How to Inkle

I had a request for a How-to on this, so here it is. This first post is just the basics, though. The loom, how to warp it, how to weave on it. This is an inkle loom. An inkle loom standardly has a bunch of pegs to wind the threads around, including one to hold the string heddles, plus something to adjust the tension with. A lot of inkles have one peg that can be moved along a track. This one has a flap that swings around. Here are the other things you'll want in order to weave a Baltic pickup band, minus one thing. Here we have yarn in three colors (pattern, background and accent), tape measure, tapestry needle, string heddle, and belt shuttle. What's missing is a pickup stick. A pickup stick is about two inches wide, between an eighth and a quarter of an inch thick, and has a flat tapered end. You use it to pick up pattern threads and hold them in position. The only one I have, and it's 18" long, which is a pain to work with for this. This is a string heddle. A heddle is anything used to raise or lower sets of threads during weaving, or to hold them still while other sets are lowered or raised. These string heddles are looped from the heddle peg around every other thread of the band. The other threads, called open threads, are then manipulated. This is a belt shuttle. Belt shuttles are small shuttles with one blunt edge that yarn or thread is wrapped around and one tapered edge used to beat the weaving. Warping the loom! My least-favorite part. The reason inkle looms have so many pegs (and this is a small one with few pegs, by the way) is so you can warp it different ways for different lengths of band. This one has a maximum warp length of about 60". This is what the short path looks like. You tie the end of the first string to the bottom front peg using a slip knot or a quick release knot, anything you can untie again relatively easily. The first thread is an open, unheddled thread, and goes straight to the tension flap or back peg. The second thread goes over the top front peg and then gets a string heddle looped from the heddle peg, around it, and back to the heddle peg. Then you alternate open and heddle strings until you've done all of them. When you're finished warping, untie the end of the first thread and tie it to the end of the last with a square knot. It's important when warping the loom to maintain consistent tension. This is always important, of course. It's actually slightly less crucial here, because an inkle loom takes a continuous warp -- the full path of the entire thing is a circle -- which means you can even out the tension if you make an error. Just have the tension a little loose and pull on all the threads. If anything's much looser than the rest, pull on the tighter threads around it to take up the slack. Then tighten up the tension again. To manipulate the sets of threads, just press down or pull up on the open threads. So that looks like this. You push down on the open threads and pass the shuttle through the shed. After a couple of passes, start tightening it up, pulling the warp threads together. Remember, those are the only ones you want to show really. You may find the first couple of inches a little wobbly starting out. If so, you may want to start with an inch of weaving it a different color to get it straightened out before you start weaving on your project. Just take it out later. And before we wrap up, here's what the long path on my little inklette looks like. That's all for this part. Next up: Actual Baltic Pickup Weaving!...

