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National Craft Month is here!

During National Craft Month two years ago I explored two new hobby areas I’d always wanted to learn more about. The first was photography, as in photography with a REAL camera (remember those?). I watched Rick Allred’s Basics of Digital Photography class on Craftsy, tried to learn and practice a few things to make it all stick, and wrote about it. I certainly learned a lot, and I think you can see the difference in my photographs here and on social media.

The second hobby I wanted to learn more about was jewelry. as I’d mucked around a bit with jump rings and bead cones and the like but wanted to know if I’d “done it right.” For this I turned to Craftsy again, and Candie Cooper’s class on Beading with Wire, Chain, and Leather. Candie has a great upbeat attitude, and some nice projects that I WILL get to some day. I’ve used what I learned  in some of my newer knotting projects. You can read about my experience with that class here.

All Craftsy Classes Under $20 at 3/8-3/11/18.

In addition to writing about what I was learning, I wrote a series of craft blog posts to share what I know. The first covered making single-row stripes in my usual medium, knitting. The second contained a tutorial on tying a braid knot with different elements (yarn itself, knit I-cord, cast-on bind-off cord, and slip-stitch crochet cord). In the third, I detailed how to make a small cardboard loom and do some basic weaving moves (I was obsessed with this at the time—need to get back to it soon!). And the final post of the series showed how to use herringbone stitch, an embroidery technique, on a bandana scarf I had made but didn’t wear as it didn’t seem *finished*.

So what am I doing this year for National Craft Month? Next post I want to talk about knotting, something I’ve been dabbling in for a few years and the “K” in my KLITCH class (going to STITCHES United in Hartford, CT? I’ll be teaching it there!). What can you do with an overhand knot, besides make the first stitch of a cast-on? Hmmm… :-)











Maker Faire Bay Area Time!

Edit: See the bottom of the post for a short recap of my sessions in the NeedleArts Zone, and some links to weaving references for teachers and parents!

It’s Maker Faire Bay Area weekend! And Maker Faire has its very own NeedleArts Zone, sponsored by TNNA, The National Needlearts Association. The NeedleArts Zone provides opportunities for makers small and large to learn how to knit, crochet, spin, weave, needlepoint, and cross-stitch. Supplies and teachers are provided FOR FREE: show up, sign up, and you’ll get to try something new. I’m excited to be teaching weaving on little looms, one of my new favorite things to make with!

Maker Faire has something for every kind of maker, as well as makers of all ages. 3-D printing, alternative energy, rockets, robotics, VR, woodworking… the list is endless. And if you’re not sure you want to MAKE, it’s a great place to people watch.

Here’s a few photos from yesterday’s set up. You can find the NeedleArts Zone in building 2, Craft section. We’re right on a corner!

Maker Faire Recap

Stitchers on Friday morningIn addition to helping set up on Thursday, I worked Friday afternoon and Sunday morning/early afternoon in the NeedleArts Zone teaching weaving, my current fiber-related new hobby. Here are just a few thoughts and photos on the experience!

Friday was student day at Maker Faire. When the gates opened, the first students into the Needlearts Zone swarmed the needlepoint station. SWARMED, truly. Every time I looked over from the weaving station, the needlepoint tables were full of stitchers. How wonderful is that?!

My tables quickly filled up with new weavers ranging in age from eight to 18. I had some great conversations with parents, who wanted to know where to get the looms so their kids could keep weaving at home. Teachers can incorporate making a loom out of cardboard into their class activities, getting kids to practice measuring and cutting skills before moving on to weaving itself (see these free patterns from Red Heart for instructions on making a cardboard loom as well as the basics of weaving: LW4978, LW4979, LW4918).

Sunday was equally busy, but with adult learners as part of the mix. Many went beyond the basics of plain weave and tried more complicated basketweave and tapestry techniques. While we had warped the looms for students ahead of time, each student learned how to take their piece off the loom and finish the ends so they had something to take home as a reminder of what they learned.

It was exhilarating to be part of creating so many new weavers, spinners, knitters, crocheters, and stitchers!


National Craft Month Finale: Embroider It!

craft month_4Time for the final, albeit belated, installment for National Craft Month. Preparations for teaching at STITCHES South in Nashville got between me and writing about my embroidery!

