Monthly Archives: December 2014

How to weave a baby wrap Weaving Heart style

Warning: if you own or are likely to own a Weaving Heart baby wrap it is strongly advised you stop reading now, Weaving Heart cannot be held responsible for the sleepless nights that may follow if you choose not to heed this advice.

1. Buy yarn. Ensure you buy enough yarn for the whole warp. This ensures you don’t run out of said yarn in the middle of winding said warp and leave you with no other option than to change colour mid-graduation and make out that it is a ‘design feature’.
2. Secure the warp using choke ties (string) or freezer bag clips before removing from the warping board; this avoids loosing fairly important things like your threading and raddle cross (for you non weavers out there, these are essential for setting up the loom). No self respecting weaver would do this (would they?).
3. When winding the warp in sections, as is fairly standard for baby wrap width, put the sections on the loom the right way around and in the right order. Failure to do so will result in a wrap that looks nothing like the mock up; the custom mama is likely to be not best pleased.
4. Beam the warp, ie, wind the warp onto the back of the loom. If it gets ‘stuck’ do not, I repeat, do not carry on regardless ignoring this, you may end up with a few broken threads (or maybe an inch or two’s worth).
5. When threading the heddles, ensure you a) know how many heddles you actually have on the loom so you don’t run out and b) don’t end up with too many empty heddles at one side therefore blocking the warp from running straight causing numerous tension issues.
6. Ditto for sleying the reed.
7. Tie the warp on and CHECK FOR THREADING MISTAKES. Did you get that? CHECK FOR MISTAKES.
8. Ensure you have enough weft before you start weaving. This will stop you from running out of the weft yarn halfway through and then have to wait for more yarn to arrive thereby tying up your loom until it arrives, inevitably taking longer than usual, especially if your income depends on this. Obvious really.
9. CHECK FOR THREADING MISTAKES. Then start weaving.
If by chance you notice a threading mistake around 1/2 metre in you will have to cut off the weaving and start again. Don’t be stupid enough to have to end up doing this twice in one warp. Really. Especially in plain weave, the easiest threading around.
10. When using scissors anywhere near your warp, please be careful not to accidentally cut your warp. This can be fairly disastrous.
11. Measure your weaving as you go along; particularly important if you are weaving several wraps from one warp with different wefts. You are not able to estimate this.
12. Make sure you calculate the length of the wrap needed and allow for shrinkage with wet finishing (around 10%) and a hem allowance. If you don’t, try as you might, you cannot turn a piece of weaving that measures 3.5m into a 3.75m wrap. No matter how hard you try to stretch it.
13. Once finished weaving, cut off the loom and wet finish. If you have used non-superwash wool anywhere in your wrap do not tumble dry. You will end up with a felted placemat.
14. Just because it’s unlucky to end on 13 and I make enough mistakes as it is, without added bad luck thrown in.

Reflections

What a year it’s been. I don’t know about you but I think there is a tradition of reflection about now; a new year to come, looking back over the last one and the useful ‘bookmark’ of Christmas to anchor our thoughts.
2014 turned out to be an especially momentous year for me. It brought lots of change; in fact, I think this was the theme of the whole 12 months.
I don’t particularly want to go into much detail but this time last year I was working as a drug counsellor in the NHS although was off sick, yet again, and facing retirement due to ill health. As some of you who have been following the blog for a while, I went on the Lightning Process training in February as a last ditch attempt to regain some control over my life and am now recovering from M.E. and marching firmly towards good health.
It has not been a lightning recovery, unlike some people’s experience, nor has it not worked at all. In fact it worked well enough that the other major change this year – leaving work to set up my own business – was through choice and not forced upon me.
I returned to work after being off sick for 8 months in March, a week after doing the LP and far too soon, with hindsight. I was desperate to prove something (I’m not quite sure what) and I’ve discovered that I still need to pace myself and that learning to look after myself is really difficult for me.
So now I think I’m in recovery not just from ill health but also from working for the NHS! I recently revisited my professional code of ethics (I belong to the British Council for Counselling and Psychotherapy) and was shocked to relearn that I have a responsibility not to work when unwell. I had definitely forgotten this aspect and had frequently forced myself to work despite not being up to it. There is a strong culture of ‘being strong’ and not being ‘lazy’ in the NHS; to the extent that if you had 12 months without taking time off sick you received a letter of congratulation from the Chief Executive, as if being lucky enough not to get sick was something you have power over.
Enough of that, it can make me angry still.
For me, one of the silver linings to having M.E. is that I learnt to weave. Facing redundancy, I knew I needed some way of making a living so started various projects (like dyeing wool) that eventually led me to weaving. It was like coming home. I’ve also discovered Saori weaving as well as weaving baby wraps; both of which have enabled me to set up a full time business, to work hours that suit me and my health (now that I have learnt that working seven days a week is really not that great, energywise) (really! I have an innate and stupid urge to push myself beyond my limits, something that most probably led me to being ill in the first place) and to work with what I love most: yarn (well, after my hubby, family, friends and doggies).
Weaving Heart will be a year old in March and I will write then about the blessings that it has given me.
All in all, an amazing year; one where I’ve been challenged and have continued to learn. Thank you for sharing 2014 with me.

