Weaving for The Cricket

Because of an overindulgence in crocheting granny squares (something I haven’t done since the early 1970s) for this year’s Christmas present for Granddaughter F, I can’t knit right now.  My daughter tried to forbid me to finish the blanket but I can’t not finish it; I think Granddaughter F will love it!  So I am pushing the proverbial envelope by crocheting – slowly – one six-row granny square per day.  As my daughter is not nearby to snatch it from me (and believe me, she would if she could), I think Thor and my daughter are in cahoots.  Somehow he always knows if I’ve gone over my 1-square limit at which point I have to put it away until the next day.  (But, steady is as steady goes:  I need 42 squares for Granddaughter F’s blanket, and I’ve crocheted 22!)

Cricket4So as I slowly (slowly) crochet the squares for the blanket, I’ve been so happy to return to weaving!  After sanding, staining and assemblying the 15″ wide (weaving width) Cricket loom (a surprise for Granddaughter F), I decided to weave the fabric for its carry bag.  I measured and sketched out the pieces and then ran the calculations for the warp and weft requirements.

CricketFabricPocketI used the peg method (which seems to be the rage for the Cricket, at least) to measure out the warp, then easily warped the Cricket and wove fabric for two pockets – one for either side of the carry bag.  Here’s a picture of the fabric off the loom before washing.

While the peg method for warping might be fine for small projects, it’s not good for long warps (in this case, nearly 5 yards).  In addition, the amount of warp needed for the fabric was more than I wanted to wind on the beams of the little Cricket.  Further, using a floor loom and boat shuttles is faster than a rigid heddle and stick shuttles (at least for me).

CricketFabricShuttlesSo, after a long hiatus, I pulled out my Schacht warping board (warps up to 14 yards), measured out the warp, and put it on my Mighty Wolf.  Using two colors – one a solid blue, the other space dyed – I warped for a simple, modified pinwheel by alternating warp colors every two threads (and weft colors every two shots).  Those beautiful boat shuttles were made by Ken Ledbetter of KCL Woods.

It had been a while since I last used my floor loom, and I was having a blast!  Before I made my morning coffee, I was at my loom weaving!  The fabric wove up quickly, and I cut it off the loom yesterday.

CricketFabricHere’s a picture of the finished fabric (prewashed, off the loom).  Laying the length of blue fabric (for the pockets), next to this multi-colored piece, I envisioned a nice carry bag.

But something was off.  The multi-colored fabric was significantly narrower than the solid fabric!

Oh dear … For the piece woven on the Cricket, I used the heddle that came with it:  8 dents per inch.  I was so excited to warp the Mighty Wolf that I neglected to check which reed I had on; it was 10 dents per inch.


Ah well, I view mistakes as opportunities to learn from and improve (hence my two short marriages and divorces before Thor).  Now I have to go back to my sketches and redraw the carry bag.  I have plenty of both cotton yarns remaining, so if need be I’ll simply rewarp and weave some more (soooo much fun!).

While I work on redrafting and sewing the carry bag for the Cricket, I’ll be warping the Mighty Wolf for a blanket for Grandson O’s Christmas present (I’ll be sure and check and double check what reed is on) and the Cricket for some experimenting with finger manipulated stitches.  Weaving joy!

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Succumbing to Pressure – or Admiration? Envy?

After following the amazing sewn creations and ideas generously shared on the blogs of thornberry and Fabrickated, I succumbed to pressure (okay, it was probably admiration with a generous touch of envy) and dusted off my sewing machine.  Granddaughter F’s birthday is coming up, and my wrist still isn’t ready for knitting.  So my annual birthday knitted gift to her had to be something else – sewn!

The pattern Amaryllis (by Blank Slate), a reversible dress written for sizes 18 months to 8 years, caught my eye at a local sewing store.  According to its website, “… [T]he ingenius [sic] wrap construction means that even a beginner can handle this – no buttonholes and no zippers [I’ve never minded either]!  This dress also features maximum twirl with great coverage due to the top circle skirt over a gathered underskirt. And the front tie helps adjust for a perfect fit.”


Sounds rather cute, doesn’t it?  And I liked the idea of a simple sewing project to ease myself back into that particular fiber craft/art.

