Memories Rya Rug

Done!

(Actually, I finished it a week or two ago, but I’ve been a bit too busy to blog.)

I love it! It’s cushy and attractive and was inexpensive to make. The fabric strips don’t seem to stay pressed down when it’s walked on. It’s big enough for the room without costing a fortune.

One of the unexpected, but in retrospect kinda obvious, benefits of a rya rug is that the tufty nature of hides seams. I’ve learned a great deal while making it, most significantly that this method uses a LOT of fabric. If I was to make another I’d have to find a source of free rags, because if I’d used $7 mens shirts from the op shop this would have cost around $700 in fabric alone.

I’d like to try making one out of t-shirt rags. It’d have a different texture, I reckon. More spongy, not as soft, I reckon.

Next project on the floor loom will probably be a very long table runner using a combination of methods I’ve not seen before: weft rep and clasped weft. I’ve done a bit of test weaving, and I think it’ll work. Well, I hope so, anyway!

Thinking Time

So it turns out I have tennis elbow as well as a return of RSI. The term ‘tennis elbow’ annoys me somewhat, since it makes it sound like I developed it because of a recreational activity, not work. I got to thinking, after a friend suggested I come up with better names, that I would rename my maladies more accurately. So I have Writer’s Wrist, Editor’s Elbow and Novelist’s Neck.

Or maybe that should be Weaver’s Wrist. Hmm.

Resting my hand and arm meant finding occupation that didn’t use it. I turned it into planning time. Getting out my entire stash, I plonked it on the office floor. Then I printed a pile of project sheets. Then I went through the ‘ideas’ section of my weaving folder, my stash spreadsheet, visual journal, notebook on my phone and the Craft To-Do list on this site, and wrote a list of projects, ideas and weaving structures I wanted to try.

A big mix and match session followed. By the end of the second day, I had twenty project sheets partially filled in and a list of 15 less developed project ideas.

Part of the motive behind this was that I never did get all my stash to fit in the wardrobe after my big craft room cull, and I hoped a reshuffle would fix that (it didn’t, but there’s now only one bag of yarn hanging off a door handle). Another part was a feeling that’s been growing these last few years, as I learned more about issues with ethical clothing and waste in general, that there’s an obvious conflict between constantly making stuff and not filling the world with more trash and toxins.

Both had me determined to use what I have. Also, as I considered each project, I asked myself the same question I do when considering buying clothing: “Do I really need this?”. It was a sobering question, as the answer was pretty much ‘no’ for all of them. So I asked: “Could I gift/sell it?” but that was followed by: “Am I then just filling the world with stuff nobody really needs?”.

I’m a creative person. I’m not going to stop making things. If I gift or sell them, I can’t know if the person who owns them really needs them. Heck, I can’t guarantee if a gift recipient, whether from me or a buyer of my things, will even like them or, if not, pass them on to someone who will not toss them. But I can try to reduce the impact of the making of those things by making sure the materials, tools and methods are as sustainable as possible.

Fortunately I don’t need to change much to do that. Since my interest in fibre arts began when I was broke, I have a long-standing habit of seeking out second hand materials. I prefer natural fibres and, when not second-hand, I go for as locally made as possible. The challenge will be to do this with the fine cotton yarns for weaving, as there’s not a lot of choice new and I’ve rarely seen them selling second hand. Hmm, time to do some googling…

At Last!

The first half of the rya rug is off the loom:

It’s cushy and weighs more than it looks like it’s going to.

I had to buy even more fabric: four shirts and a pillowcase from an op shop. The rug was still 5cm too short, but I’d had enough. 5cm won’t make much difference to the overall size of the finished rug.

I’ll be finishing the edges after I attach the second half. I wove several rows of 8/2 cotton to fold under and encase the knots. First time I’ve tried that. Will see how it goes.

Trying it on for size:

The second half should go quicker, since I have already torn and cut the strips.

Stretched for Fabric

Here’s the rya rug from underneath the loom, showing what the top will be like:

When I began weaving it I pinned a piece of cotton tape to the start and put a knot at the length I wanted the rugs to be, so I would know where to end the first one, leave a gap and start the next. When I had nearly finished knotting in all the strips of fabric I’d cut, having estimated from the knot on the tape and the rows of knots I’d done already that I should have enough, I found the rug was about 15 cm too short. I wondered if the tape was stretching and the rug was actually longer than the tape was saying, so I decided to loosen the warp and measure what I’d woven so far with a measuring tape.

