Author Archives: thewooleryguy

Color and Fiber

benjaminkBenjamin Krudwig is a crochet and knitwear designer from Colorado who also spends much of his time spinning and weaving. Benjamin is the founder and co-owner ofBenjamin Krudwig Fiber Arts and Design, along with his wife who sews project bags for knitting and crochet. Benjamin spends his time during the week running the social media program at Schacht Spindle Company. Today, Benjamin shares his extensive knowledge of color, fiber and weaving with out blog readers! 

All the best,

Wave, Perri & the entire Woolery Team

There are many elements of design to consider when it comes to creating a woven piece, but in honor of the theme this month, I’ll be talking about color. Color choice can make or break a project, and it is important to know a bit about what to do when it comes to choosing colors for a project.

Color in knitting and crochet is certainly interesting, but you are often limited to alternating colors in your project using stripes, color blocks, or other colorwork techniques. Due to the scale of the stitches (unless you are using very fine yarn with very small needles) there isn’t as much of opportunity for the colors to “blend” visually. Weaving is unique in that you have color “mixing” any time you have your warp and weft overlap, and with the scale generally being pretty small the visual effects can be pretty striking.

Before I go into color-choice, I think we should talk about the basic principles at work in weaving. In a balanced plain-weave (with yarns of the same thickness), one color in the warp and one in the weft, you will see approximately 50% of each color. From further away, these two colors appear to blend. This proportion changes as you use different weave structures, and amount of colors. Take a 2/1 twill for instance, this is a weft-dominant fabric on the right side, and you will see approximately 66% of the weft color and 33% of the warp color. On the wrong side it will be the opposite.

Let’s take a look at the way two colors transform as you take the same proportion of each color (50/50) and change how the color is dispersed. If you look at the following picture at 100%, this will give a sett of approximately 12 ends per inch, so you will get a more accurate sense of how these would look in a finished woven piece.

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As you can see, the colors appear to diffuse into each other as you mix them more, and a new color becomes apparent although you still have two discrete colors present. Colors that are a similar value or a similar hue will blend nicely together, colors that are very contrasting in value or hue will tend to not blend as smoothly. This can be used as a design element, if you want to draw the eyes to a certain place in the woven piece, or if you want the whole thing to be pretty homogenous, this will change how you approach your color choices.

I find that using a weaving program is very helpful. This allows me to study certain color combinations before biting the bullet and buying yarn for a big project. Though this isn’t always accurate, it gives some idea of what to expect when one (or more) colors interacts with others, and I can easily switch up my pattern, so I can see how the color changes based on the structure. Though there are a couple of weaving programs that are free or low cost, you can also do this exercise in excel or on a piece of graph paper. Once you are familiar with how the colors look on screen it may be useful to weave a sample color gamp. This is a woven sample where there a few colors in the warp, and a few colors in the weft, and you weave with each to see how the colors blend. You can create a gamp in any weave structure, and I would suggest using the weave structure that you’ll be using in your project.

To put it simply, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing colors for a woven piece. Do the colors look good together? Will they mix well with each other? How much contrast do I want in value or in hue? Do I LIKE these colors together? Listening to your gut is just as important as knowing a little bit of color theory.

Below are a few examples of some woven pieces that I have created that have varying degrees of contrast in both value and in hue.

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The Winter Nights Wrap is a monochromatic gradient, so there is very little contrast in hue, but if we look at it in a desaturated image, the contrast in value is very large. With tones very near to the ends of each end of the spectrum. Playing in a limited color palette can allow you to take risks in weave structure and make a great visual impact without worrying if the colors themselves work together. It can also be a fun challenge to take the same color of yarns and create a piece solely based on texture.

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The Outlandish Plaid Scarf was created with a color palette of yellow, green, and blue, which is called an “analogous” color scheme in color theory. This means that these colors reside next to each other on a color wheel (a tool that every fiber artist should either own or be familiar with.) Another reason they all work pretty well together is that they are also in an analogous series of values as well. All of the colors share a similar intensity, and blend well together where they mix.

