Lately, I’ve been craving a useful DIY project. The sort of project that results in the sort of objects that gets integrated into daily life after it’s finished. I’ve also been experimenting a lot with different ways of making and weaving has been on my “to-learn” list for a long time now. However, I was worried about the size and cost of buying a loom. I didn’t want to end up with a large, expensive piece of equipment just sitting in my house. When I stumbled across this weaving loom kit for linen coasters from Flax and Twine, I knew I had found the perfect way to start exploring weaving.
The tagline for Flax and Twine, “a happy handmade life,” very much resonates with me. The idea of integrating handmade objects into my life is, as I’ve said, very appealing. This is a small company, which seems to have grown out of a DIY and crafting blog. I wouldn’t be surprised if the owner, Annie Weil, does most of the work herself. The online store as a very curated selection of kits, patterns, video classes, and other supplies related to fiber arts. Several of the kits, including the one I purchased, are based on projects in Weil’s book Weaving Within Reach (autographed copy, Bookshop).
I get the impression that everything is thoughtfully sourced, though there’s no explicit statement on the website that announces a commitment to sustainability or quality. It’s just clear from the small, well curated collection of items on offer that both of those principles are a part of the company’s DNA. The yarns I looked at were all made from natural fibers, many of which have a little bit of information about the people or company that makes them. For example, this lanyard yarn is made at the Echoview Fiber Mill, a small scale manufacturer that operates in North Carolina. Given the quality, the prices are perfectly reasonable.
All the products on offer also do a great job of conforming to the brands aesthetic. I love my colors to be on the softer and more complex side, so I was very into the range offered. However, if you’re into neon or very bright, simple colors the yarn may not be to your taste. The tools are mostly wooden, adding to the natural vibe, include this beautiful set of driftwood crochet hooks that I am now stalking. Overall, Flax and Twine looks like it has it’s branding down in the best of ways.
Shipping and Packaging
Shipping was fast, communication was great, and the most of the packaging was looked like it was plastic free. There was some plastic bubble padding on the inside of the envelope, but that was the extent of it. The loom itself came in a small fabric drawstring bag and the tools were held together with a piece of string. Instructions for using the loom, a few pieces of cute branded promotional materials, and a small handwritten thank you card were included in the package. The yarn was wrapped in tissue paper and secured with a branded sticker.
The only issue I had with the shipping was that, until checkout, the shipping cost was a total surprise. While a shipping calculator would’ve been nice, I totally understand that this might be a hassle for a small company. However, I did expect to find at least a static page telling me how their shipping was calculated and their basic shipping policies. Nothing fancy, just “we ship from this location, shipping is calculated based on current postal rates” and linked in the footer, would be enough.
I had a few different choices to make when buying this kit. The kit has three main elements: The yarn, the loom, and the book. If you already have a loom you can opt to get just the book and the yarn. Or, if you already have the book you can get just the loom and yarn.
The loom itself is small, only measuring 8.75” high and 8” wide. Unlike other frame looms I’ve seen, it’s shaped like a serif capital I, not as a square. This surprised me a bit, but only because I’d never seen a frame loom like that before. However, I quickly found the unusual design made it easy to hold and use. A few small tools come with the loom. These include a weaving needle, beater, and a shed stick. There actually were two weaving needles in my kit, one metal and one wood, which was a nice surprise. Also included is a small amount of sample warp thread.
Everything in the was well made. All the wooden pieces were solid cherrywood, well sanded with no other discernable finish. They felt real and solid in the way that good quality making supplies do. I was never worried about anything breaking under normal use.
The book included in my kit was autographed, which is one of the things I always love about buying direct from authors. The coaster project is one of twenty-five projects in the book. Some of these are more decorative, like the Keepsake Stones. Many others, such the Twill Tape Bento Bag fall are what I would consider to be Useful DIY projects. These projects are pretty equally divided between non-loom projects, made-loom projects, and frame-loom projects. So, while the mini-loom is only used in two of the book projects, there are more than a dozen projects that can be made without buying another loom. Honestly, I’d had the book on my “want” list for a while now, so I was not at all made about buying it for this one project. I know I’ll get more use out of it eventually.
I was a little surprised at how the book is structured. The three project containing chapters are at the front of the book and the “All About Weaving” section is at the back. This all made sense when I started reading through the projects and realized that this chapter functions more as an index than an introduction. Each of the project starts with a bullet pointed list of the techniques used and the page numbers where they can be found. So, if, for example, you need to learn how to double warp the loom the instructions for that step are easy to find. If, however, you’re already are comfortable with that technique the instructions aren’t cluttered with unnecessary information. The instructions themselves were clear and well-illustrated, with many explanatory photographs.
