Tag Archives: Samples

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

 

 

8H Weaving Practice = Holiday Greeting Cards

Photo of Greeting Cards with Fabric Inserts Handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Handwoven Greeting Cards – 2012

These greeting cards are the result of a self-directed learning spree – a hands-on, trial & error, teach-myself excursion into the unknown.  In this case the unknown was weaving with an 8-shaft loom.

2012 is the third year in a row I’ve made greeting cards using pieces of fabric from one of these binge-on-a-whim experiments.

In 2010, my first handmade cards came from practice mixing dye colors.

Photo of Greeting Card with  hand dyed fabric insert by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT.

Hand Dyed Greeting Card 2010

One young friend asked if I’d woven the fabric (which I had not), so the following year I decided to weave fabric for cards as “practice”.

Practice weaving a specific shape – 6.5 inches x 4.5 inches with an area of interest approximately 4.5 inches x 3 inches.
(I use cards from Photographer’s Edge)
And practice weaving stripes.

Photo of red and green striped fabric for Holiday Cards on the loom - woven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT , 2011n 2011

Striped fabric for holiday cards – 2011

No surprise.  I learned a lot.

A lot of important stuff.  Like why I prefer putting stripes in the warp rather than the weft.  (It’s easier.)  And why I’ll think twice before choosing to weave  weft-faced stripes.  Especially if the yarn I want to use is 8/2 cotton. (It takes forever).

On the other hand, I also (now) know that I love the look of weft-faced stripes in 8/2 cotton.

Tough call.  But good to know.
The kind of knowing that comes from doing.
A fine tuning of personal preference.

Fabric for greeting cards is a perfect project for practice.

And now one of my “go-to” projects when I want/need to psyche myself out.
(Or up).

When the best way to get answers to my questions is to try, re-try, do, redo, repeat, adjust, and try again.
When information gathering is part of the plan.
And when I need a way to get past that gag-me-with-a-spoon reaction I have toward making samples.

Photo of striped fabric greeting card by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

Just for fun stripes

The prospect of working on anything that resembles a “put-it-in-a-notebook-and forget-about-it” weaving sample leaves me totally uninspired.

Wholehearted, enthusiastic exploration of possibilities is much more likely to occur when the process is exciting and the results
hold meaning.

Weaving is most meaningful to me when I’m working on something I can use.

That’s why, when I started thinking about switching my Leclerc Colonial loom from 4 to 8-shafts, I knew I had to find a way to make the weaving worthwhile – as in, “this absolutely has to be something I can have fun with and use”.

The problem was (is?) – nothing I want to weave requires 8 harnesses.

So I went to my back issues of Handwoven Magazine  – starting with the most recent. Paging through this vast collection of weaving wisdom usually moves  me.  But I knew what I was looking for – and none of the projects requiring 8 shafts were “it”.

Maybe this says something about how far behind I am, compared to rest of the weaving world.

Nothing resonated.
Until I got back to 2001.

Sure enough, in a magazine published 11 years ago, (pages 48 – 50 in the September/October 2001  issue of Handwoven ) I found the perfect project.

Designed by Sarah Saulson – specifically aimed at and written for 8 harness “newbies” (part of her “Now we are Eight” series of articles), – and intended as a “how-to” for weavers interested in creating plain weave selvedges along the edges of a woven pattern, it was exactly what I was looking for.

The project was for mug rugs.  Small, simple and manageable.  These little gems – (also known as coasters) – have never been on any of my weaving “to do” lists.   Remember when I mentioned the “need to weave” something I would use?

But – what if?  What if they were just a little bit narrower and each piece woven a little bit longer?  What if the fabric could be woven to fit in the window of a greeting card?

There it was.  The project that inspired questions suitable for a “spree”.  Thanks to Sarah Saulson and Handwoven Magazine,  I was ready to find out what would happen “if” with 8 shafts.

It was late October when I started weaving – not soon enough for people to see during Fall Open Studio Weekend, – and perhaps overly optimistic of me to imagine weaving off, finishing and sending out  few Happy Thanksgiving cards. But the autumn-y brown and gold colors I chose for warp made an excellent foundation for a whole slew of color combinations to try in the weft.

Every one was different (and  a couple of them were really different).

Photo of different color combinations made by changing weft colors on a brown and gold warp.  Handwven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT.

Changes in weft colors on a brown and gold warp.

But exactly the kind of “see and do” thing that could keep me interested. Interested enough to make me want to repeat the process.

As soon as I finished the first warp, tweaked the weaving plan and made adjustments based on my notes, – I started all over again.  Different warp colors and another whole slew of color combinations to try in the weft.

