Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bigger than a mug rug smaller than a blanket; making small blankets or pillow tops

This is a note about small to medium-sized flat items. I love making pin loom blankets-- but they take a really long time to weave. Sometimes it feels good to make something that offers a more immediate payoff.
Amish Style Doll Blanket

My favorite bigger-than-a mug-rug items are pillow tops and doll blankets. Both aim at moderate size, 12" square to 18" square. Both can be completed pretty quickly, which means that you can move from conception to gift giving in a week or so.

I made example to the right to accompany the Amish Style doll. Below it is another, even better example of a doll blanket made by wondertrading using 2" x 2" squares, made on a 2" Weave-It.

by wondertrading, 2010.
Anything that we call a doll blanket can just as easily be used as a pillow top, a wall hanging or an inset in a larger blanket.  

Speaking of Pillow Tops

Summer Pillow Top
The following two items were specifically made as pillow tops although it is more likely that they will end up as mounted hangings. By "mounted" I mean that my plan is to buy a couple 12" x 12" canvases and mount them using a spray-on fabric adhesive and staples around the edge.

On the other hand, I am fascinated by the idea of completing a series of woven pictures that displays several seasons. These two pillow tops were intended to show approximately the same image as it would change through summer and winter. It would be easy to do the same through summer, winter, spring and fall. Because all of the squares are 4"x4", these would be a great project for a Zoom Loom or other 4" pin loom.

Winter Pillow Top
Here is some construction information on the pillow tops. I used a single crochet edging around each of the squares and joined them with a whipstitch. I edged each pillow top with half-double crochet. If I were to do them again I would edge them with single crochet. The embellishment is free-hand, except for the crowns of the trees in the Summer pillow top, those are little crocheted circles with some tiny stitches in a lighter green on top.

One feature of pin loom use is that you can wind on a variety of colors to achieve different effects. I made the green stripes on the Summer pillow top by winding on two layers of dark green yarn, then winding one layer of light green yarn and weaving in the same light green.

The winter sky is made with the same striping technique, except the first yarn was a variegated blue/white and the second was white. I also worked pretty hard, selecting and sniping sections of yarn, to make sure that the designs were somewhat centered.

Four Seasons Medallion Throw, draft--not to scale.

I love the way that pin loom projects fit together so well. Each completed pattern is a 12" square.  I could see these two 12" pieces, along with two more representing spring and fall, serving as medallions, surrounded by an edging of 4" x 4" squares other borders and turning into a great little blanket or throw.

Well now I'm excited about them again. It may be a while before I can pick up on this project, but I'm going to do it someday. I think it could have a nice retro "Currier and Ives" feel to it. It would make a great present for someone that you cared a great deal for -- because there is a lot of weaving and work in it.  However, this is also a great example of a group project, one that can be shared out with siblings and cousins, so that it not only represents the quality of seasons, but also the quality of family.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pin Loom Earplug Holder

This is exactly how the ear plugs
looked when they came out of the
bottom of my bag.

 I go to a fitness center where everyone wears earplugs. I also wear earplugs when I'm there because I am trying to fit in and because I can listen to the TV while I put in my one-quarter to one-half mile trudge on the treadmill.

Unlike many people, however, I do not wear my earplugs all the time. And that's a problem because when I go to get the earplugs, they look like this -------------------------------------------------->

Considering that a major focus in my life is looking for things to make with weavies, this immediately became a weaving challenge. Obviously I needed, in my husband's words, an ear plug cozy.

So this is what I made:

The Pin Loom Ear Plug Holder is made using a 2" x 6" weavie. If you don't have a 2" x 6" loom, you can make 3) 2" x 2" weavies and join them together in a circle to create the holder.

Place the earplugs on each side of the weavie "donut" and secure them by wrapping the wires around the outside, tucking the plug inside to keep it all in place. Not a lot of technology here, but it really works.

My plan is to make several ear plug holders for son, daughter, niece and nephew stocking stuffers on the assumption they have to take off their ear plugs eventually... don't they? 

This is the kind of tiny project that invites the use of small bits of particularly glorious yarn.

I used some variegated tweed that makes a good match with the ear plug wires.

I used a very simple looping stitch to join the two ends of the weavie.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gift idea - Pin Loom Wash Cloths

A number of my family members will be getting herbal soap accompanied by hand woven wash clothes for Christmas. I have never really gotten over the belief, ingrained as a child, that the most heart felt gift was one that was made by hand.  I'm not making the soap, I figure you have to pick your battles, but I am making the wash clothes, which are turning out far better than I expected.

I lucked upon a cone of Sugar and Cream cotton yarn, 706 yards (646 m), for ridiculously low price. That is a lot of hand made wash clothes. Actually, I just stopped and figured out the number. There are four woven squares in each wash cloth.  Each woven square takes 7.5 yards (6.9 m) plus a yard (.9 m) for joining. So each wash cloth is 31 yards (28 m) which means that I could make about 23 wash clothes from that one cone. I realize that a handmade item can't be all about the savings but sale items often encourage creativity for me.

