Tutorial: Making A Mat Board Loom for Weaving

Recently I taught a weaving class at an assisted living center with a delightful group of women, the oldest being 90 years old! My training as an occupational therapist provided some foundation on adapting the weaving project for individuals with some limitations as to memory, vision, and gross and fine motor skills.  I always like to focus on the 3 P’s when I work with seniors: the person, the process and the product.  The person should be interested in being an active participant and thus be in control of creating his/her own work. The process should be somewhat repetitive and yet hold the interest of the creator by employing colorful and tactile materials. The process should also guarantee that the person succeeds at it. And finally the product should be attractive and finished in a way that it can be displayed or given as a gift. Using this methodology, young children and adults with physical or developmental disabilities could also benefit from such a project.

However, this means that a lot of preparation is required by the instructor. For art teachers or others interested in this activity, weaving on mat board looms, I am sharing a brief tutorial on preparing the looms. Teachers with students who are able to do so can also have their students make their own mat board looms in advance of the weaving.

Materials Needed        

IMG_5265 Mat board cut to 6″ W X 9″ H

2 pieces decorative card stock measuring 1″ W X 9″ H

2 pieces heavy cardboard measuring 1″ W X 6″ H**

**I used book board for this, illustration board can also be used

2 pieces decorative card stock measuring 1″ W X 6″ H

Glue Stick

Discarded piece of mat board measuring 1″ W X 6″ H

Pencil and ruler

Small drill or awl

Tapestry needle

Strong yarn for warp, such as cotton carpet warp or perle cotton

Picture frame hook (optional)

Assembly Instructions

With a glue stick, glue the 1″ X 9″ decorative card stock to the long edges of the mat board.  Then glue the 2 pieces of heavy cardboard onto the top and bottom short edges of the mat board. Lastly, glue the shorter pieces of decorative card stock onto the heavy cardboard.

IMG_5266

Now make a template from a piece of discarded mat board measuring 1″ X 6″. Mark and measure a  4″ length in the center of the   template. Within this marked  section, find the  lengthwise halfway point and with a ruler draw a straight line from one end of this 4″ section to the other end. This line will be your guide to make evenly spaced holes across the template. The holes in my loom are roughly spaced 1/4″ apart for a total of 17 holes. I used a small drill like a Dremel stylus to make the holes, but an awl would work just as well.

IMG_5267

Next position the template on top of  the bottom edge of the loom and carefully following  the holes of the template use an awl or other sharp tool to pierce corresponding holes through both the heavy cardboard and the mat board. Do the same for the top edge of the loom.

Warping the Loom

Measure a 4 1/2 yard length of strong warping yarn such as cotton carpet warp or perle cotton. With a tapestry needle, thread the yarn through the holes that you just pierced on the bottom and top edges of the loom. The front of the loom should look like this:

IMG_5269

The back of the loom should look like this:

back of loom

Note that the warp threads are threaded in a vertical direction only at the front of the loom. On the back of the loom, the warp threads are threaded horizontally through consecutive holes. This will prevent the mat board from curving toward the front during the weaving process. A picture frame hook can be glued to the top of the loom if desired.

Now you are ready to weave. I use thick and colorful textured yarn threaded through a wooden weaving needle. A long plastic needle with a large eye will work just as well. A strong comb or pick is used to “beat” each row of weaving.

IMG_5272

The classes at the assisted living center were sponsored by  Creative Aging Midsouth. Miss Eula was one of the participants in the class. Here she is with her finished weaving project. This lovely lady celebrated her 90th birthday during the course of the class!

IMG_5296

Happy Blog Anniversary!

Four years ago today, I posted the very first entry to the MemphisWeaver blog and today there have been over 81,000 visitors to this site. I have heard from several of you the past few years  and I am happy to have so many creatives among my readers! Thank you for your support!

The WinterArts show will be coming to a close on Christmas Eve. This is the fourth holiday season for this artists’ consortium to show and sell their work in an upscale location. Our customers continue to come back and this year many have told us that this was the best show ever! Each year new artists are added, and the returning artists always bring new and fresh work in addition to the classics for which they are known.

