Tag Archives: handweaving

Guest Post: Make a Tapestry Diary with Janette Meetze

Meetze, Arrowmont- July 31 2012Most people get started with Tapestry weaving by making a small sampler or two, but what is the next step on the journey to learning how to weave tapestry? There is a fairly large gap between that first small sampler and being able to use tapestry as a way to express yourself as a weaver. Why not try getting started on a daily practice that will help you focus on learning techniques while also providing an opportunity to become comfortable expressing yourself with the tapestry process, one day and one small space at a time?

My first suggestion would be to start small. Maybe you will set up your loom and just start on the first day available or maybe you will think about how you want to proceed and start the following month, making a commitment to weave everyday for a small amount of time over the period of one month. There is no right way or wrong way. It is a diary, so it is all about you.

If you are new to tapestry weaving consider making a narrow warp, about three to four inches wide so that you can weave all the way across for each days practice. Perhaps you will want to separate each day with a pass of a specific color. A illustrated tapestry book with clear photos or diagrams would also be useful in providing ideas about how to proceed.

If you have more experience with tapestry you might want to devote the month to a specific tapestry technique like hatching, pick and pick variations or shape making. Consider this type of approach similar to how you might go about learning to play a musical instrument, a small amount of time devoted each day. Soon you will find that your hands are moving with more confidence and that ideas flow more freely when you are actively engaged in making.

My first tapestry diary began in June of 2012 in a class with Tommye Scanlin at Arrowmont School in Tennessee. After the week of class I drove home and started weaving a small space representing my day, everyday; a special occasion , a patch of color, or a symbol. The first one covered the last week in June and all of July 2012, it was about 5 inches wide and sett at 8 threads per inch. Then I wove another for the month of August, and the third covered September through December 2012. There is a freedom in not having to make all the decisions about the entire design ahead of time that allows you to experiment and learn while also accomplishing something personal and meaningful.

By the time 2013 came around I was ready to establish some rules to help me focus on a daily practice that would encompass the entire year. Because they are rules you set for your self they can easily be changed to suit your needs as the year progresses, but having some guidelines does help with getting started. My first yearly diary was warped at 7 inches wide at 8 threads to the inch and my rule was to confine myself to a rectangle space for each day of 1 inch by 2 inches. I established a repeating pattern of horizontal and vertical rectangles for each week. Each month was separated by a number for the month and some pick and pick tapestry technique and I decided to explore the color palette of some new yarns that I wanted to become better acquainted with. Since I had to warp more than once to get the length needed for the entire year I chose to work the project in three panels of four months each.


By the end of the year I had a substantial Tapestry Diary Triptych made up of small rectangles for each day. Even though I had kept the space for each day small there were still days when I could not find the 15 to 30 minutes it took to weave the day, or days when I was away from home and my loom. I decided to make up those days one way or another as I was able. Other solutions to this situation might be to weave a solid color to represent days away from your loom, there are many options.


This year I am weaving another tapestry diary and continuing to learn and grow in my tapestry weaving through this simple process of daily practice. If you would like to learn more about weaving tapestry diaries and other weavers using this practice please refer to an article I wrote for the American Tapestry Alliance on the subject, http://americantapestryalliance.org/education/educational-articles/ There you will find work by other tapestry weavers such as Tommye Scanlin who was the first to use the phrase “tapestry diary” and has been weaving them for several years now. I also follow along with my tapestry diary adventures on my blog, Common Threads.

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Janette Meetze lives and weaves in Bixby, Oklahoma. More information about her tapestry diaries, her Fiber Studio classes and supplies can be found on her blog, Common Threads.


Guest Post: Wet Finishing with Laura Fry

We’re pleased to welcome accomplished weaver Laura Fry as our first guest blogger on The Woolery Blog! In this regular series, we’ll be introducing you to some of the best and brightest fiber artists as they share their knowledge and skills with us. We hope you’ll enjoy this new feature, and welcome your suggestions for future posts!

All the Best,

Chris, Nancy and the rest of the Woolery Team

It Isn’t Finished……until it’s wet finished.

New weavers are often quite surprised to discover that once the threads are interlaced into a woven web that they don’t actually have ‘real’ cloth.  Yet.  There are a few more things that need to happen.atq7

After cutting the web from the loom, take the time to inspect and repair anything necessary, like broken ends, skips and floats.  I prefer to clip the weft tails flush with the surface of the cloth, although some people like to leave a little bit to trim later.   If so, keep them short – no more than about an inch.  Longer than that and they can tangle in the final step in the process of turning threads into cloth – that of wet finishing.  If applying a hard press, the long tail can leave an impression in the cloth, so clip them flush before compressing.

