Sewing and weaving go hand in hand. Even if you have never sewn any handwoven fabrics before, you have probably sewn commercially woven fabrics!
Utilizing your handwoven fabrics in this way is a really great way to showcase and appreciate your hard work on a daily basis (depending on what you make.)
That being said, just the idea of using your fabric this way might be incredibly scary. I will go more into that in a bit, but just know that there are things that you can do to help get over the scary parts and make something amazing.
Before you can sew up your fabric, though, you have to first make it! So we are going to start by talking about a little something (really a long something) called yardage.
What is yardage
Not everyone wants to weave wall hangings, tapestries, and rugs.
Sometimes you just want to weave and weave and weave.
Yardage is a really great way to do that! The goal of weaving yardage is to create long and consistent weaving to be utilized in another way. Essentially it is meant to be a step in your project and not the final piece. Once woven, these yardage weavings get turned into something else (in this case – something sewn!)
Yardage is best woven on large floor looms since they will have the capacity to hold the amount of warp and finished weaving that yardage requires. That being said, there is not a specific amount of weaving that makes yardage… yardage.
You can also weave yardage on a rigid heddle loom if yours is wide enough to do so. The biggest issue with this is that the fabric beam does not have the same capacity as a floor loom. So while you can weave yardage, your yardage will probably be shorter. Keep this in mind when planning your weaving project.
Regardless of what loom you use, I recommend starting and ending your yardage with hemstitch. This will make it so it is very stable once it is off the loom. A little later on I will go over options for stabilization while sewing, but this is a good first step!
If you need to learn how to hemstitch then make sure to check out my simple tutorial!
It is also important to wash your fabric before attempting to do any cuts or sewing!
If you do not do this first, then your fabric could shrink which could mean that either you will not have enough fabric or your pattern could be altered. This simple step could help to keep you from wasting the handwoven fabric that you spent so much time on.
Do not skip it!
You can simply wash your fabric in the sink with a mild detergent and let it dry flat. If it is something that will eventually be washed in a washing machine then it is best to go through the effort of washing it and drying it as it will be used in the future. This will make sure that it does not continue to change after you have already made what you want with it.
Do not forget that when weaving plain weave the space between your warp and weft will shrink after washing. You do not have to beat really hard when weaving! Beat evenly and consistently and it should bloom and fill in after it is washed.
Beyond yardage, an example of a time that you may want to sew your handwoven fabric is when you are making samples.
If you weave a bunch of samples on one warp then you can sew the fabric before cutting them apart. To do this, make sure to leave space between each sample.
Sew a straight stitch at the top and bottom of each sample. You do not have to do anything special to the fabric in order to be able to do this! Once each sample is secure you can cut them apart.
If you want to see some handwoven fabric being sewn with a sewing machine make sure to get to the end of this post!
If you want to create large weavings but do not have a loom with that capability then you still have options! Weaving in panels is a great way to expand on your weaving options without purchasing a new and larger loom.
Panels could be created for either wider or longer weavings (or both) depending on what you are working with. Even if you just have a small simple frame loom you can create larger pieces by connecting small squares or rectangles.
You can even take advantage of this and work it into your design! You do not have to hide the fact that you are combining multiple weavings. Instead, embrace it!
Tools needed for sewing your handwoven fabric
Depending on the type of sewing you want to do – you will need different tools. Hand sewing is the simplest and requires the least amount of supplies. There will be a list at the end of this post with links to the specific tools that I used so make sure to check that out!
Sewing machine if doing anything other than attaching panels
Muslin (to make a mock-up of your project)
How to attach woven panels (hand sew)
When attaching panels you will do a simple figure 8 stitch.
One of the best things to do is use an extra length of warp yarn so that it can blend in easily. If you choose a different yarn or thread then your attachments will be more obvious. For the examples above and below, I used a different color so that it is easier to see.
First, thread your tapestry needle with warp yarn.
Lay your two panels next to each other and find your first loop of weft yarn on one of the panels.
Bring your tapestry needle through that loop and then zig-zag over to the first loop on the adjacent panel.
Continue this zig-zag motion to the end of your panels.
Tie it off and you are done!
Sew patterns (machine sew)
There are a few main steps when it comes to sewing your handwoven fabric with a sewing machine. When it comes to actually sewing the fabric, though, it really is not much different from sewing any other fabric. As long as you can get over the fear of messing it up.