Frame Weaving

Warning: Imagine-heavy post. An excellent way to get closer to weaving goddesses — Athene, the Fates, Grandmother Spider, Laima — and to Spider spirits is to learn to weave or spin. Even the very simplest forms of these essential fibercrafts serve well. So here is the absolute dead-cheapest and simplest weaving I know: frame weaving. What you absolutely need: A piece of cardboard and some cheap yarn. If you have a rectangular picture frame you’re not using, you can use that instead, and it will make some things easier. Handy additional things: Scissors, measuring tape, marker or pen, yarn needle, and a long smooth piece of something with a rounded or pointed tip to use as a pick up stick and batten. This one is my usual batten, which is actually enormous for this particular project. If you’re going for something as small as this project, a popsicle stick will work, if you sand it smooth so it doesn’t catch on the yarn. A bookbinder’s bone folder would pretty work well, too. And, of course, there are many kinds of weaver’s pick up sticks. You don’t absolutely need a pick up stick, though. You can lift each warp as you go and slide your weft bundle under it, although this is easier if you’re using an open frame rather than a piece of cardboard. If you’re using a frame instead, some painter’s or masking tape is really useful, too. You want your cardboard to be the corrugated kind, and you want the warp threads to go in the same direction as the corrugation, because you don’t want it to bend in the middle of weaving. It screws up the tension. Mark off the edges of your weaving space, following the corrugation as closely as you can. Then mark along the top and bottom edges every 1/8”. For a frame, put a strip of the masking tape on each end and make your marks on that. Cut a little slit at the top left and top right corners, to hold the ends of the warp. For a frame, you’ll want a little additional piece of tape to hold the end instead. (image copyright The British Museum) In ancient Greece, they dedicated their ceramic loom weights to Athene, and stamped her marks into them. If you’re doing this as a devotional craft, you may want to mark your loom with something relating to your goddess. Here’s a very badly drawn owl with an alpha for Athene. Now you have a loom! Time to warp it. Tuck the end of the yarn into the upper left slit, and just start wrapping the warp all the way around the cardboard. Use the marks as a guide to make sure you’re keeping it even, one wrap of yarn per mark. Tuck the end into the top right slit when you get there. You want to wrap it with just enough tension that the yarn hold still, but leave plenty of slack so you can get your weft through. This will take a little practice. Take your weft yarn and wrap it into a little cocoon, with several layers of wrapping. Now you are ready to weave! Use your pickup stick to lift each alternate thread. If it’s broad enough, you can turn the stick raise them, and even get it to stay that way just with the tension of the threads. Without a pickup stick, just lift alternating threads a few at a time and pass the weft cocoon under them. The set of threads you lift is called a shed. This set is the first shed, and the next will be the second. For plain weaving like this, you only have two sheds. On the second pass — called a pick — lift the threads that were left down on the last pick to form the second shed. Tuck the loose end into this shed first, then pass the cocoon through the shed in the other direction, and gently push them both into place against the first pick with your stick or fingers. Now just keep lifting alternate sheds and passing the weft through. Whee! It goes pretty quick once you get going. When you get to the place you want to stop, trim the end of the weft a couple of inches past where it finishes the final pick. Then, using your fingers or a yarn needle, pass it through several warps next to the previous pick, to copy what you did at the beginning. Congratulations, you have finished a thing! But you do not have to be done! If you flip your frame loom over, there is a whole other section of warp that you can weave! This is cool...

How to Weave on a Tri-Loom: One Long Loop

Weaving on a tri-loom is quite easy, but can be difficult to picture if you’re not familiar with it. There are a number of good tutorials out there, including ones with instructions for making your own and other handy information (like this and this), but I thought I’d do my own. There are also plenty of places to buy them. The large ones (6’, 7’ and 8’ hypotenuse, and even adjustable ones, made for shawls and things) can get pricey, $200 and up, and then there’s stands or easels and shed sticks and extra-long hooks and things to make it easier (The Woolery has a good selection and about average prices). Small ones like Hazel Rose’s (and they have some terrific shapes, including a heart) are less expensive, but are still hand-made by an artisan in very nice woods and not exactly cheap. I got this little one from Bigfam15 on Etsy, and while the wood is plainer and the joinery not quite perfect, it’s still an excellent little loom for an excellent price. I do recommend that if you’re thinking of getting a tri-loom, you pick up or build a small one first to figure out how it works and see how you like it. It would be a shame to spend a lot of money, or effort on building, a big one, only to find out you don’t like it. So, how does one weave on this crazy contraption? The tools: One tri-loom, one crochet hook (US size I9), and that other thing is a small steel knitting needle I curled at the end with a pair of jewelry pliers, basically because the day the loom arrived, I couldn’t find a crochet hook of the right size, and couldn’t wait. It’s been very handy, but a smaller crochet hook would also work. Optional tools: Yarn needle, weaving needly, long weaving hook, packing fork, shed sticks. The first is useful for tying off the ends and stitching together pieces for any size of tri-loom. The rest are mostly useful for big ones. The yarn: Most tri-looms are set at about 4 or 5 pegs per inch. The size of the nails or pegs used make finer setts hard. That means using roughly worsted weight yarns. You can use significantly heavier yarn and skip every other peg, but using finer yarn is difficult. (I may at some point get a wild hair up my ass and try it with lacemakers' pins on my bobbin lace pillow, just to see if I can.) This is just dead cheap Red Heart yarn from the big box store. When the tri-loom arrived, I grabbed some wool yarn I had on hand and just dove in, but I think acrylic is actually better for a beginner. It slides nicely and smoothly, making tensioning easier than wool. You can pull the yarn straight from the ball or skein as you work, or you can cut pieces to length. The amount you need for one triangle will always be the length of the top row of pegs times the number of pegs down each leg (including the top peg). Then add six inches for a tail at either end, so you can tie them off. So this little goober is 6" (actually more like 5.7", but rounding up to the nearest inch gives us a little squish room) along the top rail, with 17 nails down the leg, for 102", plus 3" for either ending, making a total of 108, or 3 yards exactly. First, tie a slip knot in one end. Loop it around the top leftmost peg. (If you’re left-handed you can reverse all this or not. You’re going to be working in both directions anyway.) Pull it straight across and loop it counter-clockwise around the top rightmost peg, 270°. Bring it down and make a 90° turn around the next peg down. Pull it back across the loom. Turn around the second peg from the top, and then up to the second peg from the left, going over the first warp thread. Work your hook over the second warp and under the first, and pull the yarn down and through, then across to the other side of the loom. There, you hook it on the third peg down, up to the second peg from the right. You can start to see here how the symmetry builds. Every loop makes one warp thread (along the hypotenuse) and two weft threads. Each set of left and right warp threads will always follow the same over-and-under pattern, because they’ve both been pulled through together. Thread the hook through the warp threads, over and under the warps, the opposite of the...

