Tag Archives: Rigid Heddle Weaving

Handwoven Potholders – Not On Your Weaving To-Do List?

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Handwoven Potholders

They definitely weren’t on mine

And not because I don’t like potholders.
I do.
I like them a lot.
Some of my favorite fabrics are potholders.

Photo of 2 potholders made from remnants of handwoven fabric.

Handwoven fabric remnants.

Potholders make kitchen time less hazardous.
They protect me from flames, scorching heat, sticky boiling baking pan overflow and blistering steam.
I respect the work that potholders do.

I even have some that don’t “do” anything.
They just hang around.

Photo of handmade potholder, quilted with appliqued turkey

A cherished handmade gift from a friend.

Photo of a quilted nine-patch potholder

My own long ago quilting practice.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe the reason potholders haven’t shown up on my to-do list is because of some terrible childhood craft experiences involving metal “toothed” frames and jersey loops.

Maybe it’s because when I started weaving, I never saw any directions for  “How To Weave A Potholder On Your 4-Harness Loom”.

Maybe it’s because I only think about using handwoven fabric for  potholders when I can’t think of anything else to do with it.

Maybe it’s because I have project prejudice.

A handwoven potholder is an afterthought

Or an “after weaving”, if you will.

As in, immediately after  – when I’ve finished weaving what I wanted to weave, but still have several inches of perfectly good warp left on the loom.

Sometimes long after – when a piece of handwoven fabric no longer suits its original purpose.

photo of frayed handwoven fabric, cotton, blue and white checks

After 30 years as a towel this handwoven cotton fabric has potholder potential.

The problem isn’t that I don’t like potholders.
The problem is – I’ve never considered potholders worthy of my weaving time.

Actually plan to weave potholders?

That thought never entered my mind.
Not until this came off the loom:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.

Twill tape warp and fabric strip weft.

This is the result of a desperate need to weave and a willful, impulsive, impatient desire for immediate gratification.

So, yeah, it was a mistake.

But it was a mistake that led to some valuable, mind-altering information.

And it happened because I decided to warp my loom without making a plan.
I know better – but I went ahead and did it anyway.

Because sometimes a weaver just wants to have fun.
(And also – because I was being willful, impulsive and impatient).

What happened was:

  • I ran out of twill tape (warp) after measuring only 24 ends (69.5 inches long).
  • Those 24 ends in the 2.5 dpi rigid heddle allowed for slightly more than an 8-inch weaving width.
  • The fabric strips I chose for weft “told” me what I wanted to know after about 9 inches of weaving.
  • A bunch of different yarns I tried to use for hem sections “told” me they weren’t quite right after about an inch and a half.

And what came off the loom was colorful thick cloth – squares of colored fabric I liked  a lot – surrounded by a few inches of fabric that wasn’t what I wanted at all.

What can you do with squares of handwoven fabric?

If they’re too big for coasters or mug rugs.
And too small for table mats.
They might be just right for potholders.

Not particularly mind-blowing information?
Maybe not.
Probably not.  Not if you’re the kind of weaver who regularly, willingly, and happily weaves samples.
But I’m not that kind of weaver.  I don’t “do” samples.  Not if I can avoid it.
The whole idea of weaving samples makes me cringe.

squares of fabric = weaving samples

And I regularly “pass” when I see projects that include the phrase “you need to make a sample”.

However – I’m quite willing and more than happy to spend time weaving fabric that works the same way as a sample.

And by “works” I mean – in addition to the experimentation, practice, and information gathering – the end result of my weaving time is a fabric I can use.

Fabric I can use is why I weave. 

I want the cloth that comes off my loom to be present and accounted for.
Tucked away in a drawer waiting its turn to be out and about is fine.
Tucked away in a notebook as reference material – not so much.

When I weave I want to make something that has a place in my daily life – where it can be seen, touched and enjoyed.

So why ADD potholders to Your Weaving to-do list?

Because weaving a few 8″, 9″ or 10″ squares of fabric is a great way to “try out” spacing, color and texture.

Washing, drying and “finishing” those squares is a great way to figure out shrinkage and how best to care for a fabric.

And if the squares of fabric you decide to weave are either cotton or wool (or both) – you’ll end up with fabric you can use as potholders.