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The Log Cabin Scarf uses a technique called “color and weave” which creates patterns depending on the order in which you place certain colored yarns in both the warp and the weft. This particular scarf relies entirely on the “complementary” color scheme between the teal and orange. These colors are found across the color wheel from each other, and when they are seen together, they play off of each other to create a stunning color contrast. The teal brings out the orange and vice versa. They are both “high-key” meaning bright and vivid, but when you look at the desaturated image, they are around the same value, so again, one doesn’t stand out much more than the other, they work together to create the balanced pattern.

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The Density Plaid Scarf used the same variegated yarn in both the warp and the weft, so I changed up the weave structure instead of adding another color. It’s important to know when to stop and take a look at your project to make sure it doesn’t get too busy. However, if busy is your style, then do what makes you happy!

At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules about color in weaving, and much of it relies on personal taste and desires. There are many resources out there on color theory, and the color-and-weave method of weaving. The possibilities are endless when it comes to how to use color in your weaving. I find that I work quite a bit in blues and greens because I like those colors, but every now and then I like to break out of my comfort zone and embrace something new. Many years ago, I wrote a guest post for the New York Institute of Art and Design on Color, and stepping out of comfort zones. Though there are books and classes on color and design, I feel like there is no replacement for getting out there and doing it. Go create something colorful, without fear, and learn a little something in the process.

Find Your Creativity: Fair Isle Coloring Sheet

Coloring isn’t just for kids! Adults are revisiting this favorite childhood activity as a way to reconnect with their creativity, and it’s also a great exercise for crafters that allows them to play with color without having to commit their time and materials to a project.

With that in mind, we’ve created a free printable Fair Isle Coloring sheet for spring – click here to download a PDF version!

Fair Isle Coloring Sheet - A Free Printable from the Woolery

Print out several copies to color in with different combinations to see which matchups work best; you may be surprised at what you discover if you are willing to experiment! Here are a few examples to inspire you:

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We’d love to see your completed coloring sheet (and bonus points to anyone who actually knits a swatch or project using the chart). Share your post with us on Instagram with #thewoolery in your description so that we can like and reshare!

Nancy to the Rescue: Greatest Hits

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. To kick things off, we’d like to share some of her greatest hits from our past newsletters. To ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q: Over the past 6+ months I noticed that my projects on my Ashford 20″ Knitters Loom (cotton towels) are weaving crookedly. A seasoned weaver suggested that it might be the beating that’s doing it and not the loom. I have the loom stand, and I can’t say I noticed this issue when I first used it. I’ve tightened all of the screws too. Help!  

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A: My first guess for the issue described would be loom failure due to too much tension; I find that many weavers are asking more of these little looms than they were designed to take and putting far too much tension on them. I am always telling my students “no banjos” to remind them not to put more tension on them than needed – just enough tension for a clean shed and error-free weaving is the right amount!

The next most likely cause is as the other experienced weaver suggested, the beat. The force of the beat needs to be centered as much as it can be, and the placement of the hands is critical. Right-handedness (or left-handedness!) will also play a part, as one side or the other of the body will be stronger than the other. I see this less often in floor looms, because you are always operating the beater with alternate hands, as the other hand is holding the shuttle after catching it; the hand that threw is the hand that beats, and that switches with each weft pick.

Finally, if we can rule out bad habits, it may just be that the screw holes in the wood have elongated and the screws are not holding in consequence. The remedy for that is a wooden matchstick in the hole, to give the screw threads fresh wood to bite on; that will tighten up the loom, and fix the racking.

If none of the above fixes the issues, let me know (with photos!) and we will work on it some more. I do really suspect tension issues though, particularly since cotton wants to be woven at a higher tension than wool, and will in fact tolerate a much higher tension before breaking. That is a siren song that needs resisting because it destroys looms; just enough, and not too much.

babywolfQ: Hi, I am trying to figure out which reed to buy for my Baby Wolf loom. I want the 8 dent reed, but the info in the listing is confusing. It states to not order by weaving width, yet the drop-down box is labeled “weaving width.” I understand the weaving width is 26″. I also measured the reed that came with my loom which is approx. 26.5″. Do I choose the 26″ size for my loom? The part that confuses things is the language below saying not to order the reed by the weaving width. Thank you! 

