Sketching Swatching and Sampling are such valuable weaving tools

I am working hard on a new tapestry. It’s inching along, as tapestry does, when you are in focused mode.
BUT… I found myself feeling really stuck when I finished one section, and couldn’t move forward onto the next section.
So, I fell back on my ultimate design tool.
I got out my sketchbooks and aquarelles (watercolor pencils), and did the thing that my drawing master back in my art school days drilled into me: Sketch, sketch, sketch!

He also drilled into his students that it is essential to carry your sketchbook or notebook with you ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE, and to sketch every single day.
AND, even more important: Don’t worry about making ‘good’ sketches.
Just catch thoughts, dreams, words, and other fleeting moments on the paper and let them build a vocabulary for you.
The part of the tapestry that had me flummoxed is a child’s costume.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, until I worked my way through a bunch of really rough, ‘thinking on paper’ sketches.
That took me through the roadblock to the ‘AHA’….
And I knew that I needed to move onto sampling and swatching.

I set up my 8 inch Lani Mirrix loom with a ‘no warp ends’ warp, using ‘S’ hooks… in the video, I show some pointers about this setup.
As a professional designer, I cannot underestimate the importance of swatches and  sampling.
I am always amazed by knitters and crocheters who skip this foundation aspect of the creative process!
So much is revealed in the swatching and sampling stages of creation.
AND… something else that is a huge bonus- so often, the sampling and swatching will reveal that there is something new to explore!
(Which of course, leads back to the sketching…) !
Even though the feeling stuck part of working on this tapestry really stank while I was in it, I ended up feeling really grateful for being forced to move back to basic problem solving techniques.
Why? Because I am now inspired to explore soumak weaving, which I have not done before.
I am fascinated and intrigued…. there will be more about this!
In the mean time, here’s the video about sketching, sampling and swatching.
And, even though I don’t normally like to show pieces while they are in progress, I did do a little ‘reveal’ of the new tapestry.

A Left-Handed Loom

When Claudia Chase invented the Mirrix Loom a little over 16 years ago, she had many goals in mind. She wanted a loom that was portable, functional and indestructible. She also wanted a loom that was ambidextrously functioning (yeah, I might be stretching it with that phrase). She wanted ANYONE to be able to use the loom… left handed people, right handed people, people with disabilities… anyone.

shedding device for left handed weaving
The shedding device on the left-hand side of the loom

All you have to do to use the shedding device with your left hand is to make sure you put the side of the device with the hole of the handle on the left side. Easy as that. 

Enjoy, left-handed weavers everywhere, enjoy!

Weave-Along 7: Continuing to Weave

Today we will weave the rest of the piece.  Next week we finish it.
Our first technique will be wavey lines.  They are simple to do and have a fun effect.  All you do is weave two passes of one color and then two passes of another color.  Keep repeating this pattern and you will get the effect of wavey lines.  Why?  Because, in tapestry, in order to weave an entire line, you need to weave two lines.  The first pass covers the odd warps, let’s say; the second pass covers the even warps.  And although you essentially have a line, it’s a staggered line.  So when you create sets of lines with different colors it creates a wavey pattern.  Hence:  wavey lines.
After weaving the two passes of pink, I add a blue weft.
The blue weft is woven twice.
Then the pink weft is woven tw ice.
Here you can fully see the effect.  It’s easy, fast and pretty.
Below, I have marked the warps to separate ten warps on the left, twenty warps in the middle and ten warps on the right. We are going to make a triangle!
The three wefts will be woven in opposite directions so that their joins are in the right shed.  Weave the right weft to the left, the middle weft to the right and the left weft to the left.
Weave each weft until they have passed around both their end warps twice.  The triangle is going to be stepped up two lines at a time.
Now it’s time to increase the outer wefts and decrease the middle weft.
Because the wefts were woven in opposite directions, you can encroach on the middle wefts territory and have your weft be in the correct shed.
Keep weaving this pattern making sure each weft passes around its side warps twice before increasing or decreasing.
Done with the triangle.  Kill one of the side wefts and take the other weft all the way across the piece.  Add more weft if you need to.
I then added some railroad yarn to the single blue weft.
I strung some beads on just the silk.  Wove the beads.  And then continued with the railroad yarn and silk.
Then
Wove with just silk weft for a while and then added a new color of silk weft.
Added another color of silk weft.
Added some railroad yarn to the silk weft.
Below, I’ve marked the warps at ten, twenty and ten again in order to weave slit tapestry blocks.
The wefts were inserted going in the same direction.  They will not be crossing into one another’s territory so it was not necessary to weave them in opposite directions.
Just build up the individual wefts forming slits in between.
I buried all the weft tails. . .
. . . and started a new weft.
Added some beads and continued with the silk weft.
Just weaving single wefts and adding new ones when I ran out.
Added some railroad yarn.
Added beads . . .
Just follow the pictures.
Wavey lines again (or whatever you want to do).
Ended at 12 inches.
Wove a header.
Next week:  FINISHING your sweet little silk and bead purse!