Sewing your handwoven fabric on a sewing machine can be a little more daunting than just hand sewing two panels together. This is partially because more than likely this means that you will have to cut your fabric to make whatever you are planning.
I get it, you spent all that time weaving your beautiful fabric only to have to cut it up? What if you mess up?
Then you just weave more. (Not ideal, right?)
It is scary, but you made the fabric for a reason, and keeping it untouched forever is doing it a disservice. So it is time to cut it up and start sewing!
That being said, I recommend doing a practice project on regular non-handwoven fabric. Muslin is the go-to fabric for project mock-ups since it is inexpensive. If you are going to do any sewing at all then I recommend keeping muslin in your fabric stash for this reason.
Stabilizing your fabric
When it comes to sewing your real deal woven fabric then you have a few options that basically come down to giving your fabric a bit more stability.
If you have a pattern you are planning to use then your first step is to cut out your pattern pieces and lay it on your fabric. Just like weaving with any fabric you will want to try to utilize your handwoven textiles the best you can. Keep your pattern in mind first, but then make sure to lay your pattern out so that you can get the most out of the least amount of fabric.
You do not want to waste all your hard work by spreading your pattern out too much!
Once your pattern is set you will want to pin it to your fabric just like normal. You can then either mark your handwoven fabric with a water soluble marker or keep the pattern attached for the next step.
In order to get your stability, you basically have to create individually shaped woven pieces by sewing around the pattern or marked areas. The sewing itself is not really that different from sewing normal fabric, but I recommend going slow and maybe practicing on a sample or area that will not be used.
This can be a bit difficult, but it will allow you to use only the handwoven fabric and nothing else to stabilize it. This is ideal if you want the handwoven fabric and only the handwoven fabric in your finished piece.
For a more stable option, you can use fusible interfacing.
Interfacing is a type of fabric that will get attached to the back of your fabric through the use of heat (usually your iron.) This fabric will make it so your handwoven fabric will behave just like any commercial fabric!
Once you attach your fusible interfacing you can cut your handwoven fabric without fear of it falling apart. You do not even have to sew it first!
I like to use cotton interfacing as opposed to the more common poly because I weave solely with non-synthetic yarns. If you are weaving with synthetic yarn then using poly-based interfacing should not be an issue.
To use your interfacing make sure to follow the directions on the specific fabric you bought.
Generally speaking, you will be ironing on your interfacing so make sure to have your iron, a cover fabric*, and your handwoven fabric. You will want to turn your handwoven fabric so that the front is facing down. Place your interfacing down on top of your fabric with the adhesive side facing the fabric. Cover this with a cover fabric and iron on medium to high heat depending on the interfacing you have.
*Your cover fabric is important because it is possible for the adhesive of your interfacing to seep through and get onto your iron. This has not happened to me, but it is an easy step to take to protect your iron just in case.
What can you make with handwoven fabric?
What can’t you make?
If you can make it with commercial fabric then you can make it with your handwoven fabric!
Remember that sewing yardage is just sewing fabric.
That being said, you will want to utilize your handwoven fabric effectively and really have it be the star of the show. I recommend utilizing commercial fabrics to supplement your handwoven fabrics where applicable. No sense in using up precious yardage for the underside of something!
It is that simple!
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Even if you never noticed, you probably come in contact with pile weaving every single day! (To be fair, you usually will come in contact with at least one type of weaving every day – it is everywhere!)
But the pile weave I am talking about is carpet.
You know, that flooring option that a lot of people hate and replace with hardwood floors? Yep, carpet is a type of pile weave.
Similarly, pile weave can also be found in a lot of rugs, terrycloth (towels), and corduroy.
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So what exactly is it?
Pile weave is a generic term for a style of weaving that has a three-dimensional texture on its surface. There are many different types of pile weave, but two common techniques are rya knots and looped pile.
A pile can be either cut or looped, depending on what you are going for. If you have ever purchased a high-quality rug you may have seen these terms before.
Beyond just the “pile” or the three-dimensional pieces – a pile weave contains another very important component. In order to maintain the integrity of the fabric, most pile woven textiles also contain a ground weft.
If you read through my overshot weaving post then you may already be familiar with ground weft!
Just in case you have not looked through it yet, a ground weft is a plain weave (tabby) weft that is woven between the pile weft in order to create a stable fabric.
If you have ever shopped for a throw rug for your home, then you have probably come across Persian rugs… and their price tag.
Persian rugs are usually pretty expensive, and for very good reason. They are all hand knotted. Plus they are made with silk and wool with no synthetic fibers in sight.