I used a weaving pattern that was popular for both the Weave-It and the Loomette.


Row 1: Weave plain.
Row 2: U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3.
Row 3: W2, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, W2.
Row 4: W4, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3.
Row 5: W2, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, W6. [5]
Row 6: W8, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3.
Row 7: W2, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, W10. [4]
Row 8: W12, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3.
Row 9: W2, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, W10. [3]
Row 10: W16, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3.
Row 11: W2, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3, W18. [2]
Row 12: W20, U3, O1, U3, O1, U3.
Row 13: W2, U3, O1, U3, W22. [1]
Row 14: W24, U3, O1, U3.
Row 15: W2, U3, W26.
Row 16: Weave plain.
"WEAVE 22" from "Original Loomette Weaves." Los Angeles, California: Cartercraft Studios, 1937, and "Weave-It Weaves." Book No. 1. Medford, Massachusetts: Donar Products, Corp., 1939.

One further choice. 

When I started making the wash clothes, I finished off the first two with a line of single crochet. Then it hit me, there was no real need to add a crochet edging. One of the interesting aspects of the weave-it is its finished edge and I have found that I rather like the scalloped, lacy edge. However,when I make dish clothes (which is what I am going to do with the two on the right) having that extra single crochet edging makes sense. Perhaps next time I make dish clothes I will use a half-double crochet for a thicker, more structured edging.

Please keep in mind that you are seeing the washcloths straight off the loom. They will shrink and soften with washing.

Wash cloth squares on and off the loom.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Pin Loom Advent Calendar, part I

I didn't fill in all the numbers
but you get the idea.

Christmas brings forth my best intentions and designs, such as plans for a Pin Loom Advent Calendar that has been in the works for a number of years. I am getting closer. The green 4" x 4"squares for the banner and the 2" x 2" multicolored squares for little pockets for treats are all woven and waiting to be assembled. My original plan called for a simple grid, which is a perfectly acceptable way to put together the calendar, but seemed boooring.

Here is the newer plan, still in the formative stage. Proof that I'm basically a "nothing succeeds like excess" kind of gal.

This Advent Calendar calls for 25 green squares as well as 24 background squares in a variety of neutral colors. It measures approximately 20" wide by 30" high. In the real hanging the green squares will be a little more random. My plan for the numbers is to use short lengths of brightly colored nylon cord, attaching them with hot glue and then binding them in place with micro-filament thread.  The skinny yellow stars will be yarn embellishments. I am not sure how I am going to make the top star on the tree, I might change it out for a pin loom angel. 

Although it will be too late to use the Advent Calendar this year, I will continue to work on it. I hope to share pics of the actual weaving in  Pin Loom Advent Calendar, Part II.

From the little bit of experimenting that I have done so far on the real squares, it looks like I will need to make a number of changes to this plan including adding more ornaments to the tree and throughout the hanging. One idea that I hope to initiate with this project is making small ornaments out of felted weavies. After all, what better medium for felting than small woven squares? 

Wish me luck. Meg

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Finding pin loom needles

Many of the pin looms that people are happily using today were manufactured fifty or sixty years ago. These little looms don't really wear out. But its not enough to have a pin loom, you also need a needle that is skinny enough to fit between the pins and long enough to span the width of the loom with enough needle left over to pull through. That means that for a 2" loom you need a 4" needle, for a 4" wide loom, you need a 6" needle, and a 6" loom needs an 8" needle.

There seem to be several good sources of pin loom needles. If you know about other sources, please let me know and I will list them here.

 Lacis lists a Weave-it Needle, "A 6" straight shaft needle with yarn eye and blunt end specifically designed for the popular weaving boards." These appears to be the same as the needles that were originally packaged with the loom.  It is interesting to note that the price of these needles has dropped. When I checked on them several years ago, the price was around $7.00 each. More recently I saw it priced at around $3.00. But don't count on my report, the prices may change regularly.

The newest resource for 6" and 4" needles has come about courtesy of the Zoom Loom. It appears that some Schact distributors also have Zoom Loom replacement needles available.

If you search for Upholstery Needle Set, you will find a number of retailers selling a set of 4 sharp pointed needles, 6" 8" 10" and 12" with large eyes that will work for pin looms. Price is in the neighborhood of $5 or $6.00 plus shipping. In addition to finding them online, Hancock Fabrics often carries the set in their upholstery department. These needles do need to have their points rounded off so they don't split the yarn.
 I also have to recommend the 5" Susan Bates Weaving Needle. This needle does not work well with the pin looms, it is a little too thick and short. However, it works great for joining squares and other weaving tasks. It is available at a variety of craft stores and the cost is low. Considering how precious the 6" weaving needles can be, this needle can substitute for all the other uses where a good yarn needle is needed. It has a nice rounded point and a very large eye.