I discovered it was actually 40 cm too short!

Perhaps the tension of the loom was stretching the warp quite a bit. Perhaps the thick fabric it was creating was pulling in the warp quite a bit as well. Perhaps I didn’t measure the tape properly. Whatever the reason, I needed many more strips. So I tore more from the leftover fabric given to me by my friend, and went on a hunt for more fabric. Two other friends had volunteered some fabric scraps, so I made arrangements to visit and raided their stash.

This is the collection of strips set aside for the second half of the rug. I reckon I’ll have the whole table covered by the time I’ve finished the first half.

To fill in the time before the visits I’d arranged, I went back to working on the mosaics. The tiles I’d got from a friend weren’t the same blue as the ones I needed, but complimented the hue. In my earlier hunt for other ways to finish the mosaic I’d picked out some round glass tiles. They looked a bit like bubbles to me, so I figured I’d put some between where the old and new tiles changed.

I needed more, so I ordered them. The shop also had some 10×10 tiles in blue, so I ordered one of each of the three colours on the odd chance they’d match the one’s I’d run out of. It turned out, they did.

There’s the slightest difference, so I’m still going with the glass ‘bubbles’. But before I could do that, I needed to stick down some tiles on the bird bath. Well, once I got started I kept going.

I’m using a mix of grout, water and glass mosaic additive as glue, which is what we used in the class. It’s frustratingly fast setting, so I have to mix up a tiny bit at a time and the last few tiles I attached usually come off again. I’m hoping that the final grouting and sealing will keep everything in place.

Weaving At Last

On the Australia Day weekend it finally happened: I warped up the floor loom.

I had thought the craft room tidy up might get the creative juices flowing again, and I was right. It was the push I needed. Not in the way I expected, though. I thought clearing space for the looms would declutter my mind. Instead it was the need to do projects in order to make space that spurred me into action.

The project is the rya rag rug, which is not only using up the old shirts, sheets, fabric scraps, table cloths and pajamas I’ve been collecting for this project and the craft yarn I bought for it over ten years ago, but also a pile of shirts, sheets and a skirt I’d but a side for possible refashioning. And an excess of rags in the rag bag.

I cut everything into strips first, then dressed the loom with rug warp, making it twice the length of the rug I wanted so I could make two then join them together. I cut up each pile of strips into 15cm lengths as I weave, then collected them into batches of 34 – one to weave now, one for the second half of the first rug (to make sure the colour spread was even across it) and another two batches for the second rug. This was very slow work, but it told me that I needed to acquire more fabric and now that I’m on the second half of the first rug the rya knot rows seem to fly by.

I had a minor panic at nine rows of rya knots in, as the fabric wasn’t growing as fast as I’d calculated and I was worried about running out of craft yarn. So I did a whole lot of internet searching for another yarn to pair with the craft yarn to bulk out the weft. Then I redid my sums and realised I’d forgotten a step, and I still had enough yarn anyway. Me and my absent-minded maths.

At 25 cm I’d done enough to know I’d run out of rags less than halfway through, so I put out a request for old shirts, sheets and such from friends on Facebook… and got almost no response. Guessing that everyone had done their end/beginning of year cull and tossed the excess already, I searched the garage for old sheets to use as drop sheets and found one that was perfect. One of the two friends who responded let me rifle through her pile of fabric scraps, which gave me a good sized pile of fabric that mostly didn’t need seams cut off. That turned out to be enough to cover the whole rug.

Now that I’m not running around looking for more fabric, and cutting up endless strips, it’s settled into a relaxing weave. I’m hoping it lasts through most of February, giving me something creative to do in work breaks. I’m also liking how it’s coming out, all thick and stripy.

And I’m now thinking about other methods of weaving rags and fabric, as I think about what I will weave next.

Lava Cowl

A few months back a friend surprised me with a lovely small handmade gift for my birthday, so I decided I’d give her something I’d made for her’s. Trouble was, I couldn’t find anything I’d already made that suited her. That wouldn’t be much trouble normally, as I don’t usually need a nudge to make something new.

