Adventures in backstrap weaving



I was feeling just a little bit desperate to try weaving. I wanted a loom! And I didn't want to wait. But then reason set in. Why would I need to spend a bunch of money to try weaving? Couldn't it be done in a simple way? Without a lot of fuss? When I posted a question on Ravelry, a kind weaver suggested I try backstrap weaving, so I checked out the book "Backstrap Weaving," by Barbara Taber and Marilyn Anderson. A few hours after I opened the first page of this 1975 classic, I had assembled everything I needed to weave: some dowels, twine, yarn, and a ruler. I was ready! And I was hooked!

The first picture on the left is of the warp. I decided to start by making the first project in the book, a backstrap, but I chose the worst kind of yarn possible–100%, scratchy, sticky wool. I bought it second-hand for $1 and the label said Icelandic wool. It looks nice in the pictures, doesn't it? I flipped over a footstool and did the figure eight warp which I then transferred to the dowels. Everything was going smoothly–I even attached the string heddle, which pulls up one set of the warp thread to create the shed, or the space between the bottom and top warp.

See that big hunk of wood in the third picture? That was my sad attempt to find a beater, or the piece of wood that beats the weft in place. It didn't work because it was too blocky, so I swapped to a ruler, which makes a fine beater.

I felt creative that day so I braided some hemp twine and made the strings that tie the entire backstrap loom into place–or in my case, onto the radiator. After struggling a little bit with the loom flipping over a few times, I braided another "holder." This time two separate braids that hold the sides independently. (It works great, but I still use the first one at times.)




At this point, I realized that using wool was best left to experts. Because the warp is wound rather tightly, each thread rubs against the one next to it, causing little snags. I think mine started felting! So, I reluctantly took the entire project apart before weaving one row and searched for some cotton. I found this crazy green and orange, sport-weight, mercerized cotton at Hobby Lobby. It's Sinfonia Melon. This time around, it was easier to wind the warp to get started, and I wound 50 ends. Since I had actually done a string heddle before, the second time was a breeze, especially since I used a long piece of mercerized cotton. And then came time to try to weave. I was stumped again. It just didn't seem to "work" when I tried to open the sheds. The nearest one, with the string heddle, was easy. It was the back one that confused me. How do you get the bottom strands to come up to the top? Finally, I turned to the Internet and discovered the all-time best article on backstrap weaving EVER! It's called "Backstrap Basics" by Laverne Waddington, published in the September 16, 2009 edition of the online magazine Weavezine. Here's the link:

Not only does Laverne clearly outline how to assemble and use a backstrap loom, she includes videos! When I saw how someone weaves on a little loom like mine, I knew I could do it on my own.

With my new yarn, everything was easier. It's the only advice I can pass along at this early state: use a nice, slick yarn if you can! The weft can be thicker and woolier, but I chose to stick with cotton, again Sinfonia sport weight, this time the color is Olive. After several hours of studying, thinking, attempting, and tearing apart and putting back together, it "only" took me three hours to weave the backstrap, and then another thirty minutes to braid the ends. If you look at my edges, you'll see what is the most difficult part–keeping the selvedges even, but I noticed a lot of improvement as my project neared its end. I've already started my second project which I'll post about soon. 

As for the "What is this?" post from last week–I'll share with you my very basic rigid heddle later on when I use it with the backstrap loom.

Great Sweater Pattern

I happened across this Knifty Knitter page from Anke in the Netherlands once before–and then I lost the link. It took a few searches before I found it again. Much of it is in Dutch, but she does include some translations. I think her patterns are really lovely. In particular, I like the blue sweater (scroll down) and the white purse (on the top).

EvenKnit Sock Loom

Here's a new item for my wish list, the EvenKnit Sock Loom from DecorAccents Looms. Isela and her husband developed this item to please loom sock knitters–you can make socks for your entire family on this loom instead of purchasing different sizes for little feet or big feet. Also, instead of the e-wrap, this loom uses a zig-zag method. Instead of wrapping each peg, you simply weave the yarn in front of the pegs and behind the pins, then knit off! Super knifty! (Here's her .PDF instructions. Knowing Isela, a video tutorial isn't far off.)

I think at over $90, this may be a future Christmas gift and not just a little splurge. However, I must say that the DA Looms are lovely, well-made, and something a future loom knitter will be ecstatic to find in a treasure box 100 years from now, so the price is worth it, but with my budget, it does rank as a "super special" gift.

Besides, my one try at using a sock loom was pretty disastrous. I started out with my lovely EFG DA Oval Sock Loom, but didn't get past the toe. It seems that my eyes and very close, tiny knitting don't get along, and as a result the loom has been gathering dust for over a year. I've often considered swapping it with someone who owns a FG sock loom to see if a larger gauge would keep me interested. It's possible I'm simply not a sock knitter; but with an entire skein of bamboo sock yarn waiting for a purpose in life, I feel compelled to try again.

Kreativ Blogger

Thank you, Brenda of Loom Lore! Brenda, an creative expert in all-things looming (just check out these loomy-licious cupcakes!), nominated me for this award, which I've seen being passed around the looming and knitting blogs. I've visited Brenda's blog numerous times, and she's always willing to answer questions. Plus, she offers a ton of innovative patterns. So, thanks again, Brenda.

As I understand it, the rule to this crazy Kreativ Blogger Award is that I have to "nominate" seven blogs I really enjoy, even non-crafty ones. Some of these are very popular blogs, but if you haven't visited them, please do. Here are a few of my favorite, never-miss bloggers:

  • Crazy Aunt Purl: Laurie is super funny and yes, she knits. Plus, she has a bunch of cats.
  • Chickens in the Road: Author Suzanne McMinn posts about life on her rural West Virigina farm. She loves to write about her chickens.
  • Chez Larsson: I like this daily glimpse into Benita Larsson's cool Swedish home; she cleans, organizes, and crafts like a Swedish Martha Stewart!
  • Polka Dot Cottage: Lisa Clarke's neat ideas with looming, and she does a wealth of other crafts–check out the polymer clay jewelry and buttons.
  • Avalanche Looms: Susan Johnson's lovely weaving.
  • Dangling Threads: Cady May's blog–she spins, she knits!
  • Sarah Bradberry's loaded site. I found this during my frenzied search for anything flower-loom related–and she has the best site out there for those little looms.


New yarn, new book…

… I sense a new project heading my way.

Here's my new book: "Learn to Knit Cables on Looms," by Isela Phelps.

And here's my new yarn: "Marry" by Rozetti. There was something about the soft, fluffy texture that drew me in, so different that my usual 100% wool choices.

So, what'll it be? A cabled scarf, maybe? A cabled bag? Socks? Oh! Maybe a hat!


Wind-powered knitting machine

You can find the strangest things on youtube, like this video of a knitting machine powered by a windmill:

wind knitting machine


And this old-fashioned sock knitting machine. It's mesmerizing to watch. (Okay, it's mesmerizing to watch if you like watching vintage sock knitting machines.)

Gearhart Sock Knitting Machine

Current project: I'm making a cowl on the yellow Knifty Knitter loom. I started it by using the pattern found at the Ben Franklin site, but after about 15 rows, I decided I didn't like the look of the plain e-wrap stitch. I was using just one strand of a Cascade wool in blue, and it was looking very ladder-ish. So, I frogged it all and began again, this time using the mock crochet stitch (instructions here). It's a very easy and pretty way to vary your loom knitting.

Hooray! A loomy ‘zine

How cool is this? A loom-dedicated online ‘zine called, appropriately enough, The Loom Knitters Circle. Featuring patterns, articles, and a forum, this great site is just what loom knitters have been asking for. Visit it today!

As far as my own projects, I didn’t take any pictures but over the weekend I knitted four little hats for my nieces’ American Girls dolls. I used the blue loom, two strands of Moda Dea yarn, and invented a slightly different pattern each time.

I also finished my ziggy-zag scarf. In the end, I probably used 1.5 skeins of yarn. I’ll post a picture, soon!