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The Low-Stress Guide to Weaving Gifts

Want to avoid giving someone two skeins of yarn and telling the recipient it will be a scarf . . . one day? Not all of us are masters at time management. Here are some strategies and tips to help you steer clear of that all-too-familiar scenario.

Susan E. Horton Nov 17, 2021 - 6 min read

The Low-Stress Guide to Weaving Gifts Primary Image

Photos above from left to right: Why weave one bread bag when you can just as easily warp your loom for 2—or more? (Photos by Matt Graves); Plain weave is the perfect vehicle for showcasing beautiful yarns. (Photo by Caleb Young, Good Folk Photography); Weave on your pin loom when you have a few moments to spare, and you’ll have a slew of shapes ready to turn into a full-sized project. (Photo by Matt Graves).

Weave Multiples

Rather than putting on a warp for two towels, warp for three or more. Most rigid-heddle looms can handle a warp of about 5 yards, which is perfect for weaving a trio of towels, a set of napkins, or a pair of scarves. Make the weaving more interesting by changing your weft colors or adding hand-manipulated lace or other areas of interest to each one. Use neutral palettes for your warp, then add weft colors chosen for the recipient. Even if you don’t need those extra items now, you will be happy to have them the next time you need a last-minute gift.

What happens if you need to take a project off the loom right now, but there is still warp left to weave? Instead of cutting off and retying, try this method that works well for hemmed items:

  • Weave a few picks of scrap yarn to protect the weft of the fabric and run a line of Fray Check along those picks.
  • Weave an inch of plain weave in another color.
  • Insert a sturdy stick slightly longer than the warp is wide.
  • Weave an additional inch of plain weave.
  • Smear white glue on the plain-weave areas on either side of the stick. I know many weavers trust the weaving to hold the stick in place, but I like the extra protection of the glue.
  • When the glue is dry, release the tension on the warp, cut along the line of scrap yarn, and remove the fabric.
  • Position the stick close to the apron rod, lash it on with a long cord, add tension, and you are ready to weave again.

Think Small

Don’t let the idea of the “big” project stall your ability to weave smaller items on your list. Coasters, inkle bracelets, potholders, and hot pads take little time to weave but are welcome gifts. Back them with commercial fabric rather than handwoven. If you have pieces of handwoven fabric left over from sampling, use them to make small bags or sachets. Speaking of little bits of fabric, if you have a pin loom, bring it with you wherever you go and take advantage of downtime. Before long, you will have enough fabric for a cowl, a stuffed animal, or maybe some flower ornaments.

If you have more than one loom, reserve one for a complex, time-consuming project and the others for simpler items. Keep weaving the simpler projects while you plan the complex one. If it’s stressing you, it’s okay to put the big project on hold until after the holidays; you’ll enjoy it more when you have time to approach it with care.

Keep It Simple—and Beautiful

Plain weave has an unfounded reputation for being boring, but in fact, it’s an excellent showcase for luxurious art yarns and fun rainbow cakes with long color spans. Plain-weave scarves can be simplified further by turning them into cowls. While most scarves need to be at least 60 inches long and fringed, a cowl can be 30 inches around with no fringe to twist or hemstitching needed.

If you do want to weave something more complex, make sure to use a vetted project so you won’t have to sample or be faced with unwelcome surprises halfway through. If you choose a pattern that requires two pick-up sticks, replace one of the sticks with a heddle rod. (See Resources.) When you’re done, keep the string heddles for the next project to save even more time when you need to use a heddle rod again.

While handsewn or beautifully hemstitched hems are lovely, don’t be afraid to use a sewing machine to save time. Here are some tips:

  • Change your machine’s needle before starting. A fresh, sharp needle makes a surprising difference.
  • Work in production-line style, finishing one task for all items before moving to the next.
  • Use two-sided sticky sewing tape to secure your hems and prevent dog-ears.
  • Slip a piece of cardboard under the presser foot when starting and finishing to prevent it from digging down into your fabric and getting stuck.
  • If hemming multiple small items, such as coasters, stitch without cutting them apart until you have finished all hems on the full set.

Making beautiful handwoven gifts doesn’t have to be time-consuming or overly stressful. With these tips and tricks, you can focus more on weaving and less on worrying.

—Susan

Resources: Gipson, Liz. Twice as Nice: Weaving with Two Heddles on a Rigid-Heddle Loom.

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