Rugs have been woven in Iran since at least 2,500 years ago! They were originally made and used out of necessity for protection against the harsh environment, but due to their intricacy and beauty, they were eventually seen as a symbol of wealth. Originally these Persian rugs used an asymmetrical knot called a Persian (Senneh) knot. But, after Persia (modern-day Iran) was conquered by a Turkish tribe the trajectory of the Persian rug was changed forever.
The Turkish tribe brought with them the Turkish (ghiordes/ rya) knot that is used in a lot of Persian rugs today.
Another common pile fabric that you probably know about, but have never thought about is velvet.
Velvet is actually a warp pile weave and thus requires two separate warps to be wound on either separate beams or individual bobbins (shown below.) The other pile weaves discussed in this post are all weft pile.
If you ever have the chance to go to Venice, Italy, I HIGHLY recommend taking a tour of Tessitura Bevilacqua. Tessitura Bevilacqua is a historic weaving studio and school that specializes in velvets. You can walk through rows of 17th-century Jacquard looms that are still in use today!
During the tour you can also watch the weavers create this extraordinary fabric by weaving and cutting the pile weave.
Tessitura Bevilacqua has created velvets for many prominent organizations and people throughout history. Including the Kremlin and the Catholic Church.
If you are interested in weaving history then there really is not a better place to visit and walk through. When I toured the weaving studio, it really was one of the biggest highlights of my entire trip to Italy.
Rya (Turkish/ ghiordes) knots
The terms rya, ghiordes, and Turkish knots can all be used interchangeably.
Essentially, rya is a Scandinavian carpet created with Turkish knots and ghiordes is a Turkish rug made with Turkish knots. The terms rya and ghiordes have become synonyms for the type of symmetrical pile knot that is needed to create these rugs.
I most often use the term rya because that is what I was originally taught.
Rya knots are one of the simplest pile weaves that you can learn to weave! There are actually multiple ways to make rya knots, but the one that I use and teach the most is almost annoyingly easy to do.
What do I mean by that?
Rya knots are a very often requested technique that I get from students. It makes sense! The shag-like pile that they create is enticing and tactile. They are also often used to create long and flowing fringe at the bottom selvedge of your weaving.
Once I show students how to do it, it can be almost anti-climactic.
“That is it?”
Yep. That is all there is to it.
So let’s go over this super simple rya knot technique that you can use to weave all the tactile shag rugs that you want.
How to make rya knots
The most important thing that you need to know before making any type of pile weave is that you must start with plain weave.
If you were to just start your rya knots onto your warp without plain weave then it would fall off when you take it off the loom!
So always start with at least a full pass (left and right) of plain weave before starting. This is true even if you are using your rya as fringe. This is because your rya knots will be long enough to cover your full plain weave pass.
Rya is made my taking individual lengths of yarn and wrapping it around your warps. It is best to cut all your rya wefts at the same time to make sure they are the same size. You could also wrap your weft yarn around some cardboard that is the right length you want and then cut them off. This will make sure they are all the exact same size.
Rya is worked around two warps at a time. Your rya weft will go over the top of the two warps with equal amounts of weft on each side.
Then bring the ends through the middle of your two warps.
Pull down and repeat!
See. I told you it was easy.
After your row of rya you would want to do another row of plain weave to make sure your weaving is very secure (this is your ground weft I mentioned at the beginning.)
You can mix it up by using more than one weft at a time per rya knot. Try using different colored yarns or just more of them for a fuller textile!
When you are finished you can trim down your rya knots so they are all the same size. Trimming them also gives your weaving a cleaner and fuller look.
Looped pile weaves create a fun bubbly-type texture on the surface of your weaving. (The blue yarn in the image above.) This simple looped pile technique does require one extra tool in order to make uniform loops.
I really like using a bamboo knitting needle because it is a really good thickness – not too thin and not too thick. They are also smooth and made for yarn so you do not have to worry about any snagging – your yarn will always pull off smoothly. This is the size that I used for the example:
Really, though, you can use anything that you can wrap yarn around that is the same diameter along its entire length. Dowel rods, straws, or pencils are all options that you can choose if you are looking for something around your house.
How to make looped pile
The first thing that you want to do is attach your pile weft yarn to your warp. You can do this by just weaving two warps and then weaving your tail back in. (If you do not know how to weave your tails in then make sure to check out THIS post.)
Hold your knitting needle or whatever you are using up to the warp. Your first loop is the most annoying because it is not yet secure, but don’t worry it does not last long.