And I continue to learn from each show. I am always inspired by my customers as to what direction to follow next. The four to five weeks of the show found me constantly at my loom or at the bookbinder’s bench to create new products to replace any sold inventory. And during this time, I was inspired to create a series of handwoven bucket bags that are part of a new series that I have dubbed “Tribal Bags”. Here are the three that are currently in WinterArts.

Handwoven tribal bucket back in goose eye pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket back in goose eye twill pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket bag woven in evenpoint twill

Handwoven tribal bucket bag woven in evenpoint twill pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket bag in goose eye twill pattern and muted colors

Handwoven tribal bucket bag in goose eye twill pattern and muted colors

The bags are 100% cotton with a cotton denim lining and a recycled jeans pocket insert. It’s soft and roomy and deep enough for lots of stuff! Come springtime I will be weaving these in brigher colors as well as pastels. And yes, there will be more shows coming this spring, and yes, I do plan to participate in them! Besides the bags I have some other projects brewing. There will be smaller pouches for your cell phones and sleeves for your tablets as well as narrower and lightweight fashion scarves for warmer weather. And I am still working on expanding that series of pendants and bracelets to give the pieces a more 3 dimensional look.

So there is lots of work ahead of me as I welcome 2013 and look forward to showing and selling new work. I wish each and everyone of you a joyous holiday season and best wishes for a healthy and creative new year in 2013!

Brace Yourself

Here it is the end of August, and not one post this month. My apologies. My previous posts  suggested a need to reinvent myself, or my work at any rate. And that is what has taken up most of my time – not the producing part, but everything else: reading, surfing, talking, thinking, imagining, visualizing, all just to grab a wisp of inspiration. In the end, there were two designs that inspired me to use as a jumping off point and attempt to transform a new concept into a woven form.

18K gold bracelet handwoven on a traditional loom with gold threads and black silk in a twill pattern. By Carolina Bucci.

As soon as I saw this, I fell in love with this bracelet. This is from www.portero.com and sold for $2,200.  That would be a nice income for a handweaver, a handweaver who could easily recognize the point twill pattern in the design. I set out to warp my Baby Wolf loom with a 6 Harness point twill in a black perle cotton yarn. I used colorful novelty yarns in the weft. (Didn’t want to use the 18k gold yarn for this first effort.) These are my results.

Handwoven twill cotton and novelty yarn cuff bracelet – blue/green/purple

Handwoven twill cotton and novelty yarn  cuff bracelet – pink/yellow/orange

Not a bad first try. I am quite happy with the finished bracelets and am looking forward to playing with it some more and tweaking the pattern, the fibers and the shape.

Now my other inspiration came from Memphis artist Dawn McKay. She and her partner Shannon Cable are shoveIt designs. This is how they describe their work on their website:  “shoveIt designs transform broken skateboards into wicked wearable art.” Now I am not at all familiar with the construction of skateboards, and don’t think I’ve ever been up close and personal with one. My generation after all still used skate keys for our roller skates – the one with 4 wheels on each boot. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this deconstructed skateboard that Dawn transformed into a bracelet.

Cuff bracelet made from a broken skateboard. By Dawn McKay of shoveIt designs.

This was another example of love at first sight for me. And as you all know, I have been playing with rep weave designs on my loom lately, and saw that the pattern in this broken skateboard represented rep weave. Here is my cuff design in a rep weave pattern inspired by shoveIt designs.

Handwoven rep weave cotton cuff bracelet

Creating these bracelets was like my “Aha moment”. This was what I had been searching for all along. But it doesn’t end here! I have had my eye on a certain lovely all metal  tapestry and beading loom for a long while now. The looms are made  by Mirrix Looms  based in New Hampshire. So I took the plunge and purchased the “Big Sister” model.