If  your handwoven squares are thin and drape-y, you can add a middle layer and backing.
If your handwoven squares are thick and bulky, you might be able to use them  ‘as is’.
And if none of your handwoven squares are exactly “square” you can even them up before binding the edges.

Everything you question, notice, practice and think about when designing, weaving and finishing your potholders is why making samples is worth your weaving time.

The recommendation to “weave a sample” is not supposed to act like a stop sign.   

It’s supposed to help you be successful.  To let you know that there are tricky bits up ahead.
Things worth trying out.
Things that  you won’t know until you see (and weave them) for yourself.
Things that if you practice ahead of time – will make you feel more confident, comfortable, and competent when you weave a similar fabric on a larger scale.

If resistance is strong, knowing why something is worth your time and effort might not be enough to convince you to give it a try.
If you resist weaving samples, maybe it’s because you want the results of your effort to “be” something.
Something more than an attachment to a page in a notebook.
Something to have and to hold – or give away as a gift.
Bookmarks, mug rugs, greeting card inserts, towels, table mats, scarves – and now potholders – are all on my weaving to-do list.

Calling the things I weave “samples” still makes me cringe.  But when I change the way I think about them – turning them into practice pieces,  prototypes, and fabrics I can use – I’m much more willing to do the work.  And I’ll be sharing some of my favorite “practice projects” in future posts.

Lately I’ve been thinking about things to weave on a rigid heddle loom.  And wondering about using a series of narrow wool strips – pieced together – for a blanket.

But I don’t know (yet) which of the yarns in my stash I want to use.
I’m not sure how any of them will hold up in the wash or whether any of the colors I like will go together.
I’m curious to see if maybe some of the colors I absolutely hate might work.
I don’t know how close or how far apart to position the threads in order to end up with a weight and thickness I like.
And I’m not sure if it would be better to hand piece the strips before fulling the fabric or after.
I don’t even know if  I have enough yarn or if I’ll need to buy (or spin) more.

But I know what I can do to find out.

photo of handwoven wool fabric, 7 inches wide

I gotta go weave more fabric for potholders.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

 

 

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What Do You Get When You Weave With Thick, Bulky Warp?

Thick, bulky fabric!

Like this:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using  twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.

Off-loom length of fabric made with twill tape warp – using fabric strips for weft.

And this:

photo showing off-loom length of handspun handwoven rug fabric

Off-loom length of fabric made with handspun yarns in warp and weft.

Both fabrics were woven on Ashford rigid heddle looms using the 2.5 dpi (dents per inch) heddle.

And FYI:

  • the measuring stick in these photos is 48″ long
  • it takes me a while to figure out how to get even edges
  • and yes, I use toilet paper for headings

The twill tape experiment came first – using a 16″ loom.

photo showing 16" RH loom set up with twill tape warp, using hand dyed fabric strips as weft.

Twill tape warp and hand dyed fabric weft on a 16″ rigid heddle loom.

Then I expanded a bit for the second experiment – using a 24″ loom.

Photo ofweft-faced fabric on a 24 inch rigid heddle loom using handspun yarn.

Handspun warp and weft on a 24″ rigid heddle loom.

The twill tape and fabric strips became these 3 pieces.

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Good examples of what can happen when you get overly excited about the middle of the weaving – and don’t pay attention to the beginning or the end (note the curved hems).  Next time –  I’ll be more careful with the hem sections.

They’re also good examples of what I like to call “prototypes” or, even better –  “handwoven samples you can use”.

photo of handwoven potholders 'holding' pot lids on the stove

So – from my first experiment using thick, bulky warp – I got potholders!  And a lot of information about what to do next time.

The second experiment remains unfinished. Super bulky warp yarns aren’t ideal for a folded woven hem.  And I’m not a big fan of fringe on the floor.

Photo of handspun handwoven twill fabric pinned to the edge of a handwoven rug to test it as a possible finishing technique. fabric

Handspun, handwoven wool binding pinned over the end of my rug-like fabric.

So after staring at it for a few days, (with a piece of leftover binding pinned to the edge) I decided to make more of the same dark brown, handspun/handwoven twill fabric that I used to bind the edges of this piece:

photo of multi-color wool rug, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

Multicolored Rug, 41″ x 21″, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

The yarn’s been spun.

