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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Miniature Pottery Flower Vases... Garden Clubs Anyone?

Spring!  I am getting ready for my spring shows. I make and sell thousands of my mini pots every year. 

When I demonstrate pottery-making at fairs, I run into a lot of folks who want tiny pots for the fairs' Miniature Flower Arrangement section of the agricultural department.  Some garden enthusiasts have asked if I would come to their garden club with my mini vases while a presentation of miniature flower arrangements is being offered.

Sure!  I pick weeds for tiny arrangements or those little rose buds that accidentally get clipped while pruning.  It is amazing how many tiny flowers are under your feet if you get down there and look! 

What about little pots for those tiny flowers the children and grandchildren bring you.  Put a tiny vase above your sink... so pretty while you are washing dishes.  Place them at your table plate settings for yourself or when guests come to a dinner or tea party.  And enter them in your local fair.

You can only buy these at my shows which are listed on my web site, or have me come to your garden club this spring just as the pretty little flowers are blessing our yards!

Scores of styles, clays, colors, patterns are hand thrown and decorated... from 1" to 3" tall, something for everyone!

Contact me at  to schedule a meeting in or near Connecticut, or come visit me at a show.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Shaker Rug with Chevron Twists and Woven Band

Sometimes my head hurts. Things to make pop into my head almost every minute and there is only so much time in the day.  I am a potter, sew period clothing, pluck my angora bunny, card my friends wool, boil maple syrup, fix this old house and barn and weave.... it's exhausting...but great fun.

This past week, I finally got time to weave rug number 11 on my new old barn loom. This time, I wanted to weave a chevron twist into my rug and attach a plain weave band to the bindings.

The Shakers here in New England wove rag rugs which incorporated a Chevron pattern. Hancock Shaker Village was active in the early 1800s. They also had small looms to weave bands that they used in chair seats, ties and for finishing the edges on their rugs.

Hancock Shaker Museum, Pittsfield MA
Hancock Shaker Museum, Pittsfield MA

Hancock Shaker Museum, Pittsfield MA

This newest rug is wool with cotton chevron twists and a cotton, plain weave band. The finished rug is 26" x 44". 

I made the twists as I wove.  I only needed 10 feet for each section of four twists, so I knotted the end of 3 colors together and tied them to a curtain hook on my upstairs hall window, walked down the hall 10 feet, twisted the three strands together with my fingers into an S twist, wound this onto a shuttle and wove in the four rows of S twist.  On this rug, I inserted a row of my brown wool and then repeated twisting another piece of  three colored yarns into a Z pattern.  Finished my middle section of the rug in wool. Then repeated the twists starting with the Z pattern rows, row of brown wool and then the S pattern rows.
The shakers liked to use a plain weave band, unlike the Europeans who favored the warp faced bands. Keeping the threads spread apart is tricky on a band loom, there is no beater so my warp kept wanting to scrunch in. Still, I like the way my bands came out.

The band was woven with two shuttles. Alternating two rows of red thread and then two rows of blue thread.

The first band I used green in my warp which came out too dark, a nice plaid, but too dark.

The second band I dyed some of my Webs 8/2 white cotton with a strong tea bath to tone down the white.

Here is the threading  pattern.

And the finished rug. I tend to give my work names, this one is
"In the Forest". It would look great in a cabin next to a wood stove in winter with the wind and snow outside blowing.

And so, on to another rug... more chevrons this time!

New to weaving?  Weaving is so easy. Once you get any loom warped!  There are several ways to warp a specific loom. See what works best for you.  My barn loom was warped a couple of years ago front to back and I keep adding about 12 yards to my warp and pulling them through the beater and heddles when I run out of warp.   The small looms for bands are easier.  Having less threads to warp. I usually only warp 6 to 12 feet at a time.  I use my bands for specific projects and when each is done I can move on to new colors and patterns.

You can learn how to weave on a band or tape loom in my book Tape Loom Weaving....simplified, available on my web site, or on Amazon. 

Try this Shaker Chevron! Weaving Shaker Rugs by Mary Elva Congleton Erf is available on Amazon. Incorporate it into new patterns and projects and share with us when you are done!  Happy Weaving!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sense and Sensibility... Hat Bands

I travel around the USA and demonstrate and teach about early American pottery making.  When I work at fairgrounds, I do not have to be dressed quite as accurately as when I work at a museum demonstration.

