Weaving has been around for at least 29,000 years, so it's a rare occurence when something truly innovative comes along; but every once in a while modern technology brings us a surprise(1).
Extruded-string weaving is super fast and super easy. Many projects can be warped and woven off in less than a minute. In fact, you may never look at weaving the same way again...
In this project, I'll demonstrate how to weave a colorful and gauzy embellishment for a computer bag.
Extruded-string weaving is also great for shawls and scarves, wall-hangings, and other low-wear fabrics. Because of its low resistance to abrasion and low tensile strength, I would not recommend it for upholstery fabrics or rugs.
The following step-by-step tutorial is followed by a summary instructional video (1:26 minutes) at the end of this article.
Rigid-heddle, tapestry, or frame loom. You can also use this technique for off-loom weaving.
250 feet of extruded string (approximately one can.)
For the computer bag shown, I used Wacky String (443 ypp) by Unique in the blue, purple, pink, and green colorways.
Extruded string is sold under many brands, including Wacky String, Silly String, and others. The stickiness and tensile strength of the string varies from brand-to-brand. A good source for extruded string is a store that sells party supplies. It is available in a limited color palette, and does not take dye (either acid or cellulose) well.
Note: The sett varies across the project; this value is approximate.
I tend to weave my extruded-string projects in plain weave, because the bright colors and highly textured yarn are shown to best effect in a simple weave structure.
20 inches long and 10 inches wide (including fringe.)
The Wacky String brand of extruded string showed little shrinkage in the fabric when it was removed from the loom, 2-3% at most.
There was considerable shrinkage in the thickness of the extruded strings an hour after weaving, however, some as much as 50%. This property could be used to good effect in gauzy fabrics and lace weaves.
Note: Shake the can well before warping! This step is important to ensure a consistent thickness in the extruded string.
There are two theories of warping with extruded string:
1) Carefully and slowly extrude just the required amount of string and then place it where desired. This is the method demonstrated in the following step-by-step instructions.
2) Direct-application warping, in which the extruded string is applied directly to the warp. This method is demonstrated in the summary video.
Extrude a warp thread. Pressing firmly on the spray button will produce a fatter thread; pressing softly, a thinner one. I like to combine different weights and textures in my warp for more visual interest.
Note: This level of control over the thread is one of the unique advantages of extruded-string weaving. It's like having a yarn factory in a can!
Once you've extruded a warp thread of the proper length, place it onto the loom and press the ends of the yarn gently onto the loom to fix it in place.
Continue in this manner until all the warp threads are placed.
Because of the inherent stretchiness of extruded string, tension can be a problem in the warp threads, as shown in the picture below.
Fortunately, you can often correct tension issues by pulling the errant threads taut and tacking them back down to frame of the loom.
Tension problems are not dire in extruded string weaving in any case, because in this type of weaving: you don't use a shed!
That's right—no crossed warp threads to fix in the reed, no trying to squeeze your shuttle through a teensy shed, no worries about creating skips in your fabric, and best of all: no threading errors!
To weave the weft, simply extrude more string as you did for the warp, and lay the weft across the warp threads. The inherent stickiness of the extruded string will join the weft and warp and prevent unraveling in the finished cloth.
Joining in a New Weft
Extruded strings, by their nature, tend to be short. Fortunately weft joins are easy. Simply extrude a new string and overlap it where the previous weft ended. They'll stick together and it will be as if the join never happened.
Finishing and Attaching to the Bag
Trim any weft ends sticking out from the edge of the fabric with a pair of scissors. You do not have to worry about cutting close to the fabric's edge, the cloth will not unravel.
Trim the fringe to the desired length. You do not have to worry about protecting the fringe, it will not fray.
Take your extruded-string cloth from the loom (moving gently) and lay it onto your computer bag. If you've worked quickly and the string is still wet, it will adhere by itself.
If the cloth has had time to dry, you can hand-sew the fabric into place.
And there you have it! An embellished computer bag that's truly cutting-edge.
The following video (1:26 minutes) shows the end-to-end process of extruded-string weaving, including garment construction.
Syne Mitchell is the editor of WeaveZine, and is adventuresome enough to weave with anything that will stand still long enough. She also has a puckish sense of humor and loves a good April Fool's Day joke as much as the next person.
Model: Kira Clark