With your weft on a tapestry needle bring it over your rod so that you are working on top of it. Find the next warp that you would normally go under and pull the weft under that warp.
Next, bring your weft back over the rod so that you are now working underneath it. Find the next under warp and pull your weft through.
Work your way across the rod until you get to the other selvedge.
You are almost done!
In order to secure your looped pile you will need to weave at least one pick of plain weave over top of it. After you go all the way across to the other selvedge you can pull out the rod and set it aside.
Beat down your pile and now you are ready for the next row (which is done exactly the same way!)
Experimenting with different types of yarns, pile lengths, and yarn amounts can lead to some really fun and interesting weavings. Plus pile weaves can be used anywhere in your weaving, not just at the end or all in one row. Consider creating areas of pile weave paired with areas of plain weave to really emphasize the textures you created.
I always love to notice different weaving structures out in the wild (outside the studio) and pile weaves are pretty much everywhere!
Let me know your favorite pile weave in the comments!
You may recognize twining from its use in basket weaving. That is because basket twining is probably one of its most common modern uses. We are not talking about baskets, though. Weft twining is also used to make fabric!
When it comes to weaving, one common use of twining is to use it like hemstitch. Much like how hemstitch is used to start and finish off a weaving, weft twining can be used as a way to start out your weaving. That is not its only use though! It can be used for many other interesting and exciting things.
Just like weaving, twining is not a new technique. It actually dates back to at least 30,000 BCE. Unfortunately, twined fabrics from that long ago no longer exist, but their evidence has been found in impressions around the world.
So how can you use twining in your weaving practice and how do you twine?
Twining is a versatile technique that you can use to create emphasis, as a whole fabric method, a functional technique, and more. For the purposes of the diagrams and images, I will mostly be using two different colors for twining. This will make the process easier to see. That being said, there are many times when you may want to use two colors for aesthetic purposes and I will go over that too.
Let’s get twining.
Flatten out/ space warp
When weaving on a simple frame loom or any loom that needs the warp to be spaced and flattened I usually use scaffolding.
Scaffolding is yarn that spans to each side of the frame and by using plain weave puts all the warp in the right place. This is a super simple and effective way to flatten out your warp.
We are not talking about scaffolding, though.
Twining on the other hand can do basically the same thing but with an extra twist (literally) and it has a bit more staying power when it comes to your warp. This little twist that lays between your warp yarns can help to make sure that your EPI doesn’t change because your warp has a mind of its own.
Both of the techniques are great to use as a removable base for your weaving. They function sort of like a header on a floor loom or rigid heddle loom.
Just like you can use twining at the start of your weaving you can also use it at the end too! Twining is a simple way to end your weaving with a bit of flair, but not a lot of effort.
Unlike hemstitch, the twined yarn is not attached to your weaving to keep it in place, but instead acts as a barrier between your weft and the outside world. This is not a permanent solution and you will still need to secure your weft by employing some finishing techniques, but it is a good first step.
It will also give you a little extra security before you can get to finishing your weaving.
Twining as seen with a warp before it has been flattened out. Showing the structure of a single twist twine.
If you are looking for a way to outline some of your shapes when you are weaving then twining can be a great option.
Since it is a non-woven technique it means that it is easy to insert anywhere without having to worry about it matching up with your current pattern. It also can have a slightly raised edge to it if you use a yarn that is a bit thicker than your normal weft. This gives it more of a presence on the surface of your weaving and helps to really separate it from the surface.
Twining also easily wraps around your shapes. It can conform to any curves and angles you throw at it. This makes it an ideal technique to include in your weaving if you want some definition.
How to twine
When you are twining you will need two different weft yarns to work with. You can either choose two of the same color or two different colors depending on the design you want to create.
If using the same color it is best to fold your yarn in half so that you don’t have to worry about any tails on at least one selvedge of your weaving. This will ensure a smooth edge with less work in the end.
If using two colors then make sure to leave tails at your selvedges to be woven back in later. Make sure to check out the post on weaving in your weft tails HERE.
I have seen other weavers tie their two-colored wefts together at the selvedge, but I do not recommend that because it is hard to deal with later. IF you want to tie them together to make the twining easier – this is a possibility, but make sure it is loose so that you can untie it later.
Fold your weft yarn in half or start with enough yarn off your selvedge to create a tail.
For the purpose of the tutorial I will reference the grey and blue yarns shown above.
