One of the hottest trends in the mixed-media world might surprise you—it’s weaving. At the recent Association for Creative Industries show (formerly the Craft & Hobby Association), I saw all types of new small, easy-to-use looms that can be used with a variety of fun and funky materials.
If you’ve never tried weaving, or haven’t done it for a while, there’s a fantastic project in the March/April issue of Cloth Paper Scissors by Rachel Denbow that you must check out. Rachel is the author of DIY Woven Art, and she designed a beautiful mixed-media woven wall piece that I had to try for myself. The theme of this issue is mixed-media home décor, and I firmly believe that your home should reflect you as an artist. Many of us have already discovered that the techniques we use in our art journals and canvases easily translate to things like furniture and décor items. Manufacturers are stepping up, offering paints, stencils, stamps, and more that are designed for things like walls and furniture. Take a look at the issue, you’ll find incredible projects for a pillow, an artist’s stool, and more!
For this mixed-media weaving project, I started with an inexpensive small, wooden loom measuring 12″ wide by 16″ high, with 1/2″-spaced pegs built in.
The materials I used included a loom and shuttle, several different types of thick and thin yarns, some twine, a wide plastic comb (from the drug store), a large plastic weaving needle, and some faux branches. The fun thing about weaving is that you can use up yarns and fibers from your stash, or shop sales and get tons of yarn at a great price. I might not knit or crochet with some of the funky, bulky, and chunky yarns that I chose for this project,but they look great on a loom. I’ll explain about the faux branches later.
I used the pegs to string white cotton yarn for the warp (vertical) threads, threading it over 14 pegs to create 28 warp rows. To create tassels I cut 14 4-foot lengths of roving-type yarn, folded each one, and knotted it around every other warp thread. Then I pulled it down so it rested underneath the peg. I waited until the piece was finished to trim the ends even.
Here’s a close-up of how the tassels were attached:
The first rows of the piece were done with plain weaving, using the twine. Plain weave is just that—under, over, under, over, etc., and Rachel’s article has more details on getting started. I used a weaving needle instead of the shuttle, because I find it easier to handle when working with smaller looms. Leaving a substantial tail on the first and last rows ensures you can easily weave the ends in later. I wove 9 rows with the wine, then switched to the bulky blue yarn, and did a plain weave under every two threads, instead of every thread. This was a bit of an experiment, and I liked the effect.
I tried a soumak weave next. Rachel included this technique in her project, and I’m so glad she did. This was completely new to me, but it was so easy, and looks so great, that I’m going to have a tough time not using it in every subsequent project. The yarn is wrapped around the warp threads to produce a herringbone-like effect, and you can weave with several strands held together. I used four strands of roving-type variegated yellow yarn, which produced thick, dimensional weft rows. I love easy techniques that have a big wow factor, and this fit the bill exactly.
So about those faux branches. When I was gathering materials for this project, I walked through my local craft store looking for something really funky and different to weave. My eyes landed on these long branches, and I thought, why the heck not? Rachel used feather trim and dried Craspedia (also called Billy Balls or Billy Buttons), and both brought so much texture and interest to her weaving. You can also try incorporating beads, copper tubing, jewelry, and fabric strips, or look through your stash to see what might work.
After the soumak I did a few rows of plain weaving with dark green yarn, then used the shuttle to separate the warp threads—Rachel shows this technique in her project, and it makes it so easy to weave thicker, non-traditional items. I threaded a branch through the threads, then moved it down on top of the plain weave.
I did the same thing with another branch, then tucked in a couple of shorter branches on each side. I had to fuss a bit with the leaves to get them to show through the warp threads, but I really love the effect, and I’m glad I tried it. I never would have been able to figure out how to get those branches in there without that cool technique.
I added more plain weave with the dark green yarn above the branches, then four more rows of soumak. This time I used two strands of different types of yarn, which produced a slightly different look. On top of that went more plain weave rows, first with turquoise yarn, then the twine again.
I eased the warp thread off the top pegs, and knotted each pair with an overhand knot close to the last weft row. Twine was laced through the warp threads so I could attach the weaving to a dried branch and create a hanger. Lastly, I trimmed the tassels.
This piece now lives in my home, on a wall the cats can’t get to, and I love how it livens up the room and reveals a bit of me. Creating this weaving not only taught me new techniques, but it also showed me new ways to think about color, texture, and tactility. I can’t wait to get started on the next project.
Maybe your home could use some sprucing up, mixed-media style. For more ideas, check out these popular magazines, videos and downloads!