16″ wide Big Sister Mirrix loom for tapestry and bead weaving

You ask, what am I going to weave on this loom? More jewelry of course! Here are a couple of handwoven tapestry pendants that I wove on my new loom.

Handwoven tapestry pendant with coins

Handwoven tapestry pendant

So here it is, the end of the summer and I am finally having fun!

Back to the Future

Yes, May was a busy month with graduations, reunions and out of town guests. June finds me back at the loom, this time weaving something from my not too long ago past. It’s been awhile since I have woven a rag rug. When my son went to college, I wove one for him, and now it’s my daughter’s turn. She and I like to visit thrift shops and look for nostalgia items or clothing that can be recycled. I often buy used  jeans at these shops so I can cut out the pockets. I make a sort of patch from the jeans’ pocket and then sew it onto denim fabric which I use to line the purses that I weave.

Lining pocket from recycled jeans

This lining is from a small rep weave messenger bag that I recently completed.

Small rep weave messenger bag with denim lining

Rep weave to non-weavers is a term that refers to a traditional Swedish weave known as ripsmatta. It is a very sturdy weave as the warp threads are packed close together when threaded on the loom. And so with rep weave on the brain, I warped my Macomber loom with 600 ends of cotton carpet warp for a rep weave rug woven with strips from recycled jeans. This is what it looks like at the moment:

Rep Weave rug woven with recycled jeans

And this is the rug once finished that will go with my daughter to Chicago where as it happens is also the home of my son’s rep weave rug.

Here is another rag rug that I wove some time ago. This one is woven in a point return twill or goose eye pattern. Lucky seems to favor this one.

Lucky on a handwoven goose eye twill rag rug

Detail of the goose eye twill rag rug pattern

Playtime is over, and I am done with weaving with thick weft yarns for awhile. I miss working with fine, smooth and silky yarns. The kind that is soft and that drapes beautifully. Here is another project just completed where I wove two layers of fabric at the same time in a technique known as doubleweave.

Doubleweave fabric on the loom

The fabric on the bottom is bamboo yarn and the fabric on the top layer is a variegated tencel yarn. Both rep weave and doubleweave are slow patterns to weave. In fact there’s nothing fast about any kind weaving. But for me, I believe my future holds the promise of working with finer, smoother and more elegant yarns.

Confetti Landscapes

During the holiday show season, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kacky Walton on Memphis’ NPR affiliate, WKNO-FM. As a listener of her radio program, I always found her to be one of the most upbeat radio personalities that I ever heard. And sure enough, upon meeting her, she proved me right! This was my radio debut and her warmth and friendliness put me right at home.

During the interview, I wore a scarf that I had woven about 10 years earlier. Kacky remarked that the scarf looked like someone had merrily thrown bits of colorful confetti on it. It was a new description of a scarf I hadn’t woven in a long time. But her observations propelled me into re-examining this scarf design and weaving a collection for 2012.

When photographing the scarves in their various stages of production, the colors and textures reminded me of urban landscapes of tall buildings with mirrored windows and banners blowing in the wind.

Hand dyed tencel scarf with novelty yarn on the loom

The warp is a hand dyed 5/2 tencel yarn from Yarns Plus in Mississuaga, Ontario Canada. The novelty yarn is Cancun by Stacey Charles.

Dark confetti scarf of tencel and novelty yarn on the loom

The original 10 year old handwoven scarf that inspired the confetti landscapes

And the wound warp chain that will be the next set of scarves to go on the loom looks more like a high desert landscape.

I am looking forward to seeing the customers’ reactions to these colorful, textured and playful scarves.