I haven't mentioned anything about tapestry needles on the basis that they are readily available. I haven't mentioned 4" needles for the 2" pin loom because I am not aware of any sources.  Please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for resources. It will help us all move toward a state of bliss.

An update: a friend pointed out that there are 4" doll needles that, with a little work, can serve as a weaving needle for any of the 2" wide looms. She noted seeing 4" needles at Hobby Lobby-- I think they are available at any doll related or large craft store. The needle needs to have its point rounded off. I find the doll needles to be a little too thin and therefor prone to bend. But the doll needles do offer another weaving option. MS

2nd update on 4" needles: (Actually 3.75" needles that work really well for 2" wide looms.) I recently purchased a package of five assorted Dritz doll needles. Four of them are of minimal interest but the largest looks just like the needle that came with my 2" x 2" Weave-it loom except that this needle is sharp. I rounded it off pretty effectively using a whetstone.  These packages of needles are widely available at national hobby stores.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Drafting a Sunshine and Shadow pin loom blanket

If one of the upsides of pin loom weavies is that you get a perfect little piece of cloth with selvedge all the way around, one of the frustrations with pin looms weavies is that you have a bunch of little pieces of cloth that you have to figure out something to do with. And the world only needs so many mug rugs. If you look at a lot of the old patterns-- you can find the original old pattern books from the at eLoomaNation-- you will see that the authors spent a lot of time trying to turn the woven squares into larger pieces of seamless looking cloth, with limited success.

Weavies Sunshine and Shadow

So here is an opposite plan, draft out a Sunshine and Shadow pattern. This pattern, also known as Trip Around the World, is perfect for pin looms. Each square, each color, stands in contrast to the ones beside it. And drafting the pattern is almost as much fun as a coloring book, more if you were never a very good colorer (I could never produce that incredibly even crayon texture like my cousin, Debbie).

My most recent crush is on FREE graphics program called PicPick. Its very easy to use while offering some rather sophisticated features. For example, you can make very complex arrows, example to the left, which I love to do. More to the point, I can pick a color from an endless color scale and, using the little paint can thingy, drop it on to a square, the perfect coloring book! 

Below are some ideas for Sunshine and Shadow blankets as well as an empty grid for an 11 x 11 square blanket, which works out to a blanket of about 45" x 45".

Amish style Sunshine and Shadow with borders.

 You can also try out the larger illustration of a blanket, it has 19 by 19 squares (361 total weavies!) which makes a blanket about 6½ foot square. I got a little carried away with the deep borders, but they look so good. Those heavy borders of teal and red also contradict what I was saying above about the difficulty of using weavies to make a solid piece of cloth. To me, joining the squares becomes the equivalent of the pattern made with quilting. So here are some ideas for pin loom blankets that you can take and make even better by reimagining them with your colors and approaches in mind.

Sunshine and Shadow with 20's colors and style                                      Blues, Reds, Yellows Sunshine and Shadow
Blank template with lots of space around it to add borders.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Primitive Pin Loom Raven

We are definitely into late autumn weather in Minnesota. The leaves have lost their color and are mostly on the ground. The winds picks everything up, whirls it around a few times and scatters all the leaf piles into leaf drifts. None of this seems to faze the ravens and crows. They seem to be made for this season, flying with abandon on the wind.

I love that raven spirit and am working to create a proper woven raven. I am planning to put together the design details as soon as I get them worked out and written down.This particular raven has answered a number, though not quite all, the questions I had about how to weave a raven.

I think that the shape of the beak is about as good as its going to get. The beak probably needs to slide a little higher on the head-- crows and ravens don't really have much of a forehead. And a proper raven needs to have longer, more defined tail feathers. I am also trying to figure out a simpler way to make it. This particular model stands about 8½" tall and 9½" from head to tail. It is made with 2) 2x6" weavies, 3) 2x4" weavies, 4) 4x6" weavies, and 7) 2x2" weavies. That's a lot of yarn in one bird!

I hope the winds of autumn are blowing your way... toward a great Thanksgiving.  If you have any thoughts about raven design, particularly thoughts about how to put together a proper tail, please let me know.   thanks MS

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween

This little bird is the first in a new series of experimental crows and ravens. Although I named it a crow for the sake of the the Halloween greetings, I think it will more likely end up representing the blackbird end of the spectrum. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

House art loves pin looms... or is it vice versa?

I have always been fond of architecture, which has worked out well when weaving with pin looms. The blanket below, Minnesota Landscape, is one of my favorites.