When I first started my own pottery shop 32 years ago, I decided to make yellow ware. Yellow ware was used by immigrants here in New England in the 1700's.  It was imported from England, where this style of pottery began.  The English have a nice yellow clay and decorated it with slips  and feathering.

I also live near the famous 1800's potter, Hervey Brooks, who lived and worked making red ware in his small shop which has been moved to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

Yellow ware.... East Knoll Pottery
I also live in a house built about 1820 and love history. So I decided to become an 1840's potter. Too late for Revolutionary war outfits, although I do have a Revolutionary outfit. Too early for a Civil war outfit, although I do have a Civil war outfit. I am somewhere in between. I am also "just a potter".  Potters were not on the high end pay scale. We lived then as we do now, on the fancy ball gowns, no frilly hats. Scarlet O'Hara I am not.

When I search for a new pattern for a dress, I do make my own, I look at paintings, museum archives and well done movies of the period for the background clothing.  People in the backgrounds were common folk. They wore simple clothing, some a little worn and beaten, like they had been working as a potter.

And yes, there is very little written about women working in a pottery shop in the 1800's. Not only are there few records on potteries, but there are no photos of women decorating, packing and applying handles until the late 1800's. A woman throwing a pot was probably pretty scarce. Grace Parker took over her husband pottery shop in Charlestown Massachusetts after his death in 1742. That is a fascinating story related in Lura Watkins book, New England Potters and Their Wares.

Sense and Sensibility, the English novel by Jane Austin, was published in 1811. The sisters came from wealthy families but they lived on a budget.

There are a good many days of rain at a fair and I have been thinking I need a new straw hat.  Sense I am also a weaver, why not make my own band instead of buying a store-bought ribbon?

I set up a plain or tabby weave.  I used my small Easy Weaver, modified with two bars so I could spread out the threads.  There is no beater, so I had to keep an eye on the width.

I used 8/2 cotton from Webs, about the same weight as crochet cotton but softer. I cut warp 12 feet long and the band came out about 7 feet long. The band came out 1 -1/2 inches wide.

I usually do warp-faced bands, so it was fun to do something different like this plain weave. My book, Tape Loom Weaving... simplified, does not include plain weave.  It is a little different to do on a rigid heddle loom like a gate loom or box loom because the threads are spread out with the wooden heddle and this can be tricky, especially with 60 threads.  If you are making or looking for a gate style loom, make sure you get one with 32 holes and 32 slots, 64 threads is a good size for making a band like the above or the pretty, fancy pick up bands.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Shaker Bands! Chevron Style Band Weaving....

Last year, I got my old barn loom set up to weave rugs.  I live only one and a half hours from the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield MA, so I took the family over for a fun research day into the old looms they have.  The Shakers made wonderful rugs with a chevron style twist and incorporated the pattern into a lot of their rugs. They have a small floor style band loom which they made bands on to weave into chair seats and to decorate the ends of their rugs.

Now that it is cold and bleak in New England and I have time off from my spring, summer and fall 24/7 pottery and weaving events, I am thinking about making some rugs with the chevron pattern.

So I got out my newly acquired book,  Weaving Shaker Rugs by Mary Elva Congleton Erf.  Wait one minute... There are bands in this book along with the rugs! So I set up a couple patterns on my Harrisville Loom.

This was a challenge. The books suggest plying 3 yarns on your spinning wheel. Someday I am going to learn how to spin.  I decided to try out a couple of designs about 6 feet long to practice and twist them as I go. I used cotton on these two pieces.

Here is a series of photos of how I set up the loom.

This pattern is set up below
Pattern number 2

I set up short warps on a dresser.
I made some more adjustments to my loom. I removed the velcro that was glued onto my beams. I added some warp beam pop sticks to the back beam by drilling two holes through the front and back beams and tied on the new warp beamsticks. I also clamped the heddle to that front beam so I could thread directly onto the loom.

On this pattern, I threaded the left border first.

My twisted warps are attached in pairs. Attached with a loop below.

