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Archive for January, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things: #35 – Needle Weaving (and making a portable weaving “etui”)

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!


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