50 ways your leaves to cover.

List 50 things that might happen in your story.

My writing (and otherwise) friend Michelle Hubbard taught me the most useful writing exercise I’ve ever run into. It always works (for me). And it’s growing more and more useful each time I use it.

A couple of years ago, our writing group met at the local Zuppas and Michelle told us about this exercise: write a list of fifty things that could happen in your book. We got paper placemats from the workers and started making our lists on the backs–don’t ask me where we came up with four pencils or pens–Michelle probably.

Heather, Michelle, and Michelle were in the midst of writing books, so the items on their lists were wordier than mine. I had finished my first book (unpublished) a few months earlier and was still working on polishing it up, so I made a list of 50 things that could happen in the new book I was just beginning; my items were brief.

The list started with things like, “She could ride a skateboard. She could babysit”–boringish stuff. But the more I wrote the faster I got and the more interesting and even outlandish my ideas were. My gaze skated around the room, out the windows, into my imagination, searching for inspiration.

One of the things I wrote on that list became the germ for the book I’m writing right now. This book started out as a Middle Grade contemporary novel. I had it roughly planned out, had written a number of scenes, and had begun composing the first chapters. I’d shared the first pages with my writing group (which has grown to include Susan and Jenny) and they all approved and offered a few suggestions.

Then I decided to change the book into a fantasy. I needed to drop a couple of characters. Suddenly my plan wasn’t going to work anymore, but there was still a lot I liked about it. And now I had to create a fantasy world! So I made a list of 50 things that could or should happen.

Worked like a charm. My story grew along with my list. This time the items on my list were much wordier and were this-story-and-its-events-specific. Now when I sit down to work on it, I have something to write about, a plan to guide me.

Recently, Heather and I decided to try an experiment. We want to collaborate on a story. We’ve chatted a teensy bit about what we want to write. On Tuesday I suggested we make a list of 50 things we’d like to have in the book. Dear Heather wrote her list up that very day, during our weekly writing session at the Orem Public Library. My attention was divided between my MG fantasy and ideas for the new book, so I only put seven things on my list.

Today I started working in earnest on it. (Heather emailed me her list two days ago and I’ve had to slap my hand–figuratively–several times to keep from looking at it before mine is done.) I wish to point out that we have no idea what will happen in the story. Here’s what we’re going on: MG fantasy, a boy and a girl, probably related to each other. Not a lot to frame a house on. I’ve thought a bit about what might be in the story, but once I started making the list, the book took off. I provisionally named and assigned ages to the two characters, came up with primary and secondary goals, a time limit, an “or else,” and some character traits. And my list is only 33 items long so far!

That’s all I have to say about this exercise right now. Just wanted to record how it’s grown from a scanty list of “might-be”s into a substantial story outline.

Life mirrors fiction: what if I take that first photo and mess around with it a bit?

Life mirrors fiction: what if I take that first photo and mess around with it a bit?

The 6-inch loom.

The 6-inch loom.

I recently built a 6″ loom and wove a nice square on it.

Finished square still on the loom.

Finished square still on the loom.

Today I’m trying an 8″ actual PIN loom.  I made the frame from 1/4″ foam core (I’d recommend slightly thicker, but I used what I had) and stuck sewing pins into it (Weave-it fashion). I marked the pin-placement plan on 1/8″ graph paper first and taped that on top of the foam core; stuck slender glass-head pins through the paper and into the foam core to make guide holes.

A man, a plan, a canal--Panama. OK, doesn't make any sense, but it was in my head--had to let it out. Here's the original design. I didn't photo the whole process, but I hope I described it well enough.

A man, a plan, a canal: Panama. OK, doesn’t make any sense, but it was in my head–had to let it out. Here’s the original design. I didn’t photo the whole process, but I hope I described it well enough.

(Remember: you can click on a photo to see a larger version; click the back arrow to return to this post.)

8-inch PIN loom

8-inch PIN loom. I used sewing pins with tiny or flat knobs on the ends. They’re various heights, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

A sideways look at it, in case anyone finds that helpful.

A sideways look at it, in case anyone finds that helpful.

It feels like a disaster in the making, but I’m hoping it will turn out OK.

Decision #1: tie the yarn onto the loom instead of the pins. They seem a bit fragile.

Layers 1 and 2 warped with Caron Super Soft “Grape.”

Layers 1 and 2. Note: yarn is tied onto the loom, not the pins, at  bottom left corner.

Layers 1 and 2. Note: yarn is tied onto the loom, not the pins, at bottom left corner.

