Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Weaving Air

Having several different projects going at a time is a habit I’ve gotten accustomed to over the years. I don’t have a schedule that allows me go to weave at my loom for entire days. Instead, I have bits of time here and there that I try to make good use of when I can. I used to judge this part of my nature, the part that flits from this to that. I wondered if I had a discipline problem, or some issue with commitment. Always the therapist, I’m often unpacking who I am and how I operate, and examining how my traits and tendencies impact my day-to-day life.

Well, in this case, I’ve learned that I really enjoy making things, at home, at work, on my loom, with kids, with adults, and by myself. I feel frustrated when the only thing I’m working on is not with me, leaving my hands idle and my mind clanking a bit. When I allow myself to indulge in the many-projects-at-once rhythm, I get to eventually enjoy what I refer to now as my creative crescendo; so often many things are finished around the same time and I have this wonderful experience of seeing multiple ideas and efforts come to fruition at once.

Right now, I’ve got this vibe going in full-force. There’s a curtain (hopefully) on my counterbalance loom, towels on my rigid heddle, a tapestry on my copper pipe loom, another tapestry on a small frame loom, and oh… that second mitten I’ve been wanting to finish knitting for months.

What I’m noticing about a few of my projects is that they are going after a feeling or sense experience that I can best describe as airy. I want my curtain to be as flowing and loose as I can manage weaving it, with bits of structure and form throughout. This is an experiment as I try my hand at weaving with 20/2 cotton as the warp and using inlay throughout. I’m not using a pattern or following any directions. I’ve already learned something. I have my 20/2 warp sett at 12 epi, and I originally hoped to use the same yarn for the plain weave weft; the inlay was going to be a thicker cotton slub yarn that has a yummy texture. Well, what I learned was that the fabric was just too loose. I was beating it lightly to maintain an openness and transparency. I basically wanted a curtain that blended in with air. But what I found was that if I even looked at the fabric funny, the weave drooped and flopped, making it look injured and offended. When I started considering finding a spray adhesive and shellacking the whole thing once it was done, I realized I’d maybe made a mistake, chalked it up to my steep learning curve, and switched gears. I am going to try to use the experiment to cover some beautiful handmade paper I have, so all is not lost.

Now, I’m weaving the curtain with the same warp, but with the thicker cotton slub yarn as weft, beat loosely (still finding the right beat and trying to keep it consistently). I can’t do the same inlay design I was doing because I’m using that yarn for the plain weave. I decided instead on this twine, jute-like string/rope/yarn I have and opted to just lay it in, leaving both ends exposed. This is a departure from the inlay techniques I was planning on practicing with this curtain, but that’s okay. I’ll get to them. I love the twine because you can unravel it and it becomes this wild grass-like stuff. It smells good, too. I’m hoping my curtain will still feel airy, but I suspect it will hang with a little more purpose and won’t be so vulnerable to the passing breeze or occasional handling as my original design would have been.

On my rigid heddle, I’ve got an actual pattern that I’m following. It’s another slub cotton project, this time towels. I love weaving with this yarn! It’s soft, gentle, light. Clasped weft is the main weaving technique utilized in this pattern, and it’s very satisfying to watch it build up. Getting the beat right on this project takes some doing. You can see on the bottom right that I’m beating too hard in the clasped weft section that is newly begun, but I’m working that out. I’m definitely turning into a person that uses a tape measure as a necklace! Ha! I’ll share pics of these towels when they’re done.

I’ll get to the tapestry work in another post, but for now, I hope that whatever you’re doing, there’s some room for creativity and texture, even if it’s just here and there. All those moments add up and make something, eventually.


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Weaving is Collective and Personal

I’m a member of the Vermont Weaver’s Guild and I participated in this year’s weaving challenge. It was to make a pillow using three of the four elements randomly assigned to each weaver who entered. I got overshot, cotton, stripes and black and white. I chose the first three elements because nowhere in my house is there a spot to receive a black and white anything, so that part was simple. One pillow is to be donated to the guild so it can be part of a sale that we have to raise money.

