Waterwheel Inspired Weaving – Milford Mill 2

When I was a child, it wasn’t uncommon for my mother to unpick the cardigan or jumper of an older sibling.  It may have been because it was too small for my sisters but too large for me or my brother – or it could have been slightly damaged.  Either way, she would recycle it and knit a new one to fit.

Firstly, she would carefully unpick the seams.  Then she would unravel each section, starting from the cast off end, winding the yarn into loose balls as she went.  It was after that stage that she needed someone to help her to wind it into skeins.  On occasions she used a straight backed dining chair, but she preferred a person.  I remember sitting opposite her, elbows by my side, my forearms outstretched – hands roughly at shoulder height, palms facing, fingers together with my thumbs pointing upwards.  She would loosely anchor the end of the yarn around my thumb and wind it around my hands to make a skein.  Before removing the skein she would tie it together (loosely) in four places – this prevented it from unravelling and falling apart.  The skeins would then be gently washed and hung out to dry on a broom handle (wider than a washing line which would have made a mark through the yarn).  Once again, when the yarn was completely dry, my mother would need someone to help.  This time the skein would be placed back on the helper’s hands and my mother would wind it back into balls, ready to knit up into a new garment.

At first it would be an unwelcome task as your arms would begin to ache fairly quickly.  Eventually, the two people would become ‘connected’.  The helper did not remain static but assisted with tightly closed fingers tilting, inwards, outwards and upwards to ensure that the skein did not slip off the hands.  My mother’s hands would move clockwise around mine as she was simultaneously winding in circular motions to create the ball of wool.  The collaborative, rhythmic, winding, swaying and tilting motions would become meditative.  I think back now and wonder if it was sometimes also a ploy to get your child to sit in front of you and spend some quiet time together.

You don’t have to use knitting wool to weave, you can use string, ribbon, anything that works for you.

Many people will have made an Ojo de Dios (Eye of God) when they were young.  Some people will know it simply as weaving on sticks.  The origin of Ojo de Dios is believed to be with the Huichol or Wixaritari of Mexico.  They are also known for their beautiful yarn paintings and beadwork.  It was remembering this piece of folk art and Mill waterwheels, or lack of them, that was the inspiration for this Milford Mill make.

For little ones, you may wish to start off with bigger sticks, like lolly sticks – or twigs, or bamboo if you have any in the garden.  Make sure you deal with any sharp edges.

An Ojo de Dios is made with two ‘sticks’, but you can add additional sticks and vary the weaving technique to produce other shapes and patterns.  Because I took my inspiration from waterwheels and the circular motifs in these last two posts, I decided to use four sticks.  The ‘wheel’ below is made of scraps of wool from the boots, hats and cardigans I knitted for Beanie and J when they were first born.  If you want the weave to be more open, an effect which I quite like, the trick is to wrap the yarn around each stick not just the once, but twice.

Baby wool

Made in white or cream it looks like a snowflake and would make a nice Christmas decoration.


The ‘wheel’ below is much bigger (made on skewers) and the ends are finished off with paper beads.

Red Wheel

These Ojo de Dios below look great as wall or window hangings, but they can be whatever you want.

4 eyes


On twigs

Below is J working on his first attempt – we hung the finished article in his bedroom window.  He informed me that it was a sign for his alien friends and I was treated to a special story.  A combined tale about the comings and goings of the different kinds of aliens. Very amusing!


if you have a favourite team you could make one in their colours and use it as a pennant to hang in the car on the way to the match.


Of course, you can weave on other things too.  Sticking with the circular motif, here’s an old brolly – nearly finished!


Happy weaving! J


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