CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Inkle Weaving with Annie MacHale

The inkle loom is a humble tool in the wide world of weaving. It only has two harnesses, makes a warp-faced fabric and most inkle looms are limited to a woven width of about 3”. Yet within these narrow constraints, there exists limitless possibilities for combining colors and creating patterns. You can add an extra heddle or simply use your fingers and a pickup stick to create many complex patterns. There are supplementary wefts, supplementary warps, pickups, painted warps, and doubleweave techniques. You can add thicker wefts alternating with thin ones for a “rep weave” effect, create loops or fringes along the edges, add rya knots for texture or add beads to either the warp or weft!  Weave open slits or leno lace into your band or create a woven tube. If you so desired, your inkle loom could become a frame to hold a narrow tapestry or card-woven project .

An assortment of Celtic Knot and related designs

In many cultures of the world in the past and present, woven bands are used daily for practical purposes. We can take inspiration from many of these to create items that we can cherish for our own use or give as gifts. Weaving on an inkle loom is so quick and convenient that you could easily complete a project (or several) in a single day. What can you do with a woven band? Follow this link to see my growing list. http://aspinnerweaver.blogspot.com/p/uses-for-woven-band.html
One of the most common questions I hear is “Can you join them together to make wider items?”  Why not?!  This makes the uses for an inkle band truly endless.

In over three decades since I began weaving on inkle looms, I’ve produced miles of woven bands. (I’m sorry I haven’t kept an accurate accounting.)  Although I’ve tried other types of weaving, it is the inkle loom which holds my heart. Of the above mentioned techniques, I have tried many. From the list of things to make with a band, I have created many. Yet, there are still numerous things I have not done and I estimate that further explorations will occupy me for all the rest of my years.

My life story is built around inkle weaving. Many of my friends and acquaintances and even my husband were met at guilds, classes, conferences, art and craft shows and living history events. The story began when I was seventeen and attended a crafts fair at a historical site where I saw a woman weaving on an inkle loom. She had a loom that was portable and which produced such useful items as the belts I purchased from her!  My love of patterns and practical nature were two traits that were happily married into a lifelong pursuit when I found the inkle loom.

Annie with her son Max at the Pacific Primitive Rendevous 2009

Determined to give it a try, I visited the local library and checked out a book on inkle weaving which included plans for building a loom. My many-talented father had all the necessary tools and skills. I’m forever grateful to him for helping me build that first inkle loom. He supervised, but mostly I did the work. My current collection includes 8 inkle looms (and a rigid heddle). I run sort of a foster home for orphaned looms; they come and they go. Different sizes and shapes have particular uses that they are most suited for, mostly because of their dimensions.

Demonstrating at the Santa Cruz Handweavers education booth CNCH 2010

If there are indeed two types of weavers, the color/pattern types and the structure/technique types, I fall into the former category. Each new project is, for me, an opportunity to play with color and rejoice in the interesting results. Not every one is a winner. Well, then, on to the next. It’s an inkle loom. It doesn’t mean a huge commitment of time to weave it off and begin anew.

Most of my woven items are put up for sale and this drives my production. I like to find what my customers will use and enjoy and that is what I weave. Custom orders can be a lot of fun. My customers give me the opportunity to manifest their visions. How cool is that? You need some clothing trim? A strap to hold down your bench seat cushions? A purse strap? Shoelaces? A hatband or suspenders?  Want to choose your colors?

You could say that I have found a niche market that includes interesting characters from history. About twenty years ago, I was fortunate indeed to stumble upon a group of folks who were re-enactors of the American Fur Trade Era. The men were wearing wide woven sashes, and I began following them around and asking questions. The sashes are 3-6” wide and wound around the waist twice to serve as a back brace while carrying heavy loads and were widely used by mountain men and trappers. Straps are also used for shoulder bags, rifle slings and carrying a horn filled with black powder to go along with the rifle. These items are not readily bought or traded for in modern times. Lucky me to have walked into this camp. Eventually, I got to know the group and started participating in the “Rendezvous” gatherings. And best of all, I married their leader who was an admirer and collector of my weaving. He continues to be a great supporter of my craft.

Inkle scarves inspired by colored corn

Inkle scarf

Inkle scarf

So I go back and forth between the past and the present. On one hand, living history re-enactments are fun to attend and I enjoy setting up the canvas tent and “trading”. Then, on the other hand, I am busy weaving myself into the world wide web, where I have joined guilds, clubs and weaving groups. I keep busy there with an online shop and social networking for fun and business. This has created an even larger web of friends for me. Please join me if you like, read my blog and share in my ongoing stories of inkle weaving’s inspiration and creation at http://aspinnerweaver.blogspot.com/

I can also be found on the following sites as ASpinnerWeaver: Etsy, Facebook,
Flickr, Ravelry, Yahoo Inkle Weaving Group, and Weavolution.

Next, unique basketry