I doing this correctly?

A Closer Look

In this photo, the weaving was done with a 12 dent reed. At the bottom (between 4 and 5”), you can count the weft threads between the T-pins and see exactly 12 picks, where the dashes of yellow weft appear to be about the same size as the blue warp lengths--a truly balanced beat. Looking closely you may see little squares of space between the threads, but those spaces will close up during wet finishing (a subject for another day), so not to worry.

Moving up one inch, we count 9-10 weft picks between the T-pins. This lighter beat makes the long blue lengths of the warp more dominant than the short dashes of the yellow weft. The spaces between the threads would not close up as tightly as in the previous example, and result in a looser, gauzier cloth.

Lastly, in the top example we count 14 weft picks between inches 2 and 3—a slightly denser beat where the yellow weft is more dominant, and which would result in a slightly stiffer cloth.  

Practice & Experiment

Your project, materials and personal preferences should determine your beat. A very dense beat creates a stiff cloth, which would work well for a runner or placemat, but wouldn’t be great as a scarf. A very loose weave may make a wonderful casual window screen, but not a great shawl. 

So experiment, measure and practice—you’ll find your beat in no time!

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



July 20, 2020 — Christine Jablonski
How To Weave With Pickup Sticks

How to Weave with Pick-Up Sticks

How to Weave with Pick-Up Sticks on a Rigid Heddle Loom by Liz Gipson

How to Weave with Pick-Up Sticks

Guest blog post with Liz Gipson of Yarnworker 

We have all done it, introduced a little skip in our weaving that creates a float in a place we didn't intend. Floats are the basis of so many weave structures, but we want to create them on purpose. (I'm also a fan of the flaw—it makes weaving more interesting.)

One of the most efficient ways for rigid-heddle weavers to do this is to use a stealth tool that allows them to make a third or fourth shed, and break the over/under configuration of plain weave--the pick-up stick!

When weavers hear the term “pick-up”, they often think of working patterns in front of the heddle, picking up the pattern each time. You can also place the stick behind the heddle and leave it there, engaging it only when necessary. 

Understanding the Basics

To place a pick-up stick, place the heddle in the down position so only the slot threads are up. Then you pick up the configuration you want behind the heddle. In this case, I'm picking 1 down/1 up. This is called “charging” the pick-up stick.

Once charged, you can slide the stick to the back of the loom and continue to weave plain weave.

How to Weave with Pick-Up Sticks on a Rigid Heddle Loom by Liz Gipson

You also have two additional shed options that allow you to weave weft floats or warp floats.

To weave a warp float, place the heddle in the up position and slide the stick towards the heddle. In addition to the yarns in the holes being up, the stick is also lifting up the threads that are on the pick-up stick, up.

How to Weave with Pick-Up Sticks on a Rigid Heddle Loom by Liz Gipson

To weave a weft float, you place the heddle in neutral and tip the stick up on its edge so just the yarns on the stick are up.

How to Weave with Pick-Up Sticks on a Rigid Heddle Loom by Liz Gipson

Adding this technique to your weaving know-how allows you to branch out to a lot of different structures. The next step is learning how to read a pick-up pattern. I cover that in this blog post.

PlayBox #1 & PlayBox #2 both include a simple warp float pattern that you can try. These projects are easy ways to start making floats on purpose.

For a deeper dive, check out my latest class at the Yarnworker School,  Weaving 301: Pick-Up, I teach you eleven essential structures that utilize these two positions AND begin to dive into the world of drafting and design as it relates to the rigid-heddle loom. GIST blog readers can get 10% off the class using the code: GISTJOURNAL. If you are interested in joining the Yarnworker School Patreon community to get more benefits, you can check that out  here. The School wouldn't exist without the amazing support of this community. 


Liz Gipson of Yarnworker

About Liz Gipson ~ Yarn is a big part of who I am—growing it, spinning it, and then making it do tricks, particularly the over/under kind (i.e. weaving). Passing this love on to newcomers is what makes my heart happy. I spend my days weaving, writing about weaving, teaching others to weave, and enjoying this thing called life.

I host Yarnworker, a site for rigid-heddle know-how and inspirations. I dream-up, films, edit, and hosts the courses myself from my home in central, New Mexico.



February 03, 2020 — Liz Gipson