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Getting the right loom for a beginner weaver

So you've decided you've wanted to give weaving go and you think that a rigid heddle loom is for you but there's so many choices out there that you might not know which loom to choose.

Well, don't worry as in this blog post we're going to talk through what we recommend to new weavers when they are looking to get their first rigid heddle loom.

Choosing a loom is daunting as there are so many options. How wide do you want to weave? Do you want it to fold for travelling? Do you want two heddles (and why do you want two heddles)? How easy is it to use? What yarn do you need? How much will it cost? What do all these words like warp, weft, heddles, etc. mean?

What we'll do is go through all of this to help you understand it all and hopefully help you to choose the loom for you.

What does warp, weft, reed, heddles, and all this other stuff mean?

It's always good to start with the basics before going onto anything else. So here goes:
Warp - This is the yarn that you will measure and put onto your loom first and goes from the back to the front of the loom and through the heddle.
Weft - This is the yarn that you put in-between the warp yarns, usually using a shuttle. This is the yarn that goes from left to right and back again as you weave.
Reed - This is what the warp yarns are passed through as they go from the back to the front of the loom. The name Rigid Heddle for this type of loom comes from the main part of the reed that is usually made from plastic and has vertical slots and eyes cut in to it - this is the heddle. The warp yarns are alternately threaded through a slot or an eye in the heddle. When the heddle is lifted into an up position the eye warp yarns move to the top and the slot warp yarns are at the bottom. When the heddle is in a down position the slot yarns are up and the eye yarns are down. This basically mechanises the over under over under process you would have down with a needle and thread when weaving on cardboard at school. The heddle also spreads out the yarn and you can get different heddles for different yarn thicknesses.
Shuttle - The shuttle is the tool that the weft yarn is wound around and is then used to pass the weft yarn through the warp threads to help link the warp and weft threads together.
Shed - This is the gap between the upper and lower warp yarns and is where you pass your shuttle through with the weft yarns.
Warp beam - This is where the warp yarns are wound around before they have been made into cloth.
Cloth beam - This is where the handwoven cloth is wound around.

Cloth is what you make on a loom and the advantage of a rigid heddle loom is that you can make a couple of metres of cloth easily on these looms. You can then make anything from a scarf, table runner, bag, cushions, blankets, jumper, trousers, jackets or anything else from it really. Your handwoven cloth can be stitched to other handwoven cloth and even cut up to create more intricate patterns. So you could furnish your whole house and make all your own clothes with one loom. This brings us to the next question...

How wide a loom do I need?

This really depends on what you want to make.

We generally recommend a loom between 15"(38cm) to 25"(64cm) are good size to start with. 

Smaller looms than this are great if you're just wanting to weave scarves, strips of fabric or just something small to transport and work well.

Looms larger than 25" can be daunting for beginners, unless you definitely know you are going to weave on these widths a lot then we suggest you're better sticking to something smaller.

You don't need to weave across the whole width of the loom at any time so on a 24" loom you can still weave a 10" wide fabric and then weave a 20" wide fabric another time.

The following photos give you an idea of the different sizes of the loom (other loom sizes are available) and the mug is to give you an idea of scale.

I really like the smaller sizes of looms such as the 15" Schacht Cricket and the 16" Ashford SampleIt as they are a nice and compact size and easily fit on your lap when you've got your feet up in front of the tv. They're a great size to start with and easy to store too.

We do find a lot of people think that bigger is better but this isn't always the case. For example the 32" rigid heddle loom seems to be popular for new weavers as their first loom but then they can feel intimidated by the size of it when they go to use it. Plus it's pretty big to move about and store.

Getting a smaller loom is less intimidating and you may find you will use it more, and you can always get a bigger size loom at a later date.

Do you want to travel with your loom?

The ability to be able to take your rigid heddle loom with you may be important in the decision of which loom to go for.

Hauling around a large loom can be done but may not be practical, especially if you need to use public transport. 

The Schacht Cricket and Ashford SampleIt looms are nice and compact looms and you can get tote bags they fit into to take them with you.