Layers 3 and 4 warped with Bernat Satin “Lapis.” (It’s called Lapis, but it’s really a very pale blue.)

Decision #2: unsure how many times to wrap the yarn around the loom to determine weaving length. Judging by my experience with the 6″ loom, it looks like a good rule of thumb is # of inches + 1 wrap. This is an 8″ loom, so 8 wraps + 1 = 9. But just to be on the safe side, I did 9 1/2 wraps. If I run out it’s no biggie, I can add more later (lesson learned on the 6″ loom).

9 1/2 wraps around the loom; cut yarn; thread  10"needle.

9 1/2 wraps around the loom; cut yarn; thread 10″ needle. Note: second color and cut first color are tied together onto the loom at upper left corner.

Row 1: Plain weave across.

All righty, maybe one drawback is the super, super long yarn tail. Makes me wish I had a super, super thin shuttle. Nevertheless, as weaving progresses I know the tail will get shorter. It’s not too big a pain to pull all that length through.

Decision #3: what pattern stitch do I want? This loom has 67 stitches across which means I can do a 3-strand stitch 22 times and have one left over, or a 4-strand stitch 16 times with 3 leftover. I decide on the four-strand stitch.

Row 2 (and all rows thereafter, except the last row): P-3; O-3, U-1 (16x)

First four rows. Weaving is well underway, no casualties yet.

First four rows. Weaving is well underway, no casualties yet.

So far, so good. I have to modify my habits of leaning on the pins while I weave, and so forth, but I’m impressed. The loom is holding up nicely. However, I think this pattern is kind of small for a square this big. Of course a small pattern is fine in a square this size, but I’m thinking 8″ x 8″ could also carry off something much bolder than you’d put on a 4″ x 4″ loom. Not sure at this point how to plan this, but I’m thinking about it . . .

Always keep notes as you go along! You won't regret it (unless you're like me and forget, uh, to keep making them).

Always keep notes as you go along! You won’t regret it (unless you’re like me and forget, uh, to keep making them).

As weaving progressed, well, it didn’t. I discovered I’d made a mistake. Have to admit, that was a pain to take out because of the super long yarn tail. However, it was just the one mistake and once I sorted it out, everything was smoothish sailing.

Not super obvious, but the over-and-under-ing got a bit messed up in this corner. Had to take out a couple of rows to straighten it out.

Not super obvious, but the over-and-under-ing got a bit messed up in this corner. Had to take out a couple of rows to straighten it out.

Working along, about 2/3 of the way up, I discovered it was the side pins that began to jostle out of place. I was expecting the top and bottom pins to give me trouble, but they didn’t (till the very end). Perhaps I was overcareful with the vertical-row pins and that caused the horizontal-row pins to shift, but it wasn’t much and didn’t create any significant difficulties. I just had to be aware of the situation and take care with them.

A closer view of the condition known as Side-Pin-Shift. Didn't cause any problems. It usually occurred at the sight of needle entrance or exit.

A closer view of the condition known as Side-Pin-Shift. Didn’t cause any problems. It usually occurred at the site of needle entrance or exit.

Side-Pin-Shift also occurred lower down on the loom, but presented no problem to finishing the weaving. The pins could have been bumped out of place; it looks like they're not shifting because of being under too much tension.

Side-Pin-Shift also occurred lower down on the loom, but presented no problem to finishing the weaving. The pins could have been bumped out of place; it looks like they’re not shifting because of being under too much tension.

Taking a look at the bigger picture, I can see–as I hinted earlier–that this size square could easily accommodate both a background pattern and a medallion “picture” in its center. I was thinking a smaller square within the larger square or a diamond shape. Because this square is so large it wouldn’t be such a bother to change colors for the medallion feature.

I think a solid-color purple diamond would look nice with the simple patterned background.

I think a solid-color purple diamond would look nice with the simple patterned background.

It took a bajillion times longer to finish weaving this square than it does to make a 4″ x 4″–obviously. Reasons include: the long tail, learning to do something new, and being extra-careful not to wreck the equipment.

All went much better than anticipated, till I got to the last row. If you’re acquainted with pin loom weaving, you know that last row–the scrunched-in one–is the most difficult to fit in. As I wove this square I took special care to make sure I had enough loose-ish yarn for the top row, but working against the shifty pins was tough. I got most of the way across, then switched to a smaller needle to weave through the last few loops. Worked like a charm!

As you can see, there's plenty of extra yarn--that extra half wrap I included. I'm not worried because I'd probably use it to sew squares together later on. However, one could safely cut down to 9 1/4 wraps, I think.