Choosing what yarn color to get was hard. Really hard. I kind of want to go back and buy them all sort of hard. In the end I chose the Sand Lily, a muted millennial pink. Like a lot of muted colors, it is heavily influenced by the light it is in. Sometimes it looks more pink, other times more neutral. Then, not too long after I finished my first coaster, I place an order for the Aubergine (dark red-purple), Spice (warm orange-brown), and Snow Owl (white). Because sometimes I just can’t help myself.
The yarns texture is fairly stiff and rustic feeling at first. There’s a slight sheen to it, which in certain lights gives it a soft glow I’m kind of obsessed with. It’s clear when you handle it that nice, long linen fibers (as opposed to short flax tow) make up most of the yarn. It softens a bit once it gets wet (like if you spill a lot of tea on it, for example…), but still has a lot of structural integrity.
There’s one tool not mentioned in the instructions that I found very useful: a pair of needle nose pliers. I found that sometimes when I was weaving in the ends of my warp thread it was a little tough to grab on to the needle on the other side. A small pair of pliers totally solves this problem. You also need to provide your own shorter needle to weave in the ends (anything with a fairly big eye will do) and pair of snips or scissors. If you do any other kind of crafting you probably have these all on hand, but if you’re gifting this kit to someone new to DIY I would suggest adding them in. Last, you need a small amount of waste yarn for some of the variations.
Making the Coasters
Weaving the coasters is pretty straight forward. Three are three different pattern options and two different scales that you can weave at. So far, I’ve made three: two plainwoven and one twill. I didn’t have any problems following the instructions, however, I did feel like I made a few mistakes on my first coaster. The warp was a little uneven and loose on the sides. Then I pressed down a bit to aggressively when I was beating down my rows and things got a little weirder. If you’re thinking of making a set of these for gifts or are a perfectionist, I’d recommend factoring in one or two practice coasters first. I just think of them as the first pancakes off the griddle, they still work just fine, but they look a little odd.
One important thing to note is that because these coasters end up being warp faced. This means that the weft yarns mostly cover the warp yarns in the finished project. The warp yarns show through a little and are visible in the fringe, but the weft makes up most of the finished surface area. This is due to the spacing of the warp and the fineness of the yarn. It can be adjusted a little by how firmly you beat down the weft, but the only way to make a true balanced weave is to switch to a thicker yarn. This threw me off a little at first, because I was expecting the plainweave coaster to be evenly balanced, but once I checked the images in the book again, I was able to see that what I was doing was correct. The unbalanced weave also means that the twill and herringbone patterns come out with the ribs slanted at about a 45 degree angle. So, keep this in mind as you are weaving.
The one skein of yarn included in the project is more than enough for two completed coasters. I still have plenty of my Sand Lily left, enough for one, maybe two more. So, if you know you’ll want to make a big set, you’ll need to get more yarn. Personally, I’m really glad I bought a few additional colors to play with. If buying this as a gift I’d throw in at least one other color to play with.
Each coaster I’ve made has taken me about a week from start to finish. Once I get the loom warped and I tend to work on it for an hour or so in the evenings, usually while watching TV with my family. Now that I’ve done a few, I’m pretty sure I could crank one out in an afternoon, especially if I did the 2×2 basket weave or other larger scale variation.
I also find that I’m getting better with each one. I learned a long time ago that there are some things that you can only learn by doing. The book has taught me the basics, but I’ll need to practice a lot more before I really understand the tacit parts of the weaving process.
The Finished Project
Overall, I’m very happy with the finished project. Are my coasters perfectly woven and professional looking? No. They are, in fact, rather rough looking in places. Some more than others. However, the yarn is textured enough, and the project is simple enough, that it looks, if not intentional, then at least charmingly rustic. The flaws also don’t have an effect on the usability of the coaster. In fact, the presence of imperfections made it easier for me to use the coasters because I wasn’t worried about marring my finished project. Afterall, there’s little point in making a useful DIY project unless you actually, you know, use it! I’ve now spilled tea on both the Sand Lily and the Spice colored yarns and I am happy to report that they are both very absorbent and not at all prone to staining.
I was also originally worried that I wouldn’t get a lot of use out of this mini loom. However, I like working on it so much I think it might end up being a something I reach for regularly. I’ve still got enough yarn leftover to make at least one more coaster in the Sand Lily color and I’ve already ordered the same yarn in a few more colors so I can play with more weaving patterns. I also threw in a cone of cotton warp yarn in my order so that I can do some additional experimentation. Maybe mini-loom tapestry?
I’m also eyeing a few of the other projects in the book. I can think of all sorts of uses for the Twined Rope Bowl which is one of the non-loom projects. This defiantly would be a useful DIY project to know how to make. But then there’s also the About-the-Town Tote and the Windowpane Hand Towles, both of which make use of the 20” Becka loom. Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram what you think!