The Ashford Knitters Loom and Schacht Flip looms have wider widths and are designed to fold so that you can take them with you, or fold for storing away. You can fold both of these looms in the middle of your weaving and then just open them up again to get weaving away.

Out of the two the Ashford Knitters Loom is more compact and folds up neatly and comes with a bag. You can get a bag for the Schacht Flip but it is a bit of a bigger loom. However, we find that the Flip does have better tension than the Knitters loom and the loom locks in place once it's in the weave position which helps to keep the loom shape.

You can take the standard Ashford Rigid Heddle Looms with you and a trusty blue Ikea bag can help to lug them around. Or, you could weave your own bag for it.

So, you can travel with all of them, but some are easier to travel with than others.

How easy are these looms to use?

They are really easy and straightforward to use!

Ashford have great tutorials on how to warp and weave on their rigid heddle looms and these methods work for the Schacht looms too.

Simple Warping on the Rigid Heddle Loom (with less back ground music) - YouTube

 

Weaving on the SampleIt Loom - YouTube

You can have a lot of fun playing with different colours, types of yarns, thickness of yarns and even add in things like fibre, leaves and anything else you can find.

Once you've finished weaving just cut your cloth off your loom. You can knot or twist the ends to make a fringe to hold the yarns in place. Or, if you're going to be sewing the cloth you can overlock or zig zag stitch the edges.

Then, gently wash your fabric in warm water, rinse out and then iron out the creases whilst damp. Lay out flat to dry and then cuddle and love your own handwoven creation!

What yarn do you need?

You can use knitting yarns as well as cottons, linens, etc.

For the warp your yarn does need to have strength and little stretch as it's going to be under tension. 

For the weft you can use anything, and that's anything from yarn to unspun fibre to leaves from your favourite plants.

You will need different reeds for different thicknesses of yarn and there are variable dent reeds where you can use more than one thickness of yarn at the same time.

All the yarn we sell at Weft Blown can be used on Rigid Heddle Looms and we recommend a DK weight wool to start off with, such as the Ashford Tekapo 8 ply, John Arbon Knit by Numbers or Eden Cottage Millburn DK, as these all work with a 7.5dpi/8dpi reed which comes with the looms.

What size reed do I need?

This depends on if you've got a yarn stash already and also what you want to weave.

Most looms come with a 7.5 dpi or 8 dpi reed. The dpi stands for dents per inch and basically is the number of warp threads going through a dent (slot/eye) in the reed.

To calculate what reed you need, wind your yarn around a ruler until you have wound an inch with the yarn sitting snugly.

 

In this photo there are 15 yarn wraps per inch (wpi). If you wove with 15 warp yarns in an inch with this yarn, there would be no space for the weft to be added in between the warp yarns. To get what's called a balanced weave, equal number of warp and weft threads, then we divide the wraps per inch number by 2. In this case that would be 7.5 warp threads/ends per inch (epi). Ends per inch is the same as dents per inch so you would need a 7.5 dpi or 8 dpi reed for this yarn.

Different reed sizes are used for different yarns and a rough guide for knitting yarns is below:

2.5 dpi = chunky yarn
5 dpi = Aran weight yarn
7.5 dpi = Double Knit weight yarn
10 dpi = Sportweight yarn
12.5 dpi = sock weight or 4ply 
15 dpi = heavy lace weight 

Always check your wraps per inch before starting any project as different types of yarn can give a different thickness of yarn.

What about this two heddle weaving?

You can do more patterns and weave two layers of cloth at the same time using two reeds (heddles) at once. This can be a bit faffy to set up but is fun. All the looms we sell have the ability to do this, you just need to have two reeds of the same dpi.

However, if you're thinking you want to do twills and double weave on a regular basis then do look at table looms like the Louët Erica as it is far easier to weave such techniques on a table loom than a rigid heddle loom.

How much does this all cost?

This depends on how large a loom you want, how many reeds and whether you want a stand.

The cheapest option are the Ashford SampleIt looms and they're great and affordable little looms.

