The Black & White Sampler

I finally began to weave the black and white sampler that had initiated my journey into weaving towards the end of July 2012. I started by scaling up the drawing given in the book to make a cartoon to fix behind the weaving as a guide to the design. I slavishly measured and copied the cartoon precisely as it was in the book – this later proved to be something of a mistake!

All went well at first. Then I came to this bit:

Black and white sampler 1

The book described very well how to do the joins between the colours. Each time there was a new section to join it talked you through a new joining technique, but what it did not tell you was how to cope with joining all the sections together at one point. How hard can it be? I wove, undid, wove and undid countless times before I got it sussed and was on my way again.

A few inches later I realised my mistake in copying the illustration too slavishly instead of applying logic. Take a look at the next section shown here:

Blacj and White 2

Because I had copied the drawing exactly as illustrated instead of dividing the bottom section accurately into three, when I came to do the diagonals for the triangles they didn’t line up properly so the next section (the small triangles and uprights) wouldn’t work as per the original design and I ended up having to re-design the section (hubby had some input here too) – or I could have undone the whole piece and started all over again, but I didn’t really want to do this! You might like to compare my version with the original design in my previous post ‘The Nail Frame Loom’.

There were many other times when I had to unweave sections as I progressed through the sampler and weaving it was a major learning curve but I eventually finished it in October 2012. Here it is:

Sampler completeI was pleased with my efforts even if it is far from perfect. It was more complicated than I had anticipated and there is no way I could have done it without having worked through Kirsten Glasbrook’s sampler (plus a few others) first – see previous post.

The most important thing I learned was patience; weaving is a slow process and if you want to get it right you have to be prepared to unweave what could be several hours of painstaking work.

I also discovered I was hooked and I could not wait to commence the next project, which brings me back to the Big Beastie; the subject of my next post.


In order to properly learn and practice the techniques needed to weave the Black and White Sampler I bought a book: ‘Tapestry Weaving” by Kirsten Glasbrook. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for a beginner. The main part of the book talks the reader through weaving a simple sampler which teaches all the basic techniques. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, clearly explained and well illustrated. This is followed by other projects for which you can copy the designs and there is a gallery of Kirsten’s own work, which is most inspiring.

In order to weave the sampler in the book I bought a small frame loom. This came in the form of two pairs of frame pieces which you slot together and were very reasonably priced from George Weil Craft Supplies, who had taken over Fibrecrafts, where I originally bought my materials for the Black and White Sampler. You can buy these frame pieces in a variety of different lengths to make a frame to suit your own requirements. Mine is 20 ins by 14 ins.

One advantage of this kind of frame is that, having no nails, you can wrap the warp round to any number of ends per inch (epi) or per cm that you like. Also you can either wind the warp round fewer times and use the front and back warps together. For example, wrap the warp round at 4 epi, then combine the front and back to make 8 epi. Or, as I usually do, you can warp up to your desired sett and having woven a tapestry on one side then turn the frame over to weave on the other side. You don’t even need to buy such a frame, an old picture frame will do. Search for one in a charity shop if you haven’t got one!

Glasbrook SamplerHere is the sampler from Kirsten Glasbrook’s book still on the frame loom. The warp yarn is set at 4 epi. Another advantage of this kind of frame is that it is very portable. This photo was taken on board our sailing boat as I had taken the project away with me to work on.

When I learn a new craft I am always keen to work my own designs as soon as possible so having finished Kirsten’s design I turned the frame loom over and worked a similar design of my own using the same techniques for further practice.

For both these samplers I used yarn from my stash for the weft – like most people who knit I tend to have a large quantity of left-over yarns of various types. I am also a sucker for buying up useful quantities of yarns from charity shops, handed in no doubt by other knitters keen to reduce their stash. For these samplers I used anything from 3 ply to aran weight yarns with some rug/carpet wool thrown in for good measure, doubling up on the number of strands used if I needed to increase the thickness.

Two samplers.Here are the two completed samplers ready for hanging. I used a similar colour scheme for my own one so that they would look like a pair when hung together. It was only after I had finished these that I made a start on the Black and White sampler that had so inspired me.

But I had not finished with Kirsten Glasbrook’s book, which showed pictures of her large floor standing loom. In the gallery section were picture of tapestries completed on this large loom, some measuring 4 or 5 feet wide by, well almost as long as you like. Looking through this gallery I began to dream up some large designs of my own, for which I would need a large loom. This resulted in the purchase of yet another loom – my Big Beastie!

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and will continue with this saga after the festivities!

The Nail Frame Loom

Nail Frame LoomHere is the nail frame loom which my husband finally made for me in the spring of last year (2012), warped up and ready to use. It measures 2 ft (60 cm) by 3 ft 6 ins (105 cm) and has nails along the top and bottom  which you  wind the warp thread round. These are set at half-inch intervals, staggered in a zig-zag pattern so that you can warp is at either 4 or, using the warping yarn double, 8 epi (ends per inch).

The most difficult part of warping is keeping the tension even and firm. I was so concerned about this the first time I warped it that I actually pulled it too tight (even bending one or two of the nails!), which caused a few problems when weaving. I have learnt my lesson and do not now pull it so tight. I have come to the conclusion that the actual tension of the warp is down to individual preference, so long as it is tight enough to weave on, and not something to get too stressed about.

The loom has no means of support and can be a bit cumbersome to use. I find it best to stand it on a stool and lean it against the back of an armchair. Then I sit on an adjustable stool to work so that I can raise myself up gradually as I progress up the weaving. I think the next project to involve my husband with is the design of some sort of stand for it.

Original Black and Wite SamplerI thought you might also like to see a picture of the sampler that started it all off so I have scanned this in from my ex-library book. You may like to compare it with my own version which I will post later.

I didn’t actually start to weave this straight away. While my husband was making the loom I read and re-read the instructions for each section of the sampler and found that it wasn’t as straight forward as I had first thought, some areas and techniques did not seem to be fully explained in the text. Considering that the sampler only occupied one chapter of a book about various types of weaving this is not really surprising but I decided I needed to  know more about the techniques involved and have a bit of practice before I attempted such a major enterprise so I bought another book and another loom…


Leap Forward

Leap forward several years. Years spent involved with the day-to-day running of our small holding, where we have, at various times, grown vegetables to Soil Association standards, kept chickens and goats (producing milk and yoghurt for a local Health Food Shop), raised pigs and kept sheep as well as ponies and horses and, of course, dogs and cats.  This is the time that I did most of my cross stitch and needlepoint work, but all thoughts of weaving faded into the background!

Then the children grew up and we decided to downsize. We sold the large Georgian farmhouse and some of the land to move a mile down the road to the small town where we now live. After a few years in the new house, spent refurbishing and extending my husband was one day rummaging in the loft when he found a bag of wool and asked “What’s this?”

I took a look, “Oh,” I said, “that’s the wool for that weaving I was going to do. You were going to make me the loom to make it on.”

“What loom?” he said, “I don’t remember that!” So I had to hunt for the book and show it to him. This time he actually set to and began to make it for me.

While I was waiting I once more got out the Spears children’s loom and decided to weave a scarf from the project booklet that came with the loom. I used some 4 ply yarn that I unravelled from a jumper I had been knitting for my eldest son when he was quite small but never finished. The photos are of the work in progress and the finished scarf.

Scarf on Loom          Finished Scarf

Inkle Weaving

In my lovely ex-library book there was a chapter on Inkle Weaving so when I bought the materials for the black and white sampler I also bought an Inkle Loom. While waiting for my nail frame loom I decided to put this into use too and wove a couple of braids:

Inkle braids
Inkle Braids


Inkle braids are warp faced weaving, whereas Tapestry is weft faced. For any readers that don’t know, the warp is the up and down strands that are fixed in place and the weft is what you use to do the  side to side weaving. With cloth-weaving the warp and weft have equal weight in the finished piece and the yarn used is usually the same, this allows the cloth to be flexible. With weft faced fabric such as Tapestry the warp is simply the structure on which you weave and the weft usually completely covers it to create the pattern or picture. With warp faced weaving it is the warp that is important and the warp threads are put on with coloured yarns in the correct order to produce the pattern you require. You cannot see the weft in the finished piece. Both Tapestry and Inkle weaving produce a less flexible fabric.

So far I have only woven relatively simple Inkle braids but never-the-less I think the finished product looks most effective. I am amazed at the great variety of patterns it is possible to weave in this way if only I could find a use for them! Belts, bracelets and guitar straps can all be woven, along with handles for handbags and decorative bands to sew onto other products. However if you want to create a bigger piece entirely from Inkle bands you have to weave lots of them and sew them together and this seems to me a rather slow and inefficient process and requires a lot of warping up.

Around the same time I also bought some cards to have a go at Card Weaving; so far I haven’t tried it but I hope to do so at some time in the future and to do more Inkle waving too so watch this space.