Another stash busting project is finished. This time I have used most of my early handspun skeins in a blanket made of pin loom squares. This is the third post in what has turned into a whole series of stash busting projects. The first one was about using stashed handspun skeins and thrums to make rya knots and the second was about weaving bands with odd handspun skeins.
Pin loom weaving
I started my pin loom blanket project over two years ago. I saw an article on the Spin-Off magazine website about pin loom weaving. The basic idea was to use stashed skeins and smaller amounts of yarn in 10×10 cm squares. I had a lot of handspun yarn in my stash even back then and I bought a pin loom. I made lots of squares in the beginning, but after a while my interest faded.
Pin loom weaving is easy and addictive. You basically arrange the thread over the pins in three layers and weave on the fourth. For each new layer you turn the direction 90 degrees. When you reach the fourth layer you weave it all together. This locks all the threads together in a tabby-like weave. All the edges look the same which makes the squares easy to stitch together. After some practice I finished each square in around eight minutes.
This was such a perfect project for odd skeins, test spinning and smaller amounts of yarn. If I ran out of yarn before a square was finished I just added in another colour, creating a chequered pattern.
A chequered gradient
Squares and pin loom have been gathering dust the past year or so. In my recent stash busting frenzy I picked up the pin loom again and finished the squares. After having cleared out my stash (again) I ended up with around 250 squares together with the ones I made back in 2017.
I had decided early on that I would have enough yarn for a blanket and I was right. When I was weaving the squares I realized that the majority of them were natural white. I decided to make a chequered pattern to give the blanket a quilty look. Since I had lots of different colours – mostly natural but also some hand dyed – I wanted to play with a gradient design for the quilt.
While I was planning the blanket pattern I was reading up on Fair Isle colour schemes for the Fair Isle yoke I finished recently. One trick that was mentioned in the book was to take a picture of the yarns in black and white to place the squares on a grey scale gradient.
This trick was very successful and I could quickly arrange my squares in the gradient I was looking for.
Stitching it all together
It took me a while to stitch all the squares together. After having placed all the squares in a gradient sequence I arranged the colours in one row to my liking. Then I stitched that row together. Since all the squares were constructed in the same way it was easy to whip stitch them in the selvedges. When one row was finished I whip stitched it onto the previously finished row. I arranged the next row, making sure there was some sort of harmony in the overall pattern and stitched the squares together and so on.
When they were all stitched together I had a blanket of 13×18 squares that measured 120×135 cm. The chequered gradient looked lovely!
While I was very happy with the design of the blanket, I wasn’t sure about the texture. The blanket was quite thin and felt like a loosely woven fabric rather than a blanket. So I decided to full it to keep it more together and to give it a more blankety structure.
At first I shocked the blanket by dipping it in hot and cold water. Not very much happened. So I tried some heavier stuff – I fed her to the tumble dryer! This was a very scary step and I had no idea what would happen. Or, well I did. Since there was a variety of wools and breeds in the squares I feared that the squares would full very differently, but I took the chance. My idea was that I could pin-point any less fulled squares and hand-felt those individually. However, the tumbling did the trick and fulled the blanket into a cozy blanket.
Some squares did full more than others. But I realized that I didn’t mind. It only gave the blanket life and structure. It is easy to loose yourself in looking for the different textures of the squares. The rows and columns change in width like walking paths in a landscape.
A bonus from the fulling was that the ridges of the seams on the back of the blanket sank into the fabric, making the front and back basically identical.
“Are these edges sturdy enough? Shouldn’t you make some sort of an edging?” said my 17-year-old when he inspected the blanket. I guess they weren’t and I guess I should. I made a simple blanket stitch around the edges and it looked a lot better. The inner squares held their shape through their alignment in the grid and through the seams, but the edges were a bit wobbly. The blanket stitch made the edges sturdier and shaped them up a bit.
A spinner’s history
This blanket is my spinning history. The squares are woven in yarn that I spun when I was a new spinner (I started back in 2012). Here are lots of old friends and some I don’t even remember anymore. Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool sheep is in a lot of the natural white squares and in some of the dyed. She was the first fleece I dug my hands into on my first spinning lesson. My first Jämtland wool is also here. Some Norwegian rare and endangered breeds too. Lots of Shetland wool. Projects are represented – the orange squares can be found in a Veera Välimäki sweater. Some dark green come from another Veera Välimäki sweater. The apple green comes from the Paper dolls sweater I made for my daughter when she was around seven. Some of my pillowcases are represented too. All of them friends. All of them a part of a spinning history that I am very proud of.
It may look like just another blanket, with some wobble shaped squares and uneven yarns. But there is so much more in this blanket. So much of what I have learned as a spinner, twist by twist, thread by thread and stitch by stitch. This blanket was made for the love of spinning.
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