I’ve not been weaving for terribly long, and every time I learn a new thing, it feels like I have to relearn a bunch of old things, although I can say I’m noticing a growing ease with preparing a warp, getting it on the loom, setting the loom up and threading, so that is a good thing. I will share a story in another post about a fight I got into with my counterbalance loom with the absolute simplest warp/threading/tie up you can imagine just this week, but I’ll save that for later. For this pillow project, I opted to utilize the weaving class I was taking at Shelburne Craft School with Lausanne Allen to get help and support as I tackled the most complicated pattern and weaving structure I’ve done to date. The class was for weavers who have experience but are still actively learning and benefit from the guidance of a skilled and patient teacher.

I felt rather overwhelmed immediately with the overshot part of things, and how to add stripes to it, because I don’t know how to create my own patterns yet. I referenced Madelyn van der Hoogt and of course, Bertha Gray Hayes, and saw so many drafts I’d love to weave, but somehow, translating those into a pattern made me feel like I was swimming in too deep water- maybe it was resistance? Or confusion? Or just the simple fact that I need to dig in and study what size yarns go with what epi goes with what draft, etc., etc., and then color choice- oh man! It’s a lot to sort out! So… I kept getting stuck. Enter Lausanne, who showed me a wonderful pattern called Bertha’s Towels from Handwoven. I was like, boom… Cotton, check. Overshot, check-check. Stripes, bingo. I knew I could modify the pattern for the pillows I needed, and get a few towels out of the bargain as well, if I lengthened the warp. And from there I went.

What I loved about the process once I got out from under the stress of making a bunch of decisions about a weave structure I didn’t really understand yet was the toggling between community and self, community and self. During class and open studios, I shared close space with fellow students who I now consider friends. One was weaving a beautiful Krokbragd pattern on a rug warp; the other was approaching our school’s antique barn loom that was having new life breathed into it with all of the attention paid to her; that weaver has her own incredible story to tell about her experience, and she wove an absolutely gorgeous table runner using an overshot pattern. In the back weaving room, there were other wonderful weavers and friends working out their warps and weaving. The sounds of a working weaving studio are amazing- clanking, knocking, the occasional sigh, swear, muttering to self, the walking around and looking at others’ work when you’re so tweaked by threading, sleying and realizing a mistake. I’d have a moment where I’d meet myself and my own growth edge, exclaim some thing, get support and dive back in to my own mind and project.

It took a long time for me to weave three towels and two pillow covers (one side- I used a lovely muslin-esque type fabric for the back). The flow of overshot and the pattern itself requires complete attention, pretty much the whole time. I think I finally internalized the pattern by the middle of the second to last towel I wove and it started to make sense to me, how it all worked. And wow, as the fabric became reality, I couldn’t believe what I was making. It was so much fun to problem solve selvedges and beats, fixing mistakes and troubleshooting loom peculiarities with Lausanne and my weaving partners. And it was heartening to meet, yet again in this weaving passion I’ve found myself in, my own growth edges and how I deal with them- it’s not pretty all the time, that’s for sure, but I know that I can move forward now towards pattern design- not with ease, but maybe with less trepidation? I mean, I’m in no rush… we’ll see.


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Finally Finished Those Slitrya Blankets!

It’s been a weird period of time. Surprisingly busy and full in the midst of a pandemic. I’ve been working a lot in my multiple roles as a therapist, a teacher, a weaver and now, a writer. And I’ve been living a lot in my life as a partner, mom, sibling, daughter and friend, with varying degrees of presence. There are not enough hours to do all the things, and it’s a choice, always, what and what not to do. And frankly, like so many, my choosing button got busted with all of the micro and macro decisions that needed making due to pandemic day-to-day details. In the midst of that, I’ve gotten to do a bit of weaving- not much because for how time consuming it can be, projects have taken me so much longer to complete than I’d like, but I wanted to catch you up on what has come off the loom since I last wrote.

I did finish the Slitrya blankets! This was a process and it took me forever! Tying all those rya knots was no joke. I also keep meaning to go back and read the pattern again; I went wrong somewhere in my following of directions because I followed the pattern through and was supposed to be able to repeat it twice (I lengthened the warp to allow for that) but one time through and I had woven most of the warp (that was doubled!). I do know the yarn I used was thicker than it should have been, but something else went awry. So, I cut the length of fabric into parts and got two blankets that measured correctly, plus a little extra where I experimented with different yarns. I gave one of the blankets to my weaving teacher and friend, Lausanne, who was tickled! You know, lap blankets are rad! I used mine in my office that got a bit chilly over the winter with the door closed. Just enough warmth to make me comfortable.

