The rug weaving homework


School means homework and right before Fall vacation, we got our full assignment for something we started at the start of the year:

Assignment: Starting from a picture that speaks to you, make two different yarn-wraps using the colors/texture/… visible on the picture. Then using the two yarn-wraps weave three samples: wrap 1, wrap 2 and a combination of wrap 1 & 2.

At the start of the year we chose a picture and wrapped two strips of cardboard with yarn. The point was that we would have woven our samples in class, but because we are advancing so slowly (sigh) with our other weaving we ended up taking this home.

The problem was, because I’m always by bike and by train, I always travel “light” to school, meaning I never bring along spare bike bags. And of course we needed to take home a frame for weaving and the yarn we had picked at the start of the year.

Some people will know that it frustrates me that I could not have been warned at least a day beforehand that I would need to transport all of that. So I wasn’t happy. I already passed on taking a weaving frame home and once I got home, I really wished I hadn’t taken the yarn cones home. Things were off to a great start ;-)

I put off starting the assignment because of the yarn, I had zero interest in weaving a sample rug with lace or cobweb yarns. What a horror. So I dumped the cones and the yarn-wraps in a corner to be forgotten and opened up my box of my handspun. I waded through the colors, picked yarns that felt right with the picture above and got started.

Inspiration picture and yarn-wraps.

I used leftover white, gray and black shetland which I’ve spun ages ago, aka an uneven 3-ply. The orange is BFL spun from colored roving I bought or was given to me. The brown yarn is a blend of colored BFL and Manx Loaghtan. And lastly the greenish orange is a merino/silk blend called “cinnamon” which was given to me years ago.

I love these yarns, and I have been struggling finding projects for them, but a small sample rug seemed like a marvelous idea.

4 rug samples. From the bottom: yarn-wrap 1, yarn-wrap 2, a mix of wraps 1 & 2, testing out techniques inspired by one of my weaving books.

It seems like my little rug curls up, right? Well, it doesn’t, it is just that we have been instructed not to weave in our ends. So I’ve been trying to resist weaving in the ends and finishing the top and bottom of the piece. But I like the way it has woven up. The samples aren’t 100% straight because of the lumpy handspun and I didn’t want to fit in a reed for a 10 cm wide sample. I’ve also woven out a bit as I went on, but that is my own fault because the weft-twining I did to set the threads per cm on the top wasn’t as tight as on the bottom. And the selvages could be better…

But this is the softest rug! And I the way it came out, even with its obvious points of improvement.

I’ve woven this on a very basic, small table loom that wasn’t exactly fit to weave what I’ve woven, but I managed. It was a bit like weaving on a piece of cardboard…

In regards to the technique, this is end-to-end weaving, a plain weave.
I’ve been browsing through Peter Collinwood’s “Rug weaving techniques, beyond the basics” for inspiration on how to manage color lines/columns/etc.

Maybe I’ll try some inlay work next.

The rug weaving homework

Tentative shibori

Shibori on plain weave cotton with synthetic blue/turquoise dye, pull thread woven in 3/1 twill.

In the picture above you see the shibori I’ve done at school as part of the assignments. To be honest, I didn’t follow any rules except mine. I had no idea of what I could do with shibori, only knowing that I had to weave in a “pattern thread” in to my fabric. This pattern thread needed to be pulled tight (very, very tight… you fingers will need to be sore for the next few days or you didn’t do it right), then tied and then the fabric will need to be dyed.

So yeah, if I hadn’t been so quick to decide “oh a twill will be fine” then I hadn’t been in the mess I was in. I had already threaded half the heddles on my loom before my teacher caught me and told me I could do more than just a twill… then you have that dilemma whether to pull out all the threads and start over, or continuing.