Photo of dark brown yarn handspun by Joanne Littler

Dark brown handspun yarn for rug binding.

But I want it to be the first warp I put on and weave off when I’m ready to get back to weaving with a floor loom.  So that’s on “hold” for now.

In the meantime, there are a couple more things I want to try with that big, funky heddle.  And I’ve got lots more spinning to do.  Most of it related to my continuing quest to explore what it takes to make a good rug.

As much as I love the thick handspun fabric I wove on the RH loom – I think it’s best to describe it as being “rug-like” – and not what I would consider “good fabric for a rug”.  (More about that later).

The thing about it is, neither project needed to be anything.
Something else was going on.  Something more than any particular handwoven thing.

What I “got” when I wove with thick, bulky warp was (way) more than potholders and a rug. 

Working with those wide open spaces in the 2.5 dpi heddle helped me think about (and do) things differently.
Exactly what I’ve learned to expect from weaving.

I gotta go do my PT for knees.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

 

 

 

What’s So Special About This 2.5 dpi Rigid Heddle Reed?

And what can you do with all those wide open spaces?

photo of Ashford's 16-inch, 2.5 dpi rigid heddle reed

If you’ve ever tried to use novelty yarns for warp, (or decided you weren’t willing to take the risk)  you’ll immediately recognize the potential here.

Smooth, even, and relatively small yarns glide through the spaces of most  heddles and reeds – making them an ideal choice for warp.

But lumpy-bumpy, thick and thin yarns often refuse to cooperate.

Sometimes they can be persuaded to do what you want them to – moving up and down, backward and forward – without too much help, if they fit through the spaces of your heddles and reed.

But what about yarns that don’t fit?

Oversize yarns and novelty yarns can cause  problems when you try to use them for warp.

Yarns embellished with knots and beads, hairs and feathers – or other exotic bits and pieces – can get caught, hung up, tangled and stuck.

The 2.5 dpi rigid heddle was designed to solve some of those problems.

And yes, this would be a good place for a photo of some beautifully weird and wonderful designer yarns –  but I don’t have any of those in my stash.

What I have instead are big, thick, super-bulky handspun yarns like these:

And that heddle with those big spaces made me start thinking about big bulky yarns in a totally different way.

Instead of assuming that over-sized, thick materials could never be used as warp – I started to wonder what if?

So I did a couple of experiments.
First, using 3/4 inch cotton twill tape.

photo of a rigid heddle loom warped with black cotton twill tape and hand dyed fabric strips laid in as weft

And then using some of my super bulky handspun.

photo showing Ashford's 2.5 dent rigid heddle reed warped with super bulky handspun yarn

Now I’m looking at several other possibilities.  Things I’ve always thought could only be used one way – as weft.

Whether you have a stash of novelty yarns you’d like to use or just want to try something different, consider adding the 2.5 dpi rigid heddle reed to your  weaving “toolbox”.

You might find yourself headed in a whole new direction.

I gotta go look through my stash.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

 

 

 

 

 

One More Reason To Love The Rigid Heddle Loom

 

photo of 24" RH loom with cotton mat project in progress

If you weave with a rigid heddle loom, you already know it’s a wonderful way to weave.

You don’t need me to remind you of all the advantages.

You already know – and appreciate – what your rigid heddle loom can do.

  • You know how easy it is to set up your loom when you’re ready to weave.
  • And you know how easy it is to put it away when you’re not.
  • You know that your loom offers endless fabric-making possibilities.

I know these things, too.
They’re a few of the reasons why I choose to teach weaving with RH looms and why I wholeheartedly recommend the rigid heddle loom to anyone interested in weaving.
Especially anyone eager to explore the craft without having to spend lots of money for a much larger and more expensive piece of equipment.

Rigid heddle looms are affordable, portable, simple, and versatile.

But if someone asks you why you love weaving with your rigid heddle loom you might have more personal reasons.   You might say it’s because:

  • You can take your loom outside with you on a fine summer’s day.
  • You can weave on your porch, under a tree, in a park or on the beach.
  • You can hang your loom on the wall  – and display your handwoven art.
  • You can take your loom with you on vacation or on a business trip.

Maybe most important of all:

You can access your creativity with a rigid heddle loom.