What is wet finishing?  It isn’t ‘just’ washing it, although it may look a whole lot like that.

Wet finishing refers to the very first time the woven web meets water after being woven.  I like to distinguish between wet finishing and on-going laundering because the wet finishing process may be much harsher than ordinary cleaning of the textile once it has been put into use.aurora2

This is especially true of woolen yarns.  Woolen yarns have been spun with the intention of some degree of fulling happening during wet finishing.  This means agitation!   New weavers get very concerned about ruining their hard won efforts because we have all had the experience of washing a favourite sweater and taking it out of the washer or dryer the size of a doll sweater.

Agitation is the engine that drives the process of fulling.  During fulling the fibres migrate and compact which means you wind up with a much more stable, warmer textile.  Once the cloth has been brought to its finished state, however, all the rules you learned about not agitating something made from wool come into play.  Additional agitation will apply additional fulling, eventually ruining the cloth for its intended purpose if done to excess.

If you have never done any fulling, the best thing is to do it by hand.  Draw enough warm water to cover the cloth and add a little soap or detergent.  (Which one you use will depend on the quality of your water; for hard water use a detergent without whiteners, brighteners or perfumes, for soft water you can use either soap or detergent.)

The soap/detergent will do two things:  act as a surfactant, breaking down the surface tension of the water so that the fibre can more easily absorb it, and scour the oil/dirt from the yarn to clean it.

You don’t need a lot of soap/detergent – the maximum amount of suds I want to see on the surface of the water is one inch.  Usually I use less soap/detergent and add more if required as the scouring process happens.

Once the cloth is clean the agitation begins.  Run a fingernail over the cloth from beneath.  Watch to see how unstable the threads are.  As the agitation begins the fulling process, monitor the stability of the cloth by running your fingernail across the threads.  Once the web is stable enough for its intended purpose, rinse and dry with the cloth laid flat.  Larger pieces can be Z folded, turning from time to time to make sure it dries thoroughly.

For cotton, I use the washing machine and the hottest water available on a gentle wash and rinse cycle.  After wet finishing, which generally includes a hard press or cold mangle (compression – one with heat, one without), care instructions read “Machine wash warm water, machine dry until damp, iron on medium heat”.

Rayon yarns wet finished in the washing machine are done on warm water wash, warm water rinse, gentle wash and rinse cycle.  Some people prefer to wet finish their rayons by hand.   My care tags generally read “Wash by hand, hang to dry, press on cool if desired.”magic12

Wet finishing will change the woven web.  Sometimes the change is subtle, sometimes it is dramatic.  But once wet finished the cloth will be more stable, will therefore snag less and wear longer.

Welcome to the wonderful world of weaving!

Laura fry is the author of Magic in the Water; wet finishing handwovens as well as other self published titles and teaches weaving in North America. A frequent contributor to magazines, she also has a popular blog.

Artisan Spotlight: Joanne Hall

julia-joanne-cmWe’re pleased to feature acclaimed instructor Joanne Hall on today’s blog post. Joanne is a weaver, teacher & author of Tying up the Countermarch Loom , Learning to Warp your Loom and Mexican Tapestry Weaving. She has a masters degree in Textile Design from the University of Minnesota. After teaching at the University of Montana and Cal Poly, she started the Elkhorn Weaving Studio where she weaves and teaches weaving as well as distribute looms and weaving supplies throughout the U.S and Canada.

Joanne will be returning to the Woolery this fall to teach Beginner’s Tapestry Weaving, a 3-day workshop which will cover the basics of tapestry weaving. We took a few minutes to chat with Joanne about weaving and her upcoming class with us. Enjoy! 

When and how did you learn  to weave?

I studied textiles at the University of Minnesota and I began teaching weaving at the University of Montana in 1971.  Later I traveled to teach weaving workshops for guilds, for conferences, art centers and for weaving shops.  Most of the workshops are tapestry weaving, but I also teach many different weaving techniques with a specialty in Swedish design.

What are your favorite weaving projects?

Today I weave mostly for the workshops I teach.  In the early 90s I purchased a drawloom and began weaving images which reflect my Swedish heritage.  After a couple years I purchased another drawloom and I teach classes in damask and other drawloom weaves.

Do you do any other crafts?

If you call fishing a craft, I do that on my time off.

Beginning weavers may feel intimidated by tapestry weaving techniques. Tell us about the workshop you have planned at The Woolery for this November – what can they look forward to learning from you?

Beginners are always welcome in my classes.  I like beginners and I can always find the time to help someone who need some extra time.  I like small classes with time to weave and that gives me time to work individually with each weaver.