Let’s be honest, I wanted to weave that rainbow I had dyed up and I had already given up on that shibori even before I had woven it, let alone dyed, so I just continued my recipe for disaster. (yes it was all part of one warp)

My fabric is a plain weave, because really nothing weaves faster than a one color plain weave. The pattern thread is a 3/1 twill that I’ve woven into my plain weave at various distances and as per usual I forgot my camera and I don’t have anything to show you but the endresult. But you can still see some sort of striping on the fabric, that’s where the thread had been.

Now, what’s wrong? The pull thread I’ve used to weave in, was thicker than the cotton I’ve used to create the fabric with, meaning that it leaves obvious holes in the fabric once pulled out.

I had already realized that would happen, but I still wanted to make something of this shibori and for the first time this semester I was a bit hesitant about dumping loads of mordant- and dye-solution on it. I still wanted to see some sort of creasing color pattern (to say the least).

So, once I had tied my fabric into something that resembled a big shrimp, I didn’t want to totally immerse it in the mordant and the dye solution because I was terrified that there would be no pattern at all to see. So I sprayed on less mordant solution and less dye than I normally would have if I would dye in a rainbow fashion. I did my best to just dye the “good side” of the frilled fabric shrimp. But when I turned it over to rinse it, I discovered that I still had big parts of undyed fabric.

Deciding I’m going to wing it anyway, I put it in the spin dryer and took it home with the explicit instructions to only cut loose the pull thread when it is completely dry again.

And so it happened, this is the endresult. The fabric gives a slight illusion of still being creased, but it was ironed flat after rinsing it with vinegar solution to deactivate the mordant and having handwashed it in hot soapy water and dried again.

All in all, I like this fabric, it came out a bit lighter than I had wanted it to be, but you can definitely see the creases. However I will need to experiment with this some more and do this at least once the way I should.

Tentative shibori

Dyeing with the door open

Rainbow dyed cotton warp.

I’ve worked like crazy to get my warp done last week, I didn’t even get to card or comb the wool I had planned to bring along. And I should have known, but the Saturday was so crazy busy that I didn’t even get to preparing the cotton warp for dying aka boiling it in soda ash for an hour. Let alone that I could take pictures.

I had loads of fun though, talking to people about what I was doing in the dye kitchen with my big pot of weird red stuff (cochineals) and later the brown stuff (the madder root). And explaining what techniques were used on the samples laid out concerning the dyeing process.

My dad and one of my nieces made the trip to Ghent to come and see what I was doing! It was really wonderful to see them. I spent far too much time talking about weaving…

Sunday however, I was so dog-tired, I had a brief one second thought about just staying in bed and let the other weavers muck about in the dye kitchen. But then I thought about maybe getting to dye my warp and checking on the wool I left in the madder root dye bath overnight. Needless to say, I was out of bed and on my way at 6 in the morning on a Sunday… (I’m crazy, I know)

Sunday was a lot calmer in terms of visitors, but a highlight in dyeing because I found time to put a part of my warp in soda ash for an hour AND I got to dye it as well. Loads of people were interested in what that brightly coloured yarn was doing next to the big pot of madder root…

I took the leftover dye home and dyed the rest of my warp at home. Which is still drying but is looking gorgeous.

drying rainbow warp.

I think I talked about this before, but in case I haven’t: I use synthetic dyes (Procion) for this rainbow dyeing. I use only red, blue and yellow and then mix my colors. In contrary to dyeing in a dye bath, this is more or less done cold. More or less because the cotton is boiled in mordant solution, lightly spun dry and then immediately painted. The salt solution (to urge the dye onto the yarn) that is sprayed on after an hour or so, is also hot and the soda ash solution you spray on to fixate when you’re done, is also hot. The cold thus refers to the fact that the cotton throughout the dyeing process is cooling down from being in the mordant but doesn’t get reheated.

I can’t wait to put it on my loom!

Dyeing with the door open


Some of you may know already, but every year the school where I’m studying hand-weaving holds an open door (I hope that’s a correct translation). It’s in Ghent, Belgium and it’ll be this weekend (I know, short notice, sorry).