However, I’d come down with a virus. Vertigo, headaches and fatigue weren’t exactly helping me find my creative mojo. But after a rustle around in the craft room and a flick through a book, I decided to Keep It Simple and just weave a quick scarf out of some graduating yarn with 5ply burgundy cone yarn for warp, using my weaving sword shuttle.

As it turned out, I had some red warp still on the Knitters Loom from when I’d been doing some variable dent reed experimentation earlier in the year. Not enough length for a full size scarf, but fine for a cowl. I added more of the same yarn to widen the warp then got weaving. A few hours later I had this:

I rather like how the warp and weft interact. The red warp stops the overall effect being too burgundy-ish.

It was a good short project, done in a day. In the meantime, I’ve been slowly working out the specs for a table runner a friend requested. It’s going to require some sampling, as I haven’t seen the particular mix of techniques I’m planning to use.

Cross-Pollination Scarf

Earlier this year I had a look at my small collection of VÄV magazines and saw there were some holes. I buy them when I see them at one of the local newsagents, which isn’t the most consistent way of getting them. So I popped onto their website and ordered three back issues.

Two turned out to be of particular interest. One covered boro boro – the art of recycling and mending. Another featured adventurous weaving techniques and materials. In the latter I read about an Estonian textile artist, Kadi Pajupuu, and one of the techniques she is shown playing with is weaving with multiple small heddles.

From the looks of it, she is simply flipping them. But what caught my eye was the thicker thread between sections of weaving used as a supplementary warp, just like what I did with the Coco Nut Ice Scarf… except she was moving them around as she flipped the heddles.

Light bulb moment!

Suddenly it was obvious that the next step from the Coco Nut Ice Scarf was to start swapping around the thicker threads. I didn’t want to flip heddles, as she had, because that shortens the warp threads at the sides faster than the middle. But I did want to do something different to what she’d done: see if I could easily weave the ground warp threads on their own while the thick threads were crossing or twisting or whatever I would up doing with them.

It turned out to be simple and intuitive and fast. By having the thick threads as a supplementary warp, I could move them into position in the back as well, and keep the warp tension even.

I kept it simple, just crossing the threads over.

I love the resulting scarf. I wove it from alpaca, so it’s soft and plush.

And there are so many directions I could go with this idea. But I’ve had yet another one, and this time it involves doubleweave and two heddles.

Pin Loom Seat Pads

Recently the guild held a “See Yourself Weaving?” Open Day. I was all fired up to help out, but when Paul’s slipped disc happened and I got plantar fasciitis again I had to pull out of most commitments, including this one. However, by the time the Open Day came around Paul was well enough to drive me to the station, and my feet were good enough to get me to the guild via public transport, so figured I could participate so long as I got to sit down.

I had one day to get organised. My original intent was to demonstrate pin loom weaving and stick weaving, but I kept the organisation down by deciding not to set up stick weaving. I concentrated on getting my triangle and hexagon looms warped up and with a few rows of weaving done, ready to demonstrate. The square one would be to show how it all starts. For examples of what to make I took the Hunky Hank Shawl, Graduation Blanket and Greenery Blanket – the latter so I could tell people that you can scale up the basic square pin loom for thicker yarns.

Then I thought… I have always wanted to try weaving rags on a pin loom. So I gave it a try on the loom I made for the Greenery Blanket, but the rags (leftover from the Braided Spectrum Rag Rug) were too thick. So I decided to make another pin loom – this time double the size of the basic square one.

A couple of hours and a trip to Bunnings later, I had this:

I warped up and started weaving, but stoped with only a quarter done so that people at the Open Day could see the process was the same. It was a great day, with over a hundred people coming to check out all the different kinds of weaving on display. Someone had already set up a couple of stick looms so I demonstrated those as well. I didn’t a chance to look around myself, I was so busy!

When I got home I finished the rag rug square and decided it would be perfect as a seat pad. So over the next week I made five more, stopping only because I ran out of orange rag ‘yarn’.

I have two of these built-in seats. Looks like four or five pads is a good number for each. So I need to make at least two more, and I just found an orange t-shirt at an op shop to cut up.

I really enjoyed making them, and now I want to make a huge pin loom and see if I can make big floor rugs.

