June 04, 2021
You may not have heard the term “rep weave”, but you have almost certainly seen a piece of rep weave in person at some point in your life. Rep weave is one of the most popular techniques for weaving placemats. Those placemats where a thick cord makes ridges in the weft, but you only see it where it pops out at the edges? That’s rep weave.
Rep weave has two key characteristics: it is warp faced, and it uses both thick and thin weft. “Warp faced” is a way of saying that the warp is more visible than the weft. In many rep weave pieces, you can’t see the weft at all! The warp completely covers it. To achieve this, rep weavers pack way more ends of yarn into each inch of warp than usual. Instead of a standard sett for their material, rep weavers use an extremely dense sett… up to 30-40 epi for 8/2 cotton!
Since you can’t see the weft very much in rep weave, its role is usually to provide heft and texture to the finished piece. Traditional rep weave alternates between thick weft and thin weft. The thick weft makes a textured ridge, while thin weft on either side pins the warp threads down on either side of that ridge. The end result is a highly textured, sturdy piece of weaving that is ideal for floor mats, hot pads, table runners, and yes, placemats.
If you’d like to give rep weave a spin, Gather’s Rep Weave Table Runner is a great starting point. With bold stripes on a neutral ground, our Rep Weave Table Runner will add a welcome pop of colour to any home. The contemporary combination of pale orange and fiery red puts a fresh spin on an absolutely classic rep weave design. Because the weft all but disappears beneath tightly packed warp threads, the warp stripes in this runner look particularly crisp and clean, while the heavy weft gives the runner a satisfying heft.
If you want to design your own rep weave pieces, you’ll need a few key materials. Cotton makes a great thick weft. Our 8/8 cotton is thick and robust, and makes a great rep weave weft. You might also try wool for weft, if your project doesn’t need to be machine washable. Briggs & Little is an affordable Canadian option. For your warp, look for fine, smooth threads. This is not the time to experiment with sticky or slubby yarns! You’ll be cramming the warp threads in right beside each other, and they need to behave. Cotton or cottolin in 8/2, linen, and bamboo all work well.
If you have a narrow loom or just want to dip your toes in the rep weave pool, coasters and hot pads are a perfect starting point. For quick and easy mug rugs, aim for a width of 5 inches and leave room between each one to tie into simple knotted fringe. Or size up to 8-10 inches for hot pads or pot holders. For placemats, a size of 12-14 inches wide and 18-20 inches long works well. You’ll want to either use hems or leave shorter fringe on placemats so that they don’t take up precious table space. If you’re really ambitious, go long for a table runner or wide for a floor rug!
Simple knotted fringe is the easiest way to finish a rep weave piece. If you’re aiming at twisted fringe instead, just remember that you will have many more warp ends per inch than you’re likely used to! This will make your twisted fringe relatively heavy. You may want to leave a few inches more than usual to make sure your bundles can still be comfortably knotted. Hemming is also possible, with a little pre-planning. You can imagine that hemming textured, bulky rep weave its not ideal! If you’re planning to hem, weave an inch or two of plain weave using your thin weft first. Then you can fold over that thinner, flatter section for a double-fold hem. You can see how that looks on our Rep Weave Table Runner above.
If you're looking for a change from scarves or tea towels, rep weave will help you branch out into other household textiles. With satisfying heft and a totally different hand than balanced cloth, it's a fun demonstration of the versatility of handweaving.
June 04, 2021
With a pop of vintage green, a floral motif, and a wonderfully nubbly texture, this hand towel feels like a treasure you discovered in the bathroom of a perfectly quaint B&B. The weft is almost entirely bouclé cotton. Bouclé is a perfect yarn for towels, since the loops and swirls that run along it are both highly absorbent and lightly scrubby.
And in addition to the absorbency from the bouclé , these towels get an extra boost from how much natural cotton they incorporate. Natural (undyed) yarn is always softer and more absorbent than dyed yarn, meaning these towels will break in quickly and work wonderfully. Using two different textures in the same colour also creates a beautiful cloth where the textures can really shine.
Of course the real star of the show is the decorative band of crackle weave. We’ve been playing with crackle in the studio this Spring, and we have all enjoyed it greatly! Crackle is a two-shuttle weaving structure using pattern float over a tabby ground. The floats are beautiful, but short and well-anchored. This towel looks fancy, but won’t snag. Using crackle as an accent is a perfect way to dip your toes into this fun and versatile structure.