The funny thing is, even though I know and appreciate all of these things, until recently I’ve done almost all of my weaving on a floor loom.

Until recently, I’ve felt more comfortable weaving with a floor loom.

Maybe because I learned to weave on a floor loom.
Maybe it’s just a habit I developed because I’ve spent so much time practicing with a floor loom.
Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a loom snob.  Maybe I choose to believe that a floor loom is “better” than any other type of loom.
Maybe.

But maybe the reason I haven’t spent much time weaving with a rigid heddle loom is simply that I haven’t had to.   I’ve had access to (and a definite preference for) a different type of loom.

Funny how things change.

My new reason to love the rigid heddle loom? – I don’t have to use my knees.
And recently, I’ve been having pain in my knees.

Of course it makes me sad not to be able to use my floor looms – dancing on those treadles is part of the fun.
And of course I hope I’ll be able to weave that way again, soon.

But for now, my “weaving way” is moving me slowly and gently in a different direction.

And once I decided to get over feeling disappointed and frustrated, I started to get excited about this new path.

I’m excited about planning projects that – until now – have been outside my preferred (and comfortable?) method of operation.

I’m also intrigued by the appearance of this unimagined opportunity and the impact it has on the choices I make – turning me away from what I know well – towards ideas I hadn’t (and likely would not have) considered before now.

I love weaving.  I love spending time making fabric by hand.

And this change in circumstance reminds me of why, exactly, that is.

Weaving helps me learn about myself.

One thing’s for sure:  if you’ve ever thought (like I did) that weaving with a rigid heddle loom “just isn’t the same” as weaving with floor loom – you’d be right.

There are a lot of reasons why it’s a whole lot better.

I gotta go figure out what I want to weave next.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Weavers: Do You Ever Want To Just Tie One On?

Not a dozen.
Not 4.
Not a complete “set” of anything.
No extras for friends, or gifts to give.
Not enough to donate or sell.
Do you ever choose to warp your loom for just one thing?

It sounds simple enough.
But it might not be all that easy – especially if it’s not what you usually do.

If you usually try to make the most of your weaving plan by making multiples, warping for just one thing seem might seem like a waste.

Why does it feel like one is not enough?

Maybe because your time is valuable.  And as a resource, it keeps dwindling.
When we’re short on time, but passionate about weaving  – we may feel the need to maximize our efforts.

It’s an economy of scale thing.
Warping a loom – getting ready to weave – requires a lot of preparation.  Measuring, sleying, threading, tying on, winding on…

Photo loom harnesses and heddles being threaded

One part of the warping process – threading heddles.

Whatever order you choose to do it in, –  it all has to happen – whether it’s to make one thing or to make many.

Each additional thing you plan to weave adds more length and uses more yarn.
But measuring and winding on only take a little bit longer.

Most other parts of the process stay the same.

So you’re actually saving time by making multiples – by not having to repeat all the steps.

Clearly, it’s more efficient to make more than one.

But … Are two enough? Are 6 too many?
When a TV ad posed those questions several years ago, the answer was obvious – because with prunes you really can ‘trust your gut’ to get it right.

When you’re planning a weaving project – sometimes it’s hard to see why more is not (necessarily) better.

Rigid Heddle weavers may have an advantage here.  Limitations imposed by the equipment prevent over-reaching.
My RH loom comfortably holds about 4 yards of warp.   I’m not tempted to set it up for 24 towels – because I can’t.

On my floor looms, weaving 2 dozen towels from one warp is definitely possible.  (But if you think this might be a good thing –  and if you  know you have a short attention span, and/or are easily bored, please – pause and consider –  by #7  the weaving starts to get old.  The next 17?  Not a lot of fun.  Trust me.)

How you feel about the warping process can make a big difference.

Especially if  you think of it as an ordeal.
Do you find it excruciating?  Or merely off-putting?
Does it seem like it takes forever?
Do some parts of the process feel awkward and uncomfortable?
Is it complicated and confusing?
Does warping your loom feel like a major undertaking?
Do you warp for more than one so you can avoid having to do it more often?

Do you wish you could warp less and weave more?

For a lot of weavers,  the work of setting up a loom isn’t the fun part – and that becomes a problem when there isn’t  a lot of time to spare.

But if we pay attention to what’s fun and what’s not fun – if we consider what we might do differently – we can find ways to make the not so much fun experience more satisfying and less of a problem.