 A: For that loom, you’ll order a REED-26-8. You only order actual width when it’s a special-order reed; the rest of the time we go by weaving width.

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Q: I just bought an old Ashford Traditional at a yard sale, and it is missing a lot of parts to get it up and running again, including (from the research I have been able to do on your website) the flyer and bobbin. The flyer is the U-shaped object with the hooks, right? And the bobbin sits in the middle of it? The website wants a distinction between single-drive and double-drive parts; how do I tell? And there’s only one foot pedal, too. Does that mean single drive?

A: Congratulations on your find! Depending upon the condition and the number of missing parts, this can be a great opportunity for a very reasonably-priced wheel.

Let’s start with the drive wheel that you didn’t even know to ask about; looking at it end-on, give it a turn, and see if it spins freely and without a lot of wobble. If it wobbles, you’ll most likely want to give up now; it’s warped and not fixable, and new parts to get it up & running will start at $195 just for the wheel; add axles, connecting rods etc, and the price only goes up. If it simply does not turn well and freely, it usually is a matter of bearings; $5 will fix that.

Next, the treadle issue (that’s a foot pedal to a newbie); standard on an Ashford Traditional is single treadle (though there are upgrade kits to a double); that has nothing to do with single or double drive. To figure out what you have, look at the MAIDENS; those are the 2 upright posts that the flyer-and-bobbin array sits between. The FRONT MAIDEN is the one closest to the spinner as she sits at the wheel and spins; the REAR MAIDEN is on the back side, away from the spinner.

Again looking at the drive wheel end-on, does the groove in the drive wheel (that holds the string drive band) line up right behind the front maiden or just inside of the rear maiden? If it lines up next to the front maiden, your wheel is single-drive; if it lines up by the rear maiden, it is double-drive; you can buy your parts based on that. It’s really very easy!

Be sure to email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group!

Customer Spotlight: Hopi Dye Experiment

One of our customers recently shared her dye experiments using Hopi red dye amaranth seeds purchased from our shop. Now is the perfect time of year to plant your seeds for a dyers’ garden (click here to read a related post from our blog archive penned by Dagmar Klos, an expert in natural dye techniques). We hope today’s post inspires you to try some natural dyeing this year! 

All the Best,

Wave, Perri and the entire Woolery Team

The plants were easy to grow – turns out, it was much more difficult to find information on using Amaranth as a fabric dye, so hopefully this experiment is of use to others. Many sites concluded that this particular dyestuff had been used to dye foods, not fabrics.* I had read somewhere that high heat makes yellow with Amaranth, so decided to go with a solar extraction for dye preparation (click here for DIY solar dyeing instructions).

First, I packed flower heads, leaves and stems into a gallon glass jar. Water was added to completely fill the jar and displace all air before screwing on the lid. The jar sat in my garden in the sun for about 10 days until the fluid was a bright magenta color. The dyebath was then strained and put into 4 quart jars with 1 oz mini-skeins of yarn that had been treated with different mordants. The 4 quart jars were placed in the sunny garden to steep for about 10 days. Below are the results, from left to right:

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No mordant gave a greenish tan; Alum gave the closest thing to red and was a pretty kind of pinkish-mauve color; Alum with a pinch of Tin gave a gold color; Tin resulted in a golden brown color. Far right: the amaranth plant.

Solar dyeing was much easier than heating everything on the stove!

– Anne Oldham, summer of 2015
*”Another Hopi dye plant, C2. Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, was used to color piki bread(a very thin corn bread) but we don’t think it was used to dye cloth.” (From THE WEAVER’S GARDEN, by Rita Buchanan. Interweave Press, 1987, reprinted in The Seedhead News, No. 26, 1989) found somewhere on the web.