In this post I’ll show you how to add afterthought herringbone stitch embroidery to a knit scarf, adding a little more pizzazz to a plain piece.

Embroidered piecesWhy embroidery? As an elementary school child one does lots of arts and craft projects.  I did even more as a Brownie and Girl Scout, including those involving hoop and needle. I have a distinct memory of working the Scout motto in cross stitch on brown linen; it may still be in one of the memory boxes in the basement. I recently came across the ambitious (and thus incomplete!) bit of embroidery at right, done on a cut-open pillowcase. If you have ever seen a Yes album cover, it may look familiar; at the time I was very taken with the artwork of Roger Dean.

I never got rid of my embroidery floss or hoop, and have hopes of getting back to the Real Thing some day. I’m halfway Jessica Marquez’s fabulous Craftsy class Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery (affiliate-linked here!). But I had this bandana scarf made years ago that cried out for a little somethin’ somethin’, and so in this post, we’ll give it that with a little herringbone stitch embroidery (no hoop required).

Getting Started

Scarf before embroiderySo here’s the scarf. It was based on one in Sally Melville’s book The Knit Stitch, worked back and forth in garter stitch from the bottom up. Stitches are added at each side to create the lower triangle, then a lot of stitches are added at each side to create the rectangles that wrap around the neck. I’d held a strand of solid color sari silk with a strand of skinny mohair boucle and used a large needle, but ran low on the blue as I got to the rectangular bit. Since I had both silk and boucle in another color, I worked a wide stripe, then finished with the remaining blue.

Now, I love stripes. But this big taupe stripe never made me happy, and the scarf always felt incomplete. I thought of ripping it out, but… have you ever ripped mohair boucle? Yecch. The idea of using it as a canvas has been lurking in the back of my mind for a long, long time, it was just a matter of figuring out what to do on it.

Design Process

First, I looked at the overall shape and pondered where to work. Just on the stripe? Just on the triangle? On both, with different colors? Since the stripe was what niggled the back of my brain, I decided to work on the stripe first, then re-assess.

What material should I use for my stitching? The scarf’s fabric is nubby and irregular, and the garter stitch at large gauge adds to that feel. Whatever my choice, it would need to contrast well with that, in both in texture and in color. In my stash I found a nice fat multi-color silk chainette that seemed like it would work when I held a strand against the stripe fabric.

Which stitch to use? I’d taken Stitchopedia (fabulous book!) out of the library, and been pondering possibilities. Since it is so easy to take out stitches (almost as easy as frogging ;-), I tried them out on the scarf. Both the look and easy peasy process of making herringbone stitches appealed; here’s how I worked them.

Herringbone Stitch

During my stitch experiments it was clear that the herringbone stitch itself would need to be scaled up. You’ll see below that I worked across two ridges and every other stitch, zig-zagging back and forth on top of the ridges. You may find a different scale and number works better for your project. I decided to leave a ridge of plain taupe at the top and bottom to give the stitching a background instead of covering the entire taupe stripe with stitching. That left me 4 ridges, perfect for working two rows of stitching at the scale I’d liked for contrast purposes. I used a blunt tapestry needle (no need for a sharp needle on this fabric!), and threaded a couple of yards of the chainette on it. I started at the left end, and worked from left to right.

How to make herringbone stich

To stitch: Begin by taking the needle from the back of the work to the front where you want to start, bringing it up to the left of a stitch and leaving a 4-6˝ [10-15 cm] tail. Count over one stitches and down two ridges, and insert the needle front to back on the right side of the stitch (photo 1). Bring the needle up on the left side of the same stitch (photo 2). Go over a stitch and up two ridges, insert the needle to the right of the stitch from front to back, and bring it up to the left of the stitch from back to front OR do both steps at the same time (photos 3, 4). Gently pull, adjusting the tension so the yarn of the stitch is at the same tension as the fabric, neither stranded loosely (flopping around) nor tightly (puckering the fabric) (photo 5). The finished row of stitching is shown in photo 6.

Joining Yarn, Dealing With Tails

Taking yarn/thread in and out of fabric causes some amount of wear on it, plus working with more than a yarn or so can be tangly and uncomfortable. That means that at some point you will need to join another length, and you’ll need to have a plan for securing those pesky tail ends. Consider the nature of your stitching yarn/thread (“stitching element”), your fabric, and your project as you consider the options of splicing ends, weaving ends, and knotting ends.

