Project 5: Placemat/Tablerunner

I saw that the Maryland State Fair has a “weaving less than one year” category and thought it might be fun to enter. The deadline is soon so I decided it would be good weave something small and quick on the Cricket to enter so I started this.

I taught my husband how to indirect warp for this one so he could help out in the future if I needed him to. I think he got the hang of it. It is pretty easy!

I had ordered warp sticks and they came in the day before I used them. I’m not sure how it happened but as I wove, some of the yarn inched off the side and was directly on the bar and became very tangled.

I was so upset because I had been doing a very careful job minding my salvages and rows and I couldn’t see anyway to salvage it. I had to cut it off so instead of a wide scarf/narrow wrap, I ended up with a large placemat or tablerunner. I figure I can use it in backgrounds of my food photographs but I’m not going to enter it a contest!

I used Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun wool as the warp and some Red Heart Unforgettable in Candied for the weft I had from my mom’s stash she gave me after she got sick. I actually bought some more in case I didn’t have enough so I am drowning it in now! It really worked well as the weft and has a nice shimmer. Maybe I’ll try again some day?

I still want to enter the contest so I’ll have to try something else and be more careful. There was a gap of a few minutes between warping on and cranking and yanking so maybe that was it? I did have some trouble using the warping sticks with the Cricket, it has two back warp bars and a rod rather than the one back bar like my Kromski and that also threw me off. I’m not sure why exactly it has two? It made it trickier to use both the paper and the warping sticks—the loom is small and there isn’t a lot of space for your hands if you are warping close to the edge.

Project 4: Purple Variegated Scarf

I found a 16 inch Cricket loom with a second heddle (and Kraft paper!) on Facebook Marketplace (the only reason to stay on Facebook besides crafting groups) for a reasonable price in a town not far out of the city.

I went for it and actually picked up a drop spindle and wool kit the same day, also from Marketplace, nearby. Why not? I still think getting the bigger loom first was the right move but it was a good deal and I was curious.

Everything warped on smoothly and easily, having the clamps attaching the loom on a heavy coffee table really helped, the stand is great on my Harp but the loom and stand is very light and they want to move. For this I was able to use the same second table I did with the Kromski for indirect warping but they both stayed put without having to heavily weigh them down. I’m tempted to try clamping the Kromski to the coffee table to warp but then I’d have to reattach it to the stand fully warped which sounds awful.

I did run into one problem—after I pulled the yarn through the heddle holes and went to tie it off, some pieces were very short. I’m not sure how this happened. The table with the warping peg never moved and it wound on very evenly as far as I could tell but there were a few strands that were 3-4 inches shorter. I had to cut them all to even it out. Luckily I wasn’t too concerned about it being the correct length. There was no “surprise” when I finished of extra or tangled yarn so it is puzzling how this happened.

I used Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun in Amethyst I bought on clearance from the Woolery by the cone for the warp. For the weft I used a ball of random yarn I think I bought in person at Michaels. I had wound it to use in frame loom projects so I didn’t keep track of what it was. I ended up needing a tiny bit more yarn to finish it and didn’t have more and couldn’t find it in my Yarn.com or Hobbii orders from a few months ago. I did have some purple variegated yarn of a similar weight and texture so I used that for the last few inches. I really don’t think you can tell.

It weaved up very easily and quickly. I did use the Kraft paper but I ordered some short warp sticks for next time. They really are easier when working alone.

Project 3: Rainbow Shawl

I learned from my last project that the Lion Brand Mandala yarn (this it it in Gnome) is slightly stretching and really pulled the rod you wrap the yarn around toward the heddle on one side. The Kromski came with a “warp helper” to hold it in place but it’s only on one side.

I asked on the rigid heddle group on Facebook and they suggested rubber bands. I had seen this on this post but I didn’t have the issue with the cotton yarn on my first project so I didn’t focus on it. It really was helpful!

This time I made a subtle raised stripe by going through the same slot multiple times and only pulling one strand through the eye (or whatever that is called). It was very easy and I liked the effect. I used most of one cake for the weft and most of a second for the warp.

