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Trying Something New: Handwovens

Last fall I had a student contact me about a Machine 101 class. We were messaging back and forth about the class, timing, etc when she mentioned she wanted to sew with some of her handwoven fabric.

This was mindblowing to me. Of course I know that fabric is woven (well, woven fabric is, knit fabric is knit, etc) and I know that people weave. I guess I had never given it enough thought to connect the two. I assumed handwovens were used for scarves and wall hangings and... well, like I said I hadn't given it much thought.

This student brought some of her drop dead gorgeous weavings into class and mentioned she wanted to make pillows and zipper pouches out of them. Mind blown again: a world of possibilities started flying through my head with mages of all the beautiful fabric I could weave (because, of course it's just that easy) and then SEW with. I quickly checked myself and tucked the info away-- I didn't think I had the time, energy or budget to pick up another craft. I was actually pretty proud of myself for building a wall that didn't send me down the rabbit hole of weaving.

Then, after class, the student followed up with some links for rigid heddle looms. Well that did me in (clearly I didn't need too much persuading!). I started following any post with #rigidheddle on Instagram and scoured Pinterest for the same. I still held out though until January, when I found myself at Knit & Pearls yarn store in Avon where a rigid heddle was starting me down. It came home with me.

My first project was a HUGE learning curve. I was going into this blindly with no understanding of any of the terms or techniques used for weaving. I used the yarn they provided with the loom and quickly made up a little sampling. Just as quickly, my 22 month old looked at the finished project, declared it a baby blanket and it's been used for that ever since. (Sorry for the scary baby doll photo!)

Next up was a scarf. I had a ton of fingering weight yarn that I purchased a year or so ago when I thought I was going to knit everyone mittens (before I realized I didn't like knitting mittens) and I was happy to put it to use. I had learned from my first project that you have to make the warp longer than your finished project so this warp was as long as my dining room. From this project I learned that I did not have nearly as much yarn as I thought so it was a struggle to find enough in my stash to finish it.

All sorts of things are a mess with this scarf, but I wear this baby with pride. I wove it! I put yarns together and made a fabric that is holding up to wear! It's not perfect by a long shot-- I have yarn floats that shouldn't be floating, there is no evenness to my shots (like all these fancy terms? I hope I'm using them correctly!), and my selvages are a disaster -- but that's fine with me!

What is it about making stuff that makes you feel so darn good?

So then it was on to my next project. I was determined to make something that I could sew into a zipper pouch. I had an idea that I was going to get all fancy with my weaving, but with the exception of some color variations, that didn't pan out. Baby steps. The photo above is only half of it since I was so excited to getting sewing that I cut it before a full photo.

Cutting was petrifying. I was pretty sure the whole thing was going to fray immediately. If you look closely at that photo you'll see I screwed up here. I sewed a line of zigzag down and cut outside that line. However, I should have done two lines of zigzag and cut between them. Luckily, I realized my mistake quickly and was able to carefully guide it through the machine.

Then it was on to sewing. There wasn't enough to make a pillowcover (and I didn't quite like it enough to always have it on display) but the perfect amount to make a zipper pouch or two. Just like when cutting, my nerves were getting all worked up when it was time to sew. And it's a little evident in the final product. Because it's a pretty lose weave there's a little stretch to it which I didn't account for while sewing, so the zipper is a little wider than in the middle.

It zips and holds things and I adore it. Next up should probably be a class if I can find the time. Even if I can't, I'm so happy that I took the plunge and tried something new. Of course, I'm realizing now that if I can weave the fabric I sew with then I could also spin the yarn I weave with, and dye the yarn I spin with... and maybe I need to buy some sheep to really get to the source!

You have probably all heard my soapbox before about how gratifying it is to make something and especially to try something new. A few months ago it didn't even occur to me that I could make my own fabric and now I've made some and sewn with it. It's deeply satisfying and I can't wait to get some more on the loom (after I finish knitting a sweater and the 3 quilts I have in the works and my spring wardrobe!)

Go try something new!! (We have classes to help :) )

Happy Stitching!


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