Studio Space

When Harry Potter lived with the Dursleys, his room for a  time was  the cupboard under the stairs. I have one of those. But as far as I know, no boy wizard has ever lived there. This is what my cupboard under the stairs looks like:

Rigid heddle looms and tools stored in the cupboard under the stairs

Some of the Beka and Schacht rigid heddle looms are stored here. Rigid heddles, stick shuttles, pick up sticks, clamps, warping tools and re-usable brown paper for winding are stored here. Two big blue buckets of cotton carpet warp and Peaches and Cream cotton yarn are stored here. Everything that I take to classes are conveniently stored in this space because it is easily accessible to the garage and driveway where I load and unload all the tools and equipment I need to teach my weaving classes. My inkle looms and large rigid heddle looms do not fit in the cupboard.  They are stored in the attic. More on that later. Though it doesn’t house  a wizard, the space under the stairs is more than functional.  However, there is no room for me to weave in the cupboard.

So where do I weave? As it turns out, a few places. In my last post, I mentioned cleaning out my weaving room. A room that measures roughly 9′ X 12′. It is off of the master bedroom and its  intended function when first built has long been forgotten. Was it a sitting room as part of the master bedroom suite? A nursery? An office? A man cave? Whatever its intended use,  a weaving room was not one of them. When I weave, that is what it becomes, but it also is a room where  I create the bulk of my designs, where I prepare my warps and sometimes pay the bills, answer my e-mails, read and listen to music. Sometimes my daughter even does her homework there. It is comfortable enough for me to call it my studio.

Weaving studio in a small space

This is as tidy as it gets.  It’s difficult to keep such a small space uncluttered and organized especially when working on a complex project.

56" Macomber Loom and Schacht Baby Wolf in my weaving studio

Amazingly, this large Macomber loom and the Baby Wolf loom both fit comfortably in this 9′ X 12′ studio space.

And I also have another space where I weave. I call it my attic studio. Previous owners had finished the attic probably in the 1970’s. The attic has a larger area than my weaving room and I use the additional space to sew my handwoven fabric and create my handbound books. One corner of the attic space has a third loom which I use for quick projects. And it’s very cozy up there. It’s off the beaten path of household activity.  I can turn my iHome up as loud as I want. And there is a day bed there, so I can take naps! I’m all for those! Now that’s a real studio!

The Leclerc Loom in my attic studio

Weaving Headlines

It always irks me that weaving terms are highlighted in a negative way when used in news headlines. For instance:

DRUNK DRIVER WEAVES ACROSS THREE LANES ON INTERSTATE.

Or,

TOO MUCH TV WARPS CHILDRENS’ MINDS.

Often, “warp” becomes a misspelling of “wrap” such as this headline:

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WARP UP BUS TOUR CAMPAIGN.

And the one that seems to get the most use:

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT RATES LOOM AHEAD.

Really, people? Can’t the media see weaving and looms as a positive, creative element in our daily lives? Here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about from our local newspaper, The Commercial Appeal.

Front page news, above the fold

Front page of the Business Section lying on top of a handwoven placemat

Front page of the Local News section, below the fold

But here is a paragraph from an article about a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The metaphor is a lovely description about a woven tapestry.

Woven tapestry images at Mammoth Cave National Park

So it isn’t all negative, but the positive references seem to be few and far between. Truth be told, weaving just doesn’t make the news. It’s not sexy, weavers for the most part aren’t criminals, and there are no politicians running on a weaving platform.  We seem to be a quiet bunch and manage to stay out of trouble. If there were a headline about me, it would be something like this:

WEAVER UNEARTHS ANCIENT RELIC

Long Lost Butterfly discovered in weaving studio

My cleaning out my weaving studio may be newsworthy, but only to me. And while cleaning I came across this lovely brass butterfly letter holder. I hadn’t seen it in awhile. It was a gift to me from my first roommate in 1973!  I sent her this photo (Yes, after all these years we are still in touch, even though we live a thousand miles apart!) And she replied that she was moved to tears at the memory of this gift as it reminded her of our youthful year together. A sweet headline indeed!

Today, my teenage daughter, who is a Pink Floyd fan, found this, a photo by Aldo Cavini Benedetti which had been altered to resembled Pink Floyd’s iconic album cover to Dark Side of the Moon.

