Weaving with Space

My favorite weaving technique that I discovered thru experimentation was leaving a wide gap in my loom. I threaded about 1 inch of warp on either edge. The results were very beautiful to me and I loved the way it allowed the textures of art yarns to "breathe". 

Beginner Weaving Mistakes

I spent 4 weeks in December & January with my Ashford Sample-It Rigid Heddle Loom experimenting with a huge collection of yarns and scraps from my stash. 

I wanted to learn, hands on: what warp threads to use, what different yarns do, what intentional "mistakes" are beneficial, what "mistakes" shouldn't be repeated, and teach myself as much as I could (my favorite way to learn) about the most basic guidelines of weaving with art yarn.

Here are some guidelines I decided to follow while weaving. These are probably rules in books, but in my world all art rules can be broken in some way to make something beautiful. However, based on my frustration learning "the hard way" - here is what I found:

Weaving Mistakes:

  • When I used slippery (metallic gold) warp thread, my weaving fell apart. The knots untied after a day and it unraveled. Lesson learned. No slippery threads for me. 
  • When I used a stretchy warp thread (not even realizing that it had stretch) I wove a scarf and when I took it off the loom it was 50% the size that I planned. Impossible to wear. Awkward length. Lesson learned. I might try a length of stretch in the future (like elastic warp thread down the center of a scarf to create a very ruffly scarf) but as the entire warp - nope. Now I triple-check all my threads to make sure they aren't stretchy. 
  • Thick warp (like fabric) makes a scarf that many people might find too heavy / bulky. But the fringe on the ends is sure pretty. Anything with a bulky warp needs to be woven super, super loosely or it becomes rigid and uncomfortable to wear. 

Weaving Highlights:

  • Cotton warp thread is my favorite. By far. It isn't too stretchy, or heavy, or itchy, or grabby. It's got the goldilocks principle: it is just right.
  • Leaving intentional big gaps in my warp was my favorite technique to play with. It allows the art yarn to breathe and be exposed like it is in the skein. And, as someone who is inspired by skeined yarn rather than patterns, this was a big deal to me.
  • Using an accent yarn as a stripe in the warp (slightly off center) created a very pretty result.
  • Making sure my blocks of color were random looked better than keeping each block the same size (too stripey for my taste)
  • Putting fringe on anything was winning. 
  • Using any type of weft art yarn went effortlessly. There was never a moment thru my stash of random yarn where I said, "This yarn isn't working". Every yarn worked. Every yarn looked great. Weaving seems to be the best answer for mystery or abstract project yarns. 
  • Leaving all the ends untucked = fringe = winning. 

Stuff I want to weave for THISyarn in the future:

  • Wirecore yarns used as the center warp yarn. To create a sculptural / moldable scarf. 
  • Elastic yarn used as the center warp yarn to create a ruffly scarf.
  • Weaving a whole scarf just as fringe texture.

I hope these simple guidelines help you as you begin your own weaving journey. Happy Weaving!

- Ashley Martineau

Journey into Art Weaving

I was preparing for an art show that would include one of my longest standing art mediums, acrylic paint on larger than life canvases. As I put together my show a month prior to the open date I noticed I was missing something more. I began searching Pinterest and Youtube about hanging string art with feathers which lead me down a rabbit hole to finding wall tapestries. I had experience with macrame in my childhood and decided it could be a cross between that and crocheting. 

The journey was rough at first. I began diligently following a detailed youtube about weaving which taught me how to make my own loom. This loom was created from a stiff piece of cardboard and about 100 pins that I wound my warp thread around and around. I used a thick metal weaving needle to go across with the same small cotton yarn as the warp. This took me ages to say the least. I believe between creating the loom and working full time, it took me about three weeks to have a two foot by one foot section of completed weave. 

This was exhausting. Them I met up with master yarn spinner and writer, Ashley Martineau, and found out how to loosen up and make weaving actually fun. I began using a small tapestry loom, by Stephen Willette, which was an absolute breeze compared to my cumbersome metal needle that inched along.

I was throwing short strands of whatever lovely colored wool I thought would look good together. I tied beads, feathers and shells into my weavings. It was going so fast and I fell in love. Soon I moved onto the larger loom, called insert name, that allowed me to see the whole picture at once and create what I call, an art weaving.

This is what ultimately made it into my art show, each wall tapestry going beautifully with each painting, inspiring each other. 

These art weavings take a bit more thought and love than the quickly churned scarf-like wearable art pieces but are, in my opinion, a part of the fine art world. Especially with the hand-dyed wools, found objects and arrangement placed into each tapestry. 

My journey may be from a fine arts background but it was still a blessing to have a seat with master yarn spinner who taught me the importance of good looms and quality yarns. The art pieces I created now hang as a new path in my art medium tool belt right next to my long life passion for painting. I hope to create even more beautiful art weavings like these in the future. 

- Stephanie Merritt

Contact Stephanie.

Name *

Tapestry Loom by Stephan Willette.