My selvedges need work, but I love these things!

So, there is the completion of that project! I have more to update you on other makings, but I figured I’d wrap up that loose end first. I did love making this blanket, and truly, it’s so satisfying to look at and be warmed by. Here’s a good Handwoven article about slitrya and its history. There’s always an ancestral history to a weaving structure, which is probably what I love the most about it.

I hope that whatever you are doing, making, or bringing into fruition, it brings you contentment.


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Want to Talk About Grief?

It’s a pleasure to write to you on this All Soul’s Day. I’ve got rather big news to share, and it’s in large part why I’ve been so mum over here on this blog of mine that I love so much. Some major things have been happening in my world. The one I’d love to tell you about on this day in particular, is that a book about grief I’ve been co-writing for about a year and a half was picked up by the wonderful publisher Sourcebooks. My friend and co-author Pam Blair and I couldn’t be happier. This is a book about grief over the long term, and how it can express itself in a life. There’s a little back story here. Interested?

Pamela D. Blair co-authored “I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” with Brook Noel upwards of twenty years ago. It’s gone on to become a classic in bereavement self-help and is very useful when you are in the throes of chaotic early grief. Well, Pam and I are friends and have been for several years now. We met in the Knitting for Peace Pod I started here in Vermont and it was during one of our gatherings that I learned she also wrote a favorite book of mine called “The Next Fifty Years: A Guide for Women at Midlife and Beyond”(I highly recommend this book, too!). Anyway, fast forward a little bit, and I became a member of Pam’s writing group, and I loved it. I had to drop out of it, though, because my mother very suddenly died and I was completely wrecked. For years. I just couldn’t handle a whole lot for a long time. But, in the midst of all of that, Pam and I developed a friendship and continued to talk a lot about grief. Put two therapists together and there’s no end to what we could talk about when it comes to the complexities of being human.

I guess sometimes conversations lead to more conversations which lead to more things. At the beginning of the pandemic, Pam and I had a Zoom lunch just to check in, and she asked me if I’d be interested in co-writing a book with her about the long-lasting impact of grief. It was an immediate Yes. Yes because by then, I understood what that was like. Yes because Pam is a friend and I was so happy she considered me for the project. And Yes because I’ve learned to move towards all those things called dreams. I’ve always had a dream of being a writer. I write all the time, so it felt natural. The only reason I’d say no was fear, and if I learned anything from my mother’s death, it was to not say no to dreams. Say yes and see what happens.

Well, what has happened is, we have this book coming out in 2022, and we are in the early stages of big editing. It’s exciting, scary, a lot of work and requires ongoing soul searching. It’s a constant touchstone for me… Why write this book?

I think anyone who has suffered the loss of someone they love knows why books on long-lasting grief are important. Even though there is messaging out there that grief lasts a long time, it seems that we’ve, as a culture, internalized a certain schedule by which we need to pretty well be over it enough to not be talking about the pain we are in. In my experience as a therapist, and as a griever, that’s just not how it goes. Without there being ways we can keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and lived experience, grief simply goes underground, and we often tend to our sore spots alone. Or, sometimes we don’t know that other issues we have connect directly to the original wound of loss.

It would be easy for me to go on and on and on… but I’ll save that for the book! In the meantime, I invite you to join me in the conversation either through comments here, or via personal message. Our book came to life when we added real voices, real stories, and wisdom from people who are traversing the long road of grief themselves. If you’d like to share your story with me, I’d welcome it.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here, sending love to all those people who have passed away in our family, some of whom I knew, love and miss terribly, others who I never met but if not for them, I’d not be here today.


