Tape Weaving Class

Posted in travel, weaving by tchemgrrl on October 1, 2012

While at the fiber festival, I took a class on tape weaving and thought I’d share some of what I learned.

I have an inkle loom but have only played with it in a somewhat dilettante fashion, so I was interested to see other techniques for making warp-faced bands, and to learn some relatively simple ways of making lovely patterns. Beforehand, I wasn’t even sure what the difference between inkle and tape weaving was, so I was coming at it from a pretty raw beginner perspective. It turns out that from the perspective of what comes off the loom, they’re very, very similar–so much so that the teacher had several books on inkle weaving for perusal, because the existing tape weaving literature is so limited. (Key quote from the teacher: “We know that these types of woven tapes were incredibly common, historically, but there’s very little written about them. In some ways, their commonness is why. Would you write a book about toilet paper holders giving detailed descriptions of how to refill it when it’s empty?”)

The tape weaving itself was an interesting process. The tape looms we used mostly looked similar to these ones. The warp is wound around the little squirrel-cage, for whatever yardage length you want. It’s then threaded through the little holes and slots in the wooden piece that sticks up.

If you’ve made a potholder on one of those little square looms that I saw in every after-school class growing up, you know how laborious it is to individually weave your way up and down through individual, tensioned threads. So looms take that laborious step away through various clever tensioning mechanisms on the warp threads. On the tape loom, threads going through the little holes can’t move, but threads going through the vertical slots can slide up and down. If you lift the whole tape upwards, the threads in the slots are above those in the holes, and you can pass your weft through the space. If you push the tape downwards, now the threads in the slots are lower than those in the holes, and you can weave back in the opposite direction. It’s a clever construction, easy to understand and operate, and with the feel of so many other historical tools of having been perfected through many generations until it’s practically part of our cultural DNA to go through the steps required to make bits of fabric. It feels right, almost instantly.

To evenly weave the tape, you need to put some tension on the system, and to put tension on the tape, you simply pull on it with your hand. This was actually the part I liked least; by the end of the two hour class my hands were pretty tired. I don’t know if I’d actually buy a tool to do something that is so unergonomical for me (when thinking about how I’d modify the design to be easier on the hands, I realized I was reverse engineering a backstrap loom without actually knowing anything about such a loom except that it involves some kind of back strap.) But it does have some advantages over the inkle, in that a band can be made of any length. On an inkle loom, your warp wraps around the little pegs once, and only once, so you can’t make anything longer than that. It works great for shorter lengths like bookmarks but if I was looking at the edging on an adult sized sweater it’d be nice to make an unlimited length. In looking online I did find some manufacturers that have a built-in tensioning mechanism on a tape-like loom, so I may look into that at some point.

Anyhow, it was a fun, educational class. I didn’t think that it really hooked me, but then I found myself looking at rigid heddle looms. So maybe it did.


Posted in FO, made with handspun, spinning, weaving by tchemgrrl on January 18, 2010

There’s been some stuff going on in my life lately that led me to say no handmade Christmas gifts this year, everything for me. Except somehow in mid-December suddenly I wanted to use my little inkle loom, and making bookmarks for some folks seemed like a moderately useful, fun little project.

Long ago and far away, I spun some dyed silk top, some of which I used to make a scarf. Sometime later, I spun some undyed tussah silk, and had the vaguest idea of mixing the two yarns–same fiber, similar weights, very pretty. There was an article in Spin-Off this past summer about making silk ribbons with an inkle loom, and that appealed to me a lot. Pretty handspun handwoven ribbons! How could I resist? So I made a weaving project, just a plain woven ribbon. Sometimes I make these things forgetting that I’m me, though, the ungirliest of female people. What is the point of this ribbon? Its current job is to tie the cap of a hot water bottle to the body so they don’t get separated. It’s nice to look at when I’m crampy, but that’s hardly showing it off to its fullest potential. Bookmarks, though, those are nice to have around and look at.

I decided to use the same yarns for the bookmarks, but I wanted to try some pickup patterns (which in weaving lead to patterns of longer threads that appear to sit on top of the woven fabric). One problem I’d had with the yarns when weaving the ribbon was that they were a little too loosely spun and were sticking to their neighbors frequently. So I cabled them–added a ton of twist, held two strands of the same color together, and cabled with a ton of twist. This did help a lot, so it’s useful to know if I’m ever spinning up a fiber with the intention of weaving it.

I was played around with different pick up patterns, just to get an idea of how they worked. I set up the patterns so that they would be reversible. Initially I started with my copy of Inkle in front of me, but after a few rows of that I got the idea of how things worked and was just able to play. For all of the ribbons, I did a few rows of plain weaving, then set up a pattern, trying to arrange it so that it would be symmetrical and 6-8 inches long, and then I left an inch or two of unwoven warp between each bookmark, so that there could be a fringe on either end. I was able to do a bunch of bookmarks on one warp (basically I just had to set up to weave once for all of these bookmarks), which was great. The whole process didn’t take very long, maybe 30-45 minutes per plain bookmark, a little longer for the fancier ones, and an hour or two for warping, washing, and finishing.

inkle bookmarks

The ribbons had a tiny bit of a helical curl when they came off the loom. I don’t know if this is because the yarns were intentionally overtwisted a bit in the cabling, if it had to do with some error in the warping, or with the weaving itself. I’m still very much in the goofing-around-newbie phase of this all. After washing, they seem to lay flat, and being stuck in a book for most of their lives should help too.

inkle bookmarks

The bottom bookmark was kind of a screwup, but a symmetrical screwup! Second from the bottom was woven plain without getting fancy–the warping was set up to do that striping, because I liked the color patterns that could be made with that warp setup.

For the bookmark in the third from the bottom, I was thinking that it would look like a little floral pattern–if you just look at the longer pieces of white (the pickup pattern), it kind of looks like a flower, and I was mostly paying attention to the pickup. It was only after taking it off the loom that I saw it for what it clearly really is: a TIE fighter. Once my brain saw it that way, it could not be unseen. JJ claimed that one.

Third from the top was where I really started to figure out how to set the weaving book aside and make up whatever pattern I wanted. Second from the top is just cool, though the strong color contrast between the two colors makes it harder to see in person. I think this would look really nice as a pattern on a single color.

The one on the very top is my personal favorite, and it was one of the easier ones to work. A lot of graphic bang for the weaving buck. I’ll definitely use that pattern again, maybe without the plain weave at the beginning and end.

The recipients liked them. I brought them to the family’s house with me and just told everyone to pick one, as they were more of a stocking stuffer. They’re easy enough that I’d definitely be willing to do them again.