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I’m going to take a slightly different approach to my latest favorite thing I’m sharing with you.  I want to share with others some background on a very important weaver, Nellie Sargent Johnson.  Then I want to use that as a springboard to bring to light an older weaving publication, Handweaving News.

Many modern day weavers are familiar with the big names . . . e.g., Atwater, Tidball, Alderman, Collingwood, van der Hoogt, and more.  One person I think is more than deserving of more recognition is Nellie Sargent Johnson.

Nellie Sargent Johnson

Nellie Sargent Johnson

Nellie Sargent Johnson was born Nellie Sargent in 1887 in Massachusetts.  She married Charles S. Johnson in 1922 when she was 34 yeas old.  She started teaching weaving privately in 1927.  In 1929 she became the Weaving Editor for Design Magazine.  In 1933 she started her own publication, Handweaving News.  She continued writing this monthly publication until she passed away in 1951 . . . 220 issues in all.

I have learned a lot over the years from Handweaving News.  A few copies I found among my great-grandmother’s weaving items.  Others I have come across here-and-there.  Handweaving News is not one of the longest or most beautiful of publications; however, I must keep in mind what it took just a few decades ago to put together even one page of information and make multiple copies.  The idea of using a typewriter makes me shudder with memories of my pokey typing speed in order to reduce errors, the foreboding effort it took to correct an error, and don’t even get me started on what we had to do to make copies.  Mimeographs and carbon paper, anyone?  No, thank you!  I’ll bask in the convenience of technology while I sing praises to those that came before us and correct the multitude of errors I made in this paragraph with a click or two of my mouse and keyboard.

Anyway, back to Nellie Sargent Johnson and Handweaving News.  The internet has made accessibility to approximately 100 issues of this publication readily available at the Griswold On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics located at https://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/hwn.html (a stupendous resource in itself).

By scrolling through the resources listed on the link, you can see that each issue of Handweaving News is on a single focused topic and only two to four pages long . . . just long enough to make a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine) and take it in.  What is so impressive to me is the incredible range of topics covered . . . loom-controlled weaves, such as Bronson lace, crackle, overshot, summer & winter. . . weaver-controlled weaves, such as tapestry, inlay, soumak and other knotting techniques . . . design techniques, insight on equipment and materials, and more.  It’s almost as though there wasn’t anything related to weaving Nellie Sargent Johnson didn’t appreciate.  It’s also one of the earliest articles (earliest, maybe) on the use of algebraic expression in handweaving.

Below are just a few of my favorite issues along with an image . . .

  • Designing “Crackle” Weave Patterns in February 1940 (one of a number of articles on Crackle)  Crackle
  • Designing Four-block Twills and Squares in July 1942Designing Four Block Twills and Squares
  • An Experimental Sampler Using 8 Harness Twills. May 1943Eight-shaft twill sampler
  • Handwoven Hats in August 1944Hats

For more information on Nellie Sargent Johnson, I invite you to read a short biography on her life written in 1998 by Nancy McKenna.  You may find it available at the following link http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/hwn_intro.pdf

I think it’s well worth it to know about this remarkable weaver and wonderful resource.  Scan through the topics.  Something just may interest you in learning something new or intrigue you to try something different.


This particular ‘favorite things’ post may be viewed as a little self-serving; however, I’m solely motivated to get more weavers intrigued with overshot.  In the current May/June 2014 issue of Handwoven I have a project that is a pair of overshot gamp dish towels.  I’m so pleased with how they turned out . . . if you haven’t seen them, below is a picture of one of the towels hanging from the bar on my oven.

Overshot gamp towel

The first thing I ever wove was a fingertip towel with an overshot border.  Over the 45 years since I’ve learned to weave, I have woven a lot of overshot.  I’ve always remained fascinated by the multitude of patterns possible . . . even on four shafts.  Yes, the above towel was woven on merely four shafts.

Weaving overshot reminds me of how important the tie-up and treadling is . . . not just the threading.  If you’ve never woven overshot, there are a multitude of resources available.  To get you started, here are a few you may enjoy.

Original Miniature Patterns for Handweaving – Parts I and II by Josephine Estes

Available for download is a pair of overshot publications by Josephine Estes titled Original Miniature Patterns for Handweaving.  This is a wonderful collection of many of the smaller overshot threadings.  I have always gotten a kick out of overshot pattern names . . . such as Young Lover’s Knot, Royal Crown, Queen’s Delight, and more!  They sound rather grand, don’t they?