Artisan Spotlight: Natalie Redding of Namaste Farms

A good wool wash is worth its weight in gold for both spinners and dyers, and Namaste Farms’ Wash and Dye is one of the best ones out there: not only does it clean and condition fibers, it also increases dye uptake – all without the use of parabens or sufates. Today, we have an interview with Natalie Redding of Namaste Farms, which is a family-owned and operated business based in Southern California. Enjoy!

Most of our fans have probably heard of you via your show on Nat Geo, Shear Madness. Can you tell us about how that came to be, and what it was like to film a reality show on your farm?

I know many farmers can relate to this, looking for ways to supplement the farms income. In 2008, hay prices skyrocketed because China was shipping their empty containers back filled with our hay. This made the demand so high that growers in California were charging $20.00 a bale (125 lb bale) instead of 7.75. During this time, there was not a day I didn’t try and get someone to pay attention to me in the hope that we’d find additional income. Making myself more visible was the goal because visibility gives you opportunities. By 2012, I had many different magazine articles under my belt and a lot of exposure, finally, a production company came calling. Viola, a show on Nat Geo Wild that was filmed 2013 and aired 2014.

As far as filming here on the farm? It was hard because the production company follows union rules which made their hours different than farming hours. We would have to work in the blistering heat of the mid morning and mid day rather than how I normally work i.e. early morning, break during 100 degree summer days, and then go back early evening. It was hard on me, and hard on my dogs (who are my co workers) because of the 8 hour days that were always in the blistering heat. Besides that, simply having a show is difficult if you’re a sensitive person… strangers forget you’re a real person with real feelings. They can be very cruel.

When did you learn to spin? What is your favorite technique? What is your favorite fiber?

I learned to spin in early 2006 from my mentor, Sharon Chestnutt. She threw locks on my lap and said, “Okay, spin.” She made it simple which was a gift to me (because I have severe ADHD). Even now, I think about her a lot because if she’d made it a “procedure,” I would have lost interest immediately. To this day, lockspinning is my favorite technique because it keeps the integrity of the fiber. Also, I’m a shepherd first and foremost so having the fiber as close to raw as possible is how I like to work with it. As far as my favorite fiber? This is like a “ dirty little secret” because I’m a Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep breeder/person (more than goat) BUT, probably silky yearling mohair. There is nothing like the beauty of perfect mohair and it’s almost impossible to make it look ugly.

What is a typical day like for you?

Oh gee; truthfully, it starts with a Starbucks and some red vine licorice! Once I have that out of the way, I have to social network and check my emails. Even though being a farmer is my business, without the power of the internet, I wouldn’t have customers. I absolutely must attend to my friends, followers and supporters from around the globe. By about 8:30 I’m outside starting my day. Because it’s really just me and my dogs doing the work (my husband does help with certain things), I have to multi task pretty heavily. I usually have a dye pot going while I’m outside or, something being washed. I rarely just saunter outside to feed, shear, medicate without having things on burners, in the oven, or in water!

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What is the most unusual use for your product that you’ve heard from a customer?

Hmmm, well, there are two things that come to mind. One was a customer who posted on Facebook that she was “So excited,” because she used Wash and Dye on her Ugg boots and “they came out amazing” Part of me cringed and the other part was so proud! Then, because she’d washed her Ugg boots and they came out “ amazing,” it inspired me to take a designer suede jacket that’d been sitting for years (because I disliked the color), slather it with Wash and Dye, and dye it in a kettle. My kids and my husband were watching in horror as I dumped it into the hot dye pot and, then, released the residual dye with Wash and Dye. The jacket (I now wear) turned out beautiful with no stiffness and it is colorfast!

You wear many hats: dyer, spinner, farmer, small business owner, teacher, mother of 5- what is the one thing you wish you had more time to do?

This question really hits to the core of me. I know I mentioned I have severe ADHD, and, unfortunately, one of the characteristics (I have) is the inability to really enjoy things, even hobbies. To someone like me, everything is a task, even something I’m supposed to enjoy. I’ll be 53 in a couple of days and, while I’m not “there” yet, I am trying to work on this. I feel like I’m just I’m hardwired to work and labor. I’ll say, I have hope that if you asked me the same question a year from now, I’d have a different answer.

