One Ball, Minimal Math

Rigid heddle loom weavers often have stashes of gorgeous knitting yarns laying around.  If you need a quick present and want to weave a scarf from a ball of sock yarn, here is a quick method that requires almost no math.  You must have a digital kitchen scale that weighs in grams.  (This is one of the most valuable tools I own for knitting and weaving-make sure it weighs to the nearest gram, not the nearest even number of grams for the best accuracy).  You probably need around 80-100 grams if you want to weave a decent scarf.

  1. Determine the appropriate sett for your yarn. For sock yarn used as both warp and weft I use a 10 dent heddle.   If your sock yarn is especially thin, you may want a 12.  Remember you want the scarf to be drapey, not stiff.  The scarf shrinks when taken off the loom and the yarn blooms when wet finished.
  2. Begin by weighing your ball of yarn.  You want to work with the actual weight, not what is stated on the ball band.  Divide this number of grams in half and add 2 (3 if using a larger RH loom that has more loom waste than a Cricket).  This is about how much you need for warp.  Example 102 / 2 + 3 = 54 grams.    Then 102-54 = 48.  48 grams is about what you need to reserve for weft.
  3. Make a ball of yarn that equals the amount needed for weft (the smaller number; in the example it is 48 grams).  To do this, put the whole ball of yarn on the scale.  Wind off yarn until the scale says the larger number needed for warp (in the example, 54 grams)  what you have in the ball is the weft (in the example, 48 grams).  Double check both balls before cutting yarn between.  Set the smaller ball aside for weft (the example is 48 grams).
  4. Divide the larger ball of warp yarn in half by grams. Using the same method with the scale as you did above.  (example 54/2=27 grams).
  5. Take one ball of the 2 balls of warp to your prepared loom.  Decide how long to make your warp (remember to add loom waste to desired scarf length plus a couple of inches for take up and shrinkage).  An 8 or 9 foot warp makes a nice long scarf.  For a shorter scarf to tuck into a coat, you probably want 6.5 to 7 foot warp.  Fasten the peg that far away.
  6. Find the center of your heddle and tie one of the warp balls to the apron rod behind the center.  Warp your slots from the center out and stop when you run out of yarn or the scarf is more than half the width you would like.   Tie off at the apron rod or the peg.  Repeat with the second ball of warp, sleying the slots from the center out the other direction.  Again, tie the end of the warp to the slot or the peg.  Save 2 lengths of yarn for a repair in case a warp breaks.  You can save one from this ball and one from the other.
  7. Wind on to the back, sley the holes and weave as usual.  Remember in a  balanced weave  your Ends Per Inch or Dents per inch (e.p.i) = Picks Per Inch (p.p.i.)  Look for squares of light between warp and weft.  Do not beat your weft in too hard, use a light touch and place the weft with the heddle.

Hopefully this method has reserved enough yarn to weave the scarf with little to none left over.  You will never get it exact and you will have to be happy with the width you got with your balls of warp yarn.

This may work with other weights of yarn, but I have only used it with sock yarn.  Here is a chart for suggested heddle sizes with yarns.  If you yarn is slick, you would choose the closer sett if the yarn falls into 2 categories

Yarn Categories

Sock/ Fingering 1 Sport 2 DK,
Lt. Worsted  3
Aran 4
Rigid Heddle Sizes
10 or 12 dent 10 dent 8 or 10 dent

8 dent

I am working on a little spreadsheet to do calculations for you if you want to figure out ahead of time how wide your scarf will be.  I will post it when it is ready, so check back soon.

Students’ Scarves

I have been having quite a busy month teaching classes at Silk Road Textiles and at the WGGC.  This post is to show is the work of some of my students in progress.

This is from my houndstooth scarf class at Silk Road Textiles.  I forgot to take other pictures, but there were four in the class.  Some of the other color combinations were light and dark brown and blue and black.
students feb 15

One of my favorite combinations is a purple green,


or red and black


Next is a set of photos from my class on faux ikat.  In this class we use handpainted yarns that are dyed in a particular way.  These yarns have to be dyed across the skein or “palindrome dyed” where the dyer paints the yarn across the oval of the skein.

Pooling Yarn

I show them how to make the colors “pool” for a faux ikat effect in their scarves.  You have to be willing to work with the yarn and let it determine the length of the scarf.

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Mistaken Wisdom

Fixing feather and fan

A good quote came up in my Facebook news feed today.

Don’t cling to mistakes just because you spent a lot of time making them.

It’s attributed to Dr. Laura the radio psychologist, so I don’t think she was referring to weaving and knitting, but the words do sum up my philosophy a bit when it comes to crafting.  I discussed it a little the other day in my post on User Error.  I often come across people who embrace their mistakes and call them design elements even when they catch the errors before the work is finished. I just can’t adopt that viewpoint. Try to fix the mistakes when you can and as soon as you notice them and that will help you produce a better product. The time you have invested is wasted if the finished item makes you unhappy or you can’t sell it.

There is an oft repeated bit of folklore people use in defense of flaws that the Amish (or the Native Americans or the other artisan of the culture/ancient civilization) made a deliberate mistake in their work so as not to be prideful and offend God.  I think this is only a myth. It’s not often that we achieve perfection in our craft, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it or fix it when we can.  Yes, you can probably find mistakes in my work, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t try to eliminate them. I will fix what I can when I can, even if that sometime involves starting over.

I once read in one of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books (I am paraphrasing since I can’t find the exact quote) “admire your work often, that is when you will find the mistakes while they are still easier to fix.” If we persist in clinging to and excusing mistakes just because we have already spent a lot of time on the project, we won’t become better at our craft.

When I teach knitting or weaving, I tell my students how well they are doing and how much they are improving and other good and truthful things about their work. But I also point out mistakes and discuss how they might have happened and how they can be fixed. I wouldn’t be a good teacher if I didn’t. I do assure them that the reason I am good at fixing things is that I make a lot of mistakes and I do my best to figure out how to fix them. Sometimes when trying to fix a knitting mistake, you can make it worse, and then have to rip out.  (Sometimes the only fix is to rip.) But if you never try to fix the mistakes you will never learn how to. Finding and fixing mistakes is a skill in and of its own that should be embraced as much as the craft.  By the way, I didn’t have to rip out the project for the mistake I am fixing above. I fixed it, and the afghan came out perfect.

Simply Gorgeous


I think that this is one of the most beautiful things I have woven.  It is a simple plain weave scarf, made quickly on my 10 inch Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom.  Rigid heddle looms are such an easy way to get started weaving.  With beautiful hand dyed yarns from indie dyers like Robin Edmundson you don’t need to make something complicated on an 8 shaft loom.  A simple plain weave is enough for the yarn to be the star of the scarf.  In this scarf, I used a 12 dent heddle and warped with Robin’s Rayon Spiral yarn in Vineyard and wove with Warbler Cotton Boucle in Aurora.  The colorways had similar enough colors that they went together extremely well.  The rayon spiral gave a bit of shine peeking out between the textured cotton boucle.  It’s and ideal spring scarf.  Here’s a couple of more pictures of it.

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Have You Any Wool?

wire sheep

I found this sheepish little fellow when I was wandering about TJ Maxx today.  He will make nice decorative storage for all those leftover balls of wool I have stashed around my studio.  He is quite charming when he’s been fed, don’t you think?