The two publications each provide 24 different overshot drafts.  Pretty cool!  What I really like about these patterns is how accessible these patterns are because of the relatively short threading sequences.  Check out some of the pages . . .

Original Miniature Patterns for Handweaving – Part I  – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/monographs/eje_min1.pdf

Miniatures cover - part I Part I - index

Cambridge Beauty Royal Crown

Original Miniature Patterns for Handweaving – Part II - http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/monographs/eje_min2.pdf

Miniatures cover - part II Part II - index

Small Single Snowball Young Lover's Knot

Now, if those resources encourage you to weave overshot, you may also be interested in a couple more.

Different Methods for Weaving Overshot by Nellie Sargent Johnson http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/hwn_39_12.pdf

An overshot threading is really a type of a twill threading and just because you’ve threaded for overshot doesn’t mean you have to weave it as overshot by alternating a pattern weft and a tabby weft.  In the article above, it outlines a few more ways to weave an overshot threading, such as on-opposites, twill, and honeycomb.  Below is the threading in the article, but these treadling approaches may be done on other overshot threadings.

Different ways to weave overshot


Last, but certainly not least, is an article Six Block Overshot on Four Shaftshttp://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/zmw_42.pdf . . . you will need to scroll down through this November 1958 issue of Master Weaver to page 8.  No, it’s not the prettiest article, but it’s definitely worth checking out.  Six blocks on four shafts???!!!  Hopefully, more than a few weavers will be intrigued to see how to get more out of less.

Six Block Overshot on Four Shafts

Six Block Overshot on Four Shafts draft


Overshot sometimes gets a bad rap since many people equate it with Colonial coverlets, but overshot is so much more than that.  If you haven’t tried weaving overshot, give a chance . . . you may be pleased with the results.


I find Celtic knots and knotwork attractive and very ‘weaverly’.  I think it’s my Irish ancestry bubbling up.  I enjoy tying (or at least trying to tie) a simple cord and transform it into a Celtic knot.  When I need a Celtic knot “fix”, there are a number of resources available that allow me to basically doodle away in designing Celtic knots.  Sometimes they turn into something real . . . like a pendant.  Sometimes they are merely a diversion . . . although, time seems to pass quickly.  Sometimes I develop ideas for new projects.

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to take a workshop on Celtic line drawing with Cheryl Samuel.  In case you may be interested in learning to design your Celtic knots and lines, one of the resources below may be just the thing.

To start, there’s one website offering a number of different resources, so allow me to introduce a few one-by-one

Interactive Celtic Knot Designer – Automatic – http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/knots/mkknot.htm

This resource literally allows you to click your way into designing a Celtic knot.  Using your mouse, select the Celtic knot type from the right side.  Then, click into the space on the left side and watch your Celtic knot develop.  Very easy!

Interactive Celtic Knot Designer - Automatic

Interactive Celtic Knot Designer - Automatic #2
Interactive Celtic Knot Designer – Manual – http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/knots/mkknot2.htm

If you would like to kick your Celtic knot design experience up a level, the same website has a ‘manual’ way to design Celtic knots.  In addition to to selecting your style, you also have a set of tools that allow you design corners, edges, and more.  This is important since designing the interlacement is one thing . . . designing the edges and corners is another thing altogether.

Interactive Celtic Knot Designer - Manual

Another area of the website pumps up the volume, try the Interactive Celtic Knot Designer – Tilted – http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/knots/mkknot3.htm

Tilted knot

The Obyx Celtic Knot Generator - http://www.obyx.org/knots.obyx?width=20&height=20&border=8&style=14&tile=0&mirror=3  The Obyx Celtic Knot Generator allows a user to manipulate the parameters of a Celtic knot (e.g., height, width, mirroring, etc.) to see how it impacts the results.

Obyx Celtic Knot generator
Fly Pig
at http://www.flypig.co.uk/?page=celtic offers another method for designing Celtic knots.  The one fun feature this resource has is a “Weirdness” component.  By increasing or decreasing the “Weirdness” value, the interlacement changes.  (Frankly, I think we need more opportunities to adjust the “weirdness” in our lives)

Flying Pic Celtic knot generator
If you prefer a paper and pencil approach to designing, Knotwork has Celtic knotwork tutorials – http://www.aon-celtic.com/cknotwork.html

Knotwork website
To get started, go to Basic Celtic Knotwork . . . there you will find a three-part tutorial . . . plus, even a short video animation.