I’ll be there mostly dyeing wool (cleaned fleece or maybe roving, maybe combed top, we’ll see how much I get done) and cotton (warp), I’ll be “printing” on weft. So there’ll be loads of stuff to see. There are really beautiful things to see on the looms of my fellow students. It is going to be amazing.

So tomorrow, I will start preparing all of my dyeing adventures for the weekend! I’m really excited about this. I’ve got loads of other things to show you as well, but that will probably have to wait until after this weekend. Unless, by magic, I have loads of spare time tomorrow (I don’t think so).

You can find all of the information here:

OPENDEUR Handwever - 3 t_m 5 jun '16
Opendeur CVO Gent, Martelaarslaan 13, 9000 Gent op vrijdag, zaterdag en zondag 3/4/5 juni 2016.


Indigo dyebath with cotton.
Indigo dye bath with cotton.

I love dyeing way too much, I admit, I’m an addict… When my teacher mentioned we could take the indigo dye bath home, I couldn’t resist.

Firstly, indigo is a plantbased dye that cannot be dissolved in water. It is a rather expensive dye and it is gained through a peculiar process where its reaction to oxygen will cause it to form a deposit in the container. It is that deposit that you can buy as being indigo dye.

Dyeing indigo comes with some lovely chemical jargon, like reduction and oxidation. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the theory behind “reduction” is, but with indigo it means that the balance between the dye, the water, the soda ash and the glucose is just right and the bath will turn yellow (as shown in the picture above), this means the dye is dissolved and ready to attach itself to the cotton. When you remove the cotton from the bath, it will start to react with the oxygen in the air (oxidation).

On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dyebath.
On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dye bath.

Time to do it ourselves! I started dyeing a part of my warp as an exercise at school. But since indigo is an expensive dye and it would be a shame to let it go to waste, we could take it home with us. Now I live an hour train ride and a 15 à 20 minute bike ride from school, so when I left school I had a carefully wrapped parcel containing my indigo batch, my indigo dyed warp and my rainbow dyed warp. I’ve never been so careful driving home on my bike, afraid to spill the indigo dye bath all over the inside of my bike bag. Not that my pair of rainpants could get any more blue…

Anyway, I left the warp for another two hours in the heated dye bath last night. This morning I rinsed it, put it in the dryspinner and then left it out on a towel to dry. Then I had this wicked idea, I still had some soda ash left from previous dyeing adventures and I had discovered that agave syrup is basically only glucose and fructose, which makes it ideal for reviving my indigo bath.

You hear me coming, right? Yes, I had another skein of cotton laying around which I prepared with soda ash, I revived the indigo bath with soda ash solution and a teaspoon of agave syrup (which I stirred into the soda ash solution) and put the yarn in the bath (I’ve spun it dry before adding it to the bath).

The reduction was all of a sudden so much more prominent than with the original dye bath! The yarn however is one that dyes a little more difficult and being a leftover bath, there wasn’t that much indigo left in it. But I still managed a light blue with the leftover bath, which is exactly what I wanted.

I sense a little project coming soon with some indigo dyed yarn…


Rainbow dyeing the ikat warp

I told you about the ikat warp I was so excited about making, right? Well, this week we took it a step further. I asked my teacher if I could dye it using the rainbow dyeing technique we learned the week previous. The normal exercise would be to dye the ikat warp in a unique color, but since I already have practice with that, I wanted to try something a bit different.

Now, the thing with dyeing is that you have to wait to find out what exact colors you’ve created until after it has gone through the whole proces _and_ it has dried (unless you’ve got a whole color library ready to go). So as you understand, these are hugely important reasons to get out of bed early ;-)

So this morning I checked it and wow:

Rainbow dyed ikat warp
Rainbow dyed ikat warp of unbleached cotton, tied off with (natural) raffia ribbon.

