Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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


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Some Images From Recent Days

I watched my sister’s dog the other day, while she was out with my littles. A trade. With my furry niece, I sat under a tree. Pitch got stuck on my fingers. I realized I need to sit under trees with my children more. 


Pumpkins…

And their seeds…

A misty river visit on an afternoon drive. Here, I felt close to many in my family who have passed away. Touching the cold, clear water, I told them all I miss them. 

We drove up a mountain. I live in Vermont but I don’t go up very high most of the time. Scared the hell out of me. Not gonna lie. 

Wisdom is everywhere. It does pay to go up high every now and then. 

A doll I made. It’s me, when I’m old. 

Off to a lecture at UVM, and in between events today I’ll work on finishing the second sleeve of my sweater. 

Car knitting is the best. 


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Monday Musings~ Writing is Like Exercise

Sheesh, it’s been a while. A raucous cold, a busy schedule, a lost cat, and maybe a few too many projects really got me off my writing groove. But, I went for a run yesterday to try to get my blood moving again, and today I’m back to writing here and on another project. Feels good. 

I’ve taken to rising early again, well before anyone else in the house is stirring. It’s so much easier to do when it stays dark longer into the morning. I love those quiet moments. And truly, coffee tastes the very best at a little past 5am. 

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. So, making decisions and abiding by priorities is where it’s at. 

One beautiful priority for me at this time is working with Susan Merrill of Weaving A Life.


I’m going through the process of making eight projects Susan developed, with her support, guidance and wisdom along the way. Two and a half projects in and I’m already profoundly moved. I’ll write about the whole process when I’m done. For now, all that I am learning and gathering for myself is precious and intimate. When I’m through, I’ll be able to work with others in this way, which is a dream come true. 

I’m spinning wool almost every night after my kids go to bed in order to have a sweet selection to sell at a craft fair in November. 



I’m tending to a sad and worried heart, of my own and my children, due to our missing cat. He’s been gone for almost a week but was sighted this morning. With the weather changing, it’s hard not to feel frantic. 


I’m working on another weaving project and struggling with warp tension due to shoddy wrapping on the beam. Frustrating! 


And tending to family, home, career, body, mind, spirit in these crazy heartbreaking times…

Not enough hours…


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Ahhh, Satisfaction! 

Yesterday evening I took a piece off my rigid heddle loom I’d started weeks ago. September 1st, I think. 


I used a yummy mohair yarn and what I’m fairly certain is a kind of thick cotton thread. I love autumn-esque colors. I was going for a shawl that both looks warm and delicate, airy and solid. I also wanted to practice a weaving technique called Leno as described in the book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell. 

The cotton thread behaved so much differently than the wool yarn. It is much less forgiving and had almost no elasticity. Sometimes the selveges were a catastrophe. I thought about bailing on the project about halfway through because I was worried it was just a hot mess and I should start over. Then I got stubborn and opted to carry on ~ best case scenario, I reasoned, was that I’d love the shawl and want to show it to the world, imperfections and all. Worst case? That once off the loom I’d lament wasting hours of my life weaving cloth not fit for mouse bedding. 

I tried out some things in an effort to minimize loose ends. Oh loose ends! They are part of things, aren’t they? 

When I had to switch colors (according to my own pattern; I’d arrange the color changes much differently if I were to make this again) I tried securing the loose threads in the loop of the weft as it was going back through the warp. That worked out pretty well. Wish I’d have figured that out sooner! 




Taking the shawl off the loom was nerve wracking! Not sure why. It feels both sturdy and fragile at the same time, and all of the loose ends made me wonder how the hell I’d get them all sewn in without ruining the fabric. 


There it is all laid out. 


I stayed up until the wee hours last night sewing all the strands in, those that couldn’t be trimmed as they were. It was so worth it. 

The shawl isn’t blocked yet but here it is. I’m so happy I kept at it. I learned so much about how different threads behave, selveges, the utter importance of a proper tension in all warp threads (obvious I know, but I thought I’d done that and still there were problems throughout. I think I need to make smaller groups of weft threads in the beginning stages). 


Here’s an up-close view of the general pattern. 


Here’s some unfortunate selvege proof. 


And there’s me, still proud as hell of this piece! 



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A Weekend of Inspiration

The air was so warm and soft today. The sounds of late summer drifted through windows and around me as I meandered my way through a day filled with puttering, putting away and listening to children play, laugh and negotiate. Not much got done in the way of handwork other than knitting a few more rows onto my sweater. Slow and steady wins the race, I hope? 