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Can you share any fun stories or photos of your prize-winning sheep and goats with us?

Oh, yes. I dragged my friend on a 20 hour (one way) journey to BSG Fiber Festival so she could help me show some of my animals. It’s the biggest show on the west coast and the goal would be to win the Supreme Grand Champion Goat. Well, we did just that and after our big win, the volunteers lined us up to take pictures with Dr. Fred Speck (the judge). We put our win, the giant HAND CARVED perpetual trophy, in front of us with Dr. Speck and the goat. In an instant, the goat tried to bolt, knocked over the trophy which went flying and made a giant thud on the asphalt. We watched in horror as both the hand carved goats bounced off the base… pieces flying. Thankfully, the show chair was Sharon Chestnutt, (my mentor), and she said, “Oh well, it’s been circulating for 15 years so something was bound to happen.” I felt terrible that this beautiful hand carved trophy had stayed fairly perfect until now. Worse? We didn’t take it back to California because it was, well, broken. The picture of Lovalee (my friend) and me with the judge and the trophy? Well, that was after we broke it with the hand carved wood goats barely balancing on top.

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What are some of your future goals or projects?

I have to say, because of Wash and Dye, my business has taken a whole new direction. We had the prototype a year before it was available to the public and I started using it and posting the resulting fiber. My sales skyrocketed because the colors were like nothing people had ever seen. Time and time again people wanted to know what dyes I used, and when I would tell them “Nylomine Dyes”, they would wonder why their fiber didn’t look like mine with the same dyes. I would tell them, “ It’s the shampoo we created, it makes the fiber take dyes better” and then, “But sorry, it’s not out yet.” At the time, it almost sounded like a marketing trick, but, thankfully now, the shampoos have been out a year and people see those results for themselves.

NFW-WASHDYE.detailIn addition to the help of Wash and Dye, in the last 10 years, I’ve developed proprietary dyeing techniques called, the “Redding Method.” My new direction is teaching the Redding Method in live online classes through fiberygoodness.com. I love teaching in real time where people can interact and ask questions interactively. It’s exhilarating because there is no editing, no do overs; i.e. the results are real. Besides teaching, Namaste Farms Wool Products is coming out with more products… and the Woolery, will be the first to know! Promise.

Ply Away With Us!

This spring, we’re excited to sponsor (and attend!) the first-ever Ply Away Retreat in Kansas City, Missouri. As you may have guessed by the name, this retreat is being put on by the folks who publish PLY Magazine, a wonderful community-driven quarterly publication that’s all about handspinning. Recently, PLY’s Editor-in-Chief (and wearer of many hats, including event planning!) Jacey Boggs Faulkner took a few moments to give us a preview of the retreat. For more information,  please visit www.plyaway.com.

If you plan on attending the retreat, be sure to stop by the Woolery booth in the marketplace to say hello, we look forward to seeing you there! 

All the Best,

Wave, Perri and the entire Woolery Team

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PLY Magazine is holding its first annual PLY Away retreat April 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2016 in Kansas City, MO at Crown Center’s Westin. We chose this location because it’s near lots of great restaurants and attractions, yet still provides us with that tucked-away feeling of being at a private retreat with a cozy group of spinners and fiber folk.

We’re thrilled to welcome many esteemed teachers such as Beth Smith, Deb Robson, Jillian Moreno, and many more. Christina Pappas is consistently mentioned as our readers’ favorite writer and she’s so knowledgable. She’ll be combining her job as an archeologist and her love of spinning and teaching a half day class about Twist and Twine – how ancient yarn was made. It should be fascinating and one of those classes that’s fun and educational while kind of feeling like a break.

We are welcoming two teachers from Canada, both regular teachers in the Old’s master spinning program (and there are still a few openings in their classes for those who dare!). Coleen Nimetz is teaching a Silk Tasting Class that will be amazing — all the different kinds and preparations of silk in 3 hours. If you’ve been wanting to experiment with silk, she’s the expert you want!

Michelle Boyd, aka the most technical spinner we know, will be teaching 3 classes about twist, grist, and combing fiber on mini combs. Just being around her will make you a better spinner!

