Weaving bands

In my current stashbusting frenzy I have been weaving bands with a simple rigid heddle and a backstrap weaving method. I warped for my first band just before the new year and couldn’t stop – I wove five bands and came to love the technique.

Stashbusting

I have reached a point where my handspun stash stresses me. It clutters my mind and I want to make good use of all the time, love and effort I have put into those precious skeins. Just before the holidays I used up one kilo of my handspun skeins and saved thrums in woven chair pads. When I had finished them I decided to explore band weaving.

I have failed weaving bands before. I have four started tablet weavings that I never finished (not my handspun, though). But why would it be different this time? Well, I think I have more of a clear purpose of destashing and using the bands.

This summer I bought a small rigid heddle for weaving bands and I have been curious about it ever since. It turned out to be a really nice technique that quite quickly transforms a shapeless bundle of yarn into a strong and dense band. One 50 gram skein is enough for a decent length band. I found some smaller skeins too, which I paired up with other smaller skeins and wove striped bands.

A small skein can become a striped a band together with another small skein. This is Klövsjö wool that I paired with a skein of silvery Gotland wool.

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method is easy. The result is a tight warp-faced band with many uses. Apart from the rigid heddle and the yarn you just need a pole/tree/something else to secure the end in, a shuttle, a clamp of some sort and your own body. You also need a warp or two clamped pegs to warp the yarn. You can of course warp the yarn between two chairs turned upside down.

We have a very practical pole in our house, perfect for weaving bands. I tie the warp braid around the pole and keep a leather belt around the pole for quick fastening in the other end (me).

This is how I did it:

  • I warped the yarn between two pegs that I clamped on two tables. The tables were 2–3 meters apart.
  • I transfered the warped threads to the slots of the rigid heddle and threaded the holes.
  • Once the warp was evenly tensioned I tied one end to a pole in the living room and the other end to a belt around my waist, secured with a small clamp.
  • When weaving, I opened the shed, entered the shuttle and gave the weave a good beating with the shuttle between the warp threads. Before I pulled it through I pulled the old shuttling tight.
  • After having pulled the shuttle through I pulled the new shuttling tight.

The bands

In the course of two weeks I have been weaving five bands from odd handspun skeins. It was so rewarding and in some cases also a very quick weave.

My five new bands made of stashed handspun yarns. The history of the spinning and the projects the yarns were spun for is woven into the bands.

Curtain band

My first band was a simple one-colour band. The warp was smooth and easy to weave and it didn’t fight me. It took me a while to understand how narrow I should keep the band and how I should keep it even in width, but after I had figured that out it went fairly quickly.

An all-Shetland band. Both warp and weft were spun and plied on the fly on a supported spindle. 2,2×247 cm, 39 g.

I will use this band together with a curtain I have in my rigid heddle loom. The curtain is a loose weave in dark grey and natural white and I think it will go very nicely together with the band.

Gotland meets Klövsjö

Just before the holidays I spun some black and silvery Swedish Klövsjö locks for my friend Sara who is writing a book about knitting in Sweden. I didn’t give her the whole skein, though. I saved part of the skein and used it in this band. The silver grey yarn is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. The rest of her is in the Sounnie sweater.

The black part of the warp is Swedish Klövsjö wool and the silvery grey is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. If you watched my Gotland wool webinar have seen me comb this wool there. 2,2×209 cm, 67 g.

This warp was quite tricky to handle. The yarn was fuzzy and the warp threads clung to each other, making each shuttling a challenge. But I saw the potential of the yarn as a band and didn’t give up.

I do love this band. I may play with it in an upgrade of the woolen spindle cases I make for my spinning classes.

Broadbean green

I spun and dyed the broadbean green yarn for a helmet hat for a friend’s newborn baby some years ago. Swedish Jämtland wool and silk, so soft and silky. The grey yarn is Shetland wool. I spun it originally for my Sassenach shawl in the Slow fashion 2 video. I used the leftover warp yarn for a woven scarf for my father. Apparently there was a skein left even after that.

Broadbean green warp in Jämtland wool and silk. The dark grey warp is Shetland wool. 1,7×221 cm, 31 g.

This was a very smooth and easy weaving. Thin warp threads that were very well behaved. The band is slim and even.