Knotwork - basic knot page
The Celtic Knot Generator at http://w-shadow.com/celtic-knots/ is another option to indulge yourself in Celtic knot drawing.  Again, you can manipulate the parameters and see what happens.  Below are images of the default screen and one of a simple knot I made.

Celti Knot Generator

Celti Knot Generator sample

Is your mouse not working?  Don’t worry!  You can make Celtic knots by using your keyboard. Clan Badge offers tutorials in two different ways to draw Celtic Knotwork. –  http://www.clanbadge.com/tutorial.htm . . . one of them shows you how to use your keyboard.

Clanbadge - Two ways to draw Celtic knots


Keyboard method for Celtic knotsIf you’re interested in even more options, you may be interested in downloading an application

Knotter - http://knotter.mattbas.org/Knotter – This takes a little longer to learn, but it’s worth it if you feel up to the challenge.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of Celtic knot design resources . . . just something to get you started.  I hope you have fun while you learn how to design Celtic knots.


Anyone who has woven more than a few weft picks in their life is aware that weaving has been around for a very long time.  Today, we have access to so much information and we’re able to create patterns with a couple of stokes and clicks of our mouse.  In the past century, weaving publications have come and gone.  Some were around years ago and many weavers today may not be aware of them.  This brings me to my latest favorite thing . . . The Weaver magazine. The first issue of The Weaver was published in 1935.  There were four issues a year.  The last issue was published in July 1942.  Fortunately, through the beauty and convenience of the internet, we have access to all 26 issues.  You can access all of them at the following link http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/weaver.html The Weaver cover 1-1 All it takes is a look at an issue or two to appreciate the peek into the history of hand weaving.  The authors include such weavers such as Nellie Sargeant Johnson, Osma Couch Gallinger . . . and the legendary Mary Meigs Atwater.  These are just a few of the weavers that contributed so much to our craft and their articles help continue their legacies for future generations of weavers.

Penland weavers in 1935

Penland weavers in 1935

Beyond the weaving information, there are a number of things that are surprising when I look at issues of The Weaver.  First, the authors (mostly women) are listed by their own names.  If you look back over 75 years ago, women were often listed as Mrs. <insert husband’s name>.  Were weavers over 75 years ago their own contemporaries?  It may appear so.  Another thing I really marvel at is the hand-drawn drafts . . . including the penmanship.  Such beautiful handwriting!  Plus, I can only imagine how much work went into creating one publication since the publishing tools and advantages we have today (namely, computers) were only a dream at the time. In looking through some of the issues, the following were just a few of the articles that caught my attention

Volume 1, Issue 3Miniature Patterns for Hand Weaving by Josephine Estes (below is one of the five pages of the articles drafts) Minature patterns - 1-3 Volume 5, Issue 3Miniature Patterns for Hand Weaving by Josephine Estes (below is one of the five pages of the articles drafts) Minature patterns - 5-3Volume 2, Issue 4 – Lightning Weaving by Elmer Wallace Hickman . . . Before reading this issue I was unfamiliar with Lightning Weaving.  Yes, it’s a Scandinavian tapestry technique . . . but, I love the name and the drawings!       Lighting weave - 2-4Volume 4, Issue 1 – Know Thy Thread by Osma Couch Gallinger . . . If you’re looking for a little guidance on what is the appropriate yarn or thread for your project, there are four pages that may be of help.  Not all of the yarns may be available, but it’s amazing how much of it is still relevant. Know thy Threads - 4-1Volume 6, Issue 2 – Bronson Weave – Four Ways by Mary Meigs Atwater . . . A nine-page article that may intrigue any weaver interested in learning more about Bronson lace. Bronson Weave 4 ways - 6-2Volume 7, Issue 2 – Types of Overshot by Osma Couch Gallinger . . . I thought this was a wonderful look at overshot patterning.  The image below is just one page of the four pages of hand-drawn images.           Types of Overshot - 7-2Volume 4, Issue 4 – How Many Ways to Weave Honeysuckle by Berta Frey . . . Looking for one threading with some versatility?  Check out this article!   How many ways to weave Honeysuckle - 4-4There are even numerous articles that I would consider off-the-beaten-path . . . the two below are just a couple that may capture your attention.