Weave this project using our Crackle Towels Kit!
Want to learn more about crackle? Read our blog post explaining how it works and why it's awesome.
June 04, 2021
One of the Gather team’s favourite activities is something we call ‘Show and Tell’. One of us will bring in a piece of recent weaving to pass around, both to get oohs and aahs and for constructive criticism about sett, colour, and finishing. And Show and Tell isn’t just for Gather staff--we love it when weavers who shop at our store come by to show us what they’ve made and let us gush over how wonderful it is.
When Bryce Wicks brings something in for Show and Tell, it’s an all hands on deck situation. Everyone drops what they’re doing to take a look and, more importantly, a feel. Bryce weaves cloth that is different from pretty much everything else that comes through our doors. Tell-tale signs that something was made by Bryce include strong solid colours, chunky knotted tassels, serious texture, and a hand that is dense without feeling stiff. Check out his Waffle Weave Hand Towels from our Greenhouse Collection for a fabulous example. Lately, Bryce has been exploring waffle weave with mad-scientist-level intensity, to the point where he has become known to Gather shoppers as “The Waffle Weave Guy”. We chatted with Bryce about counterbalance looms, wet finishing tips, and why he’s so hooked on waffle weave.
Gather: We chat in the store a lot, but I realize I don’t actually know some of the basics. How long have you been weaving? What do you weave on?
Bryce: I started October 2017, so like three and a half years ago I got my first loom. I started off by getting a used 4 shaft table loom, and within three months I switched over to a 45-inch floor loom. My weaving journey was short and quick when I started! Currently I weave on that same Leclerc Mira 45-inch counterbalance. Shout out to the counterbalance people, because they know the struggles when reading drafts of what you can and can’t do!
Gather: Can you say more about counterbalance looms, and what struggles you’ve run into?
Bryce: My counterbalance is older, so it didn’t have a shed regulator. That means I couldn’t do 3/1 and 1/3 twill, because you don’t get a nice shed. Without a shed regulator you’re somewhat limited to pretty much 2/2 twills and plain weave... double weave is out of the question.
Gather: I’m surprised you’ve been working with that level of restriction, because you’re someone who is kind of obsessed with exploring structure!
Bryce: When I got my Mira from the 1960s, there were missing parts and mold on it. I scrubbed the whole thing, fixed it up, and worked on that for three years, just doing 2/2 twills and working with different fibres. But this past Christmas I splurged and got the shed regulator, so all of a sudden I can weave any structure I want! And the first structure I wanted to do was waffle weave, because I’d been staring at in in the books for so long. From January until now all I’ve been doing is waffle weave.
Gather: Can you tell me what you’ve done in waffle weave since January?
Bryce: You can see a lot of it at Gather. I’ve done at least ten warps in the last four months, just for waffle. I would say I’ve done about 50 yards. I just wove a 2/2 twill the other week, and I couldn’t get my brain to remember how to thread 2/2 twill because I automatically went to waffle. That’s all I know now.
Gather: You’ve done blankets, towels, and scarves in waffle weave. Do you use a different approach for different projects?
Bryce: For waffle, it’s all about the structure. I go for a very tight sett, because if you let waffle run around you’re not going to get what you want. It’s all about keeping that cell structure, and ensuring that your cells are firm and deep. So you want a firm beat and a dense sett, while staying within the recommendations. For 2/8 cotton, you wanna go for 24 epi and ppi.
If I’m doing dish towels, blankets, or a scarf, really it’s changing the fibre. The cells are going to behave like they are, so the only thing we can change is the kind of fibre we want to use and how much we want to wet finish.
Wet finishing is where the devil is in the details. Anything that’s cotton I just throw in the washer and the dryer, but silk/alpaca is definitely not going in there. I do a lot of testing when I wet finish animal fibres. I am one of those people who refuse to sample. I don’t want to, I don’t like it, I will make a project and I will figure it out.
Gather: Hold on, if you’re not sampling, how do you do all that testing with wet finishing?
Bryce: I’ll wet finish it gently, dry it, see how it comes out, if I want it more, it’ll go back into wet finishing. By now with the fibres at Gather, I know how they’re going to react. I’m not scared of dryers. I will wet finish bamboo and silk/alpaca in the sink, and then throw into the dryer on low heat and they come out amazing. But if you’re throwing it into the dryer, throw it in with three big towels to give some cushion so the machine doesn’t beat it up.