Bog body

The bog body yarn is part of my contribution to the Swedish spinning championships 2019. It is the outercoat only of Värmland wool. The yarn is my warp yarn for the championships assignment. The task was to spin your interpretation of the coat of a man found in a peat bog. He turned out to be from the 14th century and wore the only complete man’s outfit found from that time period.

Värmland outercoat in a sleek band. 1,7×137 cm, 32 g.

This too was a very nice weave with a smooth and cooperative warp. Since the yarn was spun from outercoat only the band is very dense and sturdy, but still sleek and shiny. This was a lovely weaving experience.

Rustic Värmland

I did have my doubts when I warped for this band. I had a feeling that this warp would stick. I was right. For every shuttling I needed to separate the warp manually thread by thread. At the same time I knew how much I would love the rustic feeling of this band. I was right about that too!

Värmland wool in dark and light shades made a rustic band. 2,0×143 cm, 36 g.

The dark brown warp is Viola the Värmland ewe, a very pleasant spinning experience. The lighter warp is also Värmland wool, from a medal winning fleece from the Swedish fleece championships of 2017. I spun it on a mediaval style spindle and distaff. The rest of the fleece is in a pair of Venus mittens and my Heartwarming half-mitts.

Just a few decimeters from the end of the warp a thread broke and I cut the warp. It is now in my thrums bag, ready for another go at rya knots!

Weaving more bands

I’m not done weaving bands. This was a really rewarding method and I want to investigate it further. But first of all I’m going to finish those tablet weaving projects that have been taken up space in my ufo stash and in my mind.

Transfering new knowledge

By learning how to weave bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method I have learned a new textile technique. That, in itself, is a gift that I cherish. The beauty of this is that things I have learned are also applicable to other techniques and bigger projects.

Clinging warp threads

By seeing and feeling the consequences of a fuzzy yarn I can make wiser choices for upcoming bigger weaving projects. If a weft that is 2 cm wide is making trouble because of clingy warp threads, how much trouble wouldn’t there be for a 40 cm width? And if a warp thread breaks due to the clinginess and abrasion, how many warp threads would break in a larger project? Well, I already know this from a previous project where over 20 warp threads broke. But in a small project as this I get the chance to understand why this happens.

The body as part of the loom

This is my only experience so far with the backstrap method. But I love it already and I understand the importance of the body for the weaving experience and result. This simple method is so much easier to understand for me than a loom big enough to live in. I see the resemblance with the difference between spindle and wheel where my body movements are integral parts of the operation. This makes the technique so much easier to understand.

A pile of rolled-up woven bands.
Five woven bands, beautiful in all their simplicity.

I love my sweet pile of handwoven bands. Such a simple idea yet so brilliant and useful. An weaving plain bands is just a small taste of what someone can achieve with patterns and more knowledge. Still, I like the simple design of these. They show off the simple beauty of the handspun.

Happy stashbusting!


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Chair pads

My chair pads with Ghiordes knots are finished! They are such a joy to sit on and I smile every time I see them, especially considering they are made of handspun thrums and stashed handspun yarn only. The old store-bought pads with their innards crawling out of them are buried, forgotten and forgiven.

Stashbuster chair pads

During the fall I started making rya chair pads. The inspiration came from when I took a craft leadership course. For the classes we sat on stools with woven pads with rya knots that felt very cozy to sit on. I kept the pads in my mind and one day I connected them with all my saved handspun thrums and odd skeins of handspun yarn.

The warp is Shetland wool and the weft is Värmland wool that just hadn’t found their project yet. My plan was to make all the knots from saved thrums, but I ran out of thrums at quite an early stage in the process. The blue/white and the thinly striped in greens are the only ones made completely of thrums.

The numbers

The pattern consists of four parts: One row of rya knots and three shuttlings. One such series takes me around ten minutes. Every chair pad has around 40 such series and according to my calculations one pad has taken around seven hours to finish. Plus of course the time it took to spin the yarn. You can see how I made the knots in this post.

I wanted to replace the ugly pads on our eight chairs, so I warped for eight pads. Perhaps I should have thought of the bulk of eight knotted pads on the cloth beam before doing that. I will tell you more about why further down in this post.

There is a lot of bulk on the cloth beam. Cow pattern in dark brown Shetland wool and white Swedish finewool.

I used just under one kilo of handspun yarn for this project. One kilo of odd skeins, colours that I had found no use for and early creations that don’t match the standards I have today. It feels so good to have used these precious skeins for warming our behinds.