Creating a pattern from a photo

I was asked to create a bracelet from a photo of the great Nelson Mandela. I was able to find a very good photo. Although the file size (and quality) isn’t ideal, it will work.
When creating patterns from photos, I tend to use BeadCreator. If it’s in black & white, I may also use BeadTool. My first step is always to convert the photo before doing any editing.
BeadCreator comes with 3 palettes, including the Miyuki delica size 11 (my choice of beads for all looming). It’s advisable to edit the colours so they look as close to real life as possible, but you can also create your own palette(s). I saved the available palette so that all silk delicas are excluded.
Once you’ve chosen your palette, you have to decide what size you want the (entire) pattern to be. This step is always trial and error for me. I enter a size, click Apply, and see how it looks. For this one, I started with a width of 6”, which didn’t give me the detail I needed for the face. 8.5” gives me good detail, and I could go wider on this cuff, so it suited my needs.

Next I remove unwanted columns and/or rows, and reduce the colour count. The original had 156 colours! I cut it down to 35, resulting in this:



It’s not bad but I want the face to be more distinguished from the background. So, in Photoshop, I darkened the background area surrounding the head and shoulders. I also lightened the face, hands and jacket a little. I re-converted, and ended up with this:

The difference between this and the original may not be obvious, but is there nonetheless. For the final conversion, I increased brightness, decreased saturation, and also altered the hue slightly. It’s ok, but perhaps a little too light in the face.
So you can see my photo conversions are a matter of trial and error. I will first convert the original then play with it in Photoshop. What I alter/edit depends on the result in BeadCreator, and also what I think may help. I normally save several versions of the patterns, particularly the full colour pattern. 
I’ll show you how this turns out when I eventually start looming it – hopefully in about two weeks.  Tomorrow I have to try and squeeze in some looming time so I can free it up for the next projects.
Happy beading and enjoy your weekend.

How to weave inkle bands on Mirrix Looms Part Four

This is the fourth video tutorial about how to weave inkle bands on Mirrix looms.

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A dear friend asked me: “Why are you spending all this time figuring out how to weave inkle bands on the Mirrix loom? You have inkle looms! “
Yes, I do… an open sided one, a closed side one that my husband built me from upcycled pallet wood, and a mini.
And, I love them…. but, I find that the open side and mini inkle looms both kind of flop when I have one end on the desk edge and one end in my lap. This is the way that I like to weave with inkle looms, and I find the wobble/flop rather frustrating.
I really like how stable the Mirrix is when I have the lower edge in my lap and the upper edge against a workbench, table or desk.
Also, I love the precision of the tensioning on the Mirrix… those thumbscrews are sweet!
And, I also love the shedding device………. soooooooooo smooth.  :D
Besides, the Mirrix takes up sooooooooooooo little room to store it- inkle looms do take up a chunk of space in the studio!
That’s four good reasons that have made this rather challenging learning curve worthy of the time I have invested.
Here’s the video for the finishing process of weaving inkle bands on the Mirrix loom:

When you have woven your bands to the point that the warping rod is sitting on top of the loom, you will need to remove the spring:

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Loosen the tension up  a lot….

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Lift the spring rod out of the spring.
Release the ends of the springs from the knobs.
Gently, ease the spring out of the warp strands by spreading the warp strands out slightly and pushing on the spring to disengage it.
Continue weaving until the shuttle almost can’t make it through the shed.

