Friday, 19 June 2015

How to Stick Weave A Coaster with Rug Wool

Weaving is one of those crafts that looks intimidatingly complicated, with lots of new jargon and expensive kit.  How nice to find you can start really small and cheap, learn the basics and knock out your first item inside an hour.  To make two weaving sticks, buy a short length of 6mm wooden dowelling, cut two pieces about 10cm long, sharpen one end of each with a pencil sharpener, drill a 2mm hole about 1.5cm from the other end and pare back the sides around and below the holes. 

This coaster is made with rug wool, the grey is from Herdwick sheep and the white from Shetland.  I told my companion, Elinor Gotland, that I was calling it a Rock Fossil Coaster, as it's not a million miles from those I've seen on the beach.
"You've lost the plot, Beaut.  Who'd want that antidiluvian specimen on their coffee table?  Now you've given up work, I thought you were going to have a proper clear out in here."

Elinor had come down to the garage to watch me sawing and drilling lengths of dowelling.
"Well, people might enjoy stick weaving coasters.  I've measured out the yarn and bought enough big darning needles, when I've finished these sticks I'll put together five kits to sell in the Crafts by the Sea co-operative group shop."
Her teacup positively crashed into the saucer.
"What a waste of time! I cannot believe you've taken early retirement.  It's ridiculous at your age.  Your pension would have been so much bigger if you'd only hung on a few more years."
"Oh, Elinor.  I thought a dilettante artiste like yourself would be all in favour of me living the small crafting business dream."
"Me, dilettante!  I am an established actor.  You don't know the first thing about business.  It's taking you days to put these kits together, you're only charging £7.50 and nobody's going to buy one, anyway.  That's not a living, never mind living the dream.  You've gone tonto, Beaut.  Must be your time of life."
Having a power tool at hand does lend one a certain confidence.
"My hormones are my own business and so is Rich and Strange Silk and Wool Work. These kits are part of starting small and finding out what works.  My pension will cover the essentials. We will just have to cut back on the sloe gin."
Elinor did not flinch when I waved the electric drill at her, but she winced at that.

To continue with the matter at hand, if you did happen to fancy stick weaving a coaster out of your own scrap yarn, here is how to do it.  Cut two lengths of yarn 240cm long.  Poke a loop of wire through the hole in the weaving sticks and pull the yarn through so the tails are even.  Knot all four ends together.  This is the warp.
Hold the two weaving sticks in one hand.  The weft might be a single strand of yarn, two strands worked together, a fancy yarn or a ribbon.  In this project, the weft starts as a strand of Herdwick with a strand of Shetland yarn. Leaving a short tail sticking out in front, pass the
weft yarn back between the weaving sticks, bring it out left, round to the front and through the middle of the sticks, then bring it out right, round to the front and through the middle of the sticks, completing a figure of eight.
After the first figure of eight, bring the short tail you left at the beginning over the centre of the figure of eight and out between the sticks at the back, as this
will lock it securely. 
Carry on making figures of eight with the weft yarn until the braid is nearly up to the top of the sticks.  Now tug one stick upward, but not right out of the braid.  Then tug the other stick upward.  This transfers most of
your weaving onto the warp threads.  Once you have repeated this a few times, the weft gets densely packed and needs to be eased and smoothed down the warp to make room for more
weaving. Half way along, switch to weaving with two strands of the Herdwick to make a solid grey. When you have about 10cm of warp yarn left showing, check you are happy that the packing of the braid is even through the whole length of your weaving.  Pull your weaving sticks right out of the braid, so the last 10cm of warp is free.  Cut the warp by the weaving sticks and knot all four ends together.  If you want 
less of a lumpy knot, you can tie the warp threads in pairs, using one from each side of the braid.  At the end, undo the knot at the bottom and retie the pairs in the same way. Now, thread a length of Herdwick on the darning needle and fasten on at the grey and white end of the braid.  Start to roll it up, stitching through the whole diameter of the coil while it is small, then stitching one cm back from the
point where the wool comes out and through the curve including some of the layer below.  Pull the braid firmly against the enlarging coil to keep the roll tight and keep checking you are staying on a level plane.  Fasten off at the far end and sew the yarn tails back into the braid, cutting off the last ends.
Quick and easy, the basic technique can produce items of all shapes and sizes, blending colours or contrasting.
This table mat is made with three 1.5m lengths of stick weaving, using two strands at a time of four complementary colours.  
I knew Elinor was coming round to my arts and crafts life plan when she put on her pre-Raphaelite Black Wensleydale wig to go out. Confidence took a knock when we dropped in at the shop and heard that only one of the kits had been sold. All the way along the headland she was humming tunes from La Boheme.
I sang my own sotto voce aria "Che cosa faccio? Scrivo. E come vivo?" finishing with my head back, full blast - "Vivo!
I helped Elinor back to her hooves. "Come on. Lets go truly bohemian and blow the profits on an icecream.  Race you to the cafe."


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Kathy. I've been a bit of a dick about this whole business thing, I'm having to take a pace back and rethink presently. Lovely to see your note.

  2. Very enjoyable... as always.
    Any plans to give Elinor a summer clip? I'm trying to resist the urge to visit the
    Wool Market Board. When I'm around freshly shorn fleece I hyperventilate.

    Susan (Pembs).

    1. I went once, got thoroughly overexcited and had to be restrained by husband and offspring number one, who had overdosed on tea from the stand outside while waiting.