Splicing requires that elements be splice-able. My chainette’s nature ruled that out. The chainette tended to fall apart when tugged too hard at the end; if it held together better, I could have tried weaving ends through the fabric of the element itself to “splice.”

Tail ends woven on the wrong side requires a wrong side, though sometimes careful weaving can hide the tails or at least minimize them. I said the chainette fell apart when tugged, so had some concern that a tail might catch on some piece of jewelry and pull out (think a sewn seam that gets snagged, and the resulting pulled-out thread that unravels). Plus the scale of the element would make it more visible on the “other side” of the scarf (not really a wrong side, just not a “right side!”).

Lastly, knotting. I’ve used knots (sometimes with a dab of Fraychek) just as an extra means of ensuring slippery yarn tails don’t slide out. One must always consider that knots tied on the wrong side may work their way to the right side, however. The fabric of my scarf is fuzzy and dense, with the boucle  filling in some of the holes of the fabric; this would help keep knots from switching sides. Small, closely trimmed knots would be less visible than weaving on then scarf’s other side, too. Plus tying knots and trimming the ends close would secure the chainette. So for this project, this yarn, and this fabric, tying knots with tails was my chosen joining method.

At the beginning and end where there wasn’t another end to knot with, I wove the end in, and tied an overhand knot before trimming to prevent the chainette from unraveling.

Herringbone: The Next Row

Looking at the first row of stitching (photo 1), I realized I had two simple options for the next row. I could work the second row in the same stitch columns as the first (photo 2) or I could offset them (photo 3). I liked the offset, so continued it across the row.

Herringbone Row 2

 Last Words

So: here’s a photo of the finished scarf. I’ve considered adding more to it, but have decided I like it as-is. The beauty of this sort of embellishment is I can change my mind next week, and easily add something else to it! Having a little knowledge of other needle arts opens up new opportunities for “fixing” things that don’t please us WITHOUT resorting to the dreaded frog.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the National Craft Month series. So long, March—it’s April!

Finished Scarf


National Craft Month 3: Cardboard Loom Weaving

craft month_4Time for the third installment for National Craft Month. In this post I’ll show you how to make a loom out of cardboard and weave your odds and ends of yarn into coasters or miniature wall hangings. This is a great project for kids, too, though to accommodate their dexterity you may want to make the loom a bit bigger and “pegs” farther apart.

finalOnce I got started it was hard to stop. The cash and time investment are both small; it’s an easy activity to fit into an afternoon. Many of the things you can do on “real” looms can be done on cardboard looms as well, and I’ve included instructions for some of them. Have fun!

Getting Started

To make the loom, you’ll need ruler, pen, scissors, tape, and some cardboard. Using the ruler and pen,  measure and cut out a 5×6˝ [12.5×15 cm] rectangle of cardboard. To make “pegs” on the short ends, draw a line about half an inch [1.5 cm] in on both ends. With the ruler on top of the line, make a vertical line from edge of cardboard to ruler every half inch [1.5 cm] across; you should have 9 lines. With scissors, cut along the vertical lines. Repeat on the other end, making sure the slits are in line with the ones on the other end!

Making and warping a cardboard loomChoose yarn for the vertical strands, or warp. Warp yarns should pass the “pull test,” meaning you can yank on a single strand of it and it doesn’t break (singles, bad; plied, good). Leaving a good length tail, put the yarn through a slot on one end and tape the tail to the back.

There are two ways to warp a cardboard loom: the yarn can go *from top slot straight down to bottom slot, then around the back to the next top slot; repeat from *, as I’ve done here. Or it can go around the “pegs,” *from top slot to bottom slot, around back to next bottom slot, then up to next top slot, around back to next top slot, repeat from *. The former method gives more slack to work with during finishing, so I’ve used it here.

Pull warp strands taut. Not tight enough to bend the cardboard, but tight. At the end, take the yarn to the back, leave a good length before cutting, and tape the tail down. Now we’re ready to weave.

Plain Weave

For weaving itself, you’ll need odds and ends of yarn, scissors, and a blunt needle with a large eye. Tapestry and darning needles work well; somewhere along the line I was given this plastic needle with a flexible plastic loop on the end. I can tie my yarn onto it and it is a little easier to take back and forth than the tapestry needle. So: choose your first weft yarn for weaving back and forth, and tie it on your needle.