For someone who’s both a perfectionist and detail-oriented when it comes to fiber work, however, this pattern wasn’t a fast, easy project.

Time consumption 1:  Curiously, not a single piece of pattern had markers on it to indicate where it should be matched to another piece: no carrots (those little “v” marks), no dots et cetera.  So I made my own.  That took time and careful measuring.  (I also didn’t like the cap sleeves, so I changed that, but that was an easy change.)

Time consumption 2:  Notice that there is no under- or top stitching indicated on the schematic; there was none in the pattern instruction either.  The problem with this, then, is that the neckline and armholes “rolled” (for lack of a better term) during washing.  Under stitching didn’t remedy the problem (I tried that), so I ended up top stitching.

Then there was (in the schematic above), the bottom piece – which was actually a circle of fabric.  I was concerned that either the outer and inner piece would differ slightly in length, looking sloppy upon wearing.  To ensure equal lengths, I laid out the skirts, basted one side to the other and then sewed the two skirts together by top stitching.  (Of course, because of bias issues, sadly the pieces may also stretch differently.)

FiaDress2FiaDress1Here are photographs of both sides of the dress.

Both sides share the sash.  The front bodice snaps in the back underneath the back bodice.  (I think I would have preferred buttons.)

The pattern is available as a PDF download, and the website states that the pattern includes 15 pages of instructions.  Not in the version that I purchased at a local sewing store – one page of instructions!

My seam ripper got quite a workout as I tried to guess the intent of the limited instructions; I experimented, ripped and re-sewed quite a bit.

FiaDress3As noted by Fabrickated, one must take care selecting fabrics for a reversible dress.  As suggested by the picture to the right, I didn’t think that decision through very well!  (At least all three fabrics were the same weight cotton/polyester blend.)  So when Granddaughter F climbs a structure, runs like the wind or tumbles on the lawn, a glaringly dissimilar fabric will show itself.  If she walked slowly on a windless day, it might be okay, but that’s doubtful.

Ahhh well.  I hope Granddaughter F has fun wearing the 2-for-1 dress!  I remembered and learned a lot making it.  Now I have to figure out what to sew her brother for his next birthday.

Many thanks to thornberry, Fabrickated, Susan the spinning and weaving bread head (her term for herself!) and my friend Eve for their ideas, suggestions, encouragement and support.

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The Cricket

111209-Schacht-05-Cricket-15 004After Granddaughter F completes her second weaving project on the Harrisville Designs Lap Loom A (see previous post), I am moving her to the Cricket (the 15 inch version), a rigid heddle loom by Schacht Spindle Co.

As noted on Schacht’s website:  “The Cricket is made of high-quality apple ply and hard maple and is left unfinished. Each Cricket comes with an 8-dent reed (sorry, no substitutions). We also have 5-, 10- and 12-dent reeds. Included are a threading hook, warping peg, table clamps, two shuttles, and two balls of yarn.”

Cricket2Cricket3I have never owned or even used a rigid heddle loom, so I looked forward to opening the box.  This is what was inside the box.

Raised by a father who loved restoring and sailing wooden sailboats, my childhood was filled with stripping, sanding and finishing.  So of course I wanted to finish the pieces to the Cricket4Cricket before assembling.  I sanded the pieces with something that resembles a wire scouring pad, cleaned off the wood dust particles, and coated the pieces with a light pecan stain.  The finished loom looks like this.

Cricket6Schacht offers a nice bag to carry the Cricket, but I didn’t want to pay $60 for a cotton tote bag.  So I decided I’d use the Cricket to weave material out of which to sew a carry bag.  While I had several cones of good cotton that I bought Cricket5to weave dishtowels, those yarns wouldn’t fit an 8-dent reed.  Lo and behold, I found a couple of cones of plied heavier weight cotton that will work just fine in an 8-dent reed.

Cricket_warpedI decided to weave a faux pinwheel pattern for the body of the bag Cricket_warped2and make large pockets on either side in blue.  I quickly warped up 48 inches of the blue yarn.  Sitting on the couch, my feet on a footstool and the Cricket on my lap, I finished up the length of material and cut it off the loom before I went to bed.  Easy.

Cricket7I think the 15 inch will be a bit too big for nearly 7 year old Granddaughter F to weave with on her lap; she will probably have to use it on a table.  After a few projects on the Cricket, if she wants I will get her the Cricket floor stand.