If you're after something a bit bigger then the Ashford Rigid Heddle Looms are great for the price and you can get a wide loom for a decent price.

If money is no object then do look at the Schacht Flip as it's a great loom, and is lovely to weave on.

If you're thinking of getting a loom 20" or wider do think about getting a stand as it's easier to weave with a wider loom on a stand than propped against a table.

The cost of reeds is worth thinking about too as Ashford reeds are cheaper than Schacht reeds so if you're on a budget and know you'll need more reeds then do think about this too.

All the looms come with threading hooks, warping pegs (to help measure your warp), clamps to hold your loom steady when putting on the warp and instructions to get warped and weaving and two stick shuttles. The Schacht Cricket looms also come with yarn to get you going with your first project.

Are you ready to weave now?

We hope this has been useful and helps you to decide what rigid heddle loom may be the right one for you. 

If it's made you more confused then don't worry as we're always here to help and do get in touch with us if you've got more questions.

Rigid Heddle weaving is great fun and we do hope this has helped you to get your own loom and then you can create your own magnificent handwoven cloth of your own.

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It's time for another free pattern and this time I'd thought I'd talk through the basics of how I design my handwoven scarves.

Photography has always been a passion of mine and I especially love taking photos of the landscape and sky around us.

Living in West Kilbride on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland has given me lots of inspiration over the years since we moved here. Regular walks down the beach and through the local glen, and watching the sky from our house have given me a library that I keep diving back to for new pattern ideas.

The sunset photo below is one such example of this and is the inspiration behind this post's pattern.

If I'm designing for a plain weave cloth I generally look at the colours from the photograph and then think of them as blocks of colour. So, in the photos above I would look at the clouds and take a generalisation of the different colours in the horizontal and then use these blocks to make the warp colour pattern.

I've simplified the colours quite a bit in this pattern and just taken the purple, a dark blue, red and yellow and decided to have them blend straight from one colour to the next. This gives the effects of the colour of the clouds blending together as they are in the photo.

The weft colours used are the same as the warp and playing with large blocks of colour again in the weft gives the striking effect of the sky in the photo.

I have ignored the trees in this photo this time but there's nothing to say that their colour and texture couldn't be used in another design.

I do have a habit of revisiting certain photos or days for inspiration as each time it could lead to another idea for patterns.

This method is easy enough to adapt to your own inspiration and photos. The joy of having great cameras on your phone these days does mean it's easy to take a quick snap of something and then come back to it later. 

You could use photo editing software to pixellate or blur the photo which can help to see the colours.


Pixellated Version
 
Blurred Version

There is also a very low tech method which is to look at your image and squint your eyes. You should be able to then see the colours become more fuzzy but defined. This is how I do it most of the time.

Now you know how the pattern came about it's about time to give you the actual pattern.

You can buy this pattern with the yarn as a kit which you can find on our website here.

My aim is to make our blog patterns available to everyone so that's why we are posting the patterns for free on our website as well as selling them as kits.

Sunset Scarf Pattern

Loom:
Rigid Heddle Loom. You can also use a table loom at the same sett as for the rigid heddle loom and weave as plain weave or for a twill use a sett of 10 dpi.

Reed/Sett:
7.5 or 8dpi

Weaving width in Reed:
25cm/10"

Yarn:
Eden Cottage Yarns Millburn DK in
1x50g ball in Harvest Gold
1x50g ball in Dogwood
1x50g ball in Night Sky
1x50g ball in Damson

This yarn does give a lovely silky smooth drape but you can use any other DK yarn in similar or different colours. For choosing contrasting colours check out our Cornish Summer Skies blog post.

Warp Length: 2.5m/8'2"

Total Number of Warp Threads: 78

Warping Instructions:
Thread your loom in the following colour order with the number being a single warp thread.

Weaving Instructions:
The weft stripes can be as big or as narrow as you want them to be. You can also weave the stripes following the warping order too. Remember that this is your scarf that you are weaving so feel free to make it your own.
Do make sure that you are not beating too hard and also that you start the next colour to the opposite side of where you finished the last colour.