Decide which weft you want on top first. If you are weaving with the same color – it doesn’t matter. In the image above, grey is over the first warp and blue is under.
Twist your grey and blue yarn around each other so that the blue yarn is now in the position to go under your warp and grey over.
Twist again. Grey under, blue over.
The image above is different from the previous one because it only contains one color twined weft. This yarn was also folded in half before starting. If you want multiple rows of twining then you can twine back over the previous row. Twining back over is as simple as continuing on to of your previous twining just like if you were weaving plain weave on top of plain weave (shown in the last panel above.)
Keep in mind: the size of your twined yarn will affect the space that it creates between your warps. If you are using this technique specifically as a way to create space – then a larger diameter yarn may be the answer. You may want to look towards thinner yarns if you are wanting to use them as an outline for your woven shapes.
Want to learn how to weave shapes (you know, so you can twine around them!) Make sure to check out my e-book Weaving Shapes – Learn To Weave. Info below.
The typical twining technique uses just two yarns that twist once between each warp.
Another option is to add an extra twist to give a tighter look. If you look at the image below: on the left is a double twist and on the right is single twist twining.
If you are using different colors with a regular single twist then your colors will alternate which one goes under and over the warp. On a double twist twine, only one color will ever go over the warps and will be the predominant color in your twining.
If you are using more than one color in your twined weft, then you can actually create imagery!
To do this, you will need to use both the single and the double twist twining methods. Whenever you need to have the same color you would use the double twist to make sure it stays on top. When you switch to your other color you would do a single single twist twine and then switch back to double to keep that color on top.
You only use a single twist twine when making imagery (like that shown below) when you are switching colors.
In the example above, the yarn I was using would have been too thin for the image to appear. Thinner yarn will make it harder to “hide” your other yarn behind the warps. If you don’t have a thicker yarn to use – you can double it!
That’s what I did.
You can practice with both thinner and thicker yarns to see the difference in order to see which one you like better.
Twining is a great technique that you can use to add something extra to your weaving or as a way to keep it all together (and properly spaced!)
Has options? Check
Try it out and let me know about your favorite way to use twining in your weaving!
Held, Shirley E. Weaving: a Handbook of the Fiber Arts. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978.
Hand-manipulated laces (also called weaver manipulated lace) are areas of your weaving that create a lacy texture through means outside of your heddle or harnesses. Since you are the one doing the work and not the loom, that means that these laces can be done on any loom that can weave plain weave a.k.a. Any loom!
These weaving techniques can be time-intensive because you are usually focusing on only small areas at a time. You also don’t have your loom doing the “hard” work for you so you can’t speed through it. Ultimately, though, the result is beautiful details that are hard to ignore.
Due to their time-intensive process, you may want to consider the less is more approach. Using any hand-manipulated lace sparingly can add emphasis to certain parts of your weaving and not let all of that work get lost in a sea of lace.
We are going to look at three very different handwoven laces today, but they are all simple and can be done with little to no extra tools.
I always recommend starting and ending your weaving with plain weave for at least a full pass* but at least an inch would be better. This will make sure that your weaving has a stable foundation and will make finishing your weaving simpler.
If you start straight away with your lace weaving then it would be easy for the lace to start to come undone when no longer under tension.
We don’t want that!
Giving yourself at least an inch will also make sure that you have some space to finish off your warp ends. Thinking ahead to how you plan on finishing your weaving is always a great thing to do at the beginning.
This lace technique that is characterized by little bundles or “bouquets” of warp threads with weft wrapped around them.
Brooks bouquet lace is always woven on an open shed so you can use a pick-up stick if weaving on a shed-less loom to make sure it stays open while working with the weft.
With your open shed go under whatever amount of warps that you want depending on the size of bouquet you are looking for. Smaller bundles will result in a finer lace as opposed to larger bundles that will have a bulkier appearance. You can always create a sample if not following a pre-written pattern in order to make sure that it looks the way you want. For the purpose of my sample, I am going under three warps at a time.
After going through your shed one way bring your shuttle back around and over top of all three warps. At this step, you will be back where you first started with this bundle. Bring your shuttle under those same three warps once more and then move on to your next warp bundle making sure to pull your weft tight. You will do this across the entire width of your weaving. You can then do the same thing on the next pick and the next shed or go back to plain weave at any time.
Since this lace is woven on an open shed each pick will have unwoven warps below it. This creates the window-like effect between your bundles and makes a dainty-looking lace.
I have a FREE scarf pattern that uses brooks bouquet that you can get by becoming a member of the Warped Community. Don’t worry, that is free too. Check out everything you get HERE or just sign up below!
Leno weave is woven on a closed shed with the aid of a pick-up stick. This lace gets its appearance by twisting at least two warps around each other and using a weft pick to keep them in place.
To create your leno weave you will use your fingers to twist your warps. With each twist insert your pick-up stick to keep them in the right orientation. Once you have gone all the way across the width of your weaving you can twist your pick-up stick so that it creates a shed.
Run your weft yarn through the now open shed and place it at an angle to help keep your selvedges straight after beating it down. Close your shed, remove the pick-up stick, and beat the weft yarn gently into place.
It is important not to beat the weft too hard because you want to maintain the height of the lace area. If you beat it too hard it will shorten this area and make it look stumpy.
Looking at spanish lace you can see that it is basically little areas of plain weave that are attached to other little areas of plain weave.
For spanish lace you will be working in one small area at a time then move onto the adjacent area.
In the example above, I am going under four warps at a time.
Spanish lace is also woven on an open shed so use either your rigid heddle, harnesses, or pick-up stick to create a shed to weave in. Take your shuttle under four warps then change your shed. Go back under four warps then change your shed again. Weave under the original four warps plus the next four warps in the weaving (eight warps total.)
The next four warps are the beginning of step one again – so you would weave back and forth in groups of four for the width of your weaving.
Depending on the style you are going for will depend on the size of the lacy areas and how they interact with each other. You can change up the size of each area for more visual interest or even to create lacy imagery or patterns.
Consider alternating smaller and larger areas of spanish lace for a simple but interesting lace.
If you are looking for more lace options or weaving patterns then I always recommend The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Ann Dixon. There is an entire section on different lace weaves that includes both hand-manipulated and loom laces.
What to do with your hand-manipulated lace
Well now that you know how to weave your hand-manipulated lace, what do you do with it?
There are a lot of options that don’t have to stop with just scarves (although scarves are a great use for these laces!)
Some other options are:
You can also consider your color choices when weaving lace. Weaving all one color will create a more traditional lace, while using bright colors can make it more contemporary.
Whatever you decide to do with your handwoven lace it will add some extra flair and class to your next weaving.
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They are a set of wooden sticks that are smooth and have a hole at one end. They are also usually tapered at the opposite end of the hole to make it easier to slide the weft yarn on.
The hole at the bottom is where you place your “core” yarn (essentially your warp). You only need to use two sticks at a time to start weaving, but adding more doesn’t require extra skills, just the ability to hold more at a time!
As a weaver who often weaves tapestry and large scale woven projects, these aren’t initially something that I would pick up or seek out.
That being said I found them entertaining to sit back with and not think too hard about. Sometimes that is what you want. The rhythmic motion of the stick weaving made it ideal for when I wanted to be doing something with my hands but had no ideas in mind.
Initially, I would have recommended them mostly for someone just getting started or as an introduction to weaving for kids. They are simple to work with and the motion needed becomes muscle memory rather quick. While I still believe this is a great option for those people, after further playing and thinking I believe that they can go beyond that if you want them to!
A little further down I will give you some project ideas that could make these a worthwhile tool in any weaver’s studio.
How do you use weaving sticks?
To start off you will want to attach your warp yarn to the sticks. Measure out double the length that you want your weaving to be. Pull your warp through the hole making sure it is doubled over. Do this for every stick you are weaving with. Tie an overhand knot with all the warp yarns at their ends to keep them together.
Next, you will need to create a slip knot.
A slip knot can be created by making a loop with your weft yarn and pulling the longer end of the yarn through the loop. (pictured below)
Tighten this around one of your weaving sticks on either end.
Start moving your weft yarn over and under your sticks just like it would behave around your warp on a traditional weaving. Once you get to the last stick – turn around and weave back! Keep doing this as you work your way up to the top of the sticks. Once near the top you can start sliding your weft off of the sticks and onto the warp yarn. You may have to inch it down in small increments.
Make sure to leave an inch or two of the weft on the sticks if you plan to continue weaving. This will make it easier to keep going because it keeps the sticks in place.
If you are having trouble working around the sticks then try to separate them a bit with your holding hand.
Weaving Project Ideas
Even with the thinner weaving sticks, the gauge of yarn that you will need to be on the thicker side. If you use a core yarn that is too thin then your resulting weaving will be very loose. Overall, using thicker yarns for warp and weft will result in a better-looking final product.