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New Project on the Loom- Trying My Hand at Making a Slitrya Blanket

Finally… a project is on my floor loom. Well, not entirely. Threading is still in the queue, but with the help of Lausanne, I got the close to four and half yard warp wound on without too much trouble. There was one moment when it seemed the whole thing might become a bit more cumbersome when the rod attached to the back beam was found to be uneven, but with some tinkering, it was straightened out. I also think I finally came to understand the relationship between the pattern width, the width of the raddle sections, and the numbers of threads in each bout of the warp. For some reason, the relationship between these things has never fully clicked. I was making my warp bout size more about the total number of ends and the way to split it up as evenly as possible without the bouts being too big. I never even considered the raddle. I remember when I had to take statistics in college… I was in the second semester of it, which meant that presumably, I understood all the stuff I learned in the first class. This one day, I just could not at all, in any way, grasp what the professor was saying. To this day, I remember more his glorious, curly hair that the Florida humidity had fun with, rather than the stats itself. Doing some homework after class, I slammed into a wall of confusion and had to get some space from the claustrophobia of my own limits. I sat on a bench outside of the library, that building in which I spent most of my time, other than my own apartment. I just let my mind drift and then the concept I was struggling with came to me, like a fresh breeze on a stifling hot day. I got it! I remember I jumped a little and wanted to yell to someone… anyone, “Did you see what just happened in my head!” I didn’t. I just went upstairs and completed my homework with ease, enjoying my newfound insight. I feel like that’s what happened yesterday, thanks to Lausanne (again!).

The pattern is called Lillebror Slitrya and is from the Handwoven Nov/Dec 2020 issue. I’m very excited about it. I’ll keep you posted on progress as I make my way towards actual weaving. With the extra warp, I’ll play, play and see what happens!


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Weaving and Fiber Arts are Coming Back to the Shelburne Craft School!

Something very exciting is happening here in Shelburne, VT, of the fibery, weavy, yarny brand. On this rainy Memorial Day Monday, I’d love to share the news with you.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from the director of the Shelburne Craft School, a wonderful woman named Claire, letting me know that they were bringing weaving back to their programming. Oh my… she had me right there. It was an incredibly welcome email to receive for reasons big and small. In it, Claire explained some of what she was hoping to accomplish and asked if I would I like to talk. Truth be known, I would have jogged my pandemic-fatigued self to her right then and there, but I tempered that urge and like any mature grown up, set a date to meet in my studio nearby on a later date.

When we met, it was difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm. I listened to what Claire’s vision was and marveled at the fact that soon, Weaving and Fiber Art would be offerings at the Shelburne Craft School again. The school had a strong weaving program decades ago. I’m unclear as to why it was stopped. I’ve only heard whisperings about “the day the looms left”, or something like that. At any rate, as we spoke, I realized quickly that while I want to be a part of this most assuredly, I don’t have the weaving expertise to spearhead the vision coming to life. But, I thought of my weaving teacher, Lausanne Allen, who has more expertise in her pinky nail than I’ll ever hope to achieve in my lifetime. I let Claire know I’d be in touch with Lausanne we’d see what unfolds.

Well… receiving Lausanne’s response to my inquiry as to whether she could imagine taking on developing a weaving program at the craft school was probably the closest I’ve come to that feeling you get when you hurriedly open a letter from a someone you’ve missed terribly, or the results of some test… I sped read it and laughed out loud and read it again more slowly… not only was she interested, but she was thrilled out it, too! I’d forgotten this, but Lausanne reminded me that she learned how to weave at the Shelburne Craft School in the 80s and right out of the gate, she had so many ideas and questions and wonderings…

A lot has happened since Lausanne and Claire met. Spaces have been cleared, looms that the school still had from the fateful time the weaving program shut down have been resurrected and Lausanne and I have brought in a couple of our own. The walls have been adorned with Lausanne’s incredible work and other weavings we’ve collected over the years. There’s been cleaning, oiling, de-rusting and untangling. Lausanne has done many hours of research and learning and acquiring of needed items for the school. And me? I get to be Lausanne’s… I don’t know what to call myself… helper? Assistant? Grateful-To-Be-There-Apprentice? I can tell you this: I feel pinch-myself lucky to be a part of this new development in my town, and am thrilled that Claire has the vision she does to bring back such an important part of not just our town’s history, but in my view, an integral part of the story of human making.

If you are reading this with a particular interest in weaving and wonder when might things be lifting off ground at the school, I will be regularly updating you here. And of course, check out the Shelburne Craft School’s website to see all of their offerings. It’s a wonderful place to be, and soon the sounds of beaters beating, shuttles flying, bobbins spinning, and voices whispering to cloth will be filling the air and saturating the old wood of the historic building.


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What Color is a Temper Tantrum?