Finishing your cloth:
Once you've finished weaving you can either knot your fringes or twist them and knot them. Wash your cloth in a sink of hot water with wool wash and then remove excess water. Iron your scarf whilst it's wet and then lay flat to dry.

Finished Size after washing:
21cm/8" wide by 1.9m/6’5” long excluding fringes

 

I'm more than happy for you to make this scarf in other yarns in other colours so do feel free to use your stash or use other yarns. 

I'd love to see your finished versions of this scarf so if you do please tag #weftblown and we will see what you've made.

I hope this pattern helps to give you an idea on how to design your own scarves and patterns and if you need help then you can email us at info@weftblown.com. Unfortunately we don't get notifications on comments on our blog posts so email is the easiest and best way to get in touch.

The pattern is made available for personal use only.

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Welcome to our first free weaving pattern blog post at Weft Blown!

As a weaving teacher I've been wanting to create a series of patterns for people to weave in the comfort of their own home. So this will be the first pattern in this new series.

One of the reasons for writing patterns is that a common issue that crops up with my students is that many of them are scared of choosing colours for weaving with to get well defined stripe patterns.

Weaving with different colours of yarn is a bit different to knitting or crocheting with different yarn colours. In weave you notice a lot more the difference in contrast between colours. Sometimes you think that 2 yarn colours will look great together, but then when they're woven up they blend in together and become a bit mushy. This happened to me quite a few times when I started weaving and it wasn't until I learned about contrast in the yarns makes a difference that things changed.

The easiest way to work this out is to use a camera and use the black and white setting on it. If you place the yarns you want to use side by side and either look at it on the screen in black and white or take and photo and convert it to black and white you'll instantly see how different one is from the other.

 

As you can see in the image above the white and the blue have a quite distinct tonal difference between each other in black and white so would work well together.

The Navy and Yellow and the Yellow and Grey yarn combinations also have quite a big tonal difference too and would be great.

These 3 yarn combinations have a more subtle tonal difference but again would work well together.

You can use this method with any yarns at all in your stash and it's even easy to use when out yarn shopping as just quickly grab your camera, put them together and see how they work.

With all of this in mind I thought that the first pattern I would create would use the first combination of the blue and white yarns to create a scarf based on the stunning summer Cornish Skies from our summer holiday. It also reminds me of our visit to John Arbon's Mill in Devon when we were there too, where the yarn comes from.

 

This is the view from St Michael's Mount on the far southwest of Cornwall looking out to the English Channel. It was a gorgeous hot summers day and I love the little Cumulus clouds against the deep blue sky.

I wove the pattern using our 15" Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom but it can be woven on any rigid heddle loom that is at least 10" wide.

Below are the instructions for how to weave the scarf:

Yarn: John Arbon Knit by Numbers DK in 1x100g skein in KBN 37 Blue and 1x100g skein in KBN 55 Natural

Reed: Schacht 8dpi Rigid Heddle Reed (The Ashford 7.5 dpi reed will be fine for Ashford Rigid Heddle Looms)

Weaving width in Reed: 25cm/10"

Warp Length: 2.5m/8'2"

Total Number of Warp Threads  (also known as warp ends): 78

Warping Instructions: Thread your loom in the following colour order with the number being a single warp thread

Blue:    16   -   6   -    8   -   18
White:   -    4   -   14   -  12   -

To change colours in your warp you can knot off one colour and then start another colour, or you can carry them along the back as shown below.

 

Weaving Instructions: The weft stripes can be as big or as narrow as you want them to be. What I did was to wind some yarn onto the shuttle, weave what was on the shuttle and then wind some of the next colour on. I know this is not very mathematical but if you did want to be mathematical you could follow the warp colour pattern in the weft, or just weave what you feel. Remember that this is your scarf that you are weaving so feel free to make it your own. I did stop and start with the blue colour. There should be enough yarn for you to use both colours in the weft.

Do make sure that you are not beating too hard and also that you start the next colour to the opposite side of where you finished the last colour, as shown below.