Gather: Have there been other structures you’ve been obsessed with like waffle weave?
Bryce: Not yet. I’m still on a waffle journey. I want to test everything there is to do with waffle with every fibre I can find. My most recent journey was with linen, because I’ve never worked with pure linen before. I’ve heard horror stories about linen--that it snaps, that you need to mist it down--but it’s been great. I’m using it for weft and don’t do anything special and it weaves just fine. But I haven’t tried a linen warp yet!
I think I’ll stay with linen in waffle. I also want to see what I can mess up on my waffle drafts, see what comes out. That might be the only sampling I do in the future… messing up some treadling and some tie ups and seeing how it goes.
I actually sampled for a Duet waffle scarf on one of Gather’s 4-shaft Jane looms, and I messed up on my treadling. And so I was weaving it, and I looked at it like… this is not right. But I know waffle… And then I looked and I was like this is not waffle, but I like it! I figured out my error, wrote down what I had been doing, wove it correctly, and then went back to the one I discovered by accident. And that’s how I came up with my modified waffle.
The one thing I would say to people with waffle, if you’re on Instagram and Pinterest and you see all these people doing waffle, note that it’s unwashed. Look at the Waffle Weave pattern that Gather has… it shows the finished and unfinished versions and the difference is drastic. Waffle is not for the faint of heart or for the people who want to control everything. You can’t control how one cell is going to weft finish slightly differently from something else… You throw it in looking amazing, and it comes out looking how it’s going to look. You can’t fully control that process. I personally like a surprise. Finishing is 50% of the journey. There really is Magic in the Water.
Gather: You’re a relatively secretive weaver. People know you now as “The Waffle Weave Guy” but you’re not really out there on Instagram… how do you share your work?
Bryce: Honestly in the years that I’ve woven I’ve gifted almost everything I’ve made. I enjoy the process and think of it as a hobby. I make things for family, friends, coworkers, do trades with local artists... There’s a point in your weaving your weaving journey where you’re thinking “I’m not a professional weaver, I shouldn’t sell this, there are mistakes, I had a bad beat for a bit and it shows.” I think people are afraid, and that’s been a roadblock for me. I don’t feel worthy of selling my things. But it’s probably been in the last year that I feel like I’ve finally gotten there with making things that I feel are sellable. I’m not a social media person, I don’t even have a personal instragram. Taking pictures is something I don’t do. I don’t take pictures of most of my finished work. I don’t even remember most of the things I made. I found an old video of myself unrolling like, eight yards and I don’t even remember what it became or who it went to.
If you want to sell, you have to build up stock. If you want to do farmer’s markets, etc, you have to have a good game plan and show up with good stock. There are a lot of weavers I follow who are doing amazing things, doing baby wraps, towels, bread cloths… seeing how much they make and how much they post you love it and get inspiration from it, but I’m not at that level. But a lot of people want to weave and not be a professional weaver... so where’s that in between?
Gather: You’re trying to stay engaged and make use of your skillset without monetizing it immediately.
Bruce: I would love to live outside of the city and weave and sell my wares. But I’m not ready for that phase. I kind of enjoy being a mystery right now. I’m ok with being the waffle weave guy. I’m going to monopolize the waffle weave market. And I enjoy it! What I’m looking for right now is what do I love most about waffle, what are the things that make me happy about waffle, and what would make sellable waffle products.
Gather: Is there anything I’ve missed that you want to make sure to say?
Bryce: I haven’t been doing this forever, but I dove in and dove deep. You can be a weaver of three years and have made three projects, or you can be a weaver of three years and have made 50+ project that would take other people ten years to make.
The one piece of advice I do want to offer beginning weavers is when you’re starting weaving you have to understand your loom, whether it’s a rigid heddle loom or a table loom or a floor loom. When I started off, I was fortunate enough that I hired a weaver to come to my house (obviously pre-Covid) and teach me like, here is your loom, here’s how it works, here are the pieces you need to replace. She taught me what lease sticks and riddles are, how to calculate projects, how to make a warp on a warping board.
In weaving, you can do a lot of different things but it’s a very structured process. There are a lot of things that can mess you up. You have to know that structure, and then once you have it, you can weave whatever you want to. I got off to a good start because I got the passion instilled in me by this weaver, and I felt like, “I know how to handle my loom”. Talk to Gather. Take a course. Know what a great loom feels like in the studio, so you can adjust what you’re doing at home.
Want to join Bryce on his Waffle Weave Journey? Pick up his Waffle Weave Hand Towels kit!
June 03, 2021
Introducing our newest kit for rigid heddle loom weavers: the Ripples Rigid Heddle Scarf. Wrapping yourself up in a cozy scarf on a chilly day is such a simple but powerful pick-me up. Especially when that scarf is handwoven, with beautiful depth of colour and touchable, lacey texture spreading across it like ripples on a pond.
In this case, the ripples are created by strategically placed warp floats--places where the warp skips over a few picks of weft, instead of sticking to simple plain weave. The way to create this effect on a rigid heddle loom is by using a pick-up stick: an extra shuttle or other flat stick that is used to manipulate some of the warp threads as you weave. Pick-up sticks are a wonderful tool to have in your weaver's tool belt! If you’ve already tried a few rigid heddle projects and are looking for your ‘next step’, this is the perfect project to try something new.
This scarf comes in two colourways, and uses some pretty special yarn. The warp is Beam: a strong, smooth organic cotton that is perfect for rigid heddle weaving. The weft is Revival from Ancient Arts Yarns: a lofty, fuzzy wool blend made from upcycled fibres that would otherwise be mill waste. This project is eco-friendly, fun to weave, and wonderful to wear.
The pattern was developed by our own in-house rigid heddle enthusiast Ali Hurlburt. Ali designed the scarf to take advantage of the extra width that her 20" Flip loom gives her. But she knows that many weavers work with 15" rigid heddle looms. To make sure everyone can enjoy this project, she included directions for weaving a wider scarf on a 20” loom, as well as modified instructions for making a thinner scarf on a 15” loom.
Trying out pick-up sticks will change your rigid heddle weaving life. Why not give it a whirl while playing with some beautiful new yarns at the same time?
Pick up the full kit to weave your own Ripples Rigid Heddle Scarf!
Interested in learning more about Rigid Heddle weaving? Check out our blog post on Where My Rigid Heddle Loom Can Take Me.
October 08, 2020
Introducing our latest rigid heddle pattern and kit: the Fall Checks Infinity Scarf! This scarf is perfect for days when the leaves are falling and the wind is starting to have a chill. Made from 100% cotton, it is comfortable and warm while still being light enough for sunny autumn walks. Slub cotton gives it a rustic, textured look and feel. You can sew your finished piece into an infinity scarf, as shown, or add fringe to the ends and make a conventional scarf. Either way, you’ll have a pop of colour and a comforting warmth to brighten up your days.
When we started getting more into rigid heddle weaving, we looked around for beautiful yarn that weaves well on rigid heddle looms. We ended up bringing in two fabulous yarns from Gist Yarn and Fibre: Duet and Mallo.
Mallo (right) has a slubby texture that contrasts beautifully with smooth 8/4 cotton (left).
This project features Mallo, which is a cotton yarn with “slubs”. So what are slubs, other than being a really fun weaving term to say? Slubs are wider sections of the yarn where it is plied together more loosely. Slubby yarn has a gentle thick-and-thin texture. And Mallo has just about the prettiest slubs you’ll ever see.
Slubby yarn like Mallo is a great option to add to your rigid heddle toolkit. It gives plain weave pieces body and texture. This adds visual interest, and also makes pieces that are snuggly to wear and feel amazing.
Different textures play together in the finished piece.
I designed this pattern with the beginner in mind. If you’ve never woven with slubby yarn before, the check pattern will let you see how it looks in the warp, in the weft, and when both cross. Hopefully this builds your confidence to experiment with adding texture to your own designs.
The Fall Checks Scarf is also part of Gather’s love of combining weaving and sewing. (To hear Kim and Angela talk more about this, check out the Weave Podcast!) By connecting the scarf with a flat-felled seam, you can up your sewing game and learn a new finishing technique. Or you can find a sewist in your network and collaborate on the project--I weave, you sew. Combining skills and working together makes craft more fun.
As fall settles in, we hope you stay warm and keep creating!