Gifts,  Weaving

Secret Revealed

Last week I posted a picture of some secret weaving I was working on. Since they have been gifted, I can now show you what I was working on – name draft placemats! A few weeks ago when I took my weaving course, I learned how to do name drafts. This basically means that you figure out a code from a name or phrase, and that code is used to determine what the pattern you weave will look like. (ETA – you can’t actually see their names or anything, it’s just the way to come up with the pattern. Each pattern would look different for each phrase)

Our great friends Craig and Kate got married last Christmas in a small ceremony, and decided to have a reception this summer. At the time when Craig was the best man in our wedding, he had just started dating Kate. We all loved her from the start – they are such a good pair!

I figured with my new found knowledge I could make a draft for “Craig and Kate” and use it make some placemats for them as a gift. And since I know a lot of you don’t weave, I thought I would go through some of the steps I used to make them.

The first thing was to work out the “threading and treadling”, which is basically the code part of the weaving – what order the warp threads (the ones that go front to back on a loom) need to go through the shafts (the parts that go up and down) and which order I need to lift and lower the shafts in.

Once this is done and I have done the usual calculations for length and width (to determine how much yarn I need) it is time to start measuring out the warp.

That’s a warping board, and you can move the pegs wherever you need to in order to get the right length of warp. Once your warp is measured, it is time to attach it to the loom.

You can see here that there is a cross in the yarn threads. This is called your warp cross. It is important for keeping each thread separate, and making sure everything is in order. Once I have it tied on to the back of the loom like this, I spread the ends out in a comb like thing called a raddle. When it is carefully separated out into the raddle in order, I can start to wind the warp onto the loom.

You can see this is a bit on the awkward side. Paper is rolled in between the threads as it is wound onto the loom to help keep the tension even. Tension is the most important thing when weaving – everything has to be even.

Once the warp is wrapped on, it is time to start “threading the heddles”. These are little wire pieces that have a hole in the middle. On my 4 shaft loom, I have 4 frames that hold heddles. I have to use the code I created for the name draft to tell me which order I have to thread the heddles in.

You can see the 4 frames there and how the threads are on different shafts depending on the pattern. Here you can see me using my threading draft to tell me where to thread the next heddle.

Once they are threaded through each heddle by hand, it is time to “sley the reed” (An aside – if you haven’t figured it out yet, learning all the terminology is the hardest part of beginning weaving).

The reed is held in the beater, which is the part that will beat the side to side threads (called the weft threads) down into the pattern. I use a sleying hook to pick up each thread from the heddles in order. And yes, I really do sit like that when I do it.

Once the threads are through the reed, they all need to be tied on to the front of the loom.

This shows the front apron coming up and over, waiting to have the threads tied on.

With all the threads tied on, I shoot a few weft shots in a different yarn, just to get everything spread out evenly. Then it is time to tie up my treadles (the foot pedals on the loom).

These are tied up so that different shafts go up and down depending on which treadle I push.

Once that is done, it is finally time to start weaving! The weaving is definitely not the long part of a project. Warping the loom takes quite a long time.

Here you can see the pattern beginning to emerge as I shoot the shuttle back and forth, lifting and lowering the shafts with my feet.I know this probably sounds really odd, so I took a video to show you what it looks like. You can see that I am working with 2 shuttles – one in the grey pattern yarn and one in the background neutral yarn. If you watch my feet you will see that is where all the action is. Which treadle I press determines which warp threads go up and down, and thus what will show in the weft. For those of you that want to see the video in full screen, click the little arrows in the bottom right corner.

Once all that weaving is done, it is time to cut the project from the loom.

I actually ended up weaving 5 placemats because the first one didn’t turn out. Each one has some plain weave in between so that it can be folded under for a hem.

Everything went for a hot soapy bath, and then they were laid out to dry. Once they were dry, I used my rotary cutter to snip them apart, and stitched up the hems at the end of each one. Et Voila!

4 name draft placemats for Craig and Kate! I am really pleased with how they came out.

I thought one of the motifs looked like two people with their arms wrapped around each other (in the white area). I figured that was good wedding gift mojo. TJ liked them so much he wants me to make a set for our kitchen table, which I would love to do.

I hope Craig and Kate like them and I hope they have a very happy, long, fun marriage!


    • Dani

      Sorry, I should have explained that better. You can’t actually see their names or anything, it’s just the way to come up with the pattern. Each pattern would look different for each phrase or name.

  • Mom

    Saw the finished placemats…so beautiful. Read the process and thought you were speaking in tongues LOL! Really interesting. Congrats to Craig and Kate.

  • Sally

    My jaw is literally on the floor. That is amazing work. I am blown away. You are awesome, Dani!!! What love for those folks you have! I know they will love them!

  • Kate Hyatt

    WE LOVE THE PLACEMATS!!! We opened your gift up on Sunday morning; so unique and thoughtful and the fact that YOU made them makes them very special. We will use these forever.
    Thanks so much for coming to Ontario for the party!!!
    Big hugs,

  • Julia in KW

    Wonderful post! I remember helping my mother with the warp on the loom when I was younger. We had lots of woven placemats, tablecloths and even a bed spread (the guild had a huge loom). My sister has the loom now and that is fine – we all have our crafts – I do knitting and spinning, she does the sewing and weaving (we’re both neophytes with spinning and weaving, though) – You appear to be a master of it all…enjoy your blog very much!!!

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