Intro: Modular Glowing Handwoven Textile
This project should suit your needs whether you're looking to make a blanket for nighttime picnics, want a method of scaring away closet monsters or need a handy way to illuminate your life after the apocalypse. The weaving method is simple enough - a cardboard loom and a speed weaving technique come together so that you can whip up squares of brightly glowing cloth in no time; once you know your way around the method you'll be able to make a half dozen squares in an afternoon. I picked up everything I needed in about 15 minutes at a craft store, and I estimate each 6 inch square comes in at less than 25 cents (US).
Step 1: Supplies
- matte board, illustration board, chipboard or similar weight material
- ruler and/or square
- utility knife
- cutting surface
- crochet hook
- glow-in-the-dark lanyard lacing/rexlace (the secret ingredient - check the kids/summer camp crafting supplies)
I've used a basic cotton Sugar 'n Cream yarn in bright white to reflect light around.
You can make your loom from cardboard but it will wear out faster. You can usually buy dirt cheap matte board scraps from anywhere that frames art. If you fall in love with the technique and want to wrap the world in glowing cloth you can trade up from a cardboard loom to a pin loom - use a piece of board and hammer a nail in to each place where there's a slot in this version.
Step 2: Make the Loom
Cut a 6.5 by 6.5 inch square. (You can make your loom any size, but larger than about 8 by 8 inches and you'll be struggling with your tension. Feel free to play around with rectangles, too!)
Mark a line on all four size that is 1/4 inch from the edge.
Mark lines that are 1/4 inch apart on all sides.
Cut each of the marked lines (but not the corners.)
Step 3: Speed Weaving Part 1
The best time saver for this project is the speed weaving technique. If you know anything about woven fabric you're aware that there are warp and weft strands, and these strands weave together to form fabric. Huge floor looms are dedicated to mechanizing the process of lifting and lowering warp threads so that weft threads are woven more quickly.
To save time with this super analog version, we're going to string up the loom so that you only have to hand weave 50% of the weft strands.
Start by tucking the yarn into the notch at the lower left hand corner (the loom doesn't have a specific orientation, just pick a corner.)
Run the yarn up the cardboard and tuck it into the opposite notch, being careful not to pull the yarn tight. It should be as loose as it can be while still staying straight.
Run the yarn across the back to the right, skip a notch, and tuck it through the next notch to the right. Look at the pictures, that's much easier.
Now down again, maintaining that same relaxed tension. Back and forth through every other notch until you run out of notches.
Step 4: Speed Weaving Part 2
Now it's time to lay down a layer of weft strands. This is the thing that turns this from weaving into speed weaving.
Bring the yarn around the back and out through the second notch from the end. For real, the second. Using the first will make you so sad later on. It doesn't matter if you ended at the top or bottom of the loom with your first layer of warp, you need to start with the second notch.
Did you tuck the yarn through the second notch? Just checking.
Now do that same thing - every other notch, back and forth, until you run out.
Step 5: Speed Weaving Part 3
Now fill in the rest of the warp strands.
Wrap around behind the corner and add strands up and down in the currently unoccupied notches.
You're 3/4 of the way done with the base fabric.
Step 6: Speed Weaving Part 4
This part is a bit less speedy than the rest, but it's not bad. The first square will take forever, but the rest of the squares you make will feel much faster.
Count the number of rows remaining.
The 'take up' in weaving is usually estimated at about 10%. I had 12 notches to fill on each side.
Measure out the number of rows left + 10% and cut your yarn. In this case I measured out 13 lengths of yarn to fill those 12 rows (about 10% extra.)
Grab that crochet hook. Pop the yarn through the nearest notch.
Starting at the center of the board, weave the crochet hook over and under the strands opposite of what's already there.
When you get to the notch grab a loop of the yarn and pull it though.
Repeat to get that yarn all the way to the end of the row.
Notch, notch, then turn around and start again.
Keep filling in these rows until you get to the end of the board. Even if there's not a notch at the end of the board you'll need to weave a row there to keep your fabric from falling apart. (There will be a row to weave if you've duplicated by loom, but maybe not if you've invented your own version.)
Take note of how much yarn you have left so you can adjust how much to cut on future squares if you need to.
Step 7: Make It Glow
Now switch over to the lanyard lacing.
Count the number of squares on the edge - I have 22. Adding 10% I increased that to 24. Cut a strand of rexlace 24 times the diagonal of the board (if your loom matches mine.)
Temporarily mark the center of the strand - I used a small piece of tape. This is to save you half of the strand pulling you would otherwise have to do.
Start at one corner of the board and weave that crochet hook in to the center - over, under, over, under as before, but this time on the diagonal. Grab the strand of lanyard lacing and pull it through until you reach the half way point.
Turn around and weave it back the other way, over, under as before, making sure to keep a neat folded end to the lanyard lacing and no twists through the length of the strand.
Work both ends of the strand this way - on the diagonal, back and forth until the entire fabric is enmeshed with glowy plastic strip.
On one axis it will look like the lanyard lacing has gone over, under, over, under on the yarn crossings, on the other axis the lanyard lacing will appear to be all overs in a row or all unders in a row. It might take a bit of fidgeting to work out a smooth system for all of this, but you'll get there.
Step 8: Remove the Fabric From the Loom
You may want to weave your tails in now, you may want to weave them in later. If you're a procrastinator, weave them in now, before removing them.
Turn the loom over and carefully work the strands off the tabs of cardboard.
Make a bunch of them and leave them somewhere undisturbed until you're ready to join them.
Step 9: Joining the Squares
Lay the squares out how you want to join them. Consider the angle of the glowing cord and which side should be the front or back. I'm showing a group of 4 but because of the modular system this could be expanded indefinitely.
Line up two squares. Put the crochet hook through the end loop on the left, then grab the end loop (or strand, in this case) on the right and pull it through.
Hook through the next loop on the left and pull it through.
Hook through the next loop on the right and pull it through.
I think you can guess where this is going. Keep going from square to square, doing the entire seam in one direction at one time.
An easy way to secure the last loop is send a strand of yarn through it (prior to weaving it in.)
Turn the whole thing around and repeat it on the perpendicular seam direction.
When all of the seams are connected weave in any remaining tails and block it. A bit of warm water will do wonders to settle down the plastic lacing.
Step 10: Maximum Glow
To achieve maximum glow you can either leave it in bright sunlight to charge or use it near a blacklight. A blacklight LED (or a few) can go a long way toward making sure the glow keeps going for a long, long time. A small blacklight lantern at a picnic can keep the party going all night or a blacklight nightlight can ensure that the monsters under the bed don't dare try to make their move.