Dark Side of the Loom

The photo is from thisiscolossal.com.  Very clever. Although the title can be a bit misleading. The warp threads seem to be going through the eye of a needle rather than heddles on a loom. But who’s complaining? Loom was mentioned sort of as a headline and in an an interesting way. For Pink Floyd fans, not in a negative way at all. Not at all.

A Tisket, A Tacket…

Handbound book with tacket binding and fabric cover

A red and black book jacket. My apologies to Ella Fitzgerald.  That’s not how the song goes of course. Tacket refers to a hand sewing method of binding a book. Basically, it resembles a running stitch that is wrapped.  Studio CaiLun has a very clear tutorial using this form of hand sewn binding. The wrapped effect of the binding gives the spine a bit of a jazzed look.

Above is my finished book with tacket binding.  The cover of this book and the Ninja book below is made from cotton fabric purchased from KimonoMomo. The fabric is backed with nylon tricot and then glued onto the book boards.

 

Handbound "Ninja" book with tacket binding

Not sure if I will use a tacket binding for the books that I sell. It is rather labor intensive, as the wrapping takes a bit of time. The end result looks quite pretty, so I may reserve this technique for gift items or special orders.

And while I’m on the subject of bookbinding, here is my attempt at the “Rope” stitching described by Keith Smith in “1, 2, & 3 Section Sewings:  Non-Adhesive Binding Volume III”.

Record book with rope binding

The rope binding is another decorative wrapping technique and done with two needles, one at each end of  a single length of thread. It also lends an attractive appearance to the spine. The record book is part of a collection of  old 45s and 33 1/3 rpm records that I handcut and bind to create a blank journal or sketchbook. None of the records are playable and so they are recycled into another life.

After sewing with the rope binding, I realized that there are many other techniques that can be used in hand sewing a binding. Some that come to mind are used in finishing the ends of a weaving project:  twining, twisting, braiding and plaiting to name a few. I’m sure that tapestry techniques such as soumak can also be incorporated into a bookbinding technique. I really like the idea of  sharing forms from various media, and so my experiments continue.

KISS of the Weaver

For five years, I had been teaching weaving to senior citizens through Creative Aging Mid-South. The students I have worked with often express their creativity through their lifelong passions and experiences. Students’ abilities have ranged from the completely independent and self learning individuals to those with dementia who require a fair amount of assistance and guidance toward the completion of their projects.

When I work with individuals demonstrating decreased levels of cognitive functioning due to dementia, disease or other illness, I need to structure the project so that the many steps of weaving are broken down into a limited number of  tasks with a repetitive element. For instance, residents of an Alzheimer’s or dementia program will more easily remember the repeated rhythmic chants of  “under, over, under, over” than trying to remember the many steps of weaving with a frame loom such as “raise the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat, lower the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat” and so on. In fact, many of the individuals with cognitive impairments will remember the under and over motion of weaving on a potholder loom, either from their own childhoods or from teaching their children.

In previous classes  offered to dementia groups, I taught weaving on a simple frame loom, or on a cardboard loom where the finished project had to be removed in order to be displayed or worn, such as a woven pendant or necklace. This meant that the students needed to finish their projects before the piece had to be removed.  More often than not, I was the one who ended up having to finish their projects and then preparing them for display or to be worn. In this way, the art work became a piece woven by me and not by the students! And so I had to remind myself to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!

For my current class with a group of residents in an assisted living facility which housed an Alzheimer’s unit, I referred to this book for inspiration.

Small Loom and Free Form Weaving by Barbara Matthiessen

The book is Small Loom and Freeform Weaving: Five Ways to Weave by Barbara Matthiessen.  It is available here at Amazon.com. And specifically, I was interested in adapting this altered book project by Ms. Matthiessen and present it to the members of the Alzheimer’s group:

Altered book weaving project idea from “Small Loom and Freeform Weaving”

The author of  Small Loom and Freeform Weaving used the discarded cover of an old book as a loom to weave a non-traditional piece with open spaces in the weaving. In my own studio, I have many sheets of mat board as well as scraps of decorative paper, and so I designed my own mat board looms for the residents of the assisted living facility.