The pads

I decided to just use the yarns I had and make a new pattern for every new pad. The only theme of the pads is the stashbusting. I must say that it has been very satisfying to find such a good use for these yarns that have been filling my handspun stash.

Blue and white

My plan for the first pad was to make it blue. The plan worked perfectly until I ran out of blue thrums mid-pad. So I simply used white for the rest of the pad. Which turned out to be less than half of the pad. But still, a pretty pad. I spun the blue yarn from Swedish Leicester wool and dyed it. The wool has beautiful shine, just like rya knots are supposed to. The thrums comes from a twill pillowcase I finished just before I started warping for the chair pads.

A fuzzy chair pad in blue and white.
My very first chair pad in blue and white

The white yarn is a rya/Swedish finewool mixbreed. The thrums comes from a blanket I wove a few years ago. Yarn from rya wool is the traditional yarn you use for rya rugs. The fibers are strong and make durable and shiny knots for any rug.

Green waves

For my second pad I did have a plan. I wanted to alternate colours and number of rows in the stripes in sort of a continuum – there are three colours in the pad but every other stripe is light, making a four stripe series. The stripes is a series of three: 4 + 2 + 2 rows in the stripes. This means that the total repeat is 12 stripes.

Green waves made with thrums from two pillowcases.

The thrums comes from two pillowcases, the Blanka pillowcase and the non-Blanka pillowcase in Shetland and Dalapäls wool. The yarn is a bit too thin for a pad, but I still like it.

Hjärterum – room for the heart

There is a saying in Swedish going: “Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum”. This translates to “If there is room for the heart there is room for the bum”, meaning that if you have room for a person in your heart you will scooch over and make room for that person to sit, even if there aren’t enough seats.

A weaving project on a loom. The pattern is knots in a V-shape. The weaver's knees are visible below the warp threads, creating a heart together with the V shape.
Heart and filling in Shetland wool, background in Swedish finewool. Warp is Shetland wool and weft is Värmland wool.

This is the only pad I made a chart for. Or, well, I made it and used it until I lost it around the time the picture above was taken. But I think I did all right even on the chart-less part. The heart and the filling is thrums of Shetland wool, from a blanket and a scarf. The white background is a stashed yarn from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool lamb. She was my very first fleece.

Moo

Each pad has been planned during the weaving of the previous. So, mid-heart I realized I needed to weave a cow. And so I did. A typical Swedish landrace cow in white with dark brown patches.

A fuzzy textile with a cow pattern in white with dark brown patches.
I just felt a need to weave a cow

The dark brown patches are Shetland wool, the same yarn as the warp. The white is the same Swedish finewool as the heart background.

Textured whites

My idea for this pad was to make an all-white pad with different thicknesses of yarn to make a textured surface. The bulkiest yarn was too bulky to fold in the knots, so I made these knots single.

A fuzzy pad in white yarns of different thicknesses.
Different textures of white

It didn’t really turn out as I had expected, but I still like the pattern and it fills its bum warming purpose.

Grey waves

This is one of my favourite pads. Therefore I have placed it on my favourite chair – my spinning chair.

The pads take a lot of yarn. This is one of the heaviest one.

I decided to make a pad with bulkier yarn and I do like the effect. The white stripes are Icelandic wool and the grey are Shetland wool. All the stripes consists of four rows, but since the white yarn is bulkier and less elastic it takes up more room. I like how it sort of floods over the whole pad. The shading of the lighter grey was a coincidence in the first row of the first stripe and I liked it, so I repeated it for the rest of the stripe and the second light grey stripe.

Zebra

Obviously my animal theme wasn’t finished. I needed a zebra too. In my naiveté I thought I just needed to make an irregular striped pattern, but after having studied some googled zebras I realized there was more to it than that. So I added some branches, which resulted in a more accurate zebra pattern. I read somewhere that the mare makes sure to stand very close to her foal just after giving birth to make sure the foal remembers and recognizes her unique pattern and doesn’t get lost in a sea of stripes.

A fuzzy chair pad with a zebra pattern in dark brown and white.
I needed to weave a zebra too. The dark stripes in Norwegian Blæset say and white in Swedish finewool.

While the pattern looks like it is moving, I have only changed 1–3 knots for each row. After having finished one row I have marked the spots on the next row that I will change. To plan for one stripe to move I have had to make sure there is room for that stripe to move by slowly moving the adjacent rows. I have also stepped back to see the whole picture to plan upcoming movement in the stripes.

This is also one of my favourite pads and the pattern I am the most proud of. Despite the small changes in each row the overall pattern looks alive and, well, zebra-esque.

Sloppy warp edgings

As always, I learn a lot from my mistakes when I weave. This time I learned about keeping a close eye on the edges when warping. This was a long warp and apparently it wasn’t evenly spread over the width of the warp beam. This resulted in a tighter tension in the edges of the warp and bubbly chair pads. You can see this particularly in the turquoise, cow and heart pads.

The inside of my heart. You can see the bubbly edges from the over stretched edge threads of the warp.

Once again my woven project creates a map of what I have learned. I am sure someone has told me to keep a close eye on the edge of the warp. But I need to feel it too and understand with my hands what is happening. I am grateful for that.

Trouble shooting

I wrote in the beginning of this post that I had warped for eight pads, but I only made seven. By the beginning of the seventh pad, the zebra, the cloth beam started to fuss. The handle unclicked itself from its clicker pawl and the warp went very loose. The handle was all loose but I still couldn’t get it off the loom to investigate what had gone wrong. I contacted my supplier and she quickly sent me a maintenance kit with a new handle. When I saw the kit I quickly understood how it was assembled and could remove the handle from the cloth beam. I realized that there was nothing wrong with the handle or any of its parts. Instead, the thickness of the cloth on the beam had gradually loosened the screw that connected the cloth beam to the side pieces. This had caused the handle to turn loose and disconnect itself from the clicker pawl.

The zebra pad. Knots in Norwegian Blæset sau and Swedish finewool. This is also a favorite.

So, the seventh pad took ages to weave. The warp was very loose and I had to stop and tighten the screw every few shuttlings. But for some reason this made me pay extra close attention to the warp and this last pad turned out to be the most even one!

What about the eighth pad?

I had made plans for the eighth pad. I was going to make it into sort of a rag rug – using the last yarn I had in a striped pattern with white and coloured stripes and letting them replace one another as I ran out of a colour.

A fuzzy chair pad in white and grey stripes, hanging over the backrest of a red wooden chair.
Simple stripes to warm your behind.

Due to the unscrewed cloth beam the eighth pad didn’t happen. Yet. I don’t feel finished with this technique. Although very time consuming, it has been a joyful an educational ride and a very satisfying way to relieve my handspun and thrums stash.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

I have a new toy – the pin loom

a small loom and lots of finished woven squares

Spinning and fiber work are material sports, there is no point in denying it.

A couple of days ago, I came across an Interweave post on pin loom weaving for hand spinners. At the same time I had a stash cleaning since my handspun storage was bursting. And I realized that the pin loom would solve my problem.

How to weave on a pin loom

A pin loom is a small 10×10 cm loom that only needs a short piece of yarn for one square. The first three passes are just threaded between the pins – vertical, horizontal and vertical again – and on the fourth you weave horizontally with a long needle. You weave in the ends and the square is finished in under 20 minutes. Since all the squares are made in the same way it is easy to sew them together in the selvedges.

Weaving with my handspans

I bought a Zoom loom from Schacht. The technique is really addictive. I like how different yarns behave in different ways on the loom (and off). I spin a lot of yarn, and there is often a small ball of yarn left when I have finished a project. And I can’t throw away these odd balls, no matter how small they are. I have a hard time throwing away even short lengths that I cut off from weaving in ends. I even save the last piece that is left of the warp after cutting it (effsingar is the Swedish word, is there a name for it in English?). There is so much time and love put into these short peaces of yarn and I can’t just ignore that.

An odyssey of my spinning history

When I weave these scraps of yarn it is like an odyssey of all my previous handspun yarns – I get to see and feel them all over again and they bring back memories of projects past. I can also see the development in my own spinning from the uneven, loosely spun yarns in the beginning six years ago to the more consistent ones I make today.

Planned project

My plan is to do what the author Deborah Held suggests in the Interweave post: I will make squares of all my small balls of leftover handspun yarns, sew them together, felt and make a blanket of perhaps 15 x 20 squares. I have got a lot of handspun leftovers in my stash so I think it is a realistic idea. And so far it looks like the colours will go well together.

A small loom and lots of woven squares
Pin looming my little heart out. The yarn on the loom is a z-spun yarn I made in 2012, way too loosely spun, used for a pair of twined knitted mittens I use almost daily