How do we make our homes? Our culture impresses upon us the value of disposable trends and knicknacks sourced at Target end caps, but I remember growing up with elaborately embroidered dish towels and pillow cases and braided rag rugs constructed from work clothes. Traditional women's work meant that quilts were made for warmth but also served as creative expression for their makers. These homemade items not only make a home but can also be satisfying for the maker. Furthermore, they become enduring and beloved because of their homemade-ness.
So, with the recent rennovations at the cottage, I knew I wanted some new throw pillows. I could have easily picked something up inexpensively from Ikea or Traget, but I saw the need as an opportunity to use up t-shirt yarn (yarn made from cutting up t-shirts) and to practice my own creativity . . . to make something more special and unique for the cottage.
Because I often get asked about how my loom works and the difference between warp and weft, I've included a very basic tutorial of how I made these. This is mostly meant for non-weavers to understand the process. So, if you are a weaver looking for specifics on reeds and yarn, you won't find that here, but you probably can figure this one out on your own.
Hope you enjoy the photos and explanation. If you are coming to the cottage soon, I hope you enjoy the pillow in your restful time at the cottage!
The warp runs length-wise through the loom. It's the part that actually gets physically tied onto the loom. Every weaving project begins by determing how wide you want to make the piece, how long it is going to be, and how many ends (or strings) per inch is required for the fabric you are weaving. The more ends per inch, the finer the thread and therefore the finer the fabric that you are weaving.
For weaving rag rugs, you use a fairly thick thread for durability. I used a cotton rug warp thread for this project in a variety of colors that I think matched my weft nicely.
To measure and wind your warp, you need a warping board like this!
The warping board makes it easy to measure out your yarn, but it also helps to structure an "x" shape that will help to keep the ends from tangling before you thread them onto the loom.
This is what a bunch of ends look like on the warping board. It looks like pulling fabric taffy! While I am winding, I am counting bundles of ten to make sure I wind the exact amount of threads.
Threading The Loom
Once the warp is wound, it is time to thread it through the loom. You begin to thread it through the reed, which looks and acts like a giant comb. This is where you that "X" really helps to prevent things from getting tangled.
For normal projects, you would continue to thread the hettles, but since I was weaving double weave (two warps stacked on top of one another), I had to wind another whole warp.
When you weave in double weave, it's much easier to wind a second warp in a different color scheme or sequence. It just makes it easier to keep things organized when threading the loom.
After threading the second warp through the reed, it is time to thread through the hettles. The hettles are movable metal needles that organize the threads onto different harnesses. My loom has four harnesses that move up and down. The whole concept of a loom is to make the process of weaving (going over and under threads) more efficient. By raising them up in groups (each harness is a group of threads) it becomes much faster and easier to weave.
Tying the Warp on to the Loom
After all of the threads are pulled through the hettles, you have to tie the warp to the loom. You begin by tying it on to the rear of the loom making sure the tension is equal and tight.
Once the rear end is secure, you have to wind the warp onto the back drum. This means you are winding all the excess warp onto a giant spool on the back of the loom. Later as you weave, you wind the finished weaving onto a drum, (giant spool) on the front of the loom.
Once the warp is all wound on the rear drum, you can finally tie the front ends to the front of the loom!
Weaving the Weft
Look at that! After all of that, it is finally time to weave! Above you can see some white material. The white is actually toilet paper. It is used as a space saver in between my weavings. After the project is cut off the loom, the toilet paper will come out and the strings will be turned into tassels.
The weft is the string or yarn that goes left to right through the warp. It's the part that goes over and under the threads.
After weaving about an inch of cotton rug warp thread, I switch to using t-shirt yarn (pictured above).
Remember the harnesses? Now is the time that you push on petals that raise the desired threads, which are connected to the harnesses. This motion creates an opening, which is called a "shed".
Through the shed you pass the t-shirt yarn. Generally you use a shuttle to aid the passage of the thread, but for the effect of the photo, it's just the t-shirt yarn.
Once the yarn is pulled through, you have to use the beater bar with the reed to push the yarn flush into the beginning of the weaving. It's like a giant comb pulling the yarn.
Above is a sequence of photos attempting to illustrate the beater bar in action.
Finishing The Ends
After weaving until you can weave no more, you cut the piece off the loom--like literally cut it off. You could also just untie it, but there is something super satisfying in cutting it off. I am sorry I don't have a photo of this or even better would be a video.
To prevent the weaving from becoming unwoven, you have to tie the ends. This can be done in several ways: tieing knots, braids, or twists. I tied knots this time becasue I was going to eventually hide all of the tassels on the inside of the pillow.
Here is one pillow case showing the opening of the pillow, into which I inserted the pillow form.
Then, I sewed up the open end of the pillow with a crude whip stitch. My fingers still hurt from the toughness of this process.
New Cottage Decor
Here are the pillows in their new location at the cottage! I am hoping they will suffice for sitting on the floor or stretching out for a nap.
Oh yeah, and I had enough warp to weave one for myself. This one I am keeping on my bed!! Yay!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.