Oh – and the other great result of the Open Day is I sold my Ashford 4-shaft table loom! A new weaver and I got chatting and she said she wanted a four shaft loom, but she wanted a bigger one than what they have at the guilds so she can make large items. She came over a few weeks later to look at the loom, and it was exactly what she wanted. I’m so happy it went to a good home!

Twill Sampler 1.2

Somehow I managed to miss two drafts when I counted how many I had left. So I had to squish five samples into the space for three.

The third last wasn’t looking anything like the photo in the book. Then I twigged that the picks needed to be beaten hard. In fact, they should be for the last five drafts. Oh well. The first two weren’t, the third was, and the weaving of the last two got rather cramped as I ran out of warp so they’re probably not beaten as firmly as they should be.

I tied a new warp to the old, this time a black one. I have six dark warp twills to do.

Then I’ll have all the multicoloured warp drafts to weave.

Judging by the time I’ve spent so far, accepting that other projects and life will distract me, it may take the greater part of a year to weave everything in a chapter of the Strickler book. There are 24 chapters. Hmm. I don’t want to be finishing this in my 70s.

But it is interesting. And fun, at times. Maybe I’ll keep going until it stops being fun. Maybe I’ll be more selective in which chapters to tackle, skipping to structures I haven’t tried before.

You know, I don’t want to make weaving my job. I’ve turned hobbies into jobs before and it can take the fun out of them. Yet there is something about weaving – and art – that makes me want more than enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake. I like that they both offer endless challenge and learning. I expect that’s how a woodworker feels about his craft. Or a hobby musician.

There was a discussion on a Ravelry forum for weavers a few months back in which a weaver of reputation heaped scorn on newer, hobby weavers for wanting drafts and projects for multi-shafted looms. Work it out yourself, she said. I’ve seen the same criticism levelled at weaving magazines for being project-based.

Its fails to take into account that most people aren’t doing this for their living. They don’t have the time to dedicate to working it all out themselves. They probably never will. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be weaving at all, or never touch a multi-shaft loom.

Writing suffers from this attitude, too. It’s like you can’t write and not be seeking publication. If you write for the pure enjoyment of it other writers think there’s something odd about you. And yet it’s fine to be a hobby painter, not earning money from art or entering awards.

I figure if it’s fine to be a hobby painter, it’s definitely fine to be a hobby weaver, too.

Fancy Log Cabin Baby Blanket

I’ve woven baby blankets out of Bendigo 8ply Cotton a couple of times before. It makes for a cushy fabric, once it’s been washed.

Someone told me ages ago that baby blankets are generally a meter by a meter, so that’s what I aimed for. I do like using the full width of the loom, or close to it. As it turned out, I wound up with 400 warp ends, and I have 200 heddles on each shaft, so I didn’t need to move any heddles. Bonus!

Partway through measuring the warp, I began to suspect I wouldn’t have enough of the green. I did some maths and found I’d be just short, so I had to buy more of it. Fortunately the colour is still available. I bought another ball of white, too, just to sure. So my stash won’t be reducing in size as much as I hoped by doing this project.

Once the warp was on the loom I realised that I had a problem. The standard boat shuttles won’t hold much of the 8ply yarn. My longest stick shuttle isn’t far off the width of the blanket, but I have no space to the right of the loom to get it into the shed. And I only have one of them anyway. Thankfully I found some large boat shuttles at the Bendigo show. I bought two, which was silly since I’m using three colours and I’d probably use these for krokbragd, which uses three shuttles.

I was hoping to be able to simply seam the two ends of the blanket, but carrying the yarn up the sides didn’t make for a very tidy edge. I wound up sewing on blanket binding. Not my favourite task! But it turned out better this time than the last.

The draft is something I spotted in a photo and worked out on a draft-making app on my iPad. While I like the result I wasn’t as thrilled with it in person as I thought I’d be. Still, it is pretty.

The whole project has me thinking that maybe I’ll use the rest of this yarn on the knitting machine. It’s not that I don’t enjoy weaving baby blankets, but my friends are all past the age of having babies and while I enjoy the weaving I really dislike the sewing part.

And playing with the Addis and Bond has reignited my interest in machine knitting, which is something I’d like to embrace while it lasts.