As you can see, there’s plenty of leftover yarn–that extra half wrap I included. I’m not worried about waste because I’ll probably use it to sew squares together later on. However, one could safely cut down to 9 1/4 wraps, I think.

I find I’m interested enough in exploring possibilities with this loom to construct a more stable one. Someday. In the meantime I might see if I can re-use this one.

Decision #4: to dismantle or not? How am I going to get the square safely off the loom?

I don’t want to dislodge the pins if I hope to use this loom again. Pulling them out and replacing them will make them looser and less capable of holding up for a second weaving.

First, untie the ends that are secured to the top and bottom left corners of the loom. Take a deep breath. Find the loosest corner of the weaving. Looks like the top right corner on mine. Push all sides of the square up near the top of the pins. Begin easing the square off at that loosest corner. (This is why I didn’t want to use flat-head pins, but I ran out of the other kind.) Hold your thumb under the work, lightly against the pins from the inside. This creates a slight counter-pressure as you lift the loops over the pin heads. Work your way gently around the loom, always going to the loosest spots to lift off.

Getting there . . .

Getting there . . .

Finished square framed by totally intact loom.

Finished square framed by totally intact loom.

Finished front.

Finished, front view. Looks like even tension throughout. Very pleased with this effort, if I do say so myself.

Finished, reverse (with ruler showing size).

Finished, reverse view (with ruler showing size).

Looks like we made it! Finished size is 7.5″ x 7.5″. I’m definitely going to try this loom again. It’s big enough to try freestyle weaving.

When was it? December 2013, I think. My friend, Heather Bullough, told me about a local crocheting service project I could get involved with. I LOVE to crochet simple items; it’s something I can do with my hands while I watch DVDs or listen to audiobooks (which are other things I LOVE to do).

This is a link to the project. I’ve participated for two years now and my donations have been received with so much enthusiasm I’m a convert for life.

http://www.hebbsters.blogspot.com/2013/05/leg-warmers.html

This is a link to the pattern I used.

http://earning-my-cape.blogspot.com/2012/02/crochet-leg-warmers-child-sized.html

Here are photos of my two donations.

June 2014--I donated 21 pairs of leg warmers.

June 2014–I donated 21 pairs of leg warmers.

June 2015--25 pairs this year. (I got so involved making teddy bears for Little Lambs Foundation that I slacked off on crocheting.)

June 2015–25 pairs this year. (I got so involved making teddy bears for Little Lambs Foundation that I slacked off on crocheting.)

“Teddy bears?” you ask. Let me show you.

A few friendly faces for Northern Utah's foster kids.

A few friendly faces for Northern Utah’s foster kids.

Here’s the link for this adorable bear pattern:

http://www.shinyhappyworld.com/2014/04/warren-charity-bear-free-teddy-bear-pattern.html

Click here for an UPDATED VERSION OF “DIAMONDS STITCH”*

Finished square, still on loom.

Finished square, still on loom.

Materials

4-inch pin loom
6-inch weaving needle
needle threader (optional)
fork (optional) to pack the rows together during weaving
2 colors of yarn that look good together

Colors used in this sample:
Color 1 (C1): Red Heart Soft “Turquoise
Color 2 (C2):  Bernat Satin “Silk” (off-white)

Standard warping with color change after layer 1. (4 1/2 wraps around the loom; cut; thread needle.)

Ready to weave.

Ready to weave.

Weaving Instructions:

Weave with C2. (See Glossary for explanation of abbreviations.)

Row 1: Plain weave (P)
Even rows: U-1; O-3, P-3 (2x); O-1, U-3, O-1; P-3, O-3 (2x); U-1
Odd rows: P-4, U-3, P-3, U-3, P-5, U-3, P-3, U-3, P-4
Row 16: P

Finished (front).

Finished (front).

Finished (reverse).

Finished (reverse).

I’m adding these photos as a further explanation of the pattern instructions:

Row 2: U1; O3, P3, O3, P3; O1 , U3, O1; P3, O3, P3, O3; U1

Row 3: P4, U3, P3, U3, P5, U3, P3, U3, P4

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This square is the same pattern. I warped layers 1-3 in Red Heart Soft “Berry” and wove layer 4 with Caron Simply Soft “Soft Pink” and this is how it turned out. When woven from this warping configuration (1-3/4), the pattern looks totally different. It goes by the name “Alternating Dashes” in the pattern library on the Adventures in Pin Loom Weaving blog.

Alternating Dashes, front

Alternating Dashes, back

What a difference the warping procedure makes!

See this post for new variations on this pattern.