Well, hello… it’s been a while. How do we catch up after so much time? My last post was in July of 2020. Since then, I’ve become a homeschooling mom, I’ve started co-writing a book about grief that lingers beyond the time our culture demands is appropriate, I’ve barely knit or woven a thing except for a sweater, hat and booties for a soon-to-arrive little baby niece (oh, I cannot wait to meet her), and I’ve been riding the wave of pandemic life that is really pretty goddamned grueling.

Today at the store, I was double-masking it because I <heart> Anthony Fauci and he says it’s a good idea in some instances. But the second mask I had on was too big and every time I looked down into the bag I was filling, it would scooch up into my eyes and I couldn’t see a freaking thing. This was after I couldn’t help my son with his math because maybe I skipped that class? And, it was after I took a good look at what’s happened to my hair since my last real haircut & color about a year and a half ago, maybe two. So… the mask thing almost, almost made me have a temper tantrum right then and there in the middle of my neighborhood grocery. Why? Not because that’s been the most stressful thing to happen of late. Not even close. Like any good old-fashioned tantrum, they are born from buildup. An accumulation of things that exceed the nervous system’s capacity to metabolize stress. Finally there is the last straw. Usually that poor straw is puny, so to the casual observer, it just looks like someone is losing it over the “dumbest thing”. But it’s never like that. It’s just a dumbest thing that tips the scale too far into Freakoutsville. Today, my last straw was having a mask on my mouth and on my forehead at the same time. Thankfully, I did have enough self-control left in my un-Buddhalike-self to realize I could not handle an embarrassing scene over the decision I myself made about my own mask attire. Maybe it was the dude giving me side-eye as I kept adjusting and readjusting the civic duty gone wrong on my face. “What? Didn’t you see this is how we’re supposed to do it now, bro?”, I imagined challenging him while he slowly and cautiously unloaded his groceries onto the conveyor belt. As much as I wanted to blame some concrete thing, or even Side-Eye Guy for my situation, I knew there was no one but me who could pull it together. After I fumbled through the credit card machine process and then remembered to be grateful for what I have, I gathered my bag of frozen corn and peas and package of chicken, and made my way home.

I miss my people. It hurts something fierce. And my heart is breaking for the millions who are grieving those they lost in this last year. Whether loved ones died from COVID-19 or from something else, no doubt about it, the rituals and rhythms that are built into the fabric of who we are, and which hold survivors in their grief, were experienced very differently because of the pandemic. No matter where we live, what we believe, and who we wish to when we ask for anything in our quiet moments, all who have lost someone are part of a new group. This group has its own stories, memories, symbols, anguish and wisdom that are making up history as we live it. I guess it’s easier to get wicked mad at a mask poking me in the eyes than reckoning with global pain sometimes.

Anyway! Sorry to be a downer, but this is why I haven’t written! Who needs more people talking about how much things have sucked? I do want to share some things though, to cross the bridge back to my love of all things yarny, wooly and textured. I have a new studio space where my looms and most of my yarn reside. This development came to be after I had to close my tiny office in Burlington in the spring. I realized pretty quickly into the pandemic that it’d be a good long time before anyone would be wanting to meet in person again, at least in the space I had, and serendipitously, an opportunity arose at the Shelburne Pond Studios that was basically completely perfect for my varied needs as a therapist, fiber artist/crafter, writer and now momentary homeschooler. It has also allowed for me to unclog parts of my home that housed all of what I’ve collected for my fibrous passions over the years. Blessings on many fronts with us home all the time. I am starting to imagine spring, summer and fall there, and all the sorts of things I might be able to do inside and out with other “masked” people who want to create and play with yarn. I can feel the energy coming back and that is exciting. There’s going to be a lot to weave out of our bodies and our nervous systems as we try to make sense of all that has happened and continues to unfold.

I wonder what a woven temper tantrum looks like?


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handcrafting as a tie to what was, what is and what will come to be

So here’s the thing. It is so damned hard for me write and post and write and post when the world, politics, social issues and social traumas are so profound. Over and over again, it seemed so important that I just stop and be with what is happening and listen. Listen to the people who are speaking and sharing and telling the truth. Be with reality and look at what is right here, right now. That became my job as a human on the planet, as a parent and friend and family member. It continues to be my job and I am learning and trying to continually listen and show up.