Melissa Kness, Shepherdess

In the Spring 2017 issue of THISyarn - we will be showing you what we've been weaving over the past several months to inspire your creativity in this ancient art form. Art Yarn & Weaving are like chocolate & peanut butter. They just go together. Below is an article interview with Melissa Kness, who contributed Teeswater Locks to her friend Laura Spinner to spin into a fun tailspun style art yarn that was featured in many of our weavings. Stay Tuned for photos & articles starring Melissa's wooly locks! - Ashley Martineau

Growing up on a ranch in southern Oregon Mom and Dad had a large herd of sheep. As a toddler I helped nurse bummer lambs back to health by the warm fire.  Mom tells me I often tried to share a bottle with the lambs.

I had the love for sheep early in life. One Thanksgiving my mother-in-law taught me to knit and this sparked an interest in wool sheep. I wanted a rare and unique herd of my own. I began my search and discovered Cormos with their fine wool.  That year I attended the Black Sheep Festival in Eugene, Oregon.  While walking through the sheep barn I found the most beautiful sheep I had ever seen. She was striking with long gorgeous locks and black eyes and nose. I learned that this lovely animal was a Teeswater, a UK native. They are a rare and unique breed that is being introduced to North America through artificial insemination, as it is prohibited to import sheep from across the pond.  I learned there were very few Teeswaters in North America.   

Roy and Myrtle Dow of Colorado had a fantastic herd and I begin collecting the beautiful animals one at a time from them.  Soon I had a herd of six Teeswaters. Bow Peep, my very first ewe from the Dow’s produced Vulcan from my first A.I.  He is a 96.8% Teeswater ram, which is rare here in the US.  He is a blessing, being beautiful and friendly.  He has been the cornerstone of my program as I continue expanding my herd with wonderful  Teeswaters.   

Introducing Teeswaters to the US has been challenging with periodic bans on importing semen due to health scares in the UK, which has limited introducing new genetics.

As we all know, sheep multiply at a rapid rate and I now have a herd of 25 Teeswaters. My sheep are very sweet and friendly. At feeding time they gather around for their pats on their heads.  I also find this a good time to continually evaluate their conditioning by feeling their backs and noting if one is standing back from feed, or any other behavior that may catch my eye.

Learning to take care of their long wool needs has been a challenge. To produce a quality fleece, long wools need to be fed well with a good balance of minerals. Special attention is required their first year to get them to grow big and strong to produce that first hogget fleece that everyone covets.  A fleece 12 plus inches takes a lot of time and energy.  Every time the sheep are moved to a new pasture I watch for any changes and adjust the rations as necessary. I have read “The Natural Sheep Guide” by Pat Colby, as well as pick up tips from fellow shepherds with hands on experience

I learned that if they are kept washed up and groomed when the fleece is ready to be clipped it comes off so nice. Also, I have chosen to hand clip my girls the old fashion way. I find this helps me sort the best locks off as I clip.  The ewes are kept on their feet and stand calmly as I shear, and I feel this helps with their overall disposition too.

There is a lot of love and work that goes into raising these animals for art yarn, doll hair and other crafts. I very much enjoy and love my sheep and I hope you will enjoy and love working with fiber they have produced.

BUY THIS YARN  (click to enter ETSY shop): This yarn was created in collaboration with http://www.thisyarn.com/ to provide inspiration for working with creatively spun yarns.

BUY THIS YARN (click to enter ETSY shop): This yarn was created in collaboration with http://www.thisyarn.com/ to provide inspiration for working with creatively spun yarns.

Contact Melissa

www.ovelhaacres.com  Teeswaters@ovelhaacres.com

 Located in Friday Harbor, Washington. 

Name *
SPIN THIS YARN  (click to enter ETSY shop): This is a swag bag of goodies to make your very own skein of popsicles and lollipops. Featured wool from the article in this month's thisyarn.com. Looks so yummy you'll want to eat it!

SPIN THIS YARN (click to enter ETSY shop): This is a swag bag of goodies to make your very own skein of popsicles and lollipops. Featured wool from the article in this month's thisyarn.com. Looks so yummy you'll want to eat it!

Bulk Up Your Stash

If your stash yarns are lightweight (fingering / DK / worsted weight), you can transform them into bulky yarns easily!

  • Doubling: Hold two strands of yarn together (try two different yarns)
  • Tripling: Hold three strands of yarn together
  • iCord your yarns before knitting / crocheting (see video below)
  • Chain your yarns before knitting / crocheting (see video below)

Are you a Designer or a Maker?

DESIGNERS can pick up a skein of funky handspun and see the project it will create.

MAKERS prefer to let Designers go through the trial and error process of making an item with handspun yarn, and follow the template or pattern they've designed to save themselves the frustration (and the panic) of trial and error. 

Both are CREATIVES. They just choose to apply their creativity through different processes. Designers are energized by creating something new, fresh, and different - even if they have to go through the process backwards. Makers are energized by creating something they are confident will turn out pretty because it's already been done and they can follow the method and just create without the stress of designing.

THISyarn's goal is to show MAKERS the possibilities of what to make - and give DESIGNERS a place to share and publish their ideas.