Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Weaving on a peg loom

I recently bought a small peg loom - a wee hand made one with a maximum of either 9 or 12 pegs.

A peg loom follows the same weaving concept as other looms, but weaving happens vertically and the wooden pegs are used as the warp while the weft is worked.

I chose to work with a peg loom because I wanted to make small scale woven pieces that I could then embellish further by hand, with braid, beads, or by felting, to make small jewellery pieces or accessories.

By reducing the number of warp posts used, the width of the finished woven piece can be chosen. My wee loom has two different sides which take more or fewer posts, which affects how close together the posts are and therefore the tightness of the warp.

Each warp post has a tiny hole at the bottom, through which a warp thread is passed(which carries the woven fabric as lengths longer than the warp posts themselves are woven).

This next picture shows the loom with the various bits and pieces ready to go. The reel of crochet cotton on the left is what I used for the warp threads. The yarns on the right are for the warp (several different yarns will be woven alternately for this particular piece). I just used 4 posts for this piece that ultimately ended up about 6-7cm wide.

There is one more part of the loom set up not shown in the above photo - which is a block of wood that the warp thread ends are threaded through to maintain some tension whilst the piece is being woven.

Once all the warp is set up, I start weaving with the weft yarn. To create interesting colour and textures, with this piece I used a variety of handspun yarns from flawfulfibers of Etsy.

So in this picture above, the thin warp threads are visible, and the 4 different weft fibres can be seen. The weaving itself is very simple, just weaving in and out of the posts from left to right and back again, until the weft nearly reaches the top of the posts.

Then, I lift the pegs out of their holes, and gently pull down the woven material off the posts and onto the warp threads, keeping the tension in the warp threads with the tension block.

Once this has been done and I had freed up space on the warp posts, I carried on weaving until I had made a piece that was as long as I wanted it to be.

To finish, I pushed down all the weft onto the warp fibres, cut the warp fibres near the pegs, and tied them off in pairs to stop the weft unravelling.

The finished piece measures about 6.5cm x 8cm. I pulled the warp threads pretty tight when tying them off to make sure the peice was quite dense and so that I couldn't see any warp threads peeking through the yarn.

Here are some other wee pieces I have made in the same way:

Monday, 21 July 2008


Today I thought I'd write a bit about Kumihimo, or the ancient traditional craft of Japanese braiding.

This method of braiding is said to be over 1,000 years old. Traditionally the braids were used to assemble samurai armour, and as 'obijime' and haori ties for kimono outfits. They were usually made from silk.

Kumihimo braiding involves using a frame (either a 'marudai' or a 'takadai'), and bobbins. I do the smaller scale version of kumihimo, which uses the 'marudai' frame.

The top picture shows my marudai, which was given to me by my Grandmother, who inspired my interest in kumihimo. In the picture below that, you can see the other equipment that you need to braid with - the bobbins (or 'tama'), counterweights, a chopstick, and of course the threads to braid with!

Depending on how thick/fat you want the braid to be, you either use 4, 8 or any multiple of 8 bobbins. I only have 16 in total, so that's what my braids are limited to (and to be honest, that's enough - it starts getting pretty complicated and easy to get tangled up!). For more complex flat braids, the bigger frame called a 'takadai' is used.

So, to make a braid, first of all you need to work out how long you want it to be, and also what you want it to be made from. I love texture, so I use lots of non-traditional ingredients in my braids, like chain, beads, wool, ribbon, and various different fibres. You also need to decide what pattern and form the braid will take - it's possible to make round, hollow, square, octagonal, flat, and wedge-shaped braids... and the list goes on. A real expert is Jacqui Carey (who literally wrote the book on the subject) - her books list lots of interesting braid types to try out.

Once you have decided on the braid type, you cut your lengths of fibres that you are going to braid with, one fibre per bobbin (although traditionally several strands of the fibre are used per bobbin - and of course the number you use affects the eventual size and thickness of the braid). Here, the number and type of colours you choose can really make a big difference to the final braid.

After cutting your threads, you attach them to the bobbins and wind the thread up around the bobbins.

Then you tie the loose ends together, and attach the counterweights (I use roughly half the total bobbin weight - but varying this makes for a tighter or looser weave of the braid). Now it's time to arrange the bobbins on the marudai - different braid styles call for different arrangements. When using lots of different texture in a braid, it's important at this point to think about the arrangement of each thread and how this will affect the braid overall. Each style of braid calls for the bobbins to be moved around the marudai in various different directions, working with pairs of bobbins as opposites.

The picture above shows 16 bobbins/threads arranged on the marudai. In the very centre is the 'point of braiding' which helps you keep track of which move you have just made when you get distracted by a cat or cup of tea, etc.

The motion of braiding is very rhythmical, and quite relaxing (as long as things don't get tangled!) - you just keep going until the desired length of braid has been made. Then you tie off the braid just below the point of braiding, and can remove all the bobbins from the threads. The braid is finished!

These pictures show some of my braids - mixed texture and same texture, of various shapes and sizes.

These pictures are of necklaces I have made combining various fibres with chain, for added weight and texture.

I love making braids, but I don't feel I've yet found the best way to show off their lovely colours, patterns and textures. My newest idea is to somehow incorporate small pieces of braid into metal as a jewellery piece - something I hope to be able to explore at my metalsmithing summer school next month :D.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

First post...!

I've decided to keep a blog of my crafty exploits, partly to keep track of new things I learn and also as a place to store all the ideas that are currently jostling for space in my head and occasionally (often!) falling out and getting lost.

There are lots of crafts that I love.... jewellery making, sewing, kirigami, origami, kumihimo, weaving... . Not knitting though, unfortunately. Just don't seem to be able to get the hang of it, and always end up with a hole-y triangle-shaped piece.

There are a few Japanese crafts in that list (I also love Japan :) ) - origami is well-known; kirigami is its cousin, and involves cutting rather than folding of paper (think Christmas snowflakes you made when you were wee - ^^ ). Kumihimo is traditional Japanese braiding, which makes braids of various shapes, and whatever length you like. I braid on a frame called a 'marudai', with various numbers of bobbins (I think I'll go into kumihimo in more detail in another post).

My main problem is that I'm always getting my head turned by new ideas and crafts, so I think I hope that this blog will help me keep track of those ideas and hopefully allow me to come back to them all at some point. I have a wee shop on Etsy where I sell some of the things I have made in the past. I'd really like to decide on one craft in particular to focus on, and then specialise in that area.

Recently I've been doing mostly kumihimo - I've found some amazing thread sellers on Etsy (Sassalynne, Therainbowgirl) who dye their own threads and make thread selections which are perfect for making beautiful braids. I'm going on a metalsmithing summer school next month at Leith School of Art (very exciting!) where I hope to learn some techniques that will somehow let me combine the braids with metal to make jewellery pieces.

The most exciting crafty thing though is my new purchase of yesterday - a BabyLock Embellisher :D. It's amazing!! It looks like a sewing machine, but there is no thread or bobbin - just several barbed needles (mine has 7). It's basically a needle-felting machine, but it's so much fun! I've spent the whole weekend playing with it :D.

Anyway, more on all these things soon... need to go and watch 'Dexter'!