Volume 7, Issue 2 – Finish of Edges by Mary Meigs Atwater Finish of Edges - 7 - 2Volume 1, Issue 3 – New Ideas for Tablet Woven Rugs by Beatrice A. Shephard . . . I’m totally and completely intrigued by the idea of a tablet woven rug.  It’s not a project I would likely undertake, but I can certainly marvel at the work of others. Tablet woven rugs - 1-3The Weaver magazine may lack the visual impact of color . . . but, so what?  Hopefully, some of the above articles will encourage you to check it out . . . and, while you’re looking at your first issue, think retro . . . think nostalgia . . . and then think how incredible these projects could look in color. Enjoy!

Mention the word tapestry in the company of weavers and at least one person will proclaim they dislike tapestry (sometimes even stronger and more passionate language arises).  In fact, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said something disparaging about weaving tapestry.  I could have a pretty good dinner with a nice glass (or two) of wine.

I think I started thinking about tapestry recently when I realized my friend and amazing tapestry weaver, James Koehler, passed away three years ago this week.  He was incredible!  Not only as a tapestry weaver, but also as a teacher and friend.  He once watched me give away awards for a bath towel exhibit at the ANWG 2007 conference in Red Deer, Alberta wearing nothing more than a bath towel.  Nearly every time I saw him after that, he would would say Robyn.  I didn’t recognize you with clothes on.  The chance he would say it increased with the number of people that would hear his comment.  Talk about watching heads whip around.  A former monk saying something like that sounded rather shocking.  One can’t help but love someone with a sense of humor like that!

To learn more about James Koehler, you can watch a short video of him describing how he became a weaver.  The video was produced when James received a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2007.  http://www.nmartmuseum.org/governors/awards/video.php?select=231

James Koehler

James Koehler

James Koehler tapestry

One of James’ amazing tapestries

Fortunately, James left behind many inspired weavers to share his techniques with other weavers.  In fact, Rebecca Mezoff was kind enough to post a video on YouTube of his tapestry join technique.  You may see her video by clicking on the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TwNVX3nPGc

Koelher tapestry join by Rebecca Mezoff

For years I avoided tapestry.  Why?  It was slow and time-consuming.  Then came my decision to complete HGA’s Certificate of Excellence in weaving (COE-W).  Three of the 40 woven samples required in Level I of the COE-W are tapestries (albeit, small ones).  If I wanted to complete the COE-W, I was going to have to tackle tapestry.  I went forward kicking . . . but, not screaming . . . and guess what?  After developing my skills, I was able to weave a nice little tapestry.  Below is one of them.

Cherries by Robyn Spady

Cherries by Robyn Spady

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t abdicate from my floor looms in favor of weaving tapestries; however, I developed a new appreciation for tapestry techniques and tapestry weavers.  I also pursued incorporating tapestry techniques into my regular weaving.  For example, I sometimes use a clasped weft technique to create a bi-colored weft effect.  Below is an example of clasped weft in the weft pile picks used while weaving corduroy.


Corduroy weft piles picks woven using clasped weft (uncut)

Corduroy weft piles picks woven using clasped weft  (half the pile weft is cut - notice the shift in color)

Corduroy weft piles picks woven using clasped weft (half the pile weft is cut – notice the shift in color)

Tapestry techniques are just one set of skills I think weavers should develop . . . at least to some degree.  There are even some resources available.

First stop for more information, should be Weaving Today.  They have a free tapestry ebook available for download.  Just click on the link http://www.weavingtoday.com/tapestry-weaving/

Handwoven tapestry PDF cover

When you’re ready to move on, head on over to the American Tapestry Alliance’s website http://americantapestryalliance.org/.  There’s tons of information and inspiration just waiting for you.  There is also a significant collection of tapestry-related articles listed under the Education tab.  Below is an image of the top of the list.

AMA articles images

Interested in more on tapestry???  Cool!  Check out the on-line PDF available from Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei.  http://www.brennan-maffei.com/images/TapestryWeavingTechniques.pdf

Brennan's technique

Also, there’s a wonderful 16 minute video made available by Debbie Herd that introduces the viewer to tapestry techniques that may get you inspired to purchase Archie’s 8-disc DVD set.  http://debbieherd.blogspot.com/2013/07/woven-tapestry-techniques-with-archie.html

If you need a little more to inspire you to learn more about tapestry techniques, I’ve included some images from some of my favorite tapestry artists.

