Let’s Use Those Silk Scraps and Have Fun with Pin Weaving

Julie Yonge © 2009

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Recently, my Bee group was on an outing checking out the local bead and fabric specialty stores, when they saw a project board in a bead shop that lent itself very well to a project we had been discussing giving a try; that of “pin weaving.”

As all avid crazy quilters know, our art lends itself to many, many other artistic venues and imaginative techniques; pin-weaving was one we had not, as of yet, tried. A new member of our Bee had brought an example of a pin-weaving project she had done years ago; a small neck pouch, and that was all it took for us to jump right in. Pin-weaving is a nice way to weave without having to use a loom, and if done on a foam-core project board it is portable and lightweight.

Pin weaving can be done on so many different scales from miniature to quite large and utilizes an endless variety of fabrics and other textiles. It lends itself to lots of different project ideas, from purses and wearable items, to fiber-art projects and lace. A number of the ladies in my Bee group decided to use the project boards purchased at the bead shop to weave various yarns and silk fabrics to create a background fabric to be used to make purses.

Being the “maverick” that I am when it comes to trying to things, I decided to make my own project board as I wanted to make a type of wall-hanging which would be larger than the project board found at the bead store. I figured anything I came up with would be fun to make and a good learning experience to boot! I took a large piece of foam core board and using two-side tape, laid down one of my Olfa cutting mats on it (this isn’t really necessary, but I felt it would help me keep my project squared up as I wove). That helped me to measure across the top and bottom in quarter inch increments where large “T” pins were inserted. It would be just as easy to just mark the increments and draw lines on your foam board to help you stay lined up. I used a strong (upholstery) thread and ran it up and down over each of the T-pins to make a warp as if on a loom. This particular thread was used because I didn’t want it to necessarily been seen in my final piece, but any strong cord, decorative yarn, etc. could be used; even something that you may want to be quite visible to compliment your weave. I kept this warp thread as taut as I could without disturbing the T-pins and tied it off at the last T-pin on the bottom.

I gathered together all types of textures and fabrics to be used in my weaving: silks, cottons, yarns of various textures, metallic threads, linen, scrim; even throwster’s silk waste. I began at the top of the piece, running yarns over and under each warp thread horizontally across the board.

There are several tools available at hobby stores that can better aid you in weaving your threads and fibers through your warp thread. I found a set of upholstery needles which were quite long and have large eyes very handy, as well as some plastic tapestry needles for eyelash and super bulky yarns. The latter were really helpful since they also had bent ends.

Why would that help you ask? Well, it made it easier to slightly lift the warp threads and go under them. Finding this out, I slightly bent the ends of my upholstery needles too, which was easy to do since they were metal. I also found that using a wide-toothed hair comb to push my horizontally running fibers up and together helped a great deal to keep them in place as I designed my piece. As I mentioned above, I began my piece by weaving under and over each individual warp thread to get a good tight-textured weave, but as I began to design and use different fabrics and fibers, I changed my weaving patterns and would, for example, go over three, under two for a while, or maybe over two and under two. The design of my piece dictated my weave. I tried to make sure that my horizontal fibers did not end at the end of a horizontal row, but instead wrapped back around and ended within the piece so they could be tied off or sent to the back of the ever-growing fabric when a new fiber was added. I didn’t want to have fibers dangling out at the edge, and this technique also helped the sturdiness of the piece. That could be done in the interest of design, however, remembering that once you take the woven piece off the project board you may have to baste the edges or something like that to keep it intact. It is important to note here that you don’t want to pull these fabrics and fibers too tightly at the edges or else your piece will begin to pull to the center as you work downward. A really nice thing about pin-weaving, is you can always add on top of fibers you have already laid down for further interest and texture. As I reached the bottom of my piece, I made sure that I filled the area completely with fibers and fabric all the way to the bottom T-pins because once removed from the T-pins there would be some give. I chose to have some loose, interesting textures at the bottom of my piece since it will be a wall-hanging. I also chose to add some beads, buttons and other items of interest to the piece. I left my woven piece soft and loose after removing the T-pins, but if you want to create a purse, for example, it can be helpful to iron on a lining fabric to the back of your woven piece with something like Mistyfuse to keep it intact for stitching on the machine.

This was a really fun project and lent itself to working in a comfortable chair in the evening while in front of the TV. Here are a few pictures to motivate you to give pin-weaving a try!

As crazy quilters we all have a lot of bits and pieces of fabrics and fibers that lend themselves to making a pin-woven fabric. This technique could easily be used to make woven fans for crazy quilt blocks, a creative background fabric for a crazy quilt block or an interesting ribbon lace…the sky’s the limit and I plan to do some more experimentation – won’t you join in the fun!


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