I usually work upward from bottom to top (maybe because I knit??), but you can work downward as well. I’ve tucked my tail around the first warp thread, but you can just leave the tail hanging off the end. Take the needle [over, under] across the warp threads to the last warp, ending with an over (photos 2-4). Next, beat (push) the yarn down into a straight line (against previous fabric once we get going) with your fingers (photo 5).

Notice I didn’t bring the yarn straight across, but rather at a diagonal (photo 3) or in a “mountain” (photo 4). These are two ways to assure the pick (aka a row!) you just worked with the weft yarn isn’t too tight. Pulling too tightly will distort the fabric, so check the warp threads on each side stay vertical!

How to weave

Now it’s time to work your second pick, taking the weft over where it went under and under where it went over on the first pick, taking the weft either diagonally or in a mountain (photos 7-9) before beating it into place. This time I used an old, slightly bent dp to beat the yarn. Decide whether you want the warp to show or not, and beat weft down accordingly.

And those are the basics of plain weave. Weave back and forth until this little bit of yarn is almost gone, leaving a tail of 4˝ [10 cm] or so. Pick your next yarn, leave a tail of about the same length, and starting over on the opposite side, begin weaving as before, over where the previous pick was under and under where it was over.

Pondering Process Improvement (skip if you’re having fun already!)

As I was weaving back and forth on some of the samples you see here, I came up with a couple of ideas for making the process easier. I borrowed from what I knew about rigid heddle looms and played with using index cards to imitate both the beating and shed-forming functions of a heddle. Imagine you could hold the strands you needed to weave under up and the strands you needed to weave over down: the threaded needle would be easy to pass through the middle, right? The shed is the open space that the needle would pass through. Of course for the next pick, what was up would need to be down and what was down would need to be up to get the necessary shed.

Beating, the shed, and improvising

Given the DIY nature of our cardboard loom, I couldn’t quite figure out how to get my folded index cards to work together to give me both sheds. But having one woven through every other warp thread and the other in back of all did speed things up a little, and gave me a better way to beat the weft into place.

Ghiordes Knots (Rya)

This is a fun way to add fringe to woven fabric. Choose yarn for your knots, decide how long you want it to be and how many strands to use, and cut your lengths twice as long. Fold, and attach as shown below (photos 1-3). When you pull the knot tight against the existing fabric, pull each section outward and horizontally toward yourself, not up. To hold the knot(s) in place, simply work plain weave above them.

Making Ghiordes knots (rya)


Basketweave is worked with two yarns and creates columns of color. Yarns alternate from pick to pick, and you have to be careful at the selvages that the next yarn goes over or under the previous one.


Dovetail Weaving, Common Warp

Want to make blocks of color? There are a couple of ways to do so; in this method the yarns are woven in opposite directions toward the middle, where they share a common center warp thread. It easiest if you have two needles and can work both at the same time.

Interlock with common warp


Done weaving? Time to take it off the loom and weave in ends! Flip the loom over, remove the tape and cut the warp in the center (photo 2). Pull the warp ends off in pairs, and tie an overhand knot with each pair, using a needle to snug the knot up against the weaving. Since there are an odd number of warp ends, I knotted the yarn tail with the warp at that side (photos 3-5). Repeat for the other side (photo 6). When the piece is off the loom, weave the tail ends into the back. I used several methods, from weaving into the fabric for several warp ends to taking the yarn diagonally and splitting plies to burying the end down next to a warp thread (on real looms, it’s easy to weave tails through the shed of the next row for a few inches, joining the new yarn at the opposite end; the remaining tails is tucked to either back or front. On the cardboard loom we’d have to leave the tail in the front since the cardboard is at the back. That would mean a very messy tutorial photo, so I dealt with them later).

Finishing details

With the piece off the loom and overhand knots tied to secure the warp ends, you can decide whether you want fringe at both ends (trim them to the desired length, as well as trimming the Ghiordes fringe), or want to hang them. You can turn fringe into hanging loops simply by tying another overhand knot at the cut ends. If you don’t want fringe, sew the tail ends into the fabric on the wrong side.


mini weavings1