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Weave one row.
Keep the shuttle in the shed, and place a darning or tapestry needle in the shed with the point pointing in the direction that the shuttle exits the shed.
Weave the next row, and repeat with a second darning needle.
The needles now point in opposite directions.
Weave one more row.
Cut the weft strand, and thread it into the first needle.
Pull it through, and remove the needle.
Thread the weft strand into the remaining needle and pull it through.
La de dah! you have finished your inkle band!
Wheee! :D
I always weave the tail end in a little bit more before I trim it off.
Loosen the tension wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy off, and slide the warping rod out of the loops.
Trim the ends, and pull them through the heddles.
Congratulations, you’ve woven some scrumptious new inkle bands! :)
Happy Weaving!
~Noreen

How to weave inkle bands Part Three

Part 3 of the video tutorial series on how to weave inkle bands on Mirrix looms is about the weaving process:

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Something that I learned as I trundled up my ever so steep learning curve with figuring out how to weave inkle bands on the Mirrix loom:
I started out by weaving one row on one band, putting it’s shuttle down, then picking up the second shuttle and weaving one row on the other band.
Sounds slow and clunky, doesn’t it? Well, you’re right.
The most efficient way to weave 2 bands at once is to weave as far as you can on one band, then set that shuttle aside, and weave away on the second band.
Oh… speaking of shuttles, here’s the tracing of my most favorite inkle shuttle:

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I designed this one several years ago, and I love it. Works like a charm.
Here’s the video that shows the weaving process:

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When you need to advance the warp, loosen the tension quite a lot.
Support the spring as you gently ooze the warp rod around and up the back of the loom.
Pat the warp strands back into the channel, and tighten up the tension again.
Remember, you do not need to have the tension as tight as when you are weaving a tapestry or beading.
You’ll find the perfect tension that suits you best.
Keep on weaving until the warp rod is sitting on top of the loom, and then check into the 4 th video in the series:
How to finish the bands.
~Noreen

How to weave inkle bands on Mirrix looms Part Two

This is the second stage of the video tutorials that I made on how to weave inkle bands on the Mirrix loom.

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There are two bands on the loom, because in this video, I am working on the 16 inch loom.
When you work on the 8 inch loom, it’s okay to just weave one band at a time, as the warping bar doesn’t flop around.
But, on the 16 inch loom, you do need to either warp up 2 bands, or secure the other end of the warping bar with a cord so it will stay perfectly horizontal.
I tried weaving 3 bands at once on the 16 inch loom, and didn’t like it, as the center knobs on the shedding device got in the way.
Two bands are just great though.
AND…. if you want to weave longer bands, and have either a 12 inch or 16 inch Mirrix loom then the loom extenders will be your friend :)
I use a crochet hook and a weaving stick to make the heddling process go quick like a bunny.
Here’s the video tutorial:

Start by placing a piece of cardboard between the layers at the front of the loom and the back so you can’t see the warp strands at the back of the loom.

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Place the shed changing device into the brackets.  Unscrew the little knob that holds the heddle rod in place.
Pull the heddle rod back so it’s about half way along the warp strands.

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Place the heddles onto the fingers of your non dominant hand.

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Look down at the warp strands that are at the lower edge of the front of the loom.
There’s a gap between the strands that have gone in front of the warping bar and behind it.
Slip your fingers into the gap and scoot them up to the shedding device.
Slide a shed stick into the gap.
Voila! (which is how ‘walla’ is really spelled :)  )
You have shed one ready to heddle!

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Now, slip the crochet hook behind the first warp strand, pluck a heddle off your fingers, and pull it forward.
Catch the other end of the heddle loop and place both loops on the heddle rod.
Go slowly, and be sure that both ends of the heddle loop stay politely on the heddle rod.

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When you have all of the warp strands heddled, slide the heddle bar into position in the knobs, and tighten the lock nut.
Repeat the heddling process on the second set of warp strands for your other band.

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Push the first set of heddles down as you rotate the shedding device.

