“The most common materials can become works of art if the ideas and the execution are approached creatively.”
–Jean R Laury quoted in Weaving: A Handbook for the Fiber Craftsman by Shirley E. Held.
Every late summer our neighbor would come over to help my mother prepare our clothes for the next school year. We’d see what fit, and what didn’t was passed down to the next girl to which Mildred made the necessary adjustments. Our hems went down or up depending on style and growth spurts.
I remember my mother telling about her mother making over clothes during the war, because fabric wasn’t readily available and money was scarce. Whole garments were dismantled and remade in the current style. Nothing wasted, everything saved.
How many of us today have a rag basket or button jar? Today I would guess most of us begin a project by going to the store. There’s never a question of not finding just what we’re looking for. The selection can be astounding. It is even more astonishing if we think that not long ago, just over 200 years, fabric was still made by hand. Starting with raw fiber such as wool, it had to be spun into yarn, dyed if color was desired, and finally woven and finished. With so much labor invested in each piece of fabric it is not surprising that it was mended and remade and used and reused until it had nothing more to give except to be cut up and rewoven.
Besides their humble beginnings, what I find appealing about textiles woven with rags is what happens to them when they are woven. Nothing is consistent, the surface is irregular and unpredictable. Fabric strips twists and fray, creating lively, dynamic color and texture. Even if their only past lives were as bolts of fabric at the store, even woven rags today hold little secrets about what they once looked like in their former selves.
This easy pocket trick is a fun way to weave a no-sew bag on a simple cardboard loom. The pocket is made by weaving around and around a form, first weaving across the front, then around to the back and back to the front and so on. After the pocket is woven, the flap is made by weaving back and forth on one layer only.
Materials: Orange print cotton quilting fabric cut in ½” (1.3 cm) strips, ¼ yard (23 cm) is sufficient for weaving the bag and the inserted herbal sachet pillow; 6 ½ yards (6 m) of 5/2 pearl cotton in avocado, matching orange sewing thread, antique pearl button with shank. You’ll also need herbs, either purchased or from your garden.
Equipment: Mat board cut to shape, weaving needle, sewing needle, scissors, rotary cutter, straight edge, cutting board, pencil, masking tape, tape measure. You’ll also need a steam iron and press cloth.
Resource: Fabric, yarn, quilting, and hobby stores stock fabric, yarn and thread. Look at health food stores in the bulk herb section for sachet herbs. Alternately, dry herbs from your garden for sachets.
Finished Size: 3 ¼” x 3” x ¼” (8.1 x 7.5 x 6 mm).
1. Cut mat board in a T-shape following the illustration. While the pocket could be woven straight up, the flap draws in somewhat during the weaving and doesn’t cover the top sufficiently. Increasing the flap by two threads on either side of the pocket solves this problem. Score the cardboard 3” (7.5 cm) from the end and fold up to form a square. Mark and cut slots every 1/8th inch (3 mm) slot along bottom and top edges (this will yield 8 warp ends per inch (2.5 cm).
2. Warp the loom. With the loom folded, attach the warp yarn with masking tape on the inside, lower right. (Note: It is important to begin at the correct place so that the proper number of warps result—an odd number of warps is necessary to make the over-under-over-under weaving work with each round of circular weaving.) Bring the warp end up on the short side, around a tab and then continue around to the back (long side) round the tab in a direct line. Continue on the long side down around to the front and around the second tab. Finish by winding the two short warps, carry the warp yarn across the top to the other side and wind the last two warps. Secure the end with masking tape. You will have a total of 29 warps.
3. With rotary cutter or scissors cut strips ½” (1.3 cm) wide. Thread one length onto a weaving needle. Leave a 3” (7.5 cm) tail. Weave from right to left, over-under, over-under across the front. Slide this first weft pick to the bottom edge of the weaving.
4. You’ll now begin weaving around and around. Turn the loom over and weave across the back from right to left and then around to the front. Continue weaving around and around until the short side is filled. To compress the weaving, after you’ve inserted the needle, but before drawing the weft through, push down with the needle to slide the previous rows down so that about 7 picks per inch (2.5 cm) are achieved. To finish, weave as close to the edge as possible so that the weaving will be as snug as possible. If you have trouble getting the needle through at the top, switch to a smaller needle and trim off 1/8” from the width of the fabric strip. When you can’t weave any further, cut off the weft and secure.
5. With a new length of rag, weave the flap by weaving back and forth only. Weave as close to the top edge as possible. When you can’t weave further, remove the weaving from the loom by sliding it out of the cardboard slots. Turn the weaving inside out and sew the weft tails into the weaving.
6. Finish the sachet by steam pressing with a damp press cloth and hot iron. Hem flap edge by turning under 1 row and hand stitching in place. Press. For closure, attach a small pearl button with a shank in the center of the pocket, ½” (1. 3 cm) from the top edge. For sachet, make a pillow 2 ¾” (7 cm) square and stuff with herbs and insert in woven pocket.