Maximo Laura – http://www.maximolaura.com/about.htm

Maximo Laura

Sarah Swett – http://www.sarah-swett.com/

Red Nuns by Sara Swett

Red Nuns by Sara Swett

Cecilia Blomberg – http://www.ceciliablomberg.com/

Cecilia Blomber - Multnomah Falls

Cecilia Blomberg – Multnomah Falls (1998)

Margo MacDonald – http://www.margomacdonald.com/

Margo MacDonald tapestry

Kathy Todd Hooker – http://kathetoddhooker.blogspot.com/

Kathy Todd Hooker


If you’ve shrugged off or even runway from weaving tapestry, give it a try.  It’s easy to get started.  A piece of heavy cardboard with some notches cut into the top and bottom can made a good little loom to warp up.


My latest favorite thing has been referred to as many things . . . Needle weaving, teneriffe embroidery, pin weaving, and more.  What I’m trying to do is encourage weavers and fiber artists to think small and scale down their weaving.  This makes many forms of needle weaving portable.  It may not be the quickest way to produce a large piece, but I like to think of needle weaving techniques as helping to accomplish the following:

  1. Make use of those moments when your waiting, watching, listening, etc.  Like when you’re at your guild meeting and listening to the various committee reports, watching your kid’s or grand kid’s ball games, or indulging yourself in the latest episode of Downton Abbey.  I’ve even been know to needle weave while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  2. Use small amounts of yarn.  Weavers produce thrums.  Then it seems as though they breed during the night while we slumber away dreaming of interlacing yarns into fabulous projects.
  3. Experiment with ideas.  Experimentation and playing with color, texture, and weave structures is something that can be time consuming and costly when we work on our larger looms.  Big ideas can come from working on a small scale.
  4. Produce something quickly.  While we’re working on our larger projects, it’s nice to have something that comes to an end quickly.  Plus, you may find needle weaving produces projects, like jewelry, you can sell later on.
  5. Have fun.

Needle weaving has been around for a long time . . . a very long time.  If needle weaving is new to you . . . or you haven’t revisited it for a while, I would like to share a few resources available on-line.  then I want to share my ideas for creating a weaving etui.

In 1904, Earl & Co published Teneriffe Lace Design and Instructions.  In this publication, you will see some traditional patterns, but if you think about changing to different shapes . . . especially, irregular shapes . . . there is some wonderful inspiration within its pages.  http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books/archive_012.pdf

Teneriffe Lace cover

The Knot


Teneriffe #2


In 1903, The Proctor Teneriffe Lace Wheel Co published the booklet Designs and Instructions for Making Teneriffe and Filet Lace.  Like the publication above, it shows needle weaving in a circular shape that makes me think of the flower looms many of us wove on as children.  http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/monographs/proc_tener.pdf

Proctor Teneriffe Lace cover

At Tenar’s Cave, there are some wonderful tutorials on needle weaving.  http://tenar72.wordpress.com/all-about-needleweaving/

Tenar's Cave


Even Threads magazine has shown needle weaving in a new light.  http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/11225/create-intricate-fabric-with-pin-weaving/page/all

Threads #2

Threads online article on pin weaving

There are a number of small looms on the market ready to get you started on needle weaving.  Weave-It/Weavette looms, potholder looms, and flower looms can be readily found.  Schacht Spindle Co., Inc. is producing a Zoom Loom.  Many of us started weaving on a piece of cardboard with notches cut in the ends that held warp in position.  If you’re a weaver-on-the-go, another option is to make your own needle weaving etui.  (If this seems familiar, I wrote about this in July 2010 on this blog.)

An etui is a French term (pronounced é-twē) dating back to the early 17th century.  It refers to a small ornamental case used for small articles, such as sewing needles.  The first time I remember seeing an etui was in an antique store over 30 years ago.  I was captivated.  It was brass and had a beautiful filigree design around the outside.  Inside were items that could be used for sewing, including a small spool of thread.  I was a poor college student and couldn’t afford such an extravagant item, but I remembered it as being remarkable for its size, beauty, and functionality.