So maybe three times really is the charm.  Because after 3 separate warps, I was feeling a lot less beleaguered by those additional shafts and treadles.

Baby steps, to be sure – but enormously satisfying.  And with lots of cards to give as gifts or  send in greeting – the experience fit perfectly into my idea of worthwhile.

Worthwhile enough to make me stick with 8?   No – I’m just not there.  Too many other things to do.

The Colonial is back to normal – which for me, means a 4-harness counter-balance loom with an overhead beater.   And with several exciting prospects on my “things to weave” list, – I probably won’t need to dig through my back issues of Handwoven Magazine for at least another 6 months.

In the meantime, since I had to resort to giving someone one of my weaving IOU’s instead of an actual gift this year –

I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Why I Never Weave Samples (And What I Choose To Do Instead)

Some weavers enjoy it.
Most will say it’s a good thing to do.
And all of their reasons why make perfect, practical sense.

Photo of practice fabric for a card insert

This is not a sample. (It’s fabric for a greeting card). Really.

But for me to weave a sample?  I just can’t.
I mean it.
I can’t. I won’t. (“And you can’t make me” says the stubborn child within .)
What that really means is:  I refuse.

The concept is one I embrace – as it applies to other things.
But weaving samples?  No way.
That’s not gonna happen.
I refuse.

So what do I have against weaving samples?

Maybe you’ve  noticed.
Funny things happen when you spend time with your loom.
Weaving time, quiet time, alone time – time spent with and by yourself – that kind of time lends itself to self-reflection.  Introspection.  An opportunity to examine one’s thoughts.

Here’s what I think  – I think I have issues.
And one of them manifests as a strong feeling of resistance to any suggestion prefaced with the words “you should”, “you must”, “you ought to”, “you need to”, or “you have to”.

Have you noticed how often those words appear right before “weave a sample“?

This does not inspire me.
Instead of feeling encouraged and excited – I feel dread and disappointment.
Instead of feeling helped with what I want to learn, I feel thwarted, frustrated and impatient.
Instead of feeling open to the possibility of  success, I feel threatened with failure if I don’t ‘comply’.

I just want to weave – not feel bad when I don’t do it the way someone else thinks I ‘ought’.

And another thing –

What are you supposed to DO with a sample once you’ve gleaned whatever information you wanted/needed it to provide?
It’s just a sample.
I don’t a want sample, I want an actual thing.

If you weave – you know.
Setting up a loom is no small task.
Taking the time, making the effort to weave something to keep in a notebook for reference doesn’t thrill me. 

Cloth.
Useable fabric.
Made by hand.
Regularly finding its place in my own (or someone else’s) hands.

That’s what thrills me.
Not some specimen, some bit-of-a-piece-of-a-thing.

What I’m telling myself

(if I choose to believe my thoughts)
– sounds something like this: “don’t bother, it’s not worth it, you won’t like it, you won’t do it right, it’s a waste of time”.

And that message leads to not weaving.

In other areas of my life, I might go along with that kind of thinking.
But, not weaving?

Not weaving is unacceptable.

No matter how many reasons I come up with for why the idea of weaving a sample irks me – what really matters is:  how to stop the irksome-ness  and get on with the weaving.

As it turns out – there’s a simple fix. (OK, maybe not easy – but definitely simple).

Whenever things show up on my own, personal, “need to know” list – questions I have about a fabric I want to make – I start looking for ways to incorporate the reason for a sample into something I know I will enjoy weaving.   Because the reason is the important part – it’s about gathering information that will help make future projects more successful.

So instead of  weaving a sample –

I make practice pieces.  
Bookmarks, greeting card inserts, mug rugs,  coasters, scarves, towels, table mats, runners, shawls – anything I can think of as a reasonable alternative – a way of gathering the same information a sample would provide.

Instead of irksome, a practice piece is something I’m willing and happy to weave.
More than a reference tool, often imperfect, exciting to plan, thrilling to witness as it takes shape, full of possibility –  leading to more weaving.

And yes, it’s absolutely all in my mind and how I choose to think about it.

Whatever you want to call it, however you manage to accomplish it – it’s all about the same thing: practice.
The value of continued practice.

Engaging in the practice 

Finding meaning.
Feeling positive about what there is to learn.
Enjoying the process.
And having fun with it.

That’s how weaving “works” for me.  A space opens up when I’m involved with  yarn.   A space where crowded thoughts move apart, drift past, and eventually float away.  Where the irksome becomes just another piece of lint  – under the treadles, beneath the loom.

I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio