• Cathlena Burr

My Yarn, Your Pattern

Updated: Jan 2, 2019

Or: How to substitute yarns you want (or have) for a pattern,

How to figure out #mixedsetts,

How to easily wind warps with frequently changing threads.


My first grandchild will be arriving soon and it was time to get busy on the list of handmade things this child will be inundated with during his life. I have had a collection of what I call my somedaybabyblanketyarnstash; mostly yarns that were given me or orphaned, which said baby. Of course they are all different kinds of yarns and not enough of any one kind to manage a whole blanket, so it was time to get my creative on. I am also in a #usewhatihave personal challenge so this was bound to be fun!


I had so much fun, and learned so much during this process, I decided to share the adventure. I cannot seem to shut off the "how-can-I-share-this-with-my-students!" that my brain seems to be wired to.


Step 1: I decided to start with some vintage skeins of Brown Sheep Cotton Cords, a fun yarn made for a short period of time, a long time ago, out of four different colored strands of their Cotton Fine. Well aged. Next, some inspiration. I turned to Tom Knisely's book "Handwoven Baby Blankets". Seemed pretty obvious! I was looking for 1) a pattern I liked, and 2) a pattern that would be conducive to showing off a fairly bulky yarn which I knew I would have to mix with lighter weight yarns.




I had to find something that would go with that yarn color-wise, irrespective of weight, but with enough yardage to make a fun blanket (or blankets) possible. I chose a nearly full cone of a sport weight Soft Cotton (known as Conshohocken Cotton Sport at its birth - another well aged yarn).


Step 2: I picked Tom's "Tutti Frutti" pattern. In this pattern he groups three threads together in the warp and weft creating a visually thicker area surrounded by two threads framing this basket weave effect - all threads being the same size. Perfect! I have thicker thread which could be surrounded by the finer thread to give a similar effect. But how do I go from Tom's straight forward pattern to my custom one?


Step 3: Here's the fun part! I will need to figure the sett for two different sized threads. I did a wrap with the finer thread and came up with 12 ends per inch (epi). I did a separate wrap with the thicker thread and came up with 5 epi. Ok. Threading the 12 epi will be fine in a 12 dent reed but I will have to space the thicker threads in that same reed. I consulted my handy-dandy Reed Substitution Chart to see how 5 epi would be sleyed in a 12 dent reed: 0-1. Tom's pattern threading alternates two "border" threads with the three threads threaded on the same shaft all the way across. I decided that two of my thicker threads would be enough to equal his three threads. Besides, I had a limited amount of it and needed to be judicious as there was no hope of getting any more. So I wrote out my threading indicating the spacing in the reed:



The "T" indicates the thin warp, the "C" is for the Cotton Cords, and the "o" is the empty dent on either side of the thick warp.


Step 4: Will I have enough yarn? Will I be able to weave it the size I want? How do I figure out exactly how many threads I need to wind on the warping board? There are all those empty dents in the reed! Always start with the width in the reed you would like your piece to be. With that number in mind, I looked at my threading and counted all the dents I would need for one repeat of the pattern. With the dents number I used to figure how many repeats I could fit into the desired width (don't forget to add the selvedges). The threading pattern becomes the determiner of the actual width in the reed.



Step 5: How many ends will I need of each yarn? Will I have enough? Will I be able to weave more than one blanket? Now that I had my threading pattern and the number of repeats that would fit, I could go back and figure out exactly how many ends I would need of each of my two threads. With those numbers and a trusty calculator I played around and figured out I would have enough to weave three blankets if I used something else as the thicker weft for each blanket. Back to the stash where I found two more bulky cottons and designed a triplicate of three finer cottons in three different colors to make the third. I now also have the numbers I need to go to the warping board and get this project rolling.


Step 6: I learned another cool trick when I decided there was no way I was going to wind two ends, cut it off, tie on the new color, wind two ends, cut it off, etc., etc, etc. Two very good reasons will always give you a brilliant idea: laziness and limited material. I figured out that if I started each color at the bottom end of my warping board I could leave them attached, and because that end will be cut anyway, I just dropped the one (well, wound it around an unused peg to keep tension on it) and picked up the other for the next two threads. It was beautifully lined up at the top of the warping board where I would be winding the warp and threading. Happy day!!


Step 7: Weaving gives you a lot of time to think and sometimes over analyze all the work that went into figuring and planning your brilliant warp. As I was weaving I began to doubt myself on the spacing of the heavier weft. Should I maybe have skipped the empty dent between the two thicker threads? Of course I justified my decision by reminding myself that I would not have had enough yarn to weave the width I wanted if I had to add more warp threads. It was looking awfully airy on the loom.

I didn't need to worry; once they had been machine washed (I washed them on delicate in cool water) and machine dried, they came out beautifully and oh! so soft! Sometimes you will doubt the weft color choices. There again I was quite pleased after finishing. All in all a fun and educational project.

When using what you have on hand, sometimes you will be surprised when you run out. Best laid plans..... I ran out of the thinner weft just before I finished the hem of the second blanket. With one more to go I rummaged around and found a 3/2 mercerized cotton in practically the identical color which finished the third blanket. (Another good justification for owning a huge stash!) Whew! Can you see the difference?


All in all a fun and satisfying project and the list of my stash that I consumed on these three blankets (and two dollie blankets I squeezed out at the end) was also highly satisfying. Yes, I did list the used-up yarns in my notes; made me feel very good!