Then several years ago, I was thinking of ways to make weaving more portable and the memory of the sewing etui came to mind.  Why couldn’t I fashion a weaving etui.  It needed to be a small case to contain some simple tools and items I could toss in my bag and take out to do a little weaving when time permitted.  About the same time, I used the last tea bag from a small tin and realized this was the perfect container to create my first weaving etui.  I selected some small items I could use to do some simple needle weaving and I was on my way.  I’ve had so much fun with them and find myself frequently reaching for one.  Below I’ve provided the basic step-by-step to create your own weaving etui perfect for the weaver on-the-go!  Remember neatness doesn’t count; having fun does!

Step One – Select a container

There are a wide variety of possibilities for a container.  The image below shows a selection from mint and tea tins to eye glass cases and metal gift card boxes to old digital camera cases.  I’ve even used old CD cases.  One key in choosing a container is it should close securely to ensure your items don’t fall out..  If you have any doubt about how well your container will remain closed, wrap a rubber band around it.

Etui containers

Step Two – Prepare your weaving etui case

The first thing I do with my case is make sure a small pair of scissors fits inside.  I then include one or two tapestry needles.  I prefer metal tins because I can put magnet inside.  These are handy for keeping the scissors and needles from falling out.  If the case is too small for a pair of scissors or if you would prefer to avoid attention from TSA security personnel, you can include a small thread cutter.  For example, in the image below the small red mint tin was too small for a pair of scissors so I put a ladybug thread cutter inside.  This is the kind of thread cutter designed to be applied to the side of a sewing machine.  It had a sticky back on it and was perfect for the small mint tin.  Magnets come in different shapes and sizes and can be found at craft stores, including magnetic sheets with a sticky back which can be easily cut down to size and applied to the inside of the case.

Tins w magnets #1


Tins w magnets #2

Step Three – Make your “loom”

Perhaps “loom” is not quite accurate, but you can easily make a small frame to weave on.  I use heavy wire and often cut wire coat hangers up using a pair of heavy wire cutters.  One wire coat hanger can creates 3-5 different shapes, depending on the size you make your frame.  If you use wire smaller than 18 gauge wire (the larger the number, the smaller the wire), I recommend doubling it.  This will reduce the chance of the shape becoming distorted while you weave.

After I have cut my length of wire, I then take a pair of pliers and bend it into a shape.  (Note:  don’t forget to make it small enough to fit inside of your etui case)  I like irregular shapes, especially triangles.  Don’t worry if the surface of the wire is a little rough or you gouge it while bending it because you’re going to cover it. It helps if the ends overlap a bit to hold the shape together after you’ve wrapped it.

Wire hanger

Step Four – Prepare your yarn

Wrap your yarn onto something that will help you control it.  Below are the most common methods I use.  I often use knitting bobbins or embroidery floss cards.  If the frame I created is too small to allow these to pass through, I will make a small bobbin from a strip of coverstock paper folded up and cut notches out of each end.


Step Five – Cover your loom’s frame

Keep tension on the yarn and wrap it around the wire frame.  I often start where the wire frame ends overlap.  This covers the raw ends and ensures your shape is what you wanted.  You may find it necessary to push the yarn wraps against each other as you wrap them around so they won’t slip and slide.

Wrapping #1

Step Six – Warp your loom 

After the frame has been wrapped, go back-and-forth with the yarn to create your warp.

Wrapping #2

Step Seven – Weave the weft yarn(s)

Using a tapestry needle, weave your yarns through the warp.  To beat the weft into place, use your tapestry needle or a very small fork. 


Step Eight – Finish your project

When you’ve completed weaving, tie off the yarn on the backside and Viola! . . . you’re done!  If you like, you can embellish your woven piece.  The two items below were embellished by sewing a small number of beads onto the surface.  The item on the left was made with a loop in the top so a cord could go through it and it could be worn as a pendant.  The item on the right had a pin back sewn to the backside to create a brooch.



Not every weaving project has to be ambitious.  Sometimes it’s the small simple projects that can lead us to our next great idea.

Enjoy!  Oh . . . and by the way . . . Happy 2014!

