The Impetuous Weaver Weaves with Handspun, part 3
This installment in the Weaving with Handspun series is really more of a show-and-tell than an instructive post, since the project idea comes straight from another blog, and needs no improvement!
The original post can be found here. It's one of those traditional weaver's ideas, diagrammed and concisely explained. So, I will just run through my variations on this excellent idea, and hopefully inspire a whole swarm of ideas.
The really fun thing about this bag project is the versatility. All that's required is one long strip of fabric- from there, the variations in size, proportion, color, and weave structure are infinite! (And that doesn't even account for knitting or crocheting the strip, or using purchased fabric or scarves, or wide ribbon. . . ) You might even have an abandoned scarf project lying around, that just didn't turn out the way you wanted. Perhaps that's because it was destined to become a clever little bag!
You can make this bag with whatever loom you have- the strip only needs to be roughly 2 to 6 inches wide, and plenty long relative to the width. The width of the strip becomes the handle/strap width of the bag, so you don't want it too wide. Though part of the fun is that this is one long strip, you could certainly seam together shorter strips from a tapestry loom, or join multiple pin-loom squares to achieve the length.
I've wanted to try out this idea since I first saw it years ago, and finally settled on a project last winter for some holiday gifts. With the comparatively wide strap, this makes a comfortable water-bottle sling, perfect for the couple of people in my life who do a lot of walking.
Just simple, narrow strips! Sadly, these are the only photos I have of the water-bottle bags.
The required calculations are straightforward:
- the width of the strip needs to be one fourth of the needed circumference of the bag (plus seam allowances if desired).
for the water-bottle sling, the circumference is 10 inches, so the width of the piece needs to be 2.5 inches, which I rounded up to 2.75 inches so it's not too snug. I sewed these edge-to-edge with no seam allowances, so didn't add any extra for that.
- the length of the strip needs to be the length of the strap, plus four times the height of the bag, plus hems and (optional) extra for inside pocket. And don't forget to add loom waste!
This project is also great for using up stash. It really doesn't take much yarn, and stripes are particularly effective as they travel their bendy path around the bag and strap. I used some Carpet Warp, Pima 100, and various other cotton yarns from my stash, in colors to please the recipients. Using a 10-dent reed for thicker yarns and a 12-dent reed for slightly thinner yarns, each of these was warped and woven within a day, and then sewn during waiting moments in the car or on the bus. Very quick, for handmade gifts!
To sew without a seam allowance, poke the needle through weft loops, alternating back and forth between each of the edges to be seamed. The seaming yarn then lies parallel to the warp threads.
Now on to the handspun part, as foretold.
Spin Off Magazine hosts a yearly spin-along (via Ravelry) each spring, and this year's category was totes- participants could make any type of bag or container, using yarn spun during the spin-along. Hooray for another chance to work up one of these clever bags! And in handspun this time- it gets less and less scary the more I do it.
After many fairly unsuccessful attempts at spinning cotton over the years, something had finally *clicked* into place, and I was starting to feel like cotton-spinning was no longer out of reach for me. So, to really cement the skill into my hands, I decided to spin cotton for my handwoven bag. These group spin-alongs are great for accountability, inspiration, and encouragement, and therefore a perfect opportunity to challenge oneself.
Directly after promising to check my stash later at home, I walked right across the storeroom and selected a brand-new rainbow of cotton fiber, plus an undyed white to set it off. So much for stash-busting! Sometimes one has to bribe oneself into taking on a challenge.
This pretty little basket of fiber could travel from room to room with me, and many weeks' worth of idle moments eventually added up to a pretty little basket of 2-ply cotton yarn.
The learning curve is visible in the individual skeins, each one more smooth than the one before, but they weren't so different that I couldn't use them together in this project. The last skein I spun was the undyed white, and it looks a lot like 5/2 matte cotton, but with those nice little imperfections that reveal the maker's hand. Very satisfying!
Each of the dyed skeins is half an ounce, and the undyed skein is two ounces.
My plan was to make a somewhat wider bag, with a shorter strap to wear over my wrist or forearm, as a portable project bag, so the calculations were as follows:
warp width: 5 inches (almost 6 inches in reed), expecting shrinkage to 4 inches or so, for a bag circumference of 16 inches
warp length: 20 inches for strap, plus four times 9 inches for body, plus 1 inch for each hem, plus 12 inches of loom waste, equals 64 inches. Added some extra for luck, making about a 72-inch warp.
There is so much yarn left over, and the next idea is already brewing!
Of course, being a rainbow, the weaving was compelling every step of the way, and it went smoothly. There was no breakage or stretching of the yarn, and it was really just a joy to weave. I only slowed down every now and then to admire the smooth, soft fabric.
At the midpoint, which would become the top of the strap, I took a little break from all-white weft, and wove a little color gamp for fun. Once the full length was woven, there was still a little warp left, so I opted for a wee inside pocket to use the remainder of the precious handspun warp. The cut and tied rainbow ends were so cute, I folded the opposite hem outwards to show them off.
Shrinkage after washing was less than I had guessed, which was fine for this project. I hadn't done any sampling since the finished size didn't need to be exact. Also, though I know I should have pre-washed the many-colored skeins before weaving them together, Arachne smiled upon me anyway, and none of the vibrant rainbow colors bled onto the undyed portion, or onto each other.
As well as being a useful on-the-go project bag, my rainbow bag is perfect for carrying two water bottles to work. Even with all of that weight, it is very comfortable on my forearm due to the wide strap, and I use it every day!
I don't think I will ever again hesitate to weave with handspun yarn. All fear of cutting the yarn, or "wasting" the yarn just dissolves when the result can be so lovely and satisfying. There is just something special and rewarding about using one's own handspun yarn. More than half of the yarns remain, and I cannot wait to get them onto the loom. I encourage anyone to take the leap, and reap the rewards of weaving your own handspun!