Thank you! Halloween is my favorite holiday by far. It's a holiday all about crafting (costumes/decorations/scary looking food like monster toes), and candy AND goofing off with friends. That sure beats the family kinds of stress and mom's raw food only "cooking" on Christmas morning!
I did promise progress shots, and here's the first batch - the saddle blanket! I made the saddle blanket first mostly because I had no idea how to make a saddle, but the prize had just been announced and I really wanted to get started because quite frankly I really want that sewing machine.
I researched saddle blankets for a couple hours. It seems the best ones are made of wool so that the sweat is wicked away from the body and the horse doesn't get chilled. Pretty much all the wool yarn I have in my stash is fingering weight because I like working on bitty needles. I'm a huge miniatures fanatic. I do have a stash of acrylic since people tend to give me their partial balls and on the rare occasions I get low, it's pretty easy to find on freecycle.org in my town. So since dog's can't sweat like horses do, I picked out a few colors of acrylic yarn I liked for the weft and some crochet cotton for the warp. The colors I picked were to roughly match the old Mexican saddle blanket designs, very common in the old west. My inspiration was this photo from this site: http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/cott-o/item/el-bl/
I measured my dog and made a loom out of some cardboard I'd stashed in my craft corner. I notched the ends of the cardboard and made a loom...the kind of loom I hadn't made since probably first or second grade. I warped it with the crochet cotton and started weaving my design. I used plastic yarn needles for the shuttles, but it would have been easier if they were longer. For all but the last few rows, I used a ruler to make weaving in one direction go faster at least.
Here is the blanket still on the loom:
It took nearly 5 hours to weave the whole darn thing!
Then I flipped the loom over:
You can see that I wrapped the warp all the way around the loom so I'd have very long tails. I never thought to do this as a kid, but I wish I had. Back then I'd just weave up then down and when I popped the mini dollhouse rug (that's all I wanted to weave as a kid) off the loom, it would just have a bit more play since the warp was always a little bit long where it ran behind the cardboard notches. So this was my first time every trying to finish a bit of weaving properly. I'm pleased with how well it went.
I cut all the warp crochet cotton strings across the center back of the loom:
Then I very, very carefully freed each bit of crochet cotton from each notch in the cardboard loom and lifted the cardboard off:
Yowsa that's a ton of ends to weave in! I whimpered a little at the idea of even just threading the needle that many times, but I am a perfectionist and I wasn't going to tolerate a shoddy saddle blanket with the ends just cut off close-ish.
My first step was to tie knots in the warp across one end. I used a square knot to tie two neighboring strings together. Because there is an odd number of strings on each side, on one end I had to tie three strings together. I tied two on the end into a square knot and then took the string closest to the inside edge of that knot and tied a square knot with the still free third string. If you do this all the way across you can get a very clean looking edge with the warp showing. I wanted to minimize the visibility of the warp so I only did this where I absolutely had to.
Then I started knotting the other side of warp in the same manner. On the second side you have to be careful to tie your knots at just the right tension so that the saddle blanket can still sit flat but also so that the weft is held tightly enough that the saddle blanket is thick and sturdy, just like a real saddle blanket. You can see how my knots are holding the weft just right. Where I haven't tied it yet the warp still shows through the weft.
Finally, before pulling my yarn needles back out to weave in the ends, I tried the saddle blanket on my dog, Sketch, just to make sure I liked the fit of it. There's no sense in spending 4 hours weaving in yarn ends if you don't like the size of the blanket!
I did like the size of the blanket on him, so I set about weaving in every end of crochet cotton and acrylic yarn. I thought I'd never be done weaving in ends.