I looked outside as I folded laundry and saw this meeting of mushrooms. How had I not seen them before? Or did they just appear suddenly, a faerie ring?


Later, my daughter and her friends showed me this epic spider! 


Soon, she had a bee in her web. Gruesome and awe inspiring. Deep respect to Shelob’s kin. 

At the start of the weekend a friend had sharp eyes on a mid-afternoon walk. Purple fungus and slithering corn snake offered their colors as inspiration. 

All of these moments and more make for a sweet entry into busy work and school week. 

Hope you had a good weekend. 


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Monday Musings~ Worry Sucks

I definitely spent a lot of time worrying about people I love and places I hold in my heart these last few days as Irma coverage got scarier. I avoid the Weather Channel because damn is it dramatic, and the turbo intense music is insulting. But even reading about the hurricane in my own quiet head made for stress and ineffectual worry. My worry literally did nothing to help people. 

But, I cleaned the hell out of my house and found a painting I did years ago of the house grew up in on Sanibel. I’m not a skilled painter, but I love it. 


I picked up a sweater I’ve been working on for five months. I even knit a few stitches while watching a terribly stupid movie. I’ve never done that before. A success? 


I wove a little with my buddy, Mittens, who is achieving a starring role on this here blog. 


I had some sister time at the lake,


And got some crazy love from my puppy niece. 


I sent a lot of love into the air and realized I need to learn to build a fire from scratch. 

Last week’s goals are this week’s: seriously. Finish the shawl (or maybe table runner?). I’m screwing up enough to make me want to bail on the whole thing but I feel like the little bitty mess ups might not be reflective of the whole thing. Just like a bad day doesn’t mean the whole month is bad. But seriously, my selvages need work. <Palm slapping head>.

I played with my littles a lot after school and truly, sometimes playing just means sitting on the floor and letting them climb all over me so I can tickle them. This will remain a goal. Our days are infinitely better when we heart to heart connect after a long day apart. 

I never did start the hat I have stuck in my head as an idea. I was too worried. 


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Monday Musings~ Idle Hands Don’t Make Things

My kids started back at school after a summer filled with friends, family, swimming, creating, sunbathing… yes, I know, sun-bathing is so not good for the skin and I’m sure I’ll pay for it later in life, but this year, after the spring I had, I wanted to lay in the sun and not garden and just feel energy get put back in my body. It was lovely. 

Now I’m back, along with my littles, to routine and discipline and work. This year, work includes for me my private practice as well as writing, crafting and at some point teaching handcrafting type things to kids. I’m in the getting my ducks in a row phase now. 

In the crafting department, the waning days of August and the moody days of early-September have been productive. So far I’ve:

Spun some more yarn,

With my buddy. 

I’ve started a new weaving project in an attempt to learn more stuff…

And I got more comfortable setting up my loom. 

I crafted a hat out of a woven piece from the above loom and crocheted the top. It’s weird and unique and fits beautifully. 

And I made some fingerless gloves to match. 


I’ve captured a picture of two bucks who visit our yard from time to time. One is missing an antler. The Jungian in me can’t help but ruminate on this image. 


And I’ve internalized summer, the heat and energy that keeps things going and the mythic waves that crash and flow, regardless of one’s presence or reverence. 


Hopes for this week:

Play every day outside with my kids, finish my shawl, start a new hat, write a second chapter…


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Make A Book From Scratch Summer Camp, Recap…

This summer was a time of taking a few risks, including putting my fiber art teaching love out into the universe in a different way. I’ve shared already the camp I offered to do with weaving. You can read about that here. The second camp I offered was all about making a book from scratch. It’s important to me for kids to know and be frequently reminded that they can make stuff, really cool stuff, with found items, recycling and a little ingenuity. Art supplies are expensive, as are art classes, but if you know how to get your hands on materials that are free or inexpensive, you have at your fingertips myriad ways to make art, to be an artists, to add your own beauty to the world. So… I was messing around one day after daydreaming about making a book for collage. My first book was the one pictured below. It’s made with handmade paper, wool that I wet-felted for the cover, a piece of driftwood and cotton thread for stitching together. I’ll show you the camp process, mostly in pictures with a little text, because I think the images speak for themselves. This is the project that inspired the camp.

 

I spent a good deal of time before camp began prepping some materials. Carding Shetland wool…

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Making frames… a word on that: I found wooden frames at Michael’s craft store for $1 each. These saved the day. I had a number of frames on hand that I found at garage sales but I figured that kids are sometimes interested in making sure everything is even and balanced and fair, so, I decided to ensure that each child had the same size frame.