In 1972 I embarked on my first macramé project . . . an avocado hemp plant hanger.  With assistance from my mother, I diligently worked away on making knots and trying to keep my strands from tangling.  In the end, I was very proud of what I produced. I’m sure if I saw it today, I would shudder at its appearance . . . but, hey . . . the 70’s were certainly not the pinnacle of aesthetics and good taste.  Remember leisure suits, bell bottoms, and really bad polyester?  Yeah, I too want to forget about those fashion statements.  I’m just grateful we didn’t have digital cameras back then since there’s virtually no evidence of my attempts to be fashionable.  And . . . oh, yes . . . I attempted Farrah Fawcett’s famous windblown feathered look with my fine straight hair without success.  Fortunately, there is no evidence of this indiscretion and you only have my word that it didn’t turn out very well.

Okay, back to macramé . . . the 70’s didn’t do a lot to promote the possibilities of macramé.  Macramé is believed to have originated with 13th-century Arab weavers. These artisans knotted the excess thread and yarn along the edges of handwoven fabrics into decorative fringes on bath towels, shawls, and veils.  I started reacquainting myself with macramé several years ago since I like to do fiber-ish things that are portable and require little more than an old-fashioned clipboard.  So, here I am hoping you will give macramé another look.

Macramé became popular during the Victorian era when Sylvia’s Book of Macramé Lace was published in 1882.  This 178-page book may be downloaded in its entirety at https://archive.org/details/sylviasbookofmac00lond.  Below are a few images from the book.

Sylvia's Book of Macrame Lace

Umbrella with macrame fringe

Insertion macrame lace

Macrame passementerie

Another resource available to learn more about macramé is the DMC Library book Macramé.  It may be downloaded at https://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books/macrame_dmc.pdf.  I highly recommend this book for getting started.  Scale down the cords by using embroidery floss and the results bear little resemblance to my 1972 attempt to be mod and groovy.

DMC Library Macrame Book cover

DMC Library Macrame Book #1 DMC Library Macrame Book #2 DMC Library Macrame Book #3 DMC Library Macrame Book #4 DMC Library Macrame Book #5 DMC Library Macrame Book #6 DMC Library Macrame Book #7

The third resource you may be interested in checking out is The Imperial Macramé Lace Book published by the Barbour Flax Spinning Company in 1878.  You can download it at the following link –  http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books/mlb_1878.pdf

Macrame Lace Book cover

Macrame Lace Book #1 Macrame Lace Book #2 Macrame Lace Book #3 Macrame Lace Book #4

Now, if these images don’t inspire at least a wee bit of intrigue in macramé, check out the following modern day applications . . .

Macrame pod chair

Macrame chairOne thing that really got me interested in re-visiting macramé was stumbling across Joan Babcock’s book Micro-Macramé Jewelry: Tips and Techniques for Knotting with Beads.  This was macramé I could really get into!  A couple of years later I had the privilege of meeting Joan at a women’s artist party I attended with Jennifer Moore in Sante Fe, NM.  I can’t remember squealing like that before and I think I may have embarrassed myself a bit when I met her.  Ah, well.  Shortly after buying the book, I purchased her DVD.

Joan Babcock book and DVD

I get more inspired by macramé when I look at images of Joan’s work on her website – http://www.joanbabcock.com/. Some day I hope to be able to take one of her workshops.  Check out a few of her spectacular pieces . . .

Joan Babcock necklace #1

Joan Babcock necklace #2

Joan Babcock earrings #1

Joan Babcock bracelet

Kids are being introduced to macramé through instructions for making friendship bracelets.  Few of the instructions I’ve seen use the term ‘macramé’ . . . If you have kids or grandkids around, you may be able to get them initiated into the fiber arts through the making of friendship bracelets.  Below are a couple of examples of the beautiful things these kids are making.

Friendship bracelets #2

Friendship bracelets

To see the multitude of friendship bracelet instructions available on-line, just Google “friendship bracelet instructions” and you will have your pick . . . Macramé is not just for kids.  A couple I liked are http://friendship-bracelet-patterns.myfbm.com/# and http://friendship-bracelets.net/.

If that’s still not enough to get you going, check out Sherri Stokey’s macramé blog at  http://www.knotjustmacrame.com/ or the website Micro-Macramé Jewelry for inspiration, supplies, and instructions. http://www.micro-macramejewelry.com/index.html

If previous experience with macramé turned you off, consider getting knotty in 2014 and give it a try.  Happy New Year!

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