Tapestry class Day 2For tapestry, I start beginners on a frame loom, as the techniques are easier to learn on a small scale.  In some longer workshops we then weave on looms with treadles, which let your hands be free to weave. Most of the tapestries I wove for galleries and for commissions were large and so they were woven on a large four shaft floor loom with a hanging beater and treadles.

Here is a tapestry sampler I wove while weaving along with students in a two day beginning tapestry class.  We start at the bottom where you can see some very basic stripes, diagonals and vertical shapes.  On the top, each weaver works from a simple cartoon.  In this case, I wove a pear, which was from a cartoon in an older Swedish tapestry weaving book.

Here are a few more of my tapestries.  The Snapdragons tapestry is a small tapestry woven in plain weave.  It is from the flowers in my mother-in-law’s garden.Snapdragons

Poppies is a larger tapestry woven from the flowers in my garden.  It is woven on a four shaft floor loom with a rosepath threading.  It is a technique I developed for weaving large tapestries.


We look forward to exploring tapestry weaving with Joanne this fall – we hope you’ll join us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Armchair Travel, Woolery-Style

kumihimoSummer is officially here! For many folks, this is the time of year to take that adventurous trip or relaxing vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Sometimes, however, a staycation is closer to reality. If you’re traveling near (not far) this year, consider trying a little armchair travel with crafting inspiration from around the globe!

Saori Weaving is a freeform weaving technique from Japan which was recently featured in Handwoven Magazine; it can be done on a portable rigid heddle loom and is a great technique for beginning weavers. More than simply a technique, Saori weaving is a philosophy that focuses on individuality and creativity rather than trying to create a “perfect” looking woven cloth.

backstraploomAnother portable craft that is popular right now at The Woolery is Kumihimo, the art of Japanese braiding. A special stool (called a marudai) is used to support bobbins and hold the working threads. Many bobbins can be used, to create very complex braids. Pet leashes and collars are just a few of the useful projects you can make with this exciting technique! There are many South American cultures with a rich weaving history as well.; a portable backstrap loom (shown at left) is a great way for novice weavers to start exploring these traditions by weaving colorful sashes, straps, and bands.

cashgoatSpinners can travel the globe with fibers from a variety of locales: Louet’s Canterbury Prize Wool fibers are raised with care in New Zealand, or perhaps you’d prefer to sample British sheep breeds such as Herdwick, Masham, or Shetland (just to name a few!). Traveling eastward, you can indulge in Mongolian Cashmere fiber, which is among the softest and best in the world: it is hand-combed from each Cashmere goat (shown at right) in the spring as the weather warms and the undercoat naturally begins to shed. Another exotic fiber to try spinning is Muga Silk top, a ‘wild’ silk from the Antheraea Assamensis worm which is native to the Assam region of India. Traditionally only royalty was allowed to wear the golden fabric of Muga silkworm!

Happy Exploring!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Take it With You: Spin + Weave On-the-go for WWKIP Week (& Beyond)!

WWKIPWorldwide Knit in Public week kicked off this past Saturday; it’s the world’s largest event run by knitters and is a great way to meet your fellow fiber enthusiasts within your own community! We don’t see any reason why knitters get to have all the fun, however – why not spin or weave in public this week, too?

pegloomThere are a variety of small looms that are not only user-friendly for beginners, but they are perfectly portable for weavers on-the-go. You may remember the old-fashioned potholder looms from your childhood; they are great for whipping up colorful projects quickly. There are several other types of peg-style looms which can be used to create woven items using a tapestry needle and some yarn.

Rigid heddle weavers may want to turn the time-consuming process of warping their loom into a real conversation starter at their local WWKIP event. Jim Hokett’s handmade Mini Warping Reel is a shop favorite that’s handy, not to mention high on the “cute” factor. Be prepared for lots of weaving questions when you take this on your next public weaving adventure! warpingreel

Have you ever thought about spinning in public? Many wheels are designed with the traveling spinner in mind and feature built-in handles and foldable parts for ease of transportation (and, of course, you can always purchase a padded bag that’s made for your model).

spindlesHowever, if you’d prefer not to take your wheel when you’re out and about, consider packing a drop spindle for your next fibery outing! If you are normally a wheel spinner, this can be a great time rediscover the joy of spinning with a drop spindle!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Simple Ways to Welcome Spring + Upcoming Events

Spring is Just Around The Corner!