I did run into trouble with this one when a warp snapped toward the end. It appeared to have a knot in it that unraveled. I think I did notice it when warping but I wasn’t thinking it would make that much of a difference. I was wrong! I think the tension and constant going over it when beating down my rows was too much .

Something I’ve noticed in the rigid heddle and general weaving community is the assumption you have so many other random times hanging about. Giant-sized Kraft paper springs to mind. Virtually no instructions said you needed something between the yarn or why but you do need something.

In this case, when I googled what to do when a warp string breaks, I kept coming across the suggestion to put fishing weights in a old film canister. What?? It’s not the 1990s and I live in a city. I’m not keeping random fishing weights around. I ended up weighing the warp down with a Sugarfina plastic box from candy and coins. It worked fine but I am tempted just to buy the ones I see Ashford selling. Basically you weave in a new piece of warp and then hang it from the back and weight it down so it stays in place.

The directions I found have you anchoring it with T-pins which I also didn’t have on hand and had to order. I think I might write a post about the extras I’ve needed so far. I haven’t even done that much weaving!

The knotted together rope on the apron of the loom from last time’s accident was fine, just a little lumpy in that part for the beginning. Not a huge deal but I’d like to replace it soon, I might ride out to that yarn store that carried some weaving items and see if they carry it.

Project 2: Yellow and Blue Shawl

I ran into a little bit of trouble with this one. I used Lion Brand Mandela (cake) yarn in I think Yeti but it was very yellow and blue heavy and light on the tan/white colors. I used most of one cake for the warp and most of a second for the weft on my 32 inch Kromski. It’s about 28 inches wide and just under 60 inches long.

One warp snapped very close (about 2-inches in) to the side in the beginning after I had woven about 4 inches. I ended up just cutting off the warp on that side up and continuing to weave. I ended up with a slightly narrower shawl than expected. Which was fine! I was really just practicing. It had a small square hanging off the side but I was able to just pull it off with some careful snips and unraveling. I was nervous but it pulled right off and you can’t tell.

I accidentally snipped the apron string while cutting the warps. I tied a knot in it and it seems fine, just a little bumpy in the beginning. I will replace it next time I order from the Woolery because they sell the cord by the foot. A whole cone is quite expensive.

I think it still came out very nicely though! I picked yarn I liked but didn’t love so it’s not quite “my colors” but it would look great with a blue dress.

First Project: Table Runner

I was very nervous about my first project. I did the direct warping (I watched this video over and over again) and I guess a modified “crank and yank” method and it worked really well. It seemed pretty intuive to me to pull the yarn to straighten it out.

I didn’t have trouble with tension. I did have some issued with the sharpness of the heddle hook piercing the yarn a bit. I found a place out in the county that has a limited weaving section and bought the Ashford tool there. It’s nylon plastic so it was a little smoother than the metal hook and loop Kromski provided, although it does seem a little flimsier.

I wish I had realized that I needed kraft paper or warp sticks or something to warp on with when I ordered my loom. I was excited to get started but had to wait a couple days. I did get some kraft paper from Amazon I can use again for steamed crabs but I didn’t find it easy to work with when warping on alone. It kept wanting to fold or crinkle.

I ordered warp sticks from the Woolery and liked them a lot. They are the perfect size and thickness and sturdy enough I could slide them in between the layers myself with one hand.

I used about 3 1/2 balls (total) of cheap old Lily Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn from Michaels for the warp and the weft. The warp is one whole ball in green and then about a third of another in blue. For weft I used a little over a ball of variegated yarn that had had the same blue and green in it so it self striped.

My edges are a little raggedy in places but I washed it a second time (hand washed with plain old liquid soap) and it evened out more (picture below is of it drying after the first wash). You can see a glimpse of it in the background of this recipe on my food blog. It’s very sturdy and nice looking!

And here it is all clean and dry draped on a chair.

Getting Started: Loom & Stand Assembly

As you know from my last post I got a Kromski Harp Forte Rigid Heddle Loom (and stand and overpriced bag) that does not need to be finished. Other looms by other brands nine times out of ten are bizarrely sold unfinished so make sure you do that before you do anything else. I can only imagine how grimy highly handled wood beams get if they are left unfinished. You do need a Phillips head screwdriver to assemble the loom. We set up on the floor because we don’t have a table big enough to lay all the pieces out on.