Also, I’ve been trying to find on line the tip I came across for outlining the frames with duct tape. I want to give credit to the blogger that shared that brilliant idea! Doing this makes for much easier removal of the paper once you flip it onto the drying surface. I will always do this now, and if I come across the blogger’s site, I will for sure share it here.

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Here’s me stapling the screen onto the frame. I used my mom’s staple gun, which made me think of her. I feel close to her when I’m crafting or creating. You can read about why this is relevant here.

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While things go better with kids when things are fair, they go even better than better when kids know which thing is theirs. It’s lucky I had this flashy duct tape on hand. No guess work needed!

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Here’s the thing about paper pulp (made in a cuisinart with recycled paper and water; the paper I put through the shredder first)~ not all kids love touching gooey, smushy, splootchy wet stuff. It’s handy knowing this ahead of time so you can have at your finger tips ideas of what steps kids might enjoy doing in the process, like soaking up the water from the underside of the frame/screen with a sponge, stirring the pulpy concoction, adding flower bits, etc., in the even that full-on hand immersion in paper pulp is out of the question.

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Here’s the kids looking for flowery colorful bits to throw in to our pulp.

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If those colors aren’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

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I spent a good amount of time experimenting before camp started…

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And dyeing wool…

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Here’s some kids using a drum carder to prepare wool for felting. This camp included chances to do as many jobs as possible in the time we had. I had the kids pick a lot of the grassy bits out of the wool, fluff it open to prepare for carding, and then card it. There were varying opinions on this. I could sit and pick at wool all day and be fine. I love looking at those tasks as a chance to just chill the heck out and be with my thoughts. Not all kids love that, of course, so some felting was a wee bit chunkier than others, and that’s okay!

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For the wet-felting part, I had the kids arrange the layers of wool they were using to make their book over on a plastic table on top of a sheet of freezer paper. Then, we covered the wool in warm, soapy water, and covered it all again with freezer paper. The paper stayed strong while the kids pressed and rubbed their hands over their wool. Once it was showing signs of felting, they could take off the top layer and use their hands to felt directly. Again, some kids love that textural messy feeling and others don’t. Leaving the freezer paper on for a while longer helped those who preferred keeping their hands free from that specific wet-wool feeling.

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Then, once dried, the kids arranged their books as they wanted them, and had a chance to needle felt a design on to their covers. The night before the last day of camp, I sewed the books together. Originally, I’d hoped the campers would do that part, but we ran out of time.

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I think these books are all so beautiful. Interspersed between their handmade paper, I included sheets of handmade paper from India that is more amenable to writing. I will keep working on my own paper making skills to see if I can get closer to that quality.

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And listen, it’s not right to ignore the behind-the-scenes stars of the show… the sheep! Something I love about being a part of the fiber handcrafting and fiber art community is that I get to meet so many wonderful people. This is the second year that I’ve gotten wool from a wonderful man named Peter Moore, who lovingly cares for his four Shetland sheep. I met Peter because he posted online that he had wool available, and I jumped at the chance. I can say that I would call Peter a friend, now, and I truly don’t know how we would have ever met if not for our mutual love of sheep! Let me introduce his lovely wooly friends:

Meet Dolly…

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And Violet,

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Phoebe,

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And Daisy!

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They are all half-sisters and are four years old. Their wool was the centerpiece of this camp (in my opinion), and the kids were champs, learning new skills every day and hopefully leaving with something they were proud of.

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I’m sitting at my desk now, listening to the wind blow around the house. The temperatures are cooling and the birds are busy at the feeder. I am looking forward to the cooling down, the bundling up, the quieting of winter. Summer can be a full-on explosion of activity, work and play. It’s the extroverted season. These camps were a beautiful expression of all of that. I wonder what new things I’ll imagine up as I sit in the dark introverted winter. I guess we’ll see next year!


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What Happens When Fibery Handcrafting Takes Over My Life…

I finished my circular weaving project and what started out as one idea evolved into a moving symbol for me. Wild bird flying into golden fire 🔥. 

Tour de Fleece spinning mania!!!

Lots of spindle practicing… it’s slow going. 

Curly locks bring lots of smiles…

Yummy, yummy yarn…

More practice…

Fireworks magic for balance…

Lots of Shetland wool washing…

Lots of Shetland wool dyeing…

With some gorgeous alpaca…

And some Shetland carding while the dye pots do their thing…

Adding color to the fantasy basket…

And more spinning…

And dyeing…

And loom making for a weaving summer camp I’m hosting in a week… (yay!)

And, repeat…

Summer is my favorite time. ❤️