Set of 3 threads are twisted before threaded into the heddle. 
I stand across the room a the end of the warp threads and twist them with my fingers,  counting 24 times as I twist.
Keep track of  S or Z twists.  Then thread them one at a time.
Once threaded, clip the ends to a cloths pin so they won't untwist. Notice the border threads are set carefully out of the way top left.
Weight groups of twisted warp threads so they don't tangle.
I added a warp beam to the front and back beams.
I tied the borders on first with even tension.
Groups of twisted warp tied on.
Wind the warp onto the back beam. I used some pop sticks on the beam layers to keep the warp evenly wound.  I gently combed the warp and held them tightly in my left hand as I wound the back beam with my right hand, stopping to check the tension once in a while.

Lease sticks and start of weft. This is not a warp faced weave.
Spread out your warp threads so you get a plain weave.
There is no beater, so keep an eye on the edges so you don't start pulling them in.

You can attach a paper folded around your weave so your edges stay even.
Working along.

Now I had to do something with the bands.  The band with the blue edges looked like a red tree growing in a forest.  Too pretty to attach to a bag or clothing and be seen only once in a while, so I mounted it with an unfinished sampler I found second hand.  Should I finish the cross stitch?

I made a quick vest for the other pattern.

Thanks for looking at my adventures in weaving.  If you are still new to band weaving, check out my step-by-step book to show you how to set up a loom and weave the fun pick-up patterns. Tape Loom Weaving.... simplified. available on and my web site,

Sign up to receive notice of future blogs with more ideas and project.  Feel free to comment and offer suggestions!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Easy Weaver Loom, Susan Faulkner Weaver's Book... Handwoven Tape, Old Shirt = Colonial Apron

All tied up

I recently picked up a small new loom at a second-hand shop. I weave small bands of tape for colonial costumes and handbags. When I am at events I use a small box loom and hanging gate looms to demonstrate how it is done, but it is hard to demonstrate when I have to be literally tied to these looms by a cord around my waist.  Visitors are asking questions, wanting to buy, wanting to try weaving and I have to get tied up and untied up again.

So I was pleased to find this little loom that I can bring to my events and let people try band weaving.  It is very sturdy and well made.  The heddle floats on the threads.  It is set up to weave a piece about 6" wide and the threads are attached to a piece of velcro glued to the front and back beams.  The beams move nicely and have metal gears and stops. There is a block of wood behind the heddle where you can rest the heddle on in the up position, and a catch on it to rest the heddle in the low position.

To weave my small bands, I had to make some modifications.  I put a small nail in the center back beam to attach my warp loop to.  I removed the block of wood in the center easily with my screwdriver.  It gets in the way when weaving. Without the block in the way, you can weave about 12 inches before you have to wind your beam. And... I put a string and cord with a table hook on the back so I could attach it to the table. Now I can beat my weft firmly without the loom moving toward me.

I also recently bought Susan Faulkner Weavers book, Handwoven Tapes.  Susan did a great job explaining early tape weaving in Pennsylvania.  It is a lovely book filled with old and new bands, samples of how they were used and the history behind it all.

So I decided to set up my new loom to make a band for my granddaughters apron for her Colonial Costume. 

I picked out one of Susan's patterns on page 103. It did not have a threading chart, but this is easy to do on simple striped bands. Striped bands were used here on the eastern coast of America. The colors and patterns go well with checked aprons.

I cut my warp 58 inches long. This wove down to a 38 inch finished length.  I loop one end on my new beam nail and set the heddle right in the loom and easily threaded this short length.  

I cut the back out of an old plaid shirt after removing my buttons to the button jar.  An extra large shirt back is a good size for an adult apron.

And in less than an hour, my new apron is done!

Are you new to Weaving?  These little bands are easy to do, fun, hundreds of patterns and colors, great for modern weavers and reenactors. There are numerous new looms being made and you can find help right here on this blog to make your own quick and easy picture frame loom.

If you are not interested or excited yet, just look at my collection of loom photos here...

The Easy Weaver I used here is made by Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire.

Susan Faulkner Weavers book, Handwoven Tape, is available at

My easy book, Tape Loom Weaving... simplified for beginners to learn how to weave tapes, stripes and fancy pick-up patterns is available at and my web site...

Thanks for connecting and sharing with me on my blog!