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Crocheting Christmas

Apparently there’s less than a week to go until Christmas. Who knew?
Not me anyhow. I’m not feeling remotely Chrimbly; not in a bah humbug kind of way but just a ‘meh’ sort of thing. It may have something to do with the fact that our children have flown the nest and won’t be with us; it may have a little to do with a touch of disgust at the whole consumerism of it; but I also think it’s a bit of a down side of not doing ‘work’ work anymore. There’s no Christmas do to avoid (well technically there was, I’d agreed to go along to the one with my old work but I’ve bottled it), no holidays to take (I’m allowing myself one day off) and money is fairly tight (it’s early days with the weaving and this month has not been free of unexpected costs).
So all in all I’m just not feeling it.
In the past there has been the odd holiday season where I’ve felt like I’m missing out on the party, for various reasons; some part of life and others self inflicted, but this year I’m just choosing not to pay too much attention to it.
Christmas has become a bit of a first world problem, the original spirit has become diluted by money and endless adverts. I could decide to do something worthy instead, like help out at a homeless shelter, but options are fairly limited for that kind of thing here in Caithness and, to be honest, I quite fancy a day off.
A day to slob about, eat chocolate for breakfast, walk the dogs and crochet to my heart’s content. Speaking of which, my ripple throw is coming along nicely,

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It’s very soothing and doesn’t need much concentration. Cheap and cheerful, just how our Christmas will be I hope.
However you are spending Christmas, dear reader, may it be a peaceful and content one.

Wool wool WOOL

Now that I’m weaving baby wraps for a living much of my time is spent with fibres such as cotton and linen. Lovely as they are they’re just not wool. I was just finishing a custom wrap and found myself wondering how the rest of the warp would work with a wool weft. Now this is something I’ve been pondering for a while, wool wraps are out there and I attempted one a few weeks back with not unsuccessful results, just not the ones I’d planned on. I used some Jaggerspun Zephyr, a blend of silk and merino that, in my book anyway, isn’t what I’d call wool. Well, technically it involves sheep in some of the process somewhere along the line, but not proper sheep. Not the kind that you’d find dotted about the Scottish Highlands anyhow. Now a Cheviot or Blue Face Leicester definitely fall into the sheep category, mention a Jacob and we’re really talking sheep.

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However, I didn’t have any suitable Jacob wool lying around, lots of fleece but no yarn. I did happen to have a large cone of undyed Shetland; what could be more perfect? The custom part of the warp is going to a Shetlander so especially perfect.
Oh my, I’d forgotten the wonder of wool. The smell and feel of it, the promise of cosiness and the feeling that all is right in the world.
Now Shetland weaving yarn comes ‘greasy’, I know there’s a very important reason for this and I can’t for the life of me remember why but it makes it feel even more sheepy.

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Weaving with it was wonderful, it made me feel like I was home again.
The best bit though is the wet finishing; obviously you can’t just throw wool (not normal wool that hasn’t been treated with nasty chemicals to make it ‘superwash’) into the washing machine. So into the bath it went with several kettles of boiling water on top (our boiler doesn’t really get the water quite hot enough) for a good soak. Then the ‘bloom’ appears, that lovely kind of fuzziness that begs you to stroke it…oh I LOVE wool. Proper wooly wool. If I were a baby this is what I would want to be wrapped in, never mind your namby pamby merino, no proper WOOL. I subscribe to the Elizabeth Zimmermann philosophy on babies and wool; she insisted on dressing even babies with wool allergies in wool. Not because she had a slightly sadistic streak but because wool is one of nature’s best materials – warm when it’s cold yet breathable and cool when it’s warm.
She suggested that if you wanted a wool that was machine washable and dry-able, maybe you should wonder why babies can’t be similarly treated?
So I love the wrap. It hasn’t sold yet; I’ve made it clear in the listing that it could be perceived as itchy (not to me but I once had a ball of hand dyed rare breed wool return by someone who was unhappy it wasn’t soft enough) and I kind of hope it doesn’t sell so I can turn it into the most beautiful blanket and snuggle down into a lovely sheepy wooly hug.

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Christmas Present

I know I’m probably preaching to the converted but if we are to stand any chance against being completely homogenised then it’s really really really worth trying to buy your Christmas gifts from small independent retailers.
A reason I’ve gone off real shopping as opposed to virtual (although there’s nothing virtual about my credit card bill!) is because it seems as though every shopping centre in the UK, whether in a mall, or on the high street is exactly the same. The shop selling beautiful, individually produced goodies is far and few between (although if you happen to be in Nottingham, the Tokenhouse is a wonderful place to wander through).
So I did all my shopping online via Etsy this year. Now there has been some controversy about Etsy recently as they changed their policies and allow shops to sell mass produced goods, often imported from places that don’t pay a living wage so you need to be careful and check out the individual shops to ensure they are selling handmade unique items made by the owner, and that you’re not buying tat. Usually the price is a good giveaway, of course (‘buy cheap, but twice’ is something you’ll often hear in our household).
I’ve noticed a huge increase in the number of handwoven things for sale for pennies; obviously this is direct competition for me but it also raises questions about the provenance of the materials for said items, the conditions for the weavers and the most likely huge profit someone is making, without much work themselves.
I use very good quality yarns, coloured with dyes that haven’t impacted upon the environment and that are ethically produced (no mulesling merino in my shop) as well as paying myself a reasonable wage (well it keeps me in chocolate so I’m happy).
Enough of me, there are some gorgeous shops on Etsy and I’ve decided to show you just a few. Now, one is run by a friend but I’m objective about this and firmly believe it is worth a look; but the others are shops I’ve bought from recently and have been really impressed by the excellent service and wonderful goodies they are selling.
Now, hoping that none of my giftees are reading this (Anne, look away NOW!) the first shop I came across was Little Green Soap, I sent a message with my order asking for a long list of requirements regarding packaging and delivery addresses etc and she was wonderful and sent me some photos of the soaps gift wrapped (no extra charge!!) before they were posted.

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Just stunning service, as good as Amazon can be, they don’t come anywhere near this.
If you have a knitter or spinner in your life, you can’t go far wrong with SnowberryLime, she sells gorgeous fibre and I ‘aquired’ (ahem), a very pretty hand carded batt from her recently, that is destined to become part of a Saori style shawl once spun.

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For super cute stocking fillers, try Felt in Devon, look at this little chap, sooo squidgey!

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Finally, my friend makes and sells jewellery to a very high quality and I’ve bought from her both for myself (a bracelet that never comes off) and as gifts (my Step mother was very happy with her birthday present). Lookee here:

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So pretty and the colours she uses are classic, muted tones that can be worn with anything.
So that’s all for now folks, even if you just buy one of your Christmas presents from an independent online UK maker, you’ll not only be buying something that supports the British economy (as opposed to some of the policies that make the rich richer and poor even poorer but I’ll not say more about that), have something that no-one else will (how precious is that?) but as someone who speaks from experience, you’ll also be making that retailer’s day.
Finally finally, and I promise that’s all, how about a handwoven teatowel? I know just the shop…

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Weaving Heart

Wonky weaving

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These are the latest wraps off the loom for a lovely mama in Singapore, called ‘Reflexion del Sol’ (the wraps that is rather than the mama).
These are not my usual colours so it’s been good to make something different. The inspiration photo was of a Spanish church with sunlight shining through the stained glass so it was a challenge to capture the luminosity. I used mercerised yarn for the warp, with a glorious sheen, to try and emulate this and over 800 threads with more than 12 colours (can’t remember exactly off the top of my head but there were a lot) of blues, greens, yellow and red.
I’m generally pleased with how they turned out although I had a couple of broken threads at one selvedge which caused some issues; when that happens it’s hard not to weave really quickly to get to the end before it all falls apart completely! Instead it’s way better to go against my instincts (isn’t it always?!?) and take more time and care to ensure the best possible result.
However, I was not best pleased with how it looked. To be completely honest, I went into a bit of denial, stormed ahead hemming and finishing the wraps which were posted earlier this week. Then I breathed and realised that This. Was. Not. Ok. I’ve had really good feedback on my selvedges and in the baby wearing world, good sharp fabric edges are a big deal and can affect the resale value, so I swallowed my fear and contacted the mama who had bought it. Needless to say she was lovely and will let me know her thoughts once the wrap arrives.
It’s reminded me that I just can’t sit with feeling uncomfortable about my actions. I learnt a while a go that for a peaceful and content life, I need to be able to look myself firmly in the mirror and know I’ve done good; not because I’m a ‘good’ person (I don’t believe in the concepts of good and bad in respect to people but more of that maybe another time) but because I, rather self interestedly, like to sleep easy. It also reinforces that life, difficult as it can be, is so much easier if we are open about our flaws, our wonky selvedges and broken threads.
Ok enough of the naval gazing, I’m going to show off the beautifully flawed wraps now…because aren’t we all?

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