Through these last few months, my hands have touched yarns, threads and fabrics, sometimes to start and finish a project. Sometimes just to experience a texture that brings me out of my head and into my body. Touching linen, wool, an embroidered patch, I either feel potential or potential brought to being by someone else’s hands.¬† I’ve learned new things and am gearing up to learn more. I tried to fashion a weekly fiber arts group online to support the kids I’ve grown to know and care for so deeply, but I found that with kids being online so much for the remote learning switch they all had to make in early spring, they were weary of being online! So was I. It was overwhelming, moving my clinical practice online, helping my kids navigate schooling online, connecting with many people in my family through Zoom meetings. It got to where, if I wasn’t seeing my friends, family, clients or the news, I couldn’t look at one more thing. “No. I don’t want to see anything else on this screen. I can’t take it in. I want to look at the sky. I want to look for the bugs that are eating my plants. The turkey that visits my lawn. The eyes of the people I love.”

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I felt and continue to feel like there are thousands of hugs stuck in my elbows. When I see someone I love and I restrain myself from the automatic hug, it actually kind of hurts in a tingly way, like a laugh stuck in my chest, or tears stuck in my throat. I marvel at how much I took those physical connections for granted and how often I must have hugged to have this feel so heartbreaking.

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I’ve noticed though, that when I touch yarns and fabrics and create my own things or admire the things others have made, this wonderful thing happens. It’s like a shrinking of time. I recently started to learn how to tablet weave and in the process read a bit about the history of the craft.

That prompted me to make a miniature version of a warp-weighted loom using a bit of a tablet woven band to serve as the top decorative piece and the warp. As I worked on this project, which by the way is wonderful to look at but wobbly as hell, I couldn’t help but feel connected to the old. The really old. I thought about people who wove on warp-weighted looms thousands of years ago and considered the fact that there was evolution, trauma, creativity, fear and love happening then, too. I thought about the threads that run through time that show themselves in their myriad colors and levels of softness, fuzziness, usefulness and beauty. It occurred to me that this will always be the case. People will always be making things that connect them to the past, tie them to the present and hint at the future.

I find this to be soothing on a big scale. A dedicated focus on a tangible task allows me to look down with specificity of attention, and then up and out with a calmer mind. The back and forth accordion-like thinking in, thinking out is making the metabolizing of this time a bit more like the tides.

What do you do to balance your nervous system with the need to stay connected to what is happening right here, right now in time?


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Learn to Make Your Own Circular Loom and Lovely Bowl

Greetings, fellow crafters. In my Fiber Saturday class yesterday, I demo’d how to make a circular loom out of cardboard. Here, I am offering more detailed instructions and a project idea. Many of the kids I have gotten to craft with LOVE circular weaving. In a way, it’s easier than weaving on a rectangular loom because you just go around and around, rather than back and forth (coming back the other way on a loom can be super perplexing to some. What do you do with that end warp thread!) Getting into the flow is easy and you end up with something beautiful at the end.

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Quick Disclaimer: I’ve woven many things on circular looms at this point. I’ve often had the experience where I wanted my circular weaving to lay flat, but it curls up instead, or I’ve wanted the piece to be a bowl, but it’s lays more flat than I wished. So much affects the way this project turns out. The yarn or fabric variability really changes things, how tightly the yarn is pulled as it is taken around the loom certainly affects how taut it becomes… Things I always stress with this project are: have fun, the goal is not to adhere to a rigid idea of what you want but rather to play with colors and textures and see what you get! No matter what, it will be beautiful. For elementary kids, the book Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg, is a great companion to this project. I also love the book Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds.

To make a bowl on these looms, you do want to pull a little firmly on the yarn, especially as you reach the edges of the loom.

One more thing! This is a great project for kids, but elementary age kids will likely need adult or older kid help with the construction of the loom and the step-up.

Materials:

  • cardboard- the flaps of cardboard boxes are plenty strong enough
  • yarn for warp
  • yarn, fabric, ribbon, string, jute… whatever you want… for the weaving
  • marker
  • strong scissors
  • tape
  • round things that can be used for tracing a good circle- must fit on the cardboard
  • tapestry needle (or a sewing needle with the very large eye, or, you can even use a paperclip- just find the smallest one you have and tie the end of the yarn to end of it)

 

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Step 1: Trace your circle. This will be the approximate size of your circular loom.