I was mostly thrilled with the unboxing and set up of my loom. It came in a fairly narrow long box. The loom is pretty light weight so I was able to manage that (and the larger box with extra heddles, the stand and the overpriced bag) by myself. Jammed in the box with the parts was a bunch of Polish Lidl ads which was interesting to look at and a thrifty eco friendly way to keep things from shifting during it’s long journey from Poland to Kentucky and then to Baltimore.

The loom box was marked “Kromski Harp” not “Harp Forte” which is the “newer” version (from what I can tell, the Forte came out a few years ago) which gave me a brief moment of panic but the gears were metal and not plastic which is the difference between the “Harp” and the “Harp Forte”.

The directions also note that it came with the double heddle block vs the single heddle block which until very recently were standard. Double heddle blocks hold two heddles and allow for more complex weaving and sold separately are about $40 so that was a nice surprise.

The directions were mostly clear–I would lay out all the parts to make sure they are there and ready to go–some of the screws look very similar at first glance. While the cover of the directions mentioned the heddle block upgrade it did not mention any changes of where to attach it, which seemed important. There are two notches it could go in and we just had to guess what made the most sense. I’m not sure why they didn’t redo the instructions to make it more clear.

The rope part to attach the wooden dowels you need is a little odd but apparently a streamlined version than their older instructions which involved you cutting the rope and burning the ends with a candle. You don’t have to do this any more, it is one continuous thin rope. I used what came with it but I’ve heard of people upgrading to Texsolv Loom Cord which is something to keep in mind for the future.

It took us a little over an hour to put the loom together. Hopefully we did not mix up the back and front with the directions warned was a “fatal error”. The wooden parts were lightly marked. One person probably could assemble it alone but it was nice to have a second pair of hands to help hold things still.

The loom comes with warping pegs (the bottom of the loom can double as a warping board to prepare your yarn for indirect warping) and clamps to do direct warping but absolutely no instructions on how to warp your loom or any ideas of what other materials you might need to get started (namely kraft paper or warping sticks) or first project ideas. None at all.

The directions for the stand were stapled backwards which was confusing at first. It comes with a hex key/Allen wrench/Allen key for assembly. The screws are very similar in size and appearance and we had to make a last minute switch out. The stand screws into your loom so you need to have that assembled first. I do wonder if you can put a third heddle in the loom with the frame attached. It doesn’t mention it on the loom or stand instructions but in looking at it (and conformed by a review on the Woolery site by Lianna F) it doesn’t appear to allow it. This is a little strange because if you have the 32 inch loom you basically need a stand and there are three heddle patterns out there.

The stand instructions were not great. Do able but the pictures were not very detailed especially when contrasted with the better instructions for the loom.

Our pughuahua was very interested but no help.

Allow me to introduce myself

Hi, I’m Rachel. I’ve been a blogger since around 2000 back in the day when there were just a handful of blogs and before Blogger was sold to Google. In 2004 I started my recipe blog Coconut & Lime which was one of the very first food blogs. That was so long ago, I had to use third party hosting to post pictures! I’ve made a career out of creating recipes thanks to that blog and have written several cookbooks.

Blogging might not be as popular as it once was but I can’t seem to stop myself from wanting to start one. I also review books at Rachel Reads Books and when the Covid-19 pandemic started, I started documenting what we cooked each day.

So of course I’m documenting my journey into weaving. Hello!

Getting Started: Picking A Loom

I ended up with a small amount of money from my mom’s estate as a gift from my dad. She was a crafter so I thought she would appreciate me taking some of it to start a new hobby.

I was all into rigid heddle weaving research. I requested books from the library, started researching looms, joined Facebook groups despite loathing Facebook. I was ready!

Then I realized that there were no places near Baltimore City where I live that really have any supplies for any sort of weaving at all, much less rigid heddle weaving. Oddly, there is a yarn store across town that has giant floor looms for rent in a studio but they don’t have any smaller weaving items at all. I actually found that store to be very cliquish and didn’t really want to buy from them but I would have if they had anything!

If not locally, where do I buy my loom and supplies?