If she stays interested in weaving, I look forward to teaching her how to weave on my floor loom.  If Granddaughter F’s interest wanes, however, I will have a little rigid heddle sample loom.  :)

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Teaching a Child to Weave

HD_PotholderA few years ago, I bought the Harrisville Designs 7″ potholder loom and a big bag of cotton loops.  I helped the grandchildren make potholders as holiday gifts for their parents.

Recently, LaploomPicGranddaughter F and I found a complete and only gently used Harrisville Designs Lap Loom A for $3.75!  It lists for $45, so, as you no doubt can imagine, I was very pleased to find it at this price.  (It was missing only the instructions.)

After we got home, I warped the Lap Loom for Granddaughter F using a natural color carpet warp.  The pickup sticks were, oddly, made of balsa wood and the stick shuttle was only 4 inches long.  So out we dashed and bought a nice, strong Schacht pickup stick and a longer stick shuttle.  I made several yarn suggestions, and Granddaughter F – the lover of all colors pink – surprised me by selecting a spaced dyed wool-acrylic blend worsted weight yarn that was not pink!

Laploom1Laploom2Granddaughter F started with a header of some pink yarn and then switched to her yarn of choice.  There was no beater in my daughter’s house, so as you can see from the picture to the right, Granddaughter F used a fork as a beater.

By bedtime, Granddaughter F had woven half of the Laploom3project!  At that point, Granddaughter F surprised me by saying she wished she hadn’t woven with any pink.  I explained that we could hide the pink in a seam.

Laploom5Toward the end of the following morning, however, the shed had gotten so narrow it was difficult for her to weave (for me too).  So I said I would take it home with me and finish.

We discussed what she wanted me to make it into.  A purse?  A blanket for one of her dolls?  A wall hanging?  A pillow?  She wanted a pillow.

Laploom6After I got home, using a long (long) crochet hook in lieu of a pickup stick, I finished the weaving, hand stitched the ends and removed it from the Lap Loom.  After zipping it into a mesh lingerie back, I machine washed it (cold water, flat dry).

I sewed an inner pillow out of undyed 100% linen and stuffed it with an acrylic/silk blend batting.  Using a nice, clean FiaPillow1dish towel I made the back of the outer pillow and sewed it to the woven front.  As you can see, I put a zipper in the pillow back.  This not only allows for easy removal for washing, but it provides a safe-from-her-brother hiding place for her treasures.  :)

FiaPillow2The pillow that Granddaughter F wove is now in the post on its way to her, along with her newly rewarped Lap Loom, two pick up sticks and a long shuttle along with the second ball of yarn she selected (same pattern, different color).

It was a great weaving-teaching experience and a wonderful granddaughter-grandmother bonding moment.

Here are some things I found worked well for Granddaughter F and me:

  1. Stay away from balsa wood pick up sticks!  (Granddaughter F was dismayed to find hers cracked lengthwise soon after she tried using it.)
  2. Make sure the child selects the weft yarn(s).  (Granddaughter F loved the color shifts in hers.)
  3. Don’t worry if you don’t have a beater.  A fork not only works well, but Granddaughter F thought it was fun to use a fork for something besides eating!
  4. Don’t interfere (unless necessary), but be ready to be hands-on.  (I sat next to Granddaughter F and chatted while knitting.)
  5. This probably goes without saying:  Offer lots of encouragement and praise.
  6. Share stories of your first weaving projects and weaving mistakes.  Laughter defrays a lot of anxiety.
  7. Be ready to take breaks when the child tires or seems to be getting frustrated.  (Granddaughter F had a little bowl of animal crackers at hand to snack on.)
  8. Turn the child’s first weaving project into something useful that she/he will use and/or see every day.

Have you taught a child in your life how to weave?  What have you found to be useful when teaching a child to weave?!  What were the child’s first weaving projects?

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Back to Basics

GrannySquare1974Please tell me that I am not the only woman of a certain age who shudders and pales as she remembers the 1970s women’s GrannySquare4fashions utilizing granny squares!

Oy vei!  

Yet at the time, it was ever so fashionable to look as though you had turned the family afghan into an article of clothing.