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Step 2: Cut out the circles as neatly as you can.

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Step 3: Some folks who are really good at being precise might balk at my lack of straight or perfectly measured grid-work here. I get that. BUT, the point is to demonstrate that this does not have to be incredibly perfect. In fact, I think it’s a relief to many to not have to stress about that. You generally want to split your circle into four kinda even sections.

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Step 4: Around the edge of each section, you will start to make triangles. These will be cut out and serve as notches for your warp thread to hold on to (the warp is what you weave around). You want the same number of triangles in each section EXCEPT ONE! You can see that in each of my looms below, I added one that straddles a segment line. This is because you need an odd number of notches so that you have an odd number of warp threads. Otherwise, each time you go around the loom, you’ll have the yarn always going under the same warp thread and over the same warp thread. You don’t want that.

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Step 5: tape one side of a piece of yarn to the back of your loom.

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Step 6 (warping the loom):

  • turn the loom over so you are looking at the front (the front for me is the side with no marker.
  • pull the yarn over, crossing the loom to the other side. you have an odd number of notches in your loom… so when you pull your yarn across, it won’t land right in the center, right? So you want an even number of notches on one side and an odd on the other, of the yarn just pulled across, having one more notch on one side.

 

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  • hold yarn snuggly and wrap it around the notch, moving from right to left and then turn the loom so it is “up” again, with the notch you just wrapped on the upside

 

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  • ¬†bring yarn down, crossing in the middle, going to the left of the notch with the yarn in it.

 

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  • wrap the yarn around that next notch, again, moving from right to left
  • repeat this step until you’ve brought the yarn around every notch
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Warping the loom:

 

Tying the center of the warp:

 

Step 8: Then start weaving! I generally weave from right to left, but it doesn’t matter which way you go as long as that is the only way you go as you weave. No doubling back! The same weaving principles apply with circular looms as do with other looms. Bring the yarn over one warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next, and so on… The first few rounds might not look right, but as you go around, it will become more and more organized and clear whether you are to go over or under.

Step 9: Optional- You can add new colors and textures whenever you want. I usually just tie on the the thread and begin weaving. When the loose ends come up against the weaving as the new yarn starts getting woven with, I gently tuck them under the already woven part. DON’T SNIP THEM! You want them longer so you can sew them in once you are finished and the piece is off the loom.

As I make my way towards the upper part of the loom, I like to use a tapestry needle to weave. It keeps one from pulling on the warp too much and allows for weaving right up to the top.

 

Step 10: Once you feel you cannot weave anymore, it’s time to take your piece off the loom! Gently pull off the tape, and the warp that is wrapped around the notches. You will notice how it is naturally shaped- will it be a bowl, or a coaster/placemat/wallhanging? Does it curl up or lay flat? Assess and gently shape it as you wish.

Step 11: Time to sew in those loose ends with the tapestry needle. I usually sew them into the bottom/underside of the piece. Just gently bring the loose end down through the column of weaving right below and it and carefully snip the remaining bit. It will be completely hidden in your piece.

Step 12: Admire your handiwork! I love my little bowl! I can imagine making several of these and having nesting bowls all over. Or sewing them together in a way to make something that looks like coral, or finding a little stuffed bunny or chick and making this a little nest…

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Have fun with this. I’ve done circular weaving with kids as young as 6. And I intend on weaving this way for as long as my fingers let me. It is so relaxing and so satisfying, and you likely have all you need already in your home.

Take care,

Bradie


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Cookie Sheet Weaving Project

Hello All~ I sure do hope you are doing okay, wherever you are. I have so much I’d like to say and share about what this COVID-19 pandemic is teaching me. I may have to do that in another post. But here and now, I will share with you a project I made up for wonderful kids I get to spend time with, even though we are all doing some wicked epic social distancing. I have spent large bits of the last seven years teaching fiber art in my kids’ classes (and in some others, too!) and I can tell you, the kids inspire in me so much longing to keep making, keep creating and keep sharing. Now that our Fiber Friday classes are happening on Saturdays via Zoom, I’m trying to figure out lots of yarn-y things to teach using materials we might have kicking around at home. The thing with weaving is, you can make a loom out of so many things! “Homework” for this week is to look around the house and yard to see if we might find weird, unexpected, unique or random “looms” that could be woven on. These could be sticks, frames, chairs, trees… whatever! I hope I see some good ideas next week!