I soon realized that the yarn store I wandered into on a deserted main street about 5 years ago on a trip to Kentucky after visiting a small candy factory where I bought a rug hooking kit that took me until this spring to actually make, is a big name in loom shopping and weaving. Who knew? So I decided to order from the Woolery. They were so nice when we visited I figured they could get all my money.

But what loom do I buy? I soon found out that there isn’t as much information about looms and weaving as you would think. Many, many, possibly most websites and forums seem to assume that you already know how to weave and what you are doing when you are picking out a loom. Real comparisons were rare.

I quickly realized that the big names in Rigid Heddle Looms were my old friend Schacht, Ashford and Kromski. Schacht is US based but Ashford is based in New Zealand and Kromski in Poland. The availability of each seems roughly the same. I did notice that the stores that carried a small amount of rigid heddle items in my start did only carry the Schacht and the Ashford but I’m not sure if that is true nationally.

Schacht has a loom called “Cricket” that apparently was aimed at children initially but adults took to it as well. It seems like most of the focus at least at first in rigid heddle looms was for play or for sampling weaves that you would then make on your more complicated multishaft tabletop or floor looms. Then people started enjoying it for what it was and focusing on the rigid heddle loom for actual projects and becoming primarily rigid heddle loom weavers vs floor or tabletop weavers who dabbled in the rigid heddle. I got this impression from the plethora of “you know what, I actually like it” and slightly and oddly apologetic message board, website and blog posts about the RHL and the fact that there are very few books explicitly on weaving rigid heddle looms.

While doing this pieced together ragtag research I realized that most if not all of the Schacht and Ashford looms are sold unfinished. No thank you. When I get something I’m spending hundreds of dollars on I do not want to have to wax or stain it myself. This might not be true of you but I’m just not doing it. I know this about myself. It would be a real barrier to ever getting that thing out of the box and doing anything with it. It took years for me to do that rug hooking kit because I didn’t know what I was doing and I was worried it didn’t have enough yarn if I messed up.

Kromski it is! I did a cursory check to make sure the company hasn’t been mired in some sort of scandal and it came up clean. It also came with the most accessories of the looms as far as I could tell. The back doubles as a warping board to help you measure and prepare your yarn, a peg to help warp, shuttles to hold your yarn and a pick-up-stick to create designs as well as the basic heddle. The newest Kromski Harp Forte also came (unexpectedly!) with a double heddle block which allows you to use two heddles for more intricate designs and which used to be something you’d have to buy separately. I also liked that the Kromski was all metal and wood–no plastic cranks or pieces like Schacht and Ashford.

Now what size loom to do I get? Again, I found virtually no good, concrete aimed at complete novice weavers information.

Since the width is set, you can’t make anything wider than your loom without having to make it twice and stitching it together somehow. So a lot of scarves, narrow wraps, table runners and towels for your smaller 16 or 20 inch looms. The 8 inch is obviously even more limiting. Larger looms can make anything the smaller looms can but can also make wider items like blankets, wide wraps and even ponchos, wider fabric to cut to make bags, pillow cases, curtains etc. The loom mechanics are basically the same in both, the larger ones are just bigger. I couldn’t find a consensus on what was better for beginners and why. I had to rely heavily on the very good and detailed reviews people left on the looms on the Woolery site (I bet they are so good because so many people are in the same position I am of not being about find anything out online or in books and having to wing it). They were mostly pretty evenly divided between people who love the near lap capabilities of the smaller 16 inch looms and those who deeply wished they had bought a larger loom because they love it so much and don’t want to be stuck making scarves forever. A lot of the negative comments about the larger looms was how wide it was to weave on. I think, in my early 40s, I am on the younger side of weavers I’ve come across and the weight/mechanics of reaching 16 inches on either side of me isn’t an issue the way it might be for someone with more limited mobility.