Warping is part of weaving.  A big part.  One thing has to happen in order to “get”  to do the other.  (And those next 17 towels do have to be woven off before I get to warp for something else.)

So how do you feel about warping for (and weaving off) just one small thing?
Does the prospect make you happy and excited?
Or does it sound like a waste (of time and materials)?

What if you enjoyed warping as much (or more) than the actual weaving?

What if the time it took to set up your loom was just – time?  What if it was good time? Special, satisfying and rewarding time?

What would it take for you to feel you were making the most of it?

If you feel the need to make multiples of a project – is it because your weaving dreams include lots of things?

Or is there some other compelling ‘ought to, have to, must do’,  – driving your choice?

If the reason you’re hesitant to warp your loom for just one thing is because you’re uncomfortable with the process – if it feels confusing, if  it takes too long, – if  you need someone right there with you to help you, and you feel intimidated by all the steps involved:

Warping more and weaving less might solve the problem.

Sometimes it makes sense to tie one on.
Just one thing.

And weave it off.
Then do it again.
And again.
And keep doing it.

Try warping your loom for one thing at a time.
Practice the part of the process that (for many people) is problematic.
Give yourself a gift (of time) that allows for practice.  Lots of practice.

It won’t make you perfect.  But I’m pretty sure it will make you feel capable, comfortable and competent – with your own version of  ‘warp speed’.

You might find that you enjoy how slow you go.
Maybe even find it exquisitely slow.

I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

If Mistakes Are For Learning –

Then I’ve amassed thousands of continuing education credits.

Rarely do I put on a warp and weave off a piece of fabric without opportunities to learn.  This rainbow warp is a good example.

Photo of rigid heddle loom with 2 warping errors.

2 Learning Opportunities*

Sometimes these opportunities involve re-learning things I already knew but managed to ignore.  Sometimes a little quirk in my perceptual abilities mixes things up.

Both things happened here.

And that’s part of what I love about weaving.  (Seriously – I enjoy untangling my own knots, too.)

Maybe it’s because in choosing plain weave, I’m choosing simple.  Maybe it’s because I make it my quiet timeMaybe it’s because a lot of the work involves mind-numbing, repetitive, unskilled labor.

Most certainly it’s because it involves paying attention.  Focusing on the task at hand.  Not thinking about other things.

And that requires practice. The practice of paying attention.

When my mind wanders, – when I go away in my head – mistakes happen.  And those funky little glitches in the process wake me up and put me back on task.  Even when I don’t notice them until I’ve finished.

I like getting called back to the present.  It feels like a gift.  A reminder that what’s important is going on now, in this moment.

Happily, nearly every mistake (in my weaving) can be fixed- by asking and answering the question: “What will I do about – ?” And problem solving.

Usually it’s just a matter of taking the time.   Doing the work to make the correction.

Of course some people will say it’s better not to make any mistakes at all.

But since that’s not my experience,  I’ll just keep practicing.

And continue to enjoy my education.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

*The third thread from the left is wound around the heddle instead of coming back to the warp stick, and,- the heddle itself is facing the back of the loom instead of the front.

Rainbow Warp on a Rigid Heddle Loom

Instead of the usual pressing, packing, and preparing for Market on Friday,  I spent a few hours dressing this rigid heddle loom.

Photo of rainbowcolored warp on small rigid heddle loom

Rigid Heddle loom ready to weave

It’s a 16″ Ashford – one of the ones I use to teach beginning weaving.

And while I don’t normally weave on a RH loom, it offers the perfect solution because:

  • My other looms are literally tied up with other projects.
  • It’s small and easy for me to bring along if I decide to demonstrate weaving somewhere (like at Farmers’ Market)
  • I can indulge in the pleasure of weaving outside on a summer day.
  • It makes a beautiful wall hanging whenever I’m not weaving.
  • It’s fast and easy to set up, so I can get information about an idea sooner than if I wait to use a floor loom.
  • With the majority of my work destined for sale,  I can have a separate project that’s  just-for-me.

And yes, it is raining again.

So this perfectly simple little loom will stay inside today.  And after I weave a few inches just-for-me, it can hang on a wall.

All dressed up (like a rainbow) – and ready to go.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio