Gather Textiles Project Blog
September 21, 2021
The colder it gets outside, the more pleasure there is in bundling up in a blanket and warming your hands by the fire. There’s a level of warmth and comfort that you can only feel when the cold wind is blowing around the walls of your cabin or nipping at your cheeks. The Campfire collection captures that feeling in warm colours, classic designs, and comforting textures.
The Campfire colour palette is full of rich colours that glow in the warmth of firelight. Brick red, olive green, and navy blue pop against warm neutral browns. We’ve been playing with classic checks and un-fussy plaids, crisscrossing Campfire colours across each other to create simple, high-impact combinations.
Our weave structures for this look book are all about coziness, texture, and comfort. As people who live where the temperature can drop to -40, we understand winter textiles. There are days when a really good scarf is all that stands between us and frostbite. In weather like this, designing textiles for real warmth is a necessity. Our patterns for Campfire use wool and cotton in ways that are warmer and cozier than ever. From luxurious silkpaca scarves to a hardy wool blanket, every item in this collection is touchable, durable, and made to last.
As makers, we care about making pieces with intention and care. We want to create items that tell a story. When we give a piece of our weaving to a loved one, we hope that it will be a reminder of our relationship… a little piece of us in their home. The thoughtful details and solid construction of the pieces in Campfire help create high-quality items that last as long as our friendships. We’ve made placemats for gathering around a holiday meal, woolen pillow covers to lean against with a glass of wine by the fire, and tea towels to pass back and forth as you chat over the shared work of washing up. Handmade pieces honour the comfort and connection of these moments, highlighting what’s already special in the everyday.
We hope that you will find inspiration from the Campfire look book, and that the patterns and kits in this collection will keep your looms humming for the long cold months ahead! Thank you for continuing to share in the joy of weaving with us.
September 21, 2021
Our new Campfire collection features designs from many Canadian weaving designers, including Amanda Rataj. Amanda is a working artist and weaver whose explorations of weave structure are a joy to follow. We chatted with Amanda about learning new things, touching everything, and her Pebble Pillow Cover pattern and kit.
Gather: Scrolling through your instagram I see plain weave, twill, overshot, float work, crackle, lace weaves, adventurous weft materials… with so many structures to play with, what ties your work together (besides the colour blue)?
Amanda: I don’t think that I have one thing that I focus on — my work is more an exploration of different textures, shapes, and ideas, all of which can (maybe) be expressed using different structures.
I’m a very materialistic person in the sense that I love material and texture — I like to touch. When I went to art school I majored in photography, but I was also doing a lot of papermaking and then combining the two to make very tactile, material-based artworks — things that benefitted from real-life experience. But a photograph is not something that you should touch or handle in the same way you can a kitchen towel or scarf —they’re precious, meant to be looked at and generally placed on the wall.
Textiles are a way for me to creatively work through my thoughts and ideas in a medium that can be physically engaged with and experienced — I’m not precious with my work (well, some of it I am…!) and I don’t think that it really comes into its full meaning until it’s used.
This usefulness and material experience is what draws me to making craft objects. Like a scientist might, I think of trying many different techniques as a sort of experimentation or exploration — how can they inform my current and future thinking?
One undercurrent I’m always thinking of is the environmental impact of my practice and work — I don’t consume much that’s new and I try to be mindful in what I’m making and the materials I’m using. In the past I’ve worked with Taproot Fibre Labs out in Nova Scotia and used their Canadian grown and spun linen. I like working with Briggs and Little (which I used in my Gather cushion!), and I’ve recently had three cones of wool yarn spun from a local farmer I know (thanks Albus the sheep!).
Gather: You’re also someone who is always learning! What are your favourite ways of learning more about weaving?
Amanda: I’m a self-taught weaver. My mum is a weaver and I learned initially from her, but then I did a lot of solo learning. I spend a lot of time figuring things out for myself, and can have quite a perfectionist streak that is sometimes good and sometimes not as good. I’m a very visual learner — I like to see and then do.
I learn more about weaving by exploring different structures, making samples, and trying new things. If there’s something specific I want to learn and need assistance, I’ll ask very patient and generous friends who might know the answer, scour books and the internet, or just give it a go. I like to make lots of samples (it’s like sketching!) so I usually start there and then scale up to the size I have in mind. Sometimes things don’t work out the way I expect, so I put them away and then come back to them later — my second loom has become a bit of a hanger for some of those percolating projects…
I have a lot of interests (some that stick around longer than others), and I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books. These interests almost never have to do with weaving but always end up informing what I do in some way or another. Because I can, here is a mixed-bag reading list for other book-worms out there:
Having and Being Had, by Eula Biss
Two Trees Make a Forest, by Jessica J. Lee
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemison
How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell
Mr Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo
Gather: It seems like supporting new weavers is a big part of what you do, from working in a yarn shop to making patterns to teaching classes. What draws you to teaching?
Amanda: I feel very strongly that it’s important to support each other, so I intentionally make the time and space to do so. I feel doubt in my work and envy and longing just like other people, but I find the best antidote is to celebrate other people’s successes as though they were my own. I’ve not always been great at it but I think we’re all better off if we help each other get to where we want to go instead of being protective or competitive with each other. There’s lots of room for everyone’s approach and work!
When it comes to teaching, I think I enjoy most the opportunity for exchange. For the last decade I’ve worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario facilitating conversations about art and learning as an educator in their adult and school programs, and what I do there has spilled over into all areas of my life. It sounds selfish, but I get to learn by helping other people learn, so it’s very motivating and pleasing. It’s a good way to exchange knowledge and see things from other peoples’ perspective. The same goes for working at a yarn shop — is there anything nicer than helping someone realize a creative idea??
There’s always something to learn, even if it’s just figuring out how to communicate something in a way which makes sense to someone else. There’s a lot of things that my hands know that is very challenging to describe in words, and I love trying to pass on those types of skills.
There’s a lot of problem solving in teaching, too. I think lot of creative people are very good problem solvers. We’re used to approaching something with a different tack, whether it’s an art project or something that needs to be fixed in your own home. Teaching and weaving both get that problem solving part of my brain going in a good way.
Gather: How did you bring that spirit of creative problem solving to Gather’s Campfire collection? Can you talk a bit about the pillow cover you’ve designed?
Amanda: One of my (many) interests for the past few years has been circles and how you can make them on the square grid of weaving. The cushion cover I have designed is one way that I’ve recently been exploring this interest. I like to sample a lot and have bags and bags of little woven pieces; for this project, I made three small samples plus two full-sized pillows where I used different materials in both the warp and weft, scaling it up and down to find a surface that I liked.
Gather: What sold you on the final design?
Amanda: In the Campfire collection mood board, there were a lot of images of plaids and checks — I wanted to see how I could incorporate checks (which I love!) in a more subtle way.
I think that I generally weave a lot of flat things, so I also wanted to try making a woven surface with more texture. The final surface is similar to knitted bobbles or rounded pebbles — and so far it’s a big hit at my house, my boyfriend loves it!
While I was thinking through this project, I had a commission to make something for my friend Deborah. She invites us to her cottage on Lake Huron every summer and it has this amazing rock and sand beach that’s always different and full of personality and change. The stones are incredible and we spend a lot of time beach combing and collecting while there — the runner I created for her, while not textured, was also another branch of my round-weaves and pebble-shape experiments.
Want to join Amanda in experimenting with pebble shapes in weaving? Check out her Pebble Pillow kit!
September 21, 2021
At Gather, we love collaborating with weavers and designers from all over. We are so pleased to feature a pattern from Curly & Yarny as part of our Campfire Collection! Mylena, the creative spirit behind Curly & Yarny, posts weaving tutorials both on her website and on her popular YouTube channel. Her enthusiasm about rigid heddle looms is infectious! The joy of weaving shines through her face in every post.
Inspired by our Campfire colour palette, Mylena created the Lakehouse Rigid Heddle Scarves. This pattern features two of Mylena’s real gifts: designing plaids and using fine yarn on a rigid heddle loom. Using a luxurious silk/alpaca blend, this pattern creates two different scarf designs on a single warp. Each scarf uses different weft patterns to pull out blocks of plaid and colour-and-weave designs. The result is a beautiful exploration of the design possibilities within simple plain weave. And because the pattern creates two scarves, you can keep one for yourself and gift the other!
We love seeing what weavers like Mylena come up with, and we hope you do, too. Weaving is a living tradition with room for all sorts of looms where creative weavers can play and explore. Mylena embodies the curiosity and excitement about weaving that we work to nurture in our weaving community. We hope that you catch some of her spark!
September 21, 2021
Today we’re talking about double weave: the structure that is on every new weaver’s bucket list! It’s easy to see why double weave captures weavers’ imaginations. In double weave, you make two layers of cloth at the same time. It feels like a cheat code, or a magic trick. And if that wasn’t enough, you can also make those two layers interact in different ways on your loom to create tubes, colour blocks, or double-wide cloth. All this possibility, and all from a threading and treadling that is not that much more complex than plain weave!
Here’s the basics of how double weave works on a four-shaft loom. To weave plain weave, you really only need two shafts. So you use shafts 1 and 2 to weave one layer of plain weave, while shafts 3 and 4 weave a second layer. The really cool part is that you can do this with a simple straight draw threading (1,2,3,4)! You just need to adjust your tie-up for double weave and you’re ready to get weaving. One word of caution for counterbalance loom weavers: the tie-up requires lifting and lowering either one or three shafts at a time, so you may find it difficult to get a good shed unless you have a shed regulator. Weavers with jack looms, table looms, and countermarche looms, weave away!
The most common use for double weave is to make double-width cloth. To do so, you throw your shuttle so that it connects the two layers at the left-hand side and leaves the right side open. You can easily visualize this by folding a piece of paper in half. The fold is like the left side of the weaving: it is where the connection is. The side opposite the fold is like the right side of the weaving: open and free to move. When you unfold the paper, you have something twice as wide as the folded piece. Your weaving looks like that folded piece of paper while it’s on the loom. When you cut it off, you get to unfold it and see the whole thing! All of a sudden, your Baby Wolf can make Mighty-Wolf-sized cloth… and beyond.
When you’re weaving double-width, it’s key to pay attention to the side where the two layers join. You want to be generous with your weft there, so that you don’t end up with excessive draw-in. In normal weaving, excessive draw-in shows up as pinched sides. In double-weave, it shows up as an ugly stripe of dense cloth smack dab in the middle of your cloth! One of our Master Weavers, Shannon Nelson, recommends threading an extra end of slippery cotton right at the join, then gently pulling it out after you cut off your project. This both keeps your project from drawing in and provides a little breathing room when the thread is removed.
Double-width double weave is particularly useful for making big, snuggly pieces, like our Reflections Double Weave Blanket. Using double weave lets you make a 45”-wide blanket on a 26” loom… and that’s finished width after draw-in and shrinkage! You can’t even make a 45”-wide finished project on a 45” loom without using double-weave. For pieces that you want to wrap up in, double weave is essential. It expands your options without requiring you to somehow work a 60” loom into your craft space.
Now here’s where things get really cool. With four shafts you can only do two plain weave layers. But with an eight shaft loom you can assign four shafts to each layer, letting you do two layers of twill, or trade the layers back and forth to create more complex colour effects. Our Sunroom Throw pattern is an advanced 8-shaft project that uses double weave to create strong blocks of colour. The throw isn’t double-width. Instead of simply connecting the two layers at one side, it swaps sections of the two layers back and forth in blocks. This creates a dense but still drapey cloth that is heaven to wrap yourself up in. Without using double weave, the dense sett of this project would make cloth as stiff as cardboard. But using double weave lets you achieve results that would otherwise be impossible.
Our two double weave patterns are only the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with double weave. You can set up for double-width double weave and then connect both sides instead of only one, creating a tube that could become a cowl or a pillowcase. You can leave both sides open and swap layers every few inches, making a piece with dramatic 3D ripples. Trying out double weave is a great way to start thinking about the structure of your cloth instead of just working with its surface design and colours. And once you start weaving double weave, you’ll find it hard to stop. Like so many other kinds of weaving, it’s something that you can learn quickly and then explore for years.
July 19, 2021
Kat: I always felt this magnetic attraction to textiles and sewing. I used to go into my grandmother’s sewing room and just soak up the good energy in there. When I was ten, I taught myself to knit and haven’t stopped doing textiles things since! My current practice focuses on pattern-making, sewing, natural dyeing, and mending.
I’m not sure what the most interesting thing is, but for my master’s thesis, I did recreate a 14th century doublet entirely by hand. That was a really wild journey, beginning with going to see the original garment in its museum in France. I only had a photocopy of a pattern taken by its conservator and my field notes, so I had to do a lot of problem-solving in order to recreate it. The most fun part was padding all the pieces with fluffy cotton batting, and the most difficult part was hand-sewing 75 large buttonholes with silk thread.
Gather: What are you working on during your residency with Gather?
Kat: I’m lucky that my day job is working as a curator of a museum clothing collection. I get to work with super cool examples of historic dress, and I’m using my residency at Gather to explore the cut and construction of some of these garments. Museum objects don’t get to be worn or even touched very much, so reconstructing them is a way to be able to do that. I’m also very interested in making as a way of knowing, which is basically the idea that there are things you can only know about an object by making (or re-making) it. This type of haptic knowledge is very interesting to me because it helps connect me to makers of the past.
When I remake a garment, it becomes a material conversation with the person (or people) who made that original garment. I really value these conversations as a historian because very often past makers are not represented in traditional history research (in the past, as now, those who make our clothing are often women and/or people with limited social and economic means).
Remaking a historic garment also makes it possible to learn about the garment as a wearer. I often come across the misconception that historic clothing was uncomfortable or restrictive. Wearing reconstructions has given me the opportunity to explore these assumptions and I’ve found that in most cases they’re not true. At best, I’ve learnt that comfort is contextual and that people in the past were just as interested in moving and being comfortable as we are!
I’m currently reconstructing an early 20th-century sleeveless camisole. It has very simple construction and was hand-embroidered, including decorative eyelets and cutwork. It also has a very adjustable fit. It’s very beautiful and was domestically made. I think it is interesting because it actually responds to a lot of current trends and movements in contemporary garment design.
These days, there’s a huge amount of interest in making garments that are size-inclusive that can also respond to natural changes in body shape and size, thereby enabling them to be used for longer. I really believe in designing clothing that helps people feel good in their bodies and that is more sustainable. I think that historic dress can help us do that.
To that end, I’ve been working on a contemporary re-interpretation of the original camisole that responds to the needs of contemporary sewists, and am planning on doing a more details-focused version that includes reproducing the original embroidery (which is more time-consuming that the typical sewist might be prepared to undertake). That being said, I’ve found that hand-sewing often goes faster than people think it will!
Gather: What's coming next for you on your journey with making? Any new challenges you're excited to take on, or plans for the immediate future that you want to share?
Kat: Yes! Most immediately, I will be starting the more faithful reconstruction of that camisole, with the embroidery and everything. I’m also an avid natural dyer, and will be embarking on a journey into indigo over the next month and a half. I am also beginning to learn to weave – since I’m working in a weaving studio, I thought that this was the perfect time to learn. So far, weaving has been both wonderful and humbling. It’s crazy to me that I’ve been immersed in textiles for decades now and I can still feel like an absolute beginner when introduced to a new technique. It’s a testament to how rich the world of textiles is.
Gather: I've obviously benefitted from your tutoring skills first hand! [Editor's note: this is Ali writing and Kat saved my bacon when I had a garment go very, very wrong. 10/10, highly recommend.] Can you say a bit about your approach to tutoring, why you like it, what you can offer?
Kat: I love tutoring! It’s an opportunity to share all that I have learned in my journey so far, and hopefully help others have a bit easier of a time than I did. I’m primarily self-taught, so I really value community, skill-sharing and just plain old talking with other makers. I’m also very aware that I am limited in my knowledge and that I have so much to learn also. When I am tutoring I see each project as a journey I am on with my learner and usually I also learn things alongside them.
I also try to really get to know what my learner’s goals are, with an understanding that not everyone wants the same things I do out of a project. I don’t really believe in a hard right or wrong way of doing something in sewing. I’m aware of many of the current conventions, but my sewing experience and also my time working with historic dress have shown me that there are actually so many different ways to approach a technical problem. Finding the right one is about understanding your values and vision as a maker.
I like to try and give my learners the tools they need to find that out for themselves, rather than assume I know what is important to them. Sometimes this is hard, for example when your value for quick progress conflicts with a vision for a specific end result (e.g. a very smooth, professional finish that requires hand-sewing). In those cases, I try to present multiple options, but I am also very careful to be as straightforward as I can. This way, my learner can make the decision that is most likely to give them the result they want.
See more of Kat's work on Instagram: @katelin.karbonik
June 22, 2021
Introducing Gather’s Safe Studio Program
Interpreted by Alexis De Villa
Come join us on a process to evolve our studio into a more accessible space for our community here in Amiskwacîwâskahikan (so-called-Edmonton). Our hope is to provide community members with more accessible, affordable, and safer space for folks who want to learn, explore, reconnect, and create magic with textiles!
But, how are we to do that?
Striking a balance between surviving, supporting, and standing with –as a small business and members of a community –sometimes seems like an almost impossible task. However, reminding ourselves that we are part of a community, and not separate, is a driving force to work through the difficulties and maintain meaningful relationships that make up us. We are still here because of our community.
Communal care is self-care!
We have reached out to other small businesses, non-for-profits, and community organizations to see what they are doing, and it is amazing how generous they have been! With their help, we decided to explore and try out a Safe Studio Program.
The Safe Studio Program will provide closed-space for folks who may be more vulnerable to harm. In Amiskwacîwâskahikan there is a tendency to have one-off workshops, fleeting spaces, and/or short term access for vulnerable folks. How can we start thinking more long term? How can we both build AND nurture our relationships in the city?
The first iteration of our Safe Studio Drop-in Program will be opening up the studio to 2SQTBIPOC+ folks (2-spirit, Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of colour) and will be facilitated by a 2SQTBIPOC+ community member. A few 2SQTBIPOC+ allies will be available for further instruction and assistance with the consent of community members in the space.
Each Safe Studio Drop-in will be facilitated by a member of that community to create working opportunities for folks who may experience barriers & discrimination in workplaces and creating safer spaces for both the community members and the facilitators.
Safe spaces are only one piece of the complex puzzle of creating more access. Financial uncertainties are also an access barrier for many folks and small businesses: We can only provide space if we have access to it, while community members can only utilize the space with materials.
Again, with the generous knowledge and guidance of other community groups, we have come up with the Community Fund. During the first iteration of the Safe Studio Drop-in, the Community Fund will be available to 2SQTBIPOC+ folks to access instruction, tools, items from the store, and/or to sustain our Safe Studio Drop-in Program (i.e. Pay for the labour of the facilitator). Contributions to the Community Fund can be made through Sliding Scale/Pay what you can workshop costs, in store or online purchases, and through our website.
As this program unfolds, we hope that it will evolve and change to best support and serve our community here in Amiskwacîwâskahikan (so-called-Edmonton).
If you are part of a community and have wished to have a Safe Space, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
About the writer
Hello! My name is Alexis De Villa (They/She/Sikato). I am a queer, female-presenting, Mad-identified, able-bodied, second-generation Pilipinx and Pangasinan settler residing in Amiskwacîwâskahikan, Treaty 6 territory, territory of the Papaschase, Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Blackfoot, Metis, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway / Saulteaux / Anishinaabe, Tsuutʼina, Inuit, and many others who have been colonially erased and ignored. Although my presence on this Land was a result of mass migration of my ancestors from the Philippines following the resource and material export by Canadian Mining and imperialism, I am still uninvited to this Land and must continue to stand with the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. Their liberation is our liberation.
I got hired at Gather Textiles as a studio assistant in Spring of 2021 with hopes of sharing and exchanging different modes of knowledge around textiles, weaving, community, and community organizing within the Gather studio space and beyond. Being brought into a space of community textile arts, I am hopeful to combine intergenerational knowledge of community organizing with textiles to begin to break down access barriers that folks in Amiskwacîwâskahikan – folks that I have had the honor to know, love, and be connected– continue to experience. In other words, getting the materials into the hands of the community to create magic! It will be a learning process and my hope is to move through the process with care and compassion. Thank you for your patience ahead of time!
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
It’s amazing what complex designs you can build from the simplest components. All of the incredible things we can do with our computers come down to a simple binary code of ones and zeroes. Looms (the original computers) can produce a dizzying range of designs from a similarly simple choice: does the weft pass over or under this particular warp thread?
Block weaves are a family of weave structures that combine set clusters of warp ends into blocks that then repeat across the width of the warp. Summer & Winter is a block weave that alternates between areas of light and dark, ground and pattern. On a four-shaft loom, Summer & Winter is made up of only two blocks.
A two-block weave may sound simple, but the outcome is anything but! Simple alternation between two design blocks creates a sophisticated design this Summer & Winter runner, inspired by the work of local weaver Conchita Rio. The pattern builds each row by repeating the same pattern weft multiple times. By varying the number of repeats, it creates pattern that wanders back and forth between large patches and delicate stripes of colour. The end result is a runner that produces a gentle optical illusion where rounded shapes appear out of the square blocks.
This intermediate project provides an excellent introduction to block weaves for a weaver looking for that “next step” beyond twill. Its soft spring colours put a fresh spin on the traditional navy and white of Summer & Winter weaves, just in time for the snow to start melting!
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 04, 2021
In many ways, waffle weave is a delightfully straightforward weave structure. It is well-suited to four-shaft weaving, and uses a simple point twill threading. It gets its name from the simple fact that it looks like waffles--the cloth is made up of a grid of squares with high walls and deep centers, just like the little divots on a waffle that hold your syrup until you’re ready to eat. Each square is called a cell. The fascinating side of waffle weave is how those cells are created.
The center of each cell is a small dot of plain weave. Above and below that pick of plain weave, there are picks with small weft floats. Move one more pick away from the center in either direction, and there are even larger floats. The same pattern of increasingly large floats is also happening in the warp at the same time. Go one warp end to either side of that center point and there are small warp floats, then larger ones. These warp floats join the weft floats to create little squares, one inside of another. The largest square, made of the longest floats, makes the highest point of the wall of the cell.This is also the border between one cell and the next. The more shafts you’re using, the more layers you can add to these nesting sets of squares. That makes your cells even deeper and your cloth more three-dimensional.
And wow, is waffle weave ever three-dimensional! It might not look that way at first, though. As you weave, you’ll see the little cells building up, but they will be laying flat on the loom. Even after cutting off, you may be dismayed to see that your cloth looks as flat as a simple twill. But don’t despair! Waffle weave transforms enormously in wet finishing. As the fibre blooms or fulls and the cloth pulls together, the cells will deepen. Your flat grid of cloth will become a cushy, thick waffle.
That process of gaining depth through wet finishing really changes the dimensions of your cloth. Waffle weave has much higher shrinkage than other weave structures. Be sure to account for this when designing your own waffle projects. The Waffle Weave Towels that Bryce Wicks designed for Gather, for example, start with a warp that is 20 inches wide in the reed. If you were weaving 2/2 twill on a 20-inch wide warp, you might lose an inch to draw-in and another inch to shrinkage, leaving you with 18-inch wide finished cloth. But the waffle weave towels that start at 20 inches in the reed and at 15 inches after wet finishing! A full 25% is lost from the starting width.
That shrinkage is part of what gives waffle weave one of its best features: its absorbency. As the cells develop, they pull the weaving together into hills and valleys, bending threads up and down across the width and length of the cloth. This means that there’s a whole lot more surface area on waffle weave than there is on flatter cloth. Those threads pulled together into that cell are all available to absorb water. We’ve run trials on waffle weave in the studio where we poured a glass of water straight onto a waffle weave towel and straight onto twill. The difference is dramatic. The cells in the waffle weave hold the water, and the threads that make up the walls of those cells drink it up before it has a chance to go anywhere. For dish towels, hand towels, even bath towels, waffle weave is a dream.
Of course, body and texture are also welcome features on cloth that’s not meant to drink up spills. Waffle weave blankets and scarves are comfortable and cushiony. If you combine a tight sett with the shrinkage typical to waffle weave, you end up with a dense, warm, soothing blanket. With scarves, you might choose to wet finish a bit more gently. This lets the cells develop enough to create some texture, but leaves the cloth with more drape.
If you’re looking for a new challenge waffle weave is well worth a try, if only for the sheer fun of watching it transform in wet finishing. It is like nothing else you will weave!
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.