As for the retreat in whole, all of the 2-day classes sold out very quickly, as did most of the 1-day classes. However, are a few spots remaining in the Technically Twisted class by Michelle (again, a mind-blower of a class) and just a few in Patsy Sue Zawistowski’s Illegal Yarns class, which is a great way to spend a day – breaking the rules of spinning and learning a ton each time you do.

Downtown Kansas City, as seen from the Westin Crown Center. Imagine yourself spinning here!

Downtown Kansas City, as seen from the Westin Crown Center. Imagine yourself spinning here!

All of the classes are great: they were picked, curated, and built especially for our first ever PLY Away and correlate to the first 2 years of the magazine – and if you need a refresher on all of the amazing topics PLY has covered in that time, click here to check out our back issues.

In short, these aren’t classes that will be offered next year – classes for Ply Away 2017 will be all new!

If spinners want to come just for the weekend, there are enough half day spots open to accommodate a few more people, though we expect the number of available spots to decrease as the event draws near. Even if you don’t plan on registering for any classes, you can still join in the fun by attending the free-for-all spin-in on Saturday night and the free-to-the-public marketplace from Thursday at noon to Saturday night!

jacey boggs faulker - get the scoop on the ply away retreat on the woolery blog!Jacey Boggs Faulkner has spent the last decade falling in love with fiber, writing a book (Spin Art, Interweave, 2012), writing for various fiber and spinning magazines, producing a spinning DVD (Sit & Spin, 2009, self), and teaching all over the world. She is the editor-in-chief of PLY Magazine, which is putting on the eagerly-anticipated Ply Away retreat this spring!

An Interview with Syne Mitchell

syneheadshot2On today’s post, we’re pleased to share an interview with Syne Mitchell, author of one of our favorite new books here at the Woolery, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom. In addition to being an author, Syne also teaches, blogs, and hosts a podcast. Today, she talks about weaving and other crafts, sharing some of her best advice along the way. Enjoy! 

How did you learn to weave? Do you do any other crafts?

I learned to weave at a week-long weaving workshop with Judith MacKenzie. I was 8-1/2 months pregnant at the time and saw it as my last great hurrah before motherhood. Little did I know that I was embarking on a craft journey that would change my life.

Having Judith MacKenzie as my first teacher was a stroke of luck. Not only did she teach me good weaving practices, but she taught me how to continue learning about weaving after the class ended.

She pointed me at Marguerite Davison’s Handweaver’s Pattern Book and Peggy Osterkamp’s first three books, among others.

But the best advice she gave me was this: Keep records of what you weave. Samples of the yarn, samples of the fabric off the loom and after washing, details about sett, warp length, shrinkage after washing. By doing so, you can learn from yourself, the loom, and the weaving.

Other crafts? Bwah-ha-ha! Yes. Before I learned to weave, I had a tendency to have the craft of the month. I’d get excited about polymer clay, or jewelry, or glass bead making. I’d get all the equipment and supplies, do it enough to get proficient, and then move on to another craft the following month.

I used to feel bad about this, but after a while, I realized that my true passion was learning. Once I’d gotten good at something, the steep learning curve was over, and I’d start to get bored.

When I got bitten by the weaving bug, my focus turned to the fiber arts. The great thing about weaving, is that there’s more there than you could learn in a lifetime. There are so many variables that affect the cloth: weave structure, yarn, twist, sett, finishing, humidity, etc.

It also cuts down on the amount of equipment and supplies you bring into the house. Yarn can be used for knitting, crochet, and weaving.

But to answer your question, and limiting it to the fiber arts to keep things from getting out of hand, I’ve learned the following crafts (in order): crochet, needlepoint, spinning, basketry, knitting, weaving, dyeing, lucet, kumihimo, temari, sprang, and bobbin lace. I’m currently teaching myself to sew. In the past I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to learn tatting–though I will try again.

The only fiber art that I have not clicked with yet is quilting, though I imagine I’ll get around to that someday.