This project is aptly called the Cookie Sheet Weaving Project. As you can see, I’ve used a cookie sheet, yarn, and tape to make this loom. I’ll give step-by-step instructions and maybe you can give it a go!

Materials:

  • cookie sheet, any size
  • yarn
  • scissors
  • tape

Optional Materials

  • fabric
  • large eyed tapestry needle
  • lots of variety of yarn- this is a great project for using up small bits of yarn stash

This is what your loom will look like once it is set up. I’ve chosen to warp my tray the long way, making my weaving piece wide. You can do it the other way, too. You can also choose to warp only a portion of the tray.

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To secure the warp, tape the end of skein of yarn to one side of the bottom of the tray, and then start wrapping the yarn around the tray, with about a 1/4 inch to a 1/3 inch between each wrapped thread. You can see, the underside of the loom isn’t gorgeous, with tape everywhere, securing the warp. Don’t worry about that. It’s most important that your warp is securely fastened onto the tray. Since my tape wasn’t turbo sticky, I used a lot of it.

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I opted for making a very fringy piece. Rather than moving back and forth and back and forth with the yarn, leaving no fringe on the edge, I chose to cut lengths of yarn that were several inches longer than the width of the cookie sheet. I wove each thread individually and then made sure that the remaining yarn was about equal on each side. If you don’t want fringe, just keep weaving back and forth with a long length of yarn, being sure not to pull too hard on the warp threads as you come back the other way.

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Row 1: I started by taking one end of a cut length of yarn and going under the first warp thread, over the next, under the next, and so on.

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Row 2: With the next cut length of yarn, I went over the first warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next and so on. In this way of weaving, I noticed that I liked weaving from right to left, over and over again. This is different than when you weave with a very long length, moving back and forth from right to left, and then left to right as you head back again.

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Because I have a LOT of small balls of yarn, I chose colors and textures that go well together and I cut a bunch of lengths at a time so I could just get into the flow of weaving. This is a very portable project, so I had it all over the house depending on what I was doing.

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And I wove, and wove… and wove… Once you get to the top, you’ll notice that there’s not much room for your fingers to move the yarn around the warp threads.

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If you have a tapestry needle, this is a good time to get it. Threading it with the yarn you are weaving with (the weft), you can really get up to the edge of the tray.

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Before I thought about taking the project off the loom, I tied off the fringe on each side. You just take one weft thread, and the next one, and tie it in a double knot. Make sure that the two edges you tie are on opposite sides of the warp thread. This will ensure that the warp is secure and your piece won’t become loose and/or unravel.

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When your fringe is all tied up, flip the tray over and remove the pieces of tape that are securing the edges of the warp. Then, cut across the middle of the warp threads, freeing the piece from the tray.

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You have a choice to make here. For both choices you should tie off the warp threads in the same way you did the fringe, tying one thread next to its neighbor. If you have an extra one at the end, just include it with the two next to it.

Then, the choice… Do you leave the warp as fringe, too? Or do you sew it into your weaving? There is no right answer except for doing what you think is best for your piece. If I had used a thicker, more interesting or robust yarn for my warp, I think I would have left it as fringe, but the yarn I chose is kind of tame compared to my fringy side, so I opted to sew it in.

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Here’s the warp threads tied off.

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I chose to sew the two tied threads at a time, because they are already tied together as one.

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Using your tapestry needle, bring the warp threads back through the weaving, drawing the needle through the column of the woven piece that is right under it. Don’t pull too tight here as you’ll pucker your cloth.

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Flip your piece over to make sure the warp threads are really hidden in the column of weaving. Sometimes they peep through too much and you have to do it again.

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Once you’ve gone through a couple of inches, you can snip the remainder off.

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Here you see my piece with the wild fringe and sewn in warp threads. This thing definitely needs a little fringe-cut.

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And there we have it! Who knew I needed a new woven table decor piece?!

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Stay tuned for some more fiber art ideas. These will always be great for kids to do, but for sure, these are also fun for folks of all ages. It’s the truth that handcrafting is good for us. It quiets the mind, especially once we get into a good flow. It helps ground us when things feel wild or unpredictable. And, it can give us the chance to see that we can make some really beautiful things.

Take good care,

Bradie