Knitting and Crochet are not the only things you can do with yarn and sometimes we can forget that. So when Ange Sewell of Weft Blown, a shop primarily focused on weaving, approached us about becoming a stockist we were delighted. By stocking our Milburn DK among a selection of books and other items, we have been opened up to - and are receiving more enquiries from - the weaving community. The only problem is that between all of us at ECY Shedquarters our knowledge of weaving is very limited. We wanted to fix that and to share this new found knowledge with all of you, so what better way than to pick the brains of an expert and all round lovely person!
If you are interested in weaving, either as a beginner or looking to expand your experiences have a read of our interview and then head over to the Weft Blown website for supplies, information and more. Or if you are in Ayrshire, Scotland pop in and say hello!
How did you get into weaving?
I taught myself to knit in my late twenties which delighted my gran as she had tried to teach me when I was little. She gave me most of her stash as she had to clear out to move to a new flat. As I started to knit through some of it I knew there was no way I’d get through it in my lifetime. Handily, I then came across an article in Yarnmaker magazine about Rigid Heddle Weaving. It said you could weave a scarf in a day and this made me think there was hope for my stash. I found a second hand rigid heddle loom and then I was hooked.
What advice would you give to people who want to get started? Is there an 'entry level' piece of equipment?
There are lots of ways to get into weaving and what I advise is to think what you want to weave first. If you want to do wall hangings, bags, and cushions then tapestry looms are a good and affordable place to start. They are limited in the length you can weave. The Louët Lisa small frame loom is a great cheap loom to get going with tapestry weaving.
If you wanted to weave something longer then Rigid Heddle Looms are great for beginners. They’re straightforward to set up and you can weave a scarf in a day from start to finish. A loom between a width of 15” to 25” is a good starter loom. I advise against going for the biggest loom you can afford for your first loom, unless you’ve got a clear idea of weaving lots of large pieces. Having a big first loom can be very intimidating and I know a lot of people, myself included, who downsized from their first big loom to a smaller and easier to manage loom. The Ashford SampleIt Loom, Ashford Standard Rigid Heddle Looms and Schacht Cricket Looms are great for beginners and come with clear instructions and all you need to get weaving.
What qualities do you look for when choosing a yarn for a project? Does this depend on what you are making?
For the warp yarn, which is the yarn that goes onto the loom, it needs to have strength in it so that is always something I test for first when deciding what to weave with. Weft yarns, which are the yarns that go through the warp, can be anything at all and that’s where I might use more fun yarns and not worry about how they play.
I’ve always woven with wool and I do choose soft yarns to weave with for scarves and cowls. A great example of this is Eden Cottage Yarns Milburn DK is perfect to weave with as it is so soft and strong. The handwoven clothing I’ve been making recently has varied in softness as it wont always be next to the skin.
I’m very careful about where I get my yarns from as I make sure that the wool has been responsibly sourced and I try to use as much British Wool as I possibly can. I love the variety in our British sheep breeds and I do mix and match different wools in my handwoven cloth.
What is your favourite item to make?
I do love weaving everything really, but I do like weaving my cowls. These are woven in one continuous piece with the warp being woven into itself at the end. These took a while to perfect the technique and it’s always great when I see the warp stripes creating different shapes when they come together. I’ve not made as many of these recently as I have been working on larger pieces but there are a few waiting in the wings to be made.
What resources do you use regularly? eg Ravelry, weaving community websites etc
Ravelry groups were a massive help to me when I was learning to weave. The groups I’ve found the most useful have been UK Weavers, Warped Weavers, Rigid Heddle Looms, and Weaving in the Saori Way. They are all great and friendly and have lots of help for different aspects of weaving. There are many more weaving groups too on Ravelry and a lot more people are posting their handwoven projects on there too.
Instagram is my main addiction and I follow a wide range of weavers both in the UK and across the world. There are so many talented weavers on Instagram and it always pushes me to try and improve my weaving skills. Pinterest is great too and there are so many ideas on there to inspire you.
Schacht Spindle has regular blog posts and E-News which is good for some inspiration. They also have a lot of free patterns available too (https://schachtspindle.com/project-archives/). Ashford’s website is also really good with videos on how to get a loom warped and weaving.
In the real world a great place to find out about weaving is from your local guild (https://www.wsd.org.uk). They are always happy to welcome people and to get them addicted to weaving.
How long does it take you to make say, a five foot scarf?
On my Rigid Heddle Looms it takes about 6 hours to weave a scarf from basic design to warp to weave. On my larger floor loom it can take 4 to 6 hours to just warp up the loom but then only 4 or 5 hours to weave the scarf. I usually tend to weave with Aran to 4 ply weight yarns, but if it’s finer than this then it does take longer to weave.
What would you suggest would be a good next-level project to work on after things like scarves/table runners?
Make your own clothes! It really isn’t as scary as it sounds and I use patterns from Saori weaving books which just use basic rectangular shapes and have very little cutting to the cloth. This what I’ve gotten into recently and I’m loving playing with these simple shapes.
Are there any techniques that you really struggle with or avoid wherever possible?
Weaving with 2 heddles on a rigid heddle loom is something I’m not a great fan of. This technique is used when you want to weave with a fine yarn, weave patterns, or want to weave two layers of cloth at the same time. It’s fiddly to set up and get going but does make the Rigid Heddle Loom more versatile. I avoid it by weaving anything for this on my floor loom instead as it’s easier. I do need to go back to this technique this year as I do want to weave with cotton and bamboo yarns on my rigid heddle loom to make some tops to wear so I will just have to persevere.
Where do you get your inspiration for what you make and how does this translate into a final creation?
My inspiration comes from the weather. Nearly 20 years ago I trained at the Met Office and became a qualified weather forecaster. This was an interesting job and I loved looking at all the data and imagery from satellite images, radar, observations and just looking at the sky. I was only at the Met Office for a couple of years but my appreciation of how the weather changes and how it affects our landscape has always stayed with me. I now live on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland where we have all the weather, sometimes all on the same day. I take a lot of photographs on my walks along our local beaches, glen and from our back door. The colours and textures from the sky and clouds in the photos are then translated into the cloth that I weave. I recently wrote about this process on our blog post about how to weave a Sunset Scarf which uses Eden Cottage Yarns Milburn DK yarn.
Is there anything else you would like to add...?
If you want to get into weaving then give it a go. It’s such a quick way to make things for yourself and others. Just remember that it’s cloth you’re making, so it can be turned into anything from a table runner to a scarf to an amazing jacket you’ve made yourself. It is also a great way to quickly get through your stash too and you can easily make a scarf with less than 200g of yarn.
Thankyou, Ange - that was really interesting and inspiring. I love the idea of being able to stash bust a bit faster, but also creating a fabric that's quite different to a knitted or crocheted piece. Is anyone else eyeing up potential space in their house, now?!?