Most weaving stick kits will come with 6 sticks for you to use. While this may seem to limit the size of weaving you can create, you can actually combine multiple panels together to create a larger weaving. This would also make it really simple to make vertical stripes of color without having to worry about connecting your weft during weaving. Just weave up different colored panels and connect them later!
One of the projects that I think would best suit the chunky style that is created by stick weaving is to make a rug! You can either make a bunch of panels and attach them together as described above to create a traditional rectangular rug or you can coil your strips to make a rounded rug. If making a rounded rug you would use the same method discussed below to attach the strip to itself as it coils around.
You can also use fabric screen printing ink to add some extra flair to your woven rugs! Even simple polka dots can be a great addition to your rug. Just find something round to use as a stencil – in this case I used a roll of tape.
Some other ideas for your stick weaving would be to create a bag strap, guitar strap, or headband! Really anything that you would want to weave as a long flat strip could be a good option for this weaving method.
To connect your woven strips: depending on the intended life you have for your weaving will determine what you will need to connect multiple pieces together.
If your weaving will be a normally un-handled wall hanging and it isn’t too heavy then you should be able to get away with using grey thread to combine your panels.
If your weaving will be handled a lot (or stepped on if it is a rug) then I recommend a heavier duty yarn to attach them together. In this case, you will want to be extra careful about making sure that it doesn’t show through to the front of the weaving. I used the same yarn to attach the panels that I did for the rest of the weaving.
The first option is to double over your yarn to create a giant loop. Attach your thread to your weaving by pushing a part your weft yarns a little bit at one end of your weaving. Your goal here is to temporarily expose the warp yarn. Bring your needle around your warp and through the loop of your thread. Tighten this up and move your weft yarn back over the warp and your thread to cover it up.
You could also use a single thread of yarn and tie it to your exposed warp yarn. This only works if your weaving is chunky enough to hide the knot created.
Move back and forth from warp yarn to warp yarn between your two panels as you zig-zag down the length of them – grabbing the warp and covering it back up as you go.
When you get to the end tie it off to one of the warp yarns. Do this again for every panel you need to attach.
Weaving stick tip: If you are having trouble towards the beginning because your sticks are moving around too much then try moving your weft closer to the middle of the sticks until you have more on them. It is easiest to use weaving sticks when they stay still and they stay in the same place more when there is weft further up.
Weaving sticks are a great portable option that you can take pretty much anywhere. Since they allow you to weave long projects without the use of a large loom – they should have a place in any weaver’s basket if they want to weave on the go.
Sometimes you want to weave something a little bit different. And sometimes most likely you have some plastic bags just laying around that you keep forgetting to bring with you to the store to recycle.
It happens to all of us.
So what can you do with all of these bags you have stuffed under your kitchen sink?
You can make yarn!
First, why would you want to do that?
Well, what else are you doing with them?
If you haven’t switched over to using reusable grocery bags or you have been ordering groceries more than you used to then you probably have a lot of plastic bags laying around. Since plastic bags can’t be recycled in regular recycling they are often left and forgotten. Instead of holding onto them forever and continuing to tell yourself, you will bring them back to the store one day to recycle.
You can instead use them to make something beautiful and/or useful.
Plastic bags add texture to your weaving
Weaving with plastic bags adds a new type of texture that you are not going to get when using regular yarn. Due to their shine and their loft, they create a more three-dimensional textile than some of your more conventional yarns.
Despite this specific texture, it may not be seen as plastic yarn at first glance.
This makes for a fun surprise for those that see it for the first time.
Great for when you are stuck in a weaving rut
Even if you are not interested in reusing or upcycling plastic bags, breaking outside of your yarn stash can be a fun way to try something new.
You should always allow yourself to experiment and try new things to further your artistic ideas.
You never know what is going to inspire you. Sometimes just the act of trying something new can stir your creative juices and get you ready to plan your next or next few projects.
What You Need:
Plastic bags are going to come in different colors when they come from different stores. This gives you the ability to have multiple colors in your weaving without having to do anything extra or mix it with yarn if you don’t want to.
While I absolutely do not recommend going out and getting plastic bags purely for their use as weaving materials. This is a great way to use up all of those plastic bags that I know you have shoved in another plastic bag under your sink or in your laundry room.
You know it’s there. (I keep calling you out because really… I’m calling myself out!)
If you are looking for more color options or just more bags in general then ask around for someone else’s plastic bags that they are not using.
