Weaving magic: tension baskets

Tension Baskets

Tension baskets or tension trays are so called because act of weaving the materials together creates stresses that hold the structure together.  A variety of woody materials lend themselves to this process. These bendable woody fibres could be willow, hedge row material such as osiers and young twigs  and shoots of trees.  The baskets can then be decorated with natural embellishments. In this workshop we will be using hand dyed reed of different sizes to create an easy functional basket. The skills learned here can be transferred to make similar baskets with other materials.

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Vary the components to make new and beautiful designs.

Maria Curtis has been making baskets for over 20 years.  She enjoys the amazing diversity of materials that can be used in basket making as well as the many  varieties and  types of baskets that can be made.  While she sometimes uses reed fibre, she likes to  weave with a mixture of locally harvested material. She has taught several classes and enjoys the creativity that happens in the workshops.




Inspire your inkle loom creativity!

Inkle looms come in different sizes. At left Alison weaves on a small table top version; to the right (top) is a double-sided inkle loom and (below) a floor model that can also be used as a warping board.]

Learning how to set up your inkle loom will open your eyes to what can be created on these little looms. Unlike its big brother, a multi-shaft floor loom that consumes a lot of space in your studio – and don’t forget all the extras, such as a bench, warping reel, bobbin winder, shuttles and cones of yarn that come with it – most inkle looms are quite happy to sit on a table. There they’re close at hand and easy to use once you know How to Warp an Inkle Loom.

Just imagine what you can weave – camera straps, book marks, shoe laces, small bags, trim for garments, ribbons…! 

Before you can do any of those projects, the first step will be to tie heddles for the loom.  These are the loops that hold half of the warp in place.  Because you’ll be weaving narrow bands with no gaps between the warp threads, it’s important to choose a fine smooth yarn for the heddles.  Once they’re made, you’ll move on to dressing the loom.  In this workshop, we’ll be using a variegated yarn for the warp.  That means we won’t be fussing with cutting and joining different colours in order to create certain patterns in the woven cloth.  What appears instead in your first warp-faced band will be random designs determined by chance:  the spacing of the hues in the yarn and the length of the warp on the loom.   Some of them may inspire future bands where the patterns are deliberately chosen for each piece.

From the time the warp threads are secured in the heddles (left) to the last shots of weft in the hem (right), it’s fun to weave an inkle band with a variegated yarn.

To give you some idea of the variety possible, take a look at the four bands shown here.  Anyone who has seen what I weave on my other looms will not be surprised to learn that the more complex bands in those images are the result of different pick-up techniques, all of them possible on a simple two-shaft inkle loom.

Alison Irwin

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When more thought is given to the woven design, intricate patterns can be created with careful planning and pick-up.