I love this time of year. Everything is in bloom, colors and textures abound. One of my favorite ways to capture memories is by incorporating some of nature’s wondrous colors and textures into a weaving.
Weaving is the method by which two sets of threads are interlaced to make cloth. Practiced since ancient times, weaving together fibers with different textures can produce a visually pleasing design. By combining botanicals with items found around the home, this organic wall hanging offers a fresh, colorful reminder of times past.
This is a really fun activity to do with kids too!
Have you ever wondered how spiders came to be called “arachnid” named after the beautiful maiden Arachne? According to a story in Greek mythology, Arachne, who happened to be an excellent weaver, challenged Athena, goddess of wisdom and crafts, to a weaving contest. When Athena saw that Arachne’s weaving was more beautiful, she transformed Arachne into a spider. Maybe this is why spiders weave such beautiful webs!
Although weaving is an ancient craft, the principles of weaving have not changed through the ages. Modern textile mills produce cloth for everyday use much more rapidly than ancient peoples did by hand, but many people still weave the old-fashioned way. Weavers today continue to embrace the craft as a form of artistic expression, creating wall hangings, clothing, rugs or other woven objects suggestive of paintings.
BUILDING THE LOOM
Looms have been used for centuries to make cloth. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are designed to hold the threads tight and parallel to each other. Before you make a loom, go for a walk and find an interesting branch, about 18″ in length, for the top of your weaving. You may want to limit your branch to 1″ or less in diameter to keep it in proportion with the natural weaving materials. Of course, you can change the size of your branch, just keep in mind that the length of the branch and the length you want your weaving to be will determine how big to build your loom.
Use 1″ x 2″ lumber or something similar to build your loom. Cut two lengths of wood to measure 16″, for the top and bottom of the loom. Cut two lengths of wood to measure 20″, which will be the sides of the loom. Nail or glue the boards into a rectangle shape. Then, nail a row of nails 1″ apart along the 16″ top and bottom of the frame.
THREADING THE WARP
To thread the warp (creating the vertical, or lengthwise, threads of the loom), tie twine around one end of the branch with a slip knot, without catching the frame, and go down to the first nail, hook it with the twine and come back up around the branch. Lift up the branch and go around it with the twine each time you come up from the nails. This will keep it independent from the frame. Continue forming your warp for weaving by looping the twine around each nail, pulling the twine reasonably taut as you go. Tie the branch firmly to the frame with another slipknot when you are finished threading it, so that the branch rests firmly against the row of nails.
WEAVING WITH NATURE
Take a walk in the woods or in your garden. Collect botanicals such as moss, attractive strips of bark, twigs, long grasses, leafy vines and small flowers. Some good choices from your garden are vinca minor, pansies and lobelia. You can even work in colorful touches such as berries, pansies, violets or miniature roses still on their stems. Next, rummage in your craft closet and gather interesting items such as over-sized wooden beads with large holes, strips of fabric, carded wool, dried corn husks, string, twine, nubby yarn or whatever inspires you. As you are gathering items, think about a color scheme so that the finished weaving is harmonious.
Begin by weaving your items into the warp in an in-and-out pattern. These materials are called the weft. Push the materials towards the top of the weaving with your fingers as you go along, keeping the rows close together. This is called tamping. While weaving, make sure that successive rows are in an opposing in-and-out arrangement to get the proper weave. Every few inches change your weaving materials, creating a pleasing pattern. When changing materials, simply cut off any excess and work the tail back into the weaving for a clean finish. Don’t forget to incorporate a bead or tuck a flower into the design every now and again.
End the weaving a few inches short of the bottom of the loom. The remaining inches of the twine warp will create a fringe. When the wall hanging is completed, cut the branch from the frame and lift the piece from the nails. Hang your weaving with a length of twine tied to each end of the branch, forming a hanging loop. Let it air dry. Pull the twisted fibers of the fringe apart if you desire. Once the woven materials are completely dry, you can spray them with a light coat of acrylic to seal and protect your design.
Take the loom on a family vacation and design a weaving with natural elements indigenous to the area, creating a tapestry of memories to be enjoyed for years to come. Why not try weaving with seaweed and seashells!
Caution: depending on where you are, it may not be an offense to pick the ‘Four Fs’ – fruit, foliage, fungi or flowers – if the plants are growing wild and it is for your personal use and not for sale. However, never pick any plant in protected areas, that are listed on a rare or endangered plant list, never uproot anything, and do not pick anything from someone else’s yard without permission.