Scissors (not fabric scissors!)
I would like to repeat that you shouldn’t be using your fabric scissors to cut your plastic bags! You don’t want to dull them and have them not in top shape when you go back to using them for what they were made for. Instead, just use any other pair of sharp scissors you have laying around.
How to make plarn!
There are 2 different ways to make your plastic yarn. The first way that we are going to go over is the strip method.
This method is not as straightforward as the other method, but it does tend to create more even yarn. If you have ever made t-shirt yarn then this is basically the same method that you use for that. (Learn how to make t-shirt yarn including using the sleeves HERE).
Plastic bag yarn strip method
In order to create your plastic bag yarn you will need to prep your bag. This means you will need to get rid of any seems or extra parts of the bag that go outside the “tube” of the bag.
Cut the bottom seam off the bag as close to the seam as possible to avoid wasting material. Do the same thing to the handles at the top. You can throw these out (or recycle them if you are able!)
Once you cut off the extra parts you will basically have a plastic tube. Fold your bag in half so that the closed sides are together. I have them offset a little so you can see it better, but this is not a necessary step.
Cut up from the bottom folded edge of the bag in 1 inch strips. Stop about an inch from the top edge. If you cut all the way up you will have cut a really skinny tube – so avoid doing that.
Once you are done you can unfold your bag and spread it out.
Cut into the first strip on either side of the bag. This will be the beginning of your plarn.
You will have two parts of your bag that have a large uncut area and you start with either one.
Cut across to each opposite slit (shown in the dotted lines below). Make your way all the way across. When you finish with the first side, turn it over and do the next.
When you get to the very end disconnect the end of your strip by cutting at a diagonal.
Plastic bag yarn spiral method
The second method is a bit more straightforward but a little harder to control. If you want to just sit down and do this while streaming something, this is an easy thing to just do in your seat without a surface.
Start out by prepping your plastic bag the same way we did above. Cut the bottom seam and handles off and throw away or recycle.
Cut into your bag at a diagonal at one of the open ends of your tube. Cut in 1 continuous strip.
Since this method is a little more free form, keeping your strips a consistent width is a little harder, but not impossible.
Making a plastic yarn ball
Once you are finished with your yarn the best way to store it is to create a yarn ball.
Start by wrapping the end of your plastic yarn around your finger tip. Slide it off and continue by wrapping around the loops that you created. Switch directions every wrap or two until you are finished! This yarn can be a bit slippery so try to hold it firmly. If you drop it mid ball then it is not a big deal, but it will unravel some.
When you get to the end just tuck the end of your yarn under one of the wraps to secure it.
Weaving patterns can be done with only one color of your plastic bag yarn or multiple colors. If you are weaving a balance weaving then your warp will show through so keep that in mind when choosing the foundation for your weaving. Plastic bags would not make a good warp yarn because they are not strong enough to hold up to the tension required.
The example above was supposed to be a tapestry (oops) that I made while I was a student and playing around with materials. If you want to learn why this is not a tapestry then you can read more about tapestryHERE.
My first ever “tapestry” that I made that was not a sample was made with plastic bags from three different stores and a linen warp. I still love to show my students this weaving as an example of how dynamic weaving can be. You really can weave with almost anything.
While I wouldn’t really recommend these plastic bag coasters for something really hot (in other words I wouldn’t use these as a trivet) the plastic bags could make for fun and simple coasters. They won’t take too much time to make but could be an interesting conversation starter.
If you have ever heard of temperature blankets then this is a similar idea.
You would need a really long warp and a loom that you don’t need access to for anything else for a while or you can make this in panels to attach together at a later time.The idea behind this is to keep all of the plastic bags that you use in a year and weave with them as you get them. Most of the time in projects like these you are working just with simple stripes to mimic a timeline of the year that you are creating.
In this case, you won’t be getting bags from a friend or neighbor to try to get different colors or more materials. Instead, you are recording your actual use over the course of a year. This could be a fun project to do if you are wanting a way to weave at least a little bit everyday. You can save your plastic bags to weave in the order you get them, but only weave one or two a day to spread it out throughout the year. Use this as a way to get into your weaving practice each day, sort of like a warp-up.
This could also be a really great project to do with kids to teach them about waste, recycling, and upcycling. A visual representation of your year in plastic bags can be an eye-opening project to reflect on at the end of the year while still creating something interesting to look at and make.
If you have a favorite non-yarn material that you like to weave with then let me know!