Recent Weaving: Scarves, Rugs & Tea Towels

I attended my first weaving class in 2019, a week-long class at an Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers summer school. Despite buying a table loom after the class, I didn’t do any weaving (unless you count a couple of failed attempts at warping) until I attended a second week-long summer school in 2021. Friends at Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinner and Dyers challenged me to actually do some weaving at home, before I attended my next summer school in 2013 (they run every other year). I took up the challenge and wove two projects, cotton tea towels and a cotton bath mat.

A tea towels project were chosen to use up cotton yarn (from Yeoman Yarns) leftover from my previous summer school course. I asked our tutor (Janet Phillips) what she suggested making with the leftovers and she suggested tea towels. I selected a tea towel pattern from Handwoven Magazine, and used two colours in the warp (white and grey) and weft (white and red) to use up my stash.

The warp produced two tea towels (the second one neater than the first), and I only made a few small errors in the warp.

My next weaving project was the Clean Lines bathmat, which was chosen as I loved the design. I couldn’t get hold of the Gist yarn it was designed in, in the UK. With advice from the Online Guild of WSD, I identified a substitute yarn in the right weight (Sheepjes Catona) but it may not have been as robust as intended; I put the finished bath mat in the washing machine once I removed it from the loom and the yarn split in various places. I darned the damaged sections and am using the mat as a small rug in the lounge (where it won’t need washing as often), but I might attempt the pattern again in the recommended yarn.

After these two projects, I attended my third week-long weaving course, but – more importantly – I started attending a monthly half-day local weaving group. Everyone brings along their own loom and works on a project of their choice, with support from weaver Colin Squire. Attending the class means that I weave for at least half a day per month, and also have the opportunity to ask questions and access support. With that in mind, I decided to weave three scarves as gifts in winter 2023. I turned 40 in 2023, which meant that my two oldest friends from school were also turning 40, and I decided to weave them a scarf each as a birthday present, and also to weave my mom a scarf for her Christmas present.

I started with a scarf for my friend Michelle, as her birthday falls in September (although the scarf was finished late!). I selected this project based on the yarn. Weaving Yarns had a stall at the WSD summer school I attended in August 2023, and I purchased some Gist Mallo cotton slub yarn in colours aster and frost. As the yarn is textured, I decided on the simple Textured Cotton Scarf pattern, but included stripes of both colours in the weft.

For the next two scarf projects I decided to swap to wool yarn, and thought I would recreate the tartan scarf I made for myself during the first weaving summer school I attended, as I love mine and have worn it constantly when the weather suits, ever since.

The design uses a wool yarn in four colours. I used a 2/11 Lambswool from Yarns to Yearn For in Light Silver Grey, Royal Blue, Peony and Lavender. I made two scarves using these same four colours, but altered the position of the colours to create unique gifts for my mom, and my friend Emma.

The first of the two tartan scarves, for my mom, used silver grey as the prominent colour. I tried to record how long each step took as I was weaving this scarf, but I’ve lost my notes! I remember it took approximately 15 hours overall, but I can’t remember the split of that time between warping and weaving. The best thing about this scarf is that I made no mistakes, not one! Not all of the mistakes you make while weaving are visible from above, sometimes you’ll fail to catch a warp thread and it will only be visible on the underside of the woven piece. On classes I’ve attended, some weavers use a mirror to keep an eye on the underside of their weaving to catch these errors. Personally, I just attempt to weave as well as possible and monitor my tension, and in this case it paid off.

The second tartan scarf, for my friend Emma, swapped the position of the silver grey and lavender yarns, but otherwise followed the same pattern. Having just completed one version of this scarf, I thought I’d be really efficient for version two but I made two stupid mistakes. The first mistake was probably the most annoying mistake you can make in weaving, I prepared the warp for this scarf and began putting it on the loom, but I removed the cross sticks too early. The cross sticks in a warp are the way you keep the (hundreds of) threads in a consecutive order and if you remove them too soon it’s impossible to finish warping the loom. Having spent about 4 hours getting to that stage, I ended up throwing that warp in the bin and starting all over again. The second mistake I made is visible in the finished scarf, but I’m calling it a design feature! The tartan patten should repeat consistently, but I obviously lost focus while warping for the second time, and one of the blue sections is larger than the other two.

Having woven three gifts at the end of last year, I’m now making myself a double cloth cushion, although without the deadline of a birthday or Christmas, progress is much slower.

For my own future reference, and for anyone else who is interested, my notes on the tartan scarf design are as follows. The base design is based on Jan Beadle’s tartan course, with a bespoke colour repeat.

Yarn: 2/11 wool
Sett: 16 EPI
Width: 12”
Length: 3m (2m for scarf, plus 20cm fringe each side, and 60cm for wastage).
Warping through heddles: 1, 2, 3, 4
Shaft lift repeat: 1 & 2; 2 & 3; 3 & 4; 4 & 1

Colour repeat for warp & weft
• For warp: repeat 3 times, dropping the final 2 (colour 4) rows on the third repeat
• For weft: repeat 22 times, dropping the final 2 (colour 4) rows on the twenty second repeat
o x20 repeats – colour 1
o x6 repeats – colour 2
o x12 repeats – colour 3
o x6 repeats – colour 2
o x20 repeats – colour 1
o x2 repeats – colour 4

Fringe: Twisted fringe, 20cm in length at each end

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