Weaving Landscapes (or just curves)

Weaving Landscapes (or just curves) This is something I posted to Ravelry, at the request of a mod who had seen some of the Work In Progess (WIP) pictures. Process post! Someone suggested I do one for the curves and hills when I posted this scarf in the WIP thread. I didn't start taking detail pictures until past the middle, but the technique is the same. (Er, lots and lots of pictures follow.) I shamelessly stole this technique from tapestry weaving, because one of the awesome things about Saori is that you can do that, and I suck at tapestry, but this technique is pretty awesome. I'm working on a 15" Schacht Cricket with an 8dpi reed. The project itself is MadGastronomer's Kate's Rainbow [NB: This link leads to a Ravelry page, and you'll need to have a login there to see it]. So. For this first bit, I already had a hill, and the idea was to build up more curving shapes around it to make a mountain. To start a new curve, I wove a few passes (four, here) on just a few warp threads (again, I used four). If you want to try it, how many will depend on the size of your warp and weft threads. Fiddle with it. It's really very organic. I loosed the warp very slightly, opened sheds as usual, and then used fingers or a pickup stick to lift the individual warp threads. You may not want to change sheds, but just use the pickup stick. I sometimes get lost doing that, so I did it this way. I began moving outwards, one warp thread at a time. Leaving lots of extra length in the warp, I packed it quite closely, creating the beginning of the curve. What was I using to beat in such small and irregular bits of yarn? A little pickle fork. I did several more passes, moving outward from the center by one warp thread in each direction with each pass, again leaving lots of slack in the weft threads and beating them in tightly to get that curve. (You can beat them in more loosely, but this is a warm winter scarf, and I wanted the density.) Since I was building up multiple curving shapes together, I would occasionally run a couple of passes along the entire shape, to keep things cohesive, once the two shapes met up. I also do this when doing a row of hills. Then I started building a third shape in the crook where the first two met. Again, I laid down rows of weft across the entire shape periodically. Since I was using variegated yarn, this became especially important to build up color relatively evenly later on. And then I started building up more shapes on the other side. And back to the left. See what I mean about threads going across the whole thing keeping color relatively even with the variegated yarn? Then I put a peak on it. And this is Uther, who wants you to know that he Helped. That's very important, he says. He Helped. So, having created all those curves and steep angles, I now had to fill in around them. Which I apparently got exactly one picture of the process of: As might be apparent, I started weaving on just the outermost two warp threads, just going back and forth and beating them down tightly until I built it up enough that I could reach the third warp thread, and then added that. Again, since I used a variegated yarn, I kept switching sides, to keep the color shift even. I think I did a pretty good job. …of course, it all came out a bit trippy. A friend commented that the mountain really did look like a Tolkein illustration, and I could not help but respond, "Yep. Complete with the psychedelic colors from the 70s paperback editions." But I'm pretty pleased with it. Other things I did with this technique in this piece: A line of rolling hills receding off into the distance. If you look closely, you can see the texturing in each hill where I decided to make the curve steeper, so I built up another layer of short rows with longer rows on top, basically building a hill on a hill. A trio of hills, the middle one being done with clasped warp, in a way that manages to remind me of the sheen on an old vinyl record. And a series of small iterations, building up curves unevenly here and there (again, look for the texturing) to achieve in appearance of a rolling plain and eventually the bed of a river. And here's the river: I threw in a few more curving shapes so that the ground under the mountain...