The great thing about learning several different crafts is that eventually you start creating projects that combine them. For example, learning to sew help you make bindings for your blankets. You can crochet a lace border on a handwoven silk handkerchief, etc.

Instead of feeling bad about “not being able to settle down to one thing”, I now think of it as fiber arts cross-training.

Inventive Weaving on a Little LoomWhat was the process like for writing Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom? What inspired you to focus on this area of weaving?

I began teaching on the Rigid Heddle loom several years ago as a way to introduce new people to weaving. Jumping in with a multi-shaft loom that can cost a thousand dollars or more — before you even know if weaving is something you want to do — isn’t for most people. With a rigid heddle loom, the investment is small. Also, as a teacher, I can bring my own rigid heddle looms for students to learn on.

That said, I love all kinds of weaving, I can get as excited about a color-and-weave pattern on a potholder loom as on a 24-shaft loom.

I’d never written a non-fiction book before, so it was a learning experience. When writing a novel, it takes about a year, but after the words are done, you’re done. With Inventive Weaving, finishing the words was just the beginning, then there was all of the weaving to do.

Fortunately, my editor, Gwen Steege, and all of the other talented people associated with Storey, helped me through the process.

Which loom(s) do you have in your craft room?

No one could learn all there is to learn about weaving in one lifetime, but I’m giving it a good try. Since I love learning new things, and have applied this to weaving, I’ve amassed quite a collection of looms.

In the center of my studio is an AVL 16-shaft Production Dobby loom (mechanical dobby). Around the edges of the studio are an 8-shaft Schacht Baby Wolf and a 24-shaft AVL Workshop loom (computerized dobby.) I also have a Robyn Spady inkle loom, a Mirrix tapestry loom, a Schacht tapestry loom, a hand-made Navajo loom, several Weave-It and Hazel Rose peg looms, a Harrisville potholder loom, six Schacht Flip rigid heddle looms, a Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom, an Ashford knitters loom (also rigid heddle), and an unusual rigid heddle loom from Clover with a square heddle that rotates.

Um yeah, I have some looms.

What are the weaving yarns and tools that you can’t live without?

I am a big fan of wool and silk. Both are so versatile.

Wool can be soft and lush, or shiny and strong. It can felt, and is warm even when wet, a useful feature in the Pacific Northwest. I love that it’s a renewable resource and a natural fiber. It’s also very rewarding to go to a wool festival, pick your own fleece, wash it, spin it, and weave it into cloth. I used to have Shetland sheep and working with wool brings back good memories.

Silk is amazingly strong, even when it’s ridiculously fine. It usually is smooth and shiny, but in raw silk form is wonderfully soft and subtle. It’s expensive by the pound, but if you purchase it in 60/2 or 140/2 form, a pound can go a long way. I’ve not raised silk worms, but I have reeled silk from cocoons and spun yarn from matawa.

As for tools, it depends. The shuttle that works well for a large fly shuttle loom is not the shuttle you want to use for a loom with a narrow shed. The threading hook that works wonderfully on one loom might not fit through the holes on another loom. With that caveat, here are the minimal set of tools I like to have on hand when weaving.

  • Solid and strong loom.
  • Threading hook long and fine enough to reach the heddles.
  • Shuttle that feels good in the hand and weaves well in the warp.
  • Sturdy warping board / peg / or warping wheel
  • Sharp embroidery scissors
  • Tapestry needle, sized to the yarn
  • 4-lb neoprene coated dumbbells
  • 50-gram brass weights with hooks on the end
  • Cotton carpet warp

What is the best advice you have for new weavers? Intermediate weavers? Advanced weavers?

I’ll pass on a few bits of advice which work for all weavers:

Weave. There is no teacher, no book or video, that will teach you as much as your loom.

Keep records of what you weave. Note down the yarn and sett, the picks per inch you wove it at, the pattern. The measurements of the cloth before and after washing. Keeping records will let you look back and predict how new projects will turn out, and let you repeat projects you especially liked.

Design your own projects. Push yourself to try new patterns, colors, and yarns. You may discover that things you didn’t like in one project positively sing in another one.

Happy weaving!