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