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Weaving on the Cheap

03/22/2009

Recently, a lot of my favorite knitbloggers have been sucked into the world of weaving, and have produced piece after gorgeous, drool-worthy, jealousy-inducing piece. What’s a broke college student to do?

My First Weaving
My First Weaving

This project is all about making something on the cheap and upcycling, two very hot topics in the current crafting universe. I was inspired by this Threadbanger video, which got me thinking about weaving without a painfully expensive loom. I did things a touch differently, however, and so have written up a tutorial.

This project has three parts: the yarn, the loom, and the weaving.

The Yarn:

Thrift Store Raid
Thrift Store Raid

I began by raiding the thrift store one warm Saturday morning. To the great dismay of XXL thrift-store patron men, I absconded with just about every green XXL men’s t-shirt the thrift store had, plus one large white shirt. Then I turned these shirts into yarn.

Yarn!
Yarn!

To turn a t-shirt into yarn:

1) Unpick the bottom hem of the t-shirt (if you’re looking to make the most of your fabric), or simply cut it off (if you don’t mind losing an inch or so).

2) Cut the shirt into a single long, narrow strip (I did mine about a quarter of an inch wide) by spiraling from the bottom up. Stop at the armpits, where the shirt is no longer continuous.

3) Before you wind it up into a ball stretch your strip lightly between two hands; the knit fabric will then curl in on itself and create your t-shirt yarn.

The Loom

For this one, I raided my boyfriend’s pile o’ scrap wood. Should you lack a pile of scrap wood, you can also ask your local lumber yard if they have any damaged or warped wood scraps they’re throwing out. Barring that, you need little enough wood (and quality doesn’t matter) that it should come cheap. You will also need a hammer and a box of cheap nails (I used old wire brads). Finally, you’ll need a big workspace that you don’t mind sticking tape on- your desk, your kitchen table, your kitchen counter, the floor, or in my case a folding table used specifically for crafty ventures. You’ll also need a roll of strong tape (duct would probably work best, but all I had was packing).

Marked
Marked

1) Take two chunks of wood that are as long (or perhaps a little longer) as the widest item you plan to weave, and draw a line longitudinally down their centers.

2)Mark every half an inch on this line.

Loom Parts
Loom Parts

3) Hammer a nail in every half an inch on both pieces of wood, until you’ve got enough nails for how wide you want your scarf. Said scarf will likely end up a bit narrower than the nails, depending on how tight you pull it, so keep that in mind. It helps if you hammer them in at an angle, so that when you line both pieces of wood up, the nails lean away from each other.

Plus 10 inches
Plus 10 inches

4) Line your pieces of wood up on your workspace with the nails leaning away from each other as far apart as you want your scarf to be long, add about ten inches (trust me on this one- I didn’t, and it sucked), then tape them down with a vengeance. Voila! A loom. And hey, it’s length adjustable if you have enough tape!

Weaving Your Scarf:

Now to put it all together. Some weaving lingo, courtesy of Wikipedia: the warp threads are the threads that run from nail to nail on your loom. The weft threads are the “filling”- the ones you weave through the warp. In this case, to make it obvious what I was doing, I used the large white t-shirt for my warp and green shirts for my weft. This scarf will be done in a plain weave.

Tie on the warp
Tie on the warp

1) Take your ball of weft yarn, and tie its end to the nail furthest from you on the left (or on the right, or closest on the left or right- tie it to one of the corners).

Stringing the loom
Stringing the loom

2) Wrap the yarn with enough tension that it doesn’t sag in the middle around the nail directly opposite of the first, then come back and wrap it around the second nail next to the one with the knot, then back to the second on the other side, then back and forth until you’ve got as many nails wrapped as you’d like.

Tie off the warp
Tie off the warp

3)Tie another knot to secure your yarn on the last nail.

Plain Weave
Plain Weave

4) Thread your first piece of yarn through where you want your scarf to start, leaving a bit of space -say, five inches worth, and trust me more is better- to tie off the end of the scarf when you’re done (and form the fringe, on this scarf). When you thread your weft through the warp (that so does not sound like English), make sure to go over one warp thread and than under the next.

Every Other Thread
Every Other Thread

5) Bring your weft yarn back through your warp threads again, this time going under the warp threads you went over before and over those you went under. The easiest way to do this is to pick up every other thread with one hand (the threads you want the weft to go under), then put the whole ball of yarn through the space.

Pack it down
Pack it down

6) Use the flat of your hand, still between the warp threads that went under and over your last bit of weft, to push the weft neatly up against the rest of the weaving.

Helper
Helper

7) Repeat steps 4 and 5 until your scarf is as long as you want it. It goes surprisingly fast for someone used to knitting, even with a loom as basic and bare-bones as this.

8) If you want to start any new colors, you can knot or sew your new color to the tail of your previous color and continue that way. Or maybe you can just weave the end in with the rest of the weft. I don’t know; I haven’t tried yet.

Near the End
Near the End

9) As you get towards the end you’re going to hit a point where you can’t fit your yarn ball between the threads anymore. That’s okay- you added ten inches to your goal length anyway, right? And you want enough warp left to tie things off.

Cut it off
Cut it off

One over, one under
One over, one under

Knot
Knot

10) To finish the thing, leave a long tail on your weft yarn and cut the warp yarns off of the loom, tying knots in the warp yarn as you go to secure the weaving and create a fringe. Make sure each knot has a piece of the warp that went OVER the last weft and a piece that went under.

Tie the weft in
Tie the weft in

11) Tie the tail of the weft into the nearest bit of fringe to secure it, or weave it in as you would a new piece of yarn, or sew it to itself. You may be able to sew or weave in the weft ends too if you don’t want a fringe- I haven’t tried it myself. If you do, let me know how it goes!

Ta da!
Ta da!

It took me less than two balls of XXL t-shirt yarn for this project, so I’ve got plenty more to play with from the thrift store raid.

Now that I’ve got a grounding with the basic idea, I have lots and lots of variations I’d like to try. For example:

– Vary the size of the warp and weft yarns, both generally and in relation to each other
– Different weaving patterns. Perhaps Herringbone?
– Different fabrics (for less “old-school-nylon-loop-potholder look” and more “funky modern fashion” look)
– Don’t stretch the t-shirt yarn
– Make the distance between weft threads larger
– Weave looser

If you like this tutorial, please share it with your friends! Also, I’d love to see what you make!

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