Team Colors Weave-along: Avoiding and Fixing Mistakes on the Loom
Mistakes are part of weaving. Although we all try to avoid making them, mistakes happen. Elisabeth Hill purposefully designed the Team Colors Scarves so that they teach basic weaving techniques without bogging a newer weaver down with too many new weaving techniques. Follow her advice below, and your Team Colors Scarf will be well woven and a source of pride, not to mention a great gift for that hard-to-buy-for fan in your life.
An expert is a man (or woman) who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in (on) a very narrow field (warp)” — Niels Bohr, or, more accurately, maybe if the famous Danish physicist were a weaver.
One of the most satisfying things about weaving is the “ever-receding horizon of learning.” As soon as you feel that you have mastered one technique/fiber/structure, you realize that there is another—and another, then another—to learn and master. This makes for a weaving life filled with exciting new challenges. But there is one lesson that seems constant throughout: If you spot a mistake, fix it. Being a good weaver doesn’t mean not making mistakes but, rather, having a formidable tool belt of fixes for the mistakes you do make. Here’s my approach to weaving the Team Colors Scarves.
Read your weaving
The No. 1 tip I like to share (half generously and half trying to remind myself) is to observe. At every stage of your weaving, look!
- Look to make sure that your warp is wound evenly around the warp beam.
- Look to see whether your warp separators are even and no warp has “fallen” off the edges of your paper or cardboard strips.
- Look at your warp threads. Are there any gaps? Are there loose threads?
- Do you see a ball of fuzz building up at the heddle? What is causing it?
- Look at your fell line. Is it straight? Watch yourself bring your heddle forward. Is it perfectly perpendicular to your warp?
- Watch your weft as it rounds the selvedge warp thread. Is it snugging up just so and not looping or squeezing in?
If you practice observing these things, you can often preempt problems down the road down the road (or, as the case may be, down the scarf). But there are always times when something escapes your notice.
Skipped slot or hole
If you begin to weave and you notice an unwanted line or gap in your weaving, you may have skipped a slot or hole when threading your heddle. If you have just started weaving your scarf, you will be much happier—although it may also be painful—if you untie the section of warp from the point of the gap to the closest selvedge and re-sley/retie. If you have already woven for a while, and it doesn’t disrupt your design too much, you might want to add an extra thread. Here are the steps for adding a thread to your warp:
- Cut a warp end the same color as the section where you found the gap and as long as your warp.
- Use your sley hook to bring the thread though the empty slot or hole, allowing enough length at the front to match the amount you’ve woven plus tie-on and a little extra. This will give you the length you need to needle weave the end into your already-woven cloth after the scarf is off the loom.
- Secure the end onto the cloth in front of the heddle using a T-pin.
- Make a butterfly with the remaining length and weight it off the back of your loom. (I like the ease of a slip knot and a 3″ S-hook for this purpose.)
- Continue weaving. When the scarf is off the loom, needle weave the added end into your scarf.
If you have a broken warp end, the repair is pretty similar to the “add an end” above:
- Cut a warp end the same color as the broken thread and long enough to overlap the original end by several inches.
- Needle weave the new thread into the cloth in the same line as the broken end for 1″, then secure by wrapping it around a T-pin.
- Take the other end of the repair thread through the heddle where the broken thread was and over the back beam. Pull the broken thread back and clip.
- Weight the added thread over the back beam using a 3″ S-hook and continue weaving until the original thread is long enough to re-integrate into the cloth by needle weaving the original end over the spliced end and securing with a T-pin.
- Clip the ends when the scarf is off the loom and is washed for a relatively seamless repair.
If you have just tied on and notice some slack when you bring your heddle forward, simply re-adjust your tie-on knots. (This can still be done even after you’ve woven several inches, as long as the knots are accessible.) If you are well into your weaving and notice a loose thread, you can hang a 3″ S-hook off the errant thread or threads and let it dangle off the back of your loom. This will keep the slack thread or threads under tension and allow you to continue weaving.
Great selvedges are holy grails for weavers (although I have found a few “civilians” who are as keenly sensitive). For weavers, however, selvedge problems are not just aesthetic concerns because they can cause problems while weaving. Here are my tips for better selvedges:
- Wind your shuttles well and unwind enough weft for your pick before inserting your shuttle.
- Advance your warp frequently.
- Keep your warp at an even, firm tension.
- Lay your weft in at a 45-degree angle, tug very gently, and then release to set your weft before beating. I will often gently hold tension on the outermost selvedge thread while setting my weft to ensure that the shed gap is closed without draw-in or looping.
- Don’t ignore excessive draw-in, because it can cause an uneven beat (draw-in creates more resistance for your heddle), as well as abrasion and possible warp breakage.
All this said, observation and practice are the keys. The techniques you develop for wool (more elastic) will be slightly different than when weaving with cotton, and the care you may have to use when cutting and tucking ends of a heavy weft may not be necessary when using a fine weft.
Frequent color changes
Finally, when thinking about how to manage designs with lots of color changes, observation is, again, the key. When I started to weave the Team Colors Scarves , I tried carrying my weft along the selvedge edges rather than cutting and tucking. I decided against carrying, mainly because there were areas with a lot of color changes and areas with few, and I didn’t like the variation that would show at the selvedges.
Take the time at the start of your project to try a couple of methods. It may be that you don’t mind the carried weft at all, and if you don’t, your weaving will certainly go faster.
If you carry your weft up the side, pay attention to shuttle placement. For the Team Colors Scarves, there isn’t a right or wrong, but the edges will definitely look better if you place your shuttles consistently (i.e., always keeping one shuttle closest to you and the other shuttle closest to heddle).
Similarly, if you are “cutting and tucking” 2-pick color changes, as in the Halcyon Yarn Team Colors Away Scarf you may want to use the “2-pick trick” to keep your weft from building up at the edges, especially if you have decided not to unply your yarns at the beginning and ends of color changes. The “2-pick trick” is as follows:
- Insert new weft leaving a long tail.
- Change sheds.
- Bring the tail into the shed from one side and bring the cut end up through the raised warp threads.
- Bring shuttle into same shed from the opposite side and out through the raised warp threads about 1″ past the point where the cut end has been brought up.
- Clip the weft from the shuttle.
- Move the position of the overlap within the width of the scarf for every subsequent 2-pick color change to prevent weft buildup.
Mistakes are the portals of discovery. — Author James Joyce
Over the course of 20-plus years, I’ve made every weaving mistake that Elisabeth listed, and I’ve even invented a few of my own. I’ve never regretted fixing a mistake, nor the time it took to fix it. I consider mistakes part of the process, not an outside entity. Forgive yourself your errors, fix them, move on, and, most important, just have a great time weaving your Team Colors Scarf.
Featured Image: The Jagger Spun Team Colors Away and Home Scarves are great projects for practicing weaving techniques. Photo by George Boe
If you are looking for more information about weaving, here are some great resources.