All of the looms are fairly expensive and it is a huge leap of faith to pick one out, sight unseen and then be stuck with your choice. I ended up getting the 32 inch Kromski Harp Forte in Walnut. The walnut was in stock, a tiny bit more than a light wood version that seemed more common but beautiful. It really looks like a piece of furniture and a real piece of equipment. It was more expensive than getting a smaller loom but when you are already spending a few hundred dollars, the difference of about $50 wasn’t enough to sway me to go smaller. My thought was that if I ever wanted to make anything bigger (which I thought I’d might) I’d need the larger loom but I could also make anything of any smaller width I’d want on it. It does fold in half (even if you have a project on it) so while it is set up it takes up a fair amount of room but can be stored easily. Another plus is that if I want a smaller loom in the future, the outlay for that will be less than it would be to upgrade to a larger loom

The downside of the 24 or 32 inch loom is that you really need a huge table or stand to use it. I did get the stand and the too expensive storage bag which you can clip the stand to for storage and travel. Normally I think I would resist getting the bag but it does seem handy and as I said, I am buying this with money from my mom’s estate so I really felt like I could get whatever would make my experience a little more pleasant. I also bought the matching walnut heddles in the other available sizes in a moment of madness and thinking that I have a lot of yarn in various sizes that the heddle it came with can’t handle as you vary your heddle size to reflect the thickness of the yarn you are using–thick yarn–small number heddle.

What they don’t tell you– When you go to warp (string up) your loom before you can make anything you need flat craft paper or warping sticks to keep your yarn from getting bunched up on the back of your loom. I did not know this! No video I watched about picking a loom or supplies you need mentioned this and I watched dozens. You need plain craft paper about the width of your loom or wooden sticks (also the width of your loom) to get started. I don’t know about you but I don’t have rolls of random craft paper in my house or flat paper bags I can cut up just on hand. I couldn’t find it at Staples, Joann Fabrics or Michaels and we already know my local yarn stores don’t have much of anything. Order the paper or the sticks. I had to order some paper on Amazon (I can use the leftovers for steamed crabs) and then when I read that it is easier to warp alone using the sticks, I ordered two sets of them (not cheap!) from the Woolery. I have watched a video of someone using mini blinds as sticks but that sounds like a pain too. Do yourself a favor and order this when you get your loom so you’re not waiting to get started like I am.

So why weaving?

The last couple years have been rough. In the last year my mom died and my dog died all while we are living in a global pandemic that still hasn’t ended. Work for me as a recipe developer basically dried up, my agent couldn’t sell my latest cookbook proposal and we basically believe in science and didn’t leave the house for about 18 months and we were fully vaccinated. My husband has been working from home since early March 2020 and took over my then underutilized craft room.

I had grown up making a lot of my own clothes and making things like (machine) quilts, curtains and pillows on my mom’s old-even when she got in the the 1970s- sewing machine. I did decoupage quite a bit in college (CD boxes, mostly!), crocheted a little and took a knitting class.

I wanted to get back into crafting to fill my time with more than just cooking dinner, reading books (I do read a lot) and watching tv. I liked the idea of knitting but never was able to really master how to make anything beyond scarves and really hated reading patterns. I did some embroidery but I’ve never had the best fine hand control and it was frustrating. I loved decoupage and piecing together different colors and pictures but it was so messy and there are only so many wooden boxes I need, I still have the ones I made years ago! I realized that while I loved the finished product when I sew, I didn’t really enjoy the actual sewing part. Then I saw this piece in the Strategist by Nikita Richardson about weaving on a small frame loom. Bingo! I ordered a frame loom from Etsy and when that didn’t arrive, ordered the smaller loom (the Schacht Lilli Loom) featured in the post and got to work using some yarn from previous projects I has started and stopped knitting and crocheting. I bought some classes from Hello Hydrangea which I highly recommend. I have a problem following written instructions (this is why I started developing my own recipes!) and flat pictures of techniques and her classes are shot in a way that makes things very clear.

I quickly made like 25+ weavings of all sizes. Not quite tapestries but what I’d think of as “modern weavings” with a lot of color and texture. So much fun! They are fairly quick to make, I used up a ton of old and new yarn and

In poking around about weaving I came across people mentioning making like actual cloth on looms. I was intrigued and while I had seen floor looms before and knew I really didn’t want to leap into that, we have an old house and as I said, my husband has situated himself into what had been called the “craft room” to work 8+ hrs a day.

The rigid heddle loom seemed perfect for me–you can use readily available knitting/crochet yarns for some projects and many of the looms even fold up for storage. Win-win.