I wove it one winter when I was commuting 35 miles each day across a very cold Minnesota landscape. Often on the way home the sun would be setting, the sky turning incredible colors, one side still light, the other side beginning to pick up the dark blues of night. Scattered across the landscape were old farmhouses and barns.  

My intention was to show the sun setting in a blaze of orange while the darkness crept in on the other side of the sky.

The challenge of showing a landscape on a blanket is that no matter which way you turn it, something is going to be upside down. I've seen blankets and quilts showing houses lots of different ways, and they all work. This has turned out to work best on a bed or folded so that just some of the buildings show when laid on a couch or chair back.

The other thing that I enjoyed about making this
blanket was that I could design and weave each building as a separate piece, then join them all together at the end. As you may notice from the pictures, I joined all the weavies by using a single crochet edge which was then whipstitched together. I find that the weight of the joining nicely matched the weight of the woven fabric.

If you have any thoughts, questions or comments, please let me know.   Meg

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pin Loom Weaving Mouse Pattern

This is the first of a series of patterns and  instructional material on using pin looms. The Weavies Mouse pattern has been around for a number of years. It has been a popular project, great for the quick creation of a stuffed mouse (catnip or stuffing filled) using one 4"x4" and two 2"x2" weavies. 

One note, the directions suggest using a Weavette loom. The directions were written shortly after the Weavette looms came out. Any of the 4"x4" and 2"x2" pin looms will work for this pattern. 

Happy weaving!  Meg


Monday, October 21, 2013

Pin looms play well with others

I end up talking with and reading about the works of people who, like me, really like small hand looms. It is easy to forget that there are a lot of great looms out there and there are many ways to combine weaving styles.  These are some examples from my blanket closet. This blanket combines pin loom weavies with cloth strips woven on a rigid heddle loom.  I like being able to make large swatches of a cloth to order, but the pin loom makes such a great product that I moved away from rigid heddle.
Heart Like A Wheel
Blue Squares

<----   Another very old piece. The intention was to float the contrasting squares on the black strips made with an inkle type loom.

The piece below combines several sizes of pin loom weavies with 12" triangles made with a Hazel Rose triloom. This is a great combination of looms because is allows you to move away from the constraint of grid patterns by building in a 90 degree rotation. 

Please let me hear about your favorite use of pin looms-- with or without the involvement of other looms.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Alpacas from alpaca fiber

I have a friend heading to a very important Alpaca gathering and auction who requested a little stuffed alpaca woven, of course, in alpaca wool. Since she was kind enough to share wool from two of her favorite animals, I had to make to little alpacas.

Here they are-- looking pretty happy, but skinny and sheared.  I added the boas on the basis that they looked a little cold.  While it might seem odd to dress up an animal, (though obviously we dress up toy animals all the time) my impression is that the actual alpaca is so wondrously goofy looking that they often end up wearing sunglasses or a hat.

Case in point  - - - >

I want to send special thanks to Bonnie Betts and Alpaca Reflections in Southern MN for the opportunity to weave with this incredible, soft fiber. I love the fact that pin looms are so small and economic that it is possible to use all sorts of exquisite yarns and fibers without blowing the budget or wasting a lot of lovely yarn.

More animals and an ark still to come.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Animals, part two.

Here are a few more woven-from-pin-loom animals.

All of these animals are made with three ingredients - woven yarn, chenille sticks for structure and stuffing.

All are made with the product of the basic four pin looms, 2" x 2", 2" x 4", 4" x 4" and 4" x 6". I know that there are more sizes and there are projects out there where I will use the 6" x 6" loom or other sizes, but most of the time, the two small squares and two small rectangles are sufficient.

This is my idea of what a mountain goat might look like.
I am pretty sure that zebra stripes don't go in those directions, but people get the idea. One of my challenges in weaving is to remember that it doesn't have to be perfect. After all, I'm doing it for the joy of it, so if I get into some sort of perfectionistic snit, I am defeating most of the purpose of weaving. The other purpose being to make some fun thing.

Having said that, I have to admit being very fond of the donkey because it seems to catch the donkey spirit.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Ark and animal inspiration

These are a few of the several pictures I've found of 19th century Noah's Ark sets. What an incredible amount of work and skill!
  They were made at a time when Sunday was such a special day that children couldn't play with normal toys, but they could play with toys that represented a story from the Bible.  The ark and animals that I am working on are all woven, but I hope that I can get a little of the same primitive and loving feeling to them. I'm afraid that the vast number of animals shown is part of what keeps pushing me to figure out how to weave more and different animals.  This effort is now being joined by my friends and coworkers. I have had a coworker request some alpacas that will be made with alpaca yarn.  Alpacas are amazingly goofy animals, I have never seen an animal that looks so much like a sock puppet.
Next challenge, weaving an ark. Its interesting how their conception of the ark differs from today's toys. I'm thinking that the bridge, the house part, was painted to look like a mansion of the time.