The blue colour was finished at the left hand side and the white was then started on the right hand side. This way when you tuck in the ends of the yarn they will not cause a bump on one side as they are away from each other.

Also, do notice how balanced the weave looks in the photo. A common mistake for new weavers is to beat too hard on the cloth and not leave enough space for the warp yarn to be seen. Don't worry about seeing little gaps in the cloth when weaving as you need to remember the warp yarn is under tension and when released will loosen up and start to fill in the gaps. Once it's washed it will full up a bit as well and become nice and balanced.

Finishing your cloth: Once you've finished weaving you can cut the cloth from your loom and either knot your fringes or twist them and knot them. Then wash your cloth in a sink of hot water with wool wash and leave for at least half an hour. Rinse if needed and then remove from the sink and either roll it up in a towel to get rid of the excess water or put on the lowest spin setting on your washing machine. Then iron your scarf whilst it's wet and then lay flat to dry.

Finished Size after washing: 20cm/8" wide by 2m/6'7" long excluding fringes

 

I chose to do wide weft stripes in my scarf and really liked how it turned out.

We do have very limited number of the colours used in this pattern just now but we will have more in stock and will be selling it as a kit around about Easter time or hopefully before.

This scarf can be woven with any colour combination and you could use the colour pairings at the beginning of this post or create your own from your stash. 

Any DK weight yarn will work for this pattern and you will need 100g of each colour to weave with.

I hope you enjoy this pattern and I would love to see your own versions of it so I have started a thread on our Weft Blown Ravelry group where you can share your weaving and is a good place to ask any questions you have about the pattern.

Also please do share images of it on Instagram using #cornishskieswb or post to our Facebook group

I will be back soon with our next pattern which will be using Eden Cottage Milburn DK yarn.

Thanks

Ange at Weft Blown

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Back in July this year we had a great morning learning about how John Arbon Textiles create their fantastic range of yarns and fibre.

We've known John, Juliet and the team for a couple of years know after chatting to them at shows and using their yarn for our handwoven collection in the past.

When we mentioned to John we were going to be in North Cornwall for our holidays he said why don't we visit the mill and so we did.

The mill is based in Lynton, North Devon, and we made it there on a rather hot day in July.

The first thing you notice when you get into the mill is the sheer volume of fibre that they process.

  

The fibre is dyed and scoured elsewhere but all the carding, combing, blending and spinning occurs at the mill.

There is a fantastic range of old and the occasional new machine at the mill and each one has it's own name.

The fibre is carded first before being combed and carded ready for spinning.

 

When we were there they were spinning up some of the shades for the Knit by Numbers range.

 

The singles spun on Butler are then transferred to cone and then go on to be plied together.

 

Then the final stage of the process is the yarn being wound onto the skein using the oldest machine in the mill that's over 100 years old.

 

It was fantastic to get a tour around how the mill works and also to hear John's amazing knowledge and passion about creating yarn and ensuring the high quality that goes into every skein they produce.

The fantastic quality of their yarn was the reason it was first on our list to stock when we were planning adding yarn to Weft Blown.

I had used it before for weaving cowls when I was doing a wholesale collection.

It weaves up so soft thanks to the 100% organic merino wool from the Falkland Islands that the yarn is made from.

It's been great fun seeing customers come into our shop and falling in love with it too and we're hoping to start getting people elsewhere to find the love for this yarn.

So, starting in January we are going to do a blog post for a handwoven scarf using this yarn and you will get a free pattern that will work on both rigid heddle and table looms. 

This is the start of a new monthly blog post where we will be releasing a free pattern for weaving and we hope that this will be a way to help you to weave more. And there may also be a cowl pattern with instructions on how to make them later in the year.

We have to give a huge thanks to John and the rest of the team for taking time out for us in July to let us see how they create their amazing yarn.

They do mill tours on their open days which is on 8th and 9th June next year. It's really worth it to go and see what they do, and Lynton and nearby Lynmouth is well worth a visit too.

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