And sometimes the similarities were remarkable.  :)

GrannySquare5 (2)Now imagine this eye-catching poncho draped on a nearly 6 foot tall skinny teenager.  It is really embarrassing to meet friends at a party and have one of them say loudly, “Why are you wearing the afghan from your mother’s couch?!”   As all eyes turn toward you, try responding to that one!  (“No, it is not the afghan from my mother’s couch.  That one is a different color.”)

GrannySquare2 (2)It is no small wonder that my boyfriend loved it when I wore halter tops such as those to the right (pic source).

I also crocheted a bikini remarkably GrannySquarebikini (2)similar to this one.  After I finished it, my mother cut it up and threw it away (much to grannysquare6my boyfriend’s disappointment!).

Of course, I don’t remember him wearing granny square based clothing.  And, yes, granny squares were used for men’s clothing as well.  GrannySquare7And, no, the granny square male ensemble wasn’t sported just by musicians.

There were many young men GrannySquareChild (2)whose girlfriends crocheted them garments.  If a young man wanted to keep his girlfriend happy, he sort of had to wear the crocheted gifts.

Nor were children immune, poor little tykes, as can be seen of this picture of a child stoically wearing his granny square vest!

For reasons that seem obvious (to me at least), I hadn’t crocheted a granny square in many years (okay, decades).  Yet recently, the thought of crocheting a pile of granny squares seemed, well, comforting.  So out came my crochet hooks and yarn, and I started to crochet squares for Granddaughter F’s Christmas present – an afghan.

GrannySquarePileI had forgotten how fast crocheting granny squares out of worsted weight yarn can be!  No surprise to Thor, I got a bit carried away. After crocheting 12 squares (2 of each of these) in 2 days, the arthritis sleeping in my right wrist woke up.

I haven’t been able to knit or crochet for a week!  :(

Lesson learned:  Moderation in all things crocheted – well, at least granny squares!

Two questions:

  1. When was the last time you crocheted granny squares?
  2. When was the last time you turned granny squares into a garment or accessory and wore it?!
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Shetland Sheep – the beginning of a blog series


Great post – about Shetland sheep and crofting!

Originally posted on Jamieson & Smith:

Recently I had the idea to begin a series of blog posts going more into detail about all the ranges of yarns we carry here at J&S.. from Cobweb up to Chunky!


Oliver pointed out, correctly, that we should begin the series with some posts about where it all comes from! So this first post is about the Shetland Breed of Sheep, written by Oliver Henry, manager and top wool man here at J&S.. take it away Oliver..


The Native Shetland sheep are part of the North European short tailed breeds and have been linked to breeds such as Icelandic, Finn, Romanov, and Scandinavian breeds’ such as the Spaelsau. It is the smallest of the British sheep breeds and it maintains many of the characteristics of the wild sheep.


One of the first surveys carried out on Shetland sheep in 1790 published 1814, for the Board of Agriculture, reporter John…

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Looking for Stretch?

I never particularly liked knitting with cotton or linen – not enough “give” in the yarn for my taste.  After I injured my hands some years ago, I became even more particular about yarns.  Two people close to me, however, Thor and a dear friend, cannot wear any woolen fibers without displaying any variety and combinations of severe reactions: eyes swelling shut, wheezing with a slight blue-ish tinge to their lips, and/or getting nasty, drippy red rashes on their skin.

Stretchy1So what fiber could I use my dear friend for her upcoming birthday?  It’s an important birthday; she’s turning 60 (and looks and seems much younger).  After I explained my dilemma to the helpful folks at Nitro Knitters in Stretchy2Portland, a helpful clerk introduced me to Skacel’s HiKoo CoBaSi.  CoBaSi is a combination of cotton, bamboo and silk.  It is also 21% elastic, which makes this yarn enormously stretchy.

I bought the yarn, even though was sure I would despise the elastic feel.  But, I reminded myself, my friend was worth it, so no matter how awful the yarn might feel, I would just have to suck it up and persevere until finished.  (My grandfather’s words rang in my ears:  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”)

Lo and behold, once I got used to the elastic stretchiness, I loved it!  I can’t yet post a picture of this project as my friend follows my blog.  But I will after her birthday.

Posted in Fibers, Knitting | Tagged , , | 8 Comments