Now “rainbow dyeing” as we use it at school isn’t really about dyeing a rainbow. It’s a sort of “uncontrolled” dyeing process, by which I mean that it will not give the exact same result twice. This is up for discussion though because you can recreate the colors and you can attempt to recreate the pattern in which you dyed, but the key for me is that I’m free to use as many colors as I want with just three stock dye solutions: yellow, magenta and cyan. Now, the cyan, wasn’t really cyan because of reasons and a little more royal blue, but the idea is the same.

I didn’t fancy mixing color solutions to create the colors I wanted because lets be honest, I’ve done that many times before. Now however I just wanted the stock solutions to create a color scheme for me. So I’ve put the yellow, magenta and blue where I wanted it to be and voila!


I tied of the ikat with raffia ribbon, right? Well, my reasoning is that since raffia is a plant and it roughly contains the “same” qualities as the cotton, I’m fully expecting it to not have blocked all the color out of the tied off areas. If I would have used synthetic raffia, I wouldn’t expect the dye to “bleed” through the tie off. Since I’ve only used natural raffia, I can’t compare (yet). Still, I was curious this morning and removed just one. Understand that I’m risking the wrath of my teacher because I am not to remove any of the ties until it is safely on my loom.

Undone ikat tie on the rainbow dyed warp.
Undone ikat tie on the rainbow dyed warp.

And behold: the area where I tied off the warp has taken a very faded yellow as opposed to the orange-pink area around it. Which is more or less what I expected and yet I’m curious what the rest of the warp will look like.

Next week we’ll be putting it onto the loom!

Rainbow dyeing the ikat warp


Offwhite cotton warp on a stone tile floor.
Cotton warp, tied off for ikat dyeing.

I’ve been stressed about things at work, trying to combine it with some (technical/administrative) work for Atelier Drie Linden and the last struggles remaining from my work as a consultant/independent developer. So I’ve been dog-tired last two or three weeks as a result of that. On top of that it does horrible things to my concentration at work, which makes me feel useless, which makes me feel bad, makes my sleep troubled and … you get it, it kinda feeds on itself until you pull out the plug.

So I took the week off to do things I like doing, like weaving. I’ve been wanting to do some weaving at home for some time now, but never really getting to it. And I haven’t been weaving at school either.

I’ve enrolled for the module “dyeing and binding off” a number of weeks ago, which is part of the weaving studies I’ve been doing for the past two years and a half. And I’ve been enjoying it so far. I had enrolled for that same module last schoolyear but due to circumstances I hadn’t been able to finish it, but now I’m determined to. Nothing is going to keep me from it.

So far, we haven’t gotten to weaving yet, but we’re getting closer. Last week we started off with ikat, our next to last part of our warp before we put it on the loom.

Ikat means binding off a part of our warp for dyeing, the places you tied off won’t be dyed. You can do this with your weft as well, but at school we’re only doing the warp for now.

It is something I’ve been meaning to try, just as I’ve been meaning to try “printing” on the warp when it is on the loom. The ikat was wonderful, the monotonous, repetitiveness of it is really good for emptying my mind. I had to suppress the urge to break out in song, something to accompany the work I was doing.

However, on the train ride home, I had the horrible realization that I had tied off the wrong part of my warp and would have to start over again. And with that, the satisfaction of having done something useful sapped right out of me.

Cotton treads on a warping board tied in packets with raffia ribbon.
One section of the warp being tied off with raffia ribbon.

This week however, after undoing all my work from last week (including winding the warp back into a ball), I realized that I hadn’t tied off the wrong side after all and that regardless I had to start from zero again because I had already undone everything. I wish I had this realization earlier… But never the less, I spent both Tuesday and Wednesday warping and binding of my warp.

At first, I found it uncomfortable to be binding off for ikat, but once I found a rhythm it was quite enjoyable. It’s just as “rhythmic” and repetitive as spinning if you want it to be and I find it is really good for emptying the head. At home, with the radio playing, I quite enjoyed singing while doing this work… some pedestrians passing by the window might have even caught me doing a dance step or two.