We’ve got spring fever at The Woolery! Hop over to Pinterest to see what’s been inspiring us this season on our new Welcome Spring inspiration board. There are plenty of ways you can spruce up your home decor with simple projects to knit, weave, felt or hook, ranging from practical projects to whimsical accents. Bright colors and lightweight, easy-care yarns such as cotton, bamboo or linen are perfect choices for your next ‘home improvement’ project. Below are just a few ideas that will give you a bright outlook for spring!

To view all of these projects (and more!), click here to visit our 'Welcome Spring' inspiration board on Pinterest!

To view all of these projects (and more!), click here to visit our ‘Welcome Spring’ inspiration board on Pinterest!

Upcoming Fiber Events

We’ve got plenty of exciting classes and workshops happening at The Woolery in 2013, but now we’ll be keeping you updated about the latest fiber events happening throughout the country (and beyond!) with our new Upcoming Festivals page, too! Though The Woolery will not have a booth at the festivals listed,  we are providing this information as a service to the Fiber Arts Community in our efforts to support guilds, festivals and the fiber arts people who work so hard to keep crafting alive for future generations.

If you have an upcoming festival to promote, let us know! Simply email webmaster@woolery.com with the dates, location, a short description, image or logo along with a link to your website to be included on our page. There is no charge for this service; click here for more information!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Help for Beginning Weavers: Avoiding Common Pitfalls

As a beginning weaver there are some pitfalls to be avoided. While getting in over one’s head comes right to mind, the reality is that you can make great choices and have success without these dismaying situations.

Yarn choice can have a major impact on the warp tension. While stretchy yarns used for knitting projects are soft and lovely, they are challenging to make into a warp. It is very easy to pull some strands at a different rate than others, often resulting in one side or a part of the warp being tighter that the other. Sometimes, this doesn’t become apparent until well into the weaving. Be extra careful to wind the yarn with an even tension across the whole width of the loom (see the last note below about your physical approach to warping for more on this issue).

Tactile yarns woven into a mobius cowl.

As a beginning weaver, you may be tempted by all the glorious, tactile, fuzzy, curly, and 3-dimensional yarns that are available. Test the stickiness of the fibers. Try unwinding it off the ball or cone. If it sticks together, use caution as to where you will use it. While a fuzzy yarn may be SO tempting, it has a tendency to glom onto itself, like a tangle in one’s hair, making a fusion between warp threads. The same is true for the dimensional fibers. Use these yarns for the weft – show them off by making a loose sett – creating a weft-faced fabric.

Another tempting but challenging choice is man-made fiber with metallic threads. Here the yarn can be so slippery that you can’t hang onto it, or it curls to the point of total scramble. While winding them onto a shuttle, keep the ball or cone inside an open length of panty hose or netting. Again, these yarns can be used for the weft by carefully winding them onto stick shuttles and highlighting their beauty as a weft.

Cotton Chenille Yarn

A yarn with a life of its own is chenille. It will actually spit out “worms” i.e. loopy kinks on the surface of your woven fabric! Wait ‘til you have more experience under your belt before trying one of these. We don’t want to scare you (though Halloween is just around the corner!) but it’s important to consider what kind of yarn you will use for your first warp and weft.

Mixing yarns in a warp is another pitfall. Using more than one type of yarn in the same warp, or mixing a smooth yarn with a lumpy one is problematic. Because yarns with different weights are taken up by the weaving at different rates, unevenness develops in the warp strands. This makes for bunches of loose warp threads. Looms with double back beams are designed to manage this issue. One kind of yarn is wound on one of the beams and the other yarn is wound on the other beam. With a smooth warp, alternate these fancy yarns with plain ones in the weft.

Mercerized Perle Cotton Yarn.

So what’s the best yarn to begin warping? Perle cottons and rug warp are very even and smooth. They are easy to manage and slip through heddles and reeds. With a myriad of colors and weights, it could take years to explore all the possible combinations. After working with these “training” wheel yarns for your warp, you will easily manage some of the more exciting yarn choices above.

Finally, patience is the key to an even warp tension. While measuring your yarn, slow down and keep an even hand while winding. Begin with a calm sense; if you’re tense and thinking of something you need to do, you’ll find your tension changing. Take a break, make a note of the niggling little job or idea that popped into your head, and maybe even take a little walk to resolve your stress. If you are interrupted, try to create the same frame of mind upon your return. If you can, find a helper – a second set of hands to assist you with the juggling required. If you don’t have a helper, click here to read our blog post sharing our best  weaving book and DVD recommendations to get you back on track.

Join Us for the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas
It’s Toy Season! It’s week 2 of our 12 Fiber Toys for Christmas. This Friday, we’ll be featuring a new favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool) – click here for more details!

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team!