I love weaving bookmarks; they're small, make great gifts, and are a delightful palette for trying out new designs.
I wanted to weave bookmarks on a rigid-heddle loom, so my project would be portable. But the finest heddle I could find was 12 ends per inch, and I didn't want a bulky bookmark. What's a weaver to do?
Use two heddles and weave at 24 ends per inch!
My littlest rigid-heddle loom doesn't have a two-heddle upgrade kit, but with a bit of experimenting, I found I could add and weave with a second heddle—no trouble at all!
To give myself many design possibilities for my bookmarks, I used hand-painted yarn and color-and-weave. I was delighted with the results: delicate glowing, gem-like, bookmarks.
Note: With a short, narrow warp and step-by-step threading instructions, this is a great first project if you've never woven with two heddles before.
Warning! Weaving these bookmarks is addictive. Fortunately, they're a quick weave and—tucked into the pages of a favorite book—make a meaningful gift. You may find friends and family running off with these lovely little bookmarks if you're not careful. Of course, that gives you an excuse to weave more....
- Rigid-heddle loom with two 12-dent heddles (Or any loom capable of weaving plain weave at 24 ends per inch)
- Two shuttles
- Two 12-dent heddles
- 1-inch tall spacers to put between bookmarks (I make mine out of 3x5 cards.)
- Fine tapestry needle
- Two rubber bands (optional) to tie the heddles together during weaving
10/2 or 8/2 Tencel for warp and weft, 96 yards of hand-painted (WeaveZine Yarns, Emerald colorway) and 96 yards of black.
Makes five 8-inch-long bookmarks (allowing for 1-inch fringe and 22 inches of loom waste.)
Note: You can purchase yarn kits for this project, as well as a PDF or hardcopy version of the pattern on Etsy.
Plain weave (woven in the pinwheel color-and-weave pattern)
24 ends per inch
Threading the Heddles
Clamp the loom and peg to a table to lock them into place during warping.
Place the rear heddle on the loom. Locate the center of the heddle, and then count six slots to the right—half the width of the bookmarks—this is the first slot you will thread.
With both balls of yarn on the floor behind the loom, tie the yarn onto the back rod. Pull two loops of yarn (one black and one green) through the slot. There will be a total four threads.
Run the loops over to a peg 2 yards away.
Continue threading the slots in this manner (looping around the back rod each time) until 12 slots have been threaded.
There are now 2 black threads and 2 hand-painted threads in each slot.
Move one of the black threads in each slot to the hole to its right. The rear heddle is now completely threaded.
Add the front heddle to the loom.
Note: The way you do this depends on the type of loom. A Schacht Flip has two threading slots built into the design of the loom. The Ashford Knitter's Loom, Glimakra, and Kromski rigid-heddle looms have an add-on double-heddle kit you can purchase. For the Schacht Cricket (shown) and other types of looms, you may have to improvise to find a way to position two heddles during threading. The photos below show how I did it with the Cricket.
Take the three threads from the first slot or the rear heddle and thread them up as follows on the front heddle:
- The black thread goes into the slot directly in front of the slot on the back heddle.
- One of the hand-painted threads goes into the hole to the right.
- The other hand-painted thread goes into the slot to the right of the hole.
Continue threading steps 1-3 until all 48 threads have been threaded.
Some checks to make while threading the front heddle:
- Make sure you don't twist the threads around each other between the heddles. It's easy to accidentally pick up a thread from underneath another one and twist the two threads together.
- You should never have two threads coming from one slot on the back heddle and going into the same slot in the front heddle.
- You should only have one thread in each hole.
When you finish warping the front heddle, tie onto the front bar. Check your warp again for threading errors; they're easier to correct now than after you've started weaving. Do you get two clean sheds? Are they weaving plain weave?
Is the color order A A B B A A B B, where A are the black threads and B are the hand-painted threads?
(Note: For the purposes of checking the color pattern, ignore the first and last threads, which are half-patterns to balance out the pinwheels at the selvedge.)
The pinwheel pattern is woven "tromp as writ," this means that you weave the weft in the same color order as the warp: A A B B A A B B, and so on. To do this, you use two shuttles, one wound with the black thread and the other wound with the hand painted thread.
Starting with either color, weave a header until the warp is spread. Then insert an inch-long spacer (I cut mine from 3x5 cards.) This creates the fringe between bookmarks, and makes it easier to hemstitch the beginning of the first bookmark.
Tip: When I'm weaving fine cloth with two heddles, where both heddles move together as one (both up, or both down), I find it helpful to tie the two heddles together at the top with rubber bands. It keeps the heddles together and makes for faster weaving.
Start the bookmark with the black shuttle. Leave a long tail on the first pick, at least 4 times the width of the bookmark. You'll use this tail later to create the hemstitching that secures the weft.
Weave 2 picks of black, then 2 picks of hand-painted yarn. Continue alternating colors for the full 8-inch length of the bookmark.
When you are weaving with two shuttles, you should interlock the two wefts at the selvedge when you change from one color to the other. If you don't, you will end up with loose threads running along the selvedge, which is untidy and weakens the cloth.
To interlock the wefts, start both shuttles from the right and always lay the shuttle you just wove with to the front. Then, when you change colors, pick the new shuttle up from the bottom. If you do this consistently, your weft threads will interlock auto-magically and you won't have to think about it.
The process is illustrated in the following video:
To prevent the weft from unraveling when you cut the bookmarks off the loom, you need to secure it. You don't, however, want to use a bulky edge finish like knots or plied fringe, because you want the bookmarks to lay flat inside books.
Hemstitching is a decorative edge finish that is easy to do and lays flat. It's not as sturdy as twisted fringe or a triple-fold hem, but since we don't need to launder the bookmarks every week, it's a good choice for this project.
The steps for hem stitching are:
- Thread the long tail onto a tapestry needle.
- Dive under a set of threads (I used four for these bookmarks.)
- Wrap over and under the set of threads and come up from the bottom of the cloth. Exiting the cloth about 2-3 picks into the cloth (for stability) and in line with the end of the wrapped set of threads.
- Pull the thread to snug the wrap tightly.
- Repeat Steps 2-4 until you are at the last set of threads. Secure the hemstitching thread with a tiny extra stitch into the cloth and then take it down through the wrap to join the rest of the fringe. Snug tight.
Hemstitching is illustrated in the following video:
(Note: If you don't want to hemstitch, or you are using a fragile weft that won't stand up to the abrasion of hemstitching, you can secure the weft with a thin line of fabric glue. Make sure to use one that is flexible and clear when dry.)
Cut the cloth off the loom and loosely tie the raw warp ends into an overhand knot to protect them during washing. Do not cut the bookmarks apart yet.
Put the cloth into a zippered lingerie bag and add it to a load of delicates laundry (cold water, low agitation.) Or you can hand-wash the cloth in cold water.
Still in the lingerie bag, dry the cloth in the dryer (tumble dry, low heat) until the cloth is almost dry. Remove it from the lingerie bag and press the cloth with a steam iron until dry. Use steam and lots of pressure. This will flatten the threads into each other, making the cloth more stable and thin, and enhancing the shine of the Tencel.
Using a self-healing mat, ruler, and rotary cutter, cut the bookmarks apart, leaving 1/2 inch fringe at either end of each bookmark.
Your bookmarks are now done. Grab a cup of tea and a great novel, and enjoy!
The cool thing about this project, is that it begs for experimentation. It's a tiny amount of warp and weft, you have (almost) nothing to lose!
The easiest variation on the pinwheel warp is to simply weave the warp off with a single shuttle.
You get strikingly different looks depending on whether you use the black or the hand-painted thread as the weft.
Same Threading, New Color
Threading two heddles on a rigid-heddle loom can be a bit fiddly, especially if your loom doesn't have a lot a room between the heddles for your hands. But what if—after weaving two yards of green bookmarks—you want to weave a set of red-orange ones? Do you have to go through that threading thing all over again?
Happily not. You can wind a new warp and tie the new threads onto the old ones, preserving the threading pattern that you've already woven and tested.
Here's the basic procedure:
- Weave the first set of bookmarks.
- Cut the cloth off the loom in front of the heddles.
- Wind a new 48-thread, 2-yard warp. The easiest way to do this is on a warping board. If you don't have a warping board, position your peg two yards away from some object you can use as a second peg: chair leg, door knob, helpful family member, etc.
- Bring the new warp to the loom and carefully—without accidentally pulling the old threads out of the heddles—tie the new black threads to the old black threads and the new hand-painted threads to the old hand-painted threads. Tie a knot that won't slip or loosen, like a square knot.
- After the knots are all tied and secured, tension the new warp and wind on. If the threads are twisted, they should sort themselves out as they wind through the heddles. You can also "snap" the warp as it winds on to straighten things out.
- Tie onto the front. You're ready to weave with a new color!
It's relatively easy to convert the pinwheel double-heddle threading above into a log-cabin threading. Step-by-step instructions on how to do this are published in the WeaveZine PDF pattern, "Double-Heddle: Four Bookmarks on One Warp", available for purchase on Etsy.
Instead of weaving a color-and-weave pattern, you can use a single color of yarn for the warp and weft.
Thread the heddles exactly as shown above, ignoring any details about which color goes where.
If you choose a weft that is a radically different color than the warp (in this example a dark red weft on a green/blue warp) you may find that the finished cloth shows iridescence, changing color when you move the cloth or alter your viewing angle.
This is a delightful effect and well worth exploring, though you may have to experiment with colors a bit to find combinations that work.
Tiny projects, like these bookmarks, are a fun playground for trying out new weaving techniques. Read great weaving books, peruse online articles, look at cloth in your daily life, and get inspired!
Syne Mitchell is the editor of WeaveZine and the host of WeaveCast. She teaches rigid-heddle weaving at various venues around the country, including Madrona Winter Retreat and the John C. Campbell Folk School. She's always looking for ways to push the boundaries of this simple and easy-to-use loom. You can purchase her PDF patterns and hand-dyed yarns at her new Etsy store.