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Leave the shed stick in place, and use the crochet hook to pick up the warp strands for the other shed.
Take the warp strand from the back to the right of the one in front, and onto the hook,
take the hook over the front strand, and pick up the next strand and carry on across.

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Slide the weaving stick out of the first shed, and slip it along the crochet hook to transfer the warp strands from the crochet hook to the weaving stick.

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Turn the weaving stick on it’s side, and then pick up the warp strands one at a time and capture them with the heddles just as you did for the first set of warp strands.

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Repeat this process for the second band.
Check your heddles carefully to make sure that they are opening the sheds properly.
Ahhhhh! a warped loom is a thing of beauty!

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Attach the handle to the shedding device and adjust the tension by turning the thumbscrews.
Open the first shed, and insert a craft stick, then open the second shed and insert another craft stick.
Squish the warp strands together to establish the width of your band.

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Weave one row, leaving a 6 inch/15 cm tail.
Change sheds, and weave the next row.
Pull up firmly on the tail end and weave it through the same shed.
Repeat several times until the tail end is woven in, and the band is established.
Next video: The fun part! Wheeeeeee…. weaving…… 
~Noreen

How to weave inkle bands on Mirrix looms Part One

I love weaving inkle (warp face) bands.
I use  in dollmaking:

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Link to purchase pattern for Inkle dolls: Inkle Dolls
And, they are wonderful for trimming handwoven clothing:

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Link to post that shows how to shape inkle bands to make a yoke or other shaped pieces of garments: Warp pulling
Over the years,  I have also made hat bands, book marks, all kinds of jewelry, key fobs,  vests, bags, bag handles, the garters for the men’s kilt hose for my son’s wedding, shawls, freeform pieces that combine inkle weaving, knitting, embroidery, spool knitting and crochet, as well as rugs.
Yep. I love inkle weaving.
So, as I have been exploring the possibilities of weaving with my Mirrix looms, I had to give inkle weaving a try.
I found that it was quite challenging at first. But, I don’t give up easily :)
I ended up spending waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more hours than I should have, experimenting and obsessing over making inkle bands on the Mirrix.
Well… I finally succeeded.
Since it was so challenging, I figured that I should share what I have learned, so that other intrepid inkle weavers can leap right in, without all the trial,  error and frogging that I went through!
There are definitely tricks to weaving inkle bands on the Mirrix looms, and I have made 4 videos to share those tricks.
Here’s part one of the video:

Here is the draft for the bands that I wove in the videos:

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To read the draft: Each square represents one warp strand.
You can check your warping by looking at each shed to see that it has the same number of strands, in the order that they appear in the line.
You will be  putting a total of 8 green strands on, followed by 4 orange strands, 3 sets of  (1 orange, 1 green) for a total of 6 strands, then 4 orange strands and ending with 8 green strands.
At the top and bottom of the loom, you’ll see the full count of warp strands.
At the warping bar, the 2 sheds will be separated into their correct (we hope!) configuration for each shed.
The chart will give you bands like this:

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The upper band is the band on the right hand side of the loom in videos 2 – 4.
I only used the center of the draft for it, without the green border strands.
The yarn is Lion Brand Cotton.

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Setting up the loom for inkle bands is different than normal warping.
You need to have the warping bar at the front of the loom.

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Tie the green yarn onto the warping bar and take it up and around the loom, just the same as if the warping bar was in the back.

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You will need to cut the warp strand of color 1 to tie on color 2 at the warping bar, for EVERY color change.
WHAT?!?!?!
Yes. really.
It sounds insane, but this is the biggest key to making the whole inkle thing work on the Mirrix loom.
Trust me. You ~can~ twist your yarns around each other, and are welcome to, I’m sure, if that would make you happy….
BUT…. the quickest, easiest way to have problem free warping for inkle is to cut those little darlin’s and tie the knots between the colors.

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Yay! Warped!  Insert the spring rod into the spring to keep the warp strands locked into their notches.
This is sooooooooooo important!  (yep… voice of ‘oops’ experience here :( )
And in Part 2…. it’s on to the heddles.
I have a nifty, super friendly way of using a crochet hook and weaving stick to make the heddling process go like a breeze.
That’s coming up next…. so stay tuned! :)
Happy Weaving,
Noreen