 

Mat board looms in various stages of completion

The looms were made from rectangles of mat board with a decorative frame of scrapbooking paper around the four edges. Carpet tacks were inserted at the top and the bottom of the boards and cotton carpet warp was wound around the tacks. Students used a large wooden weaving needle and bulky novelty yarns in a variety of colors and textures to weave under and over the cotton warp threads.

 

Mat board loom with a wooden weaving needle and bulky weft yarn

For some residents, I needed to begin the first row or two so that they could have a visual image of what their weaving would look like. Once they began  a rhythm of  weaving  “under, over, under, over”, the class was well underway.

 

Selection of some of the yarns students used for weaving

Students most appeared to enjoy the various textures and weights of the yarns, and the brightest and softest yarns were the most popular choices.

 

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table I

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table II

Ten students joined me in this class and will continue to meet weekly for three more weeks. Many will be able to complete their projects by the end of this time. And the mat board loom will become part of their art creation, because their weaving will not have to be removed from it in order for their work to be displayed! Whether or not they finish weaving, all will have a frame with a woven picture that they can proudly display, and know that they wove it themselves!

Phase Two

Today is the first day of school in Memphis, Tennessee.  That means that I have larger blocks of time for my creative work which includes designing, weaving, and writing. Yes, this blog has suffered over the course of the summer, but today I will catch you up on the progress of the commission I was weaving for the synagogue. I was commissioned to weave two sets of four prayer shawls or tallitot in a particular style for the three rabbis and cantor who lead the congregation’s services. The first set will be unveiled at the High Holiday Services which begin at sunset the evening of Rosh Hashanah on September 8. This set of four prayer shawls is nearing completion.  My friend and seamstress extraordinaire has sewn together the two panels of each prayer shawl, sewn on the neckbands, or atarot, and lined each one with exquisite Bemberg rayon.

Handwoven prayer shawl, woven with natural tencel and bamboo yarn, and hand dyed tencel yarn

I still need to hand sew four small buttonholes at each of the four corners.  These will be for the placement of the four tzitzit, or ritual fringe that will be knotted and wound according to the instructions cited in  Numbers 15:37-40. The Torah is a scroll hand written in Hebrew and contains the Five Books of Moses:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Those leading a service of Jewish worship read from the Torah. In a synagogue, the Torah scrolls are housed in an alcove or cabinet referred to as an Ark. Above the Ark hangs an eternal light called Ner Tamid. Since the woven design of this first set of prayer shawls resembled a flame, I have titled this set Ner Tamid.

Detail of atarah on prayer shawl, Ner Tamid

For the prayer shawls, I wove a separate neckband, or atarahAtarot are not required of all tallitot, however they are customarily incorporated into the overall design of the prayer shawl and can be woven directly onto the body of the prayer shawl or woven separately and then sewn on in the final construction as in the case of the set I wove for this commission. The atarah above was woven with natural and hand dyed tencel yarn in a combination twill weave.

Currently on my Macomber loom is the second set of four prayer shawls which will be finished shortly after the High Holidays in mid-September. So in the next month, I will need to finish weaving the body of the tallitot and also weave a separate set of four atarot. The second set of prayer shawls will be those worn for every day use, and the tallitot called Ner Tamid will be worn for special occasions such as holidays, weddings and Bar/Bat Mitvahs.

One of four prayer shawls on the loom

Above is the design I am weaving for the second set of prayer shawls.  They are also woven in natural tencel and bamboo yarn.  As with the first set I am weaving two panels for each prayer shawls, and these have been threaded side by side on the loom and woven simultaneously so that the woven color bands will be of equal size. I haven’t named this set yet, but I’m sure that something will reveal itself to me during the weaving process.

As the days grow shorter at the beginning of this school year, I will expect longer and uninterrupted blocks of time so that I can finally finish this project. It has been a rewarding journey, and I am really looking forward to seeing the rabbis and cantor wearing the new tallitot at the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5771.