Discontinuous weft is a big feature of most tapestries.Actually, it’s one of the defining features!
Essentially, it’s when you have more than one weft in the same shed (weaving on the same line) and is the cornerstone of imagery. This is because it allows you to have multiple colors next to each other which can be used to make shapes, but it is also used for hatching or color blending. Unlike most pattern weaving which features selvedge to selvedge weft, tapestry weft may not continue across the width of the weaving.
One of the best tips for weaving discontinuous weft is Meet and Separate. I have also called it Heads to Heads and Tails to Tails.
Whatever you want to call it, in its simplest form – you have 2 wefts that are either weaving towards or away from each other and never in the same direction. (That’s the key!)
Why it works:
Meet and separate is used to make sure that your weft can continue with the intended pattern (in the case of tapestry – plain weave) without overlapping. This allows you to carry one weft over the other weft in the next shed without having the weft go over and under the same warps. Since the wefts are always weaving in different directions, there is never a time when they overlap in the same shed!
How to do it:
The simplest version of meet and separate is when you have only 2 different wefts. More than likely they will be in different colors, but there could be a time and a place to have them be the same color and the theory still applies.
It’s important to always do a full sequence with your yarn in order for this to work. This means your yarn must always meet and separate in order for them to move. If you try to only have them meet then the pattern will be lost.
When these 2 wefts meet you can use a variety of different techniques to choose how they interact. Interlocking, dovetail, and split tapestry will all work, it just depends on what you want to accomplish with your weaving.
Dovetail: This technique creates a jagged interaction.
Interlocked: A fuzzy interaction.
Split: Clean lines. (This is my favorite and the one I’ll be using for the post)
Meet and separate with 2 wefts means that you will start each yarn at the selvedge of your weaving. Weave them each across to their stopping point – which is determined by your pattern or cartoon – so that they both meet. Weave each yarn back in the opposite direction (separate) completing your full pass!
Depending on the weft interaction you choose you do have the option to weave up one color at a time and then the other (split) or you will have to weave them line by line if they are interacting (join or dovetail.)
As you can see above, if you start moving your weft yarns so that they aren’t weaving up straight blocks of color then you will be able to see if you did the technique correctly! Once one warp (in this case grey) weaves over the other (blue) you can see that it continues to weave the plain weave pattern correctly.
In the image below, the meet and separate technique wasn’t used. The blue and grey yarns are weaving in the same direction. Once the blue yarn attempts to weave over the grey yarn the pattern is lost! They start to weave up with both yarns going over and under the same warps.
More than 2 wefts
This theory works for any number of wefts, but tends to feel more convoluted as you add more to the mix. When there are at least 3 yarns in the same shed then you will have 2 of them meeting and 2 of them separating at the same time. Sometimes it can help to draw or look at a diagram to understand the movement that they have to take in order to keep the pattern. You can look at the diagram below, but if you have say – 7 colors in the same shed, I recommend drawing it out with some arrows.
One of the biggest obstacles I see my students have with this theory is where do they all start?!? It may seem obvious in theory, but confusing in practice, that once there are more than 2 wefts they can’t all begin on a selvedge. With 3 wefts, 2 of them will have to start in the middle of the weaving.
Depending on what you are weaving, you might weave line by line or color by color. If you are weaving line by line then I recommend starting at your selvedge yarn always and work your way across. This will ensure that you don’t lose your pattern by skipping around. Trying to start with a middle weft makes things too complicated. Make it easy on yourself!
If you decide to weave a color at a time, which you might choose to do if you are weaving shapes, then just make sure to pay attention to what direction your yarn starts in. Write it down if you have to! It can be hard to remember if you need to meet or separate when you weave this way since you are only focusing on one color at at time.
Different sized yarn
Most of the time if you are weaving traditional tapestry you will be weaving with the same size weft yarn throughout. But That doesn’t mean you have to! Weaving with different size weft yarns can add a lot of interesting texture and emphasis to your tapestry, but you will need more of the thinner yarn in the same amount of space.
It’s ok to have an unequal amount of your different yarns! As long as it still works with your EPI.
So don’t let that deter you from experimenting with fun yarn! A 2 to 1 ratio or more is fine and will still work as long as you stick with the theory.
Need help planning your weaving project? Stuck trying to figure out how much yarn you need? What the h&^$ is WPI? Check out my e-book!
What To Do If You Accidentally Wove In The Same Direction
First of all, don’t worry!
We all make mistakes and especially when you start weaving many colors it can be hard to keep track of who should be meeting and who should be separating.
You’ll notice if a mistake was made if when you carry your yarn over it starts weaving in the same shed as the adjacent yarn. So what do you do?
Well, you have 2 options.
Make It Right
Make It Work
If you haven’t woven that much and it’s easy to undo then technically the correct way to fix your weaving is to make it right. Un-weave the portion that is incorrect and do it the right way. This might take more time, but it’s a learning experience!
If you have woven a lot and don’t want to undo your progress then you can always just make it work. This requires a little bit of thought to do correctly, but essentially you can add a supplemental weft on top of the incorrect yarn. This is represented by the pink yarn in the image below so it’s easier to see, but you will use the same color as the weft you are using. This supplemental weft will only be in 1 shed and not a full sequence. You would then restart your weft yarn on top of the supplemental weft.
What does this do?
It changes your shed! By adding an extra weft yarn and restarting your regular yarn, you are able to fake it. Keep in mind that this will mean you have 2 extra tails to tuck in when you are finished, but that could take less time than starting over.
Meet and Separate is one of the foundations of tapestry weaving. Once you get the hang of it, you will barely even have to think about it!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission that helps keep the blog going – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!
Sometimes everything that you want to do with your weaving isn’t possible with weaving itself. Sometimes it is possible, but it could be a lot easier! Using embroidery with your weaving is a great way to add something extra to the surface of your weaving that can create both texture and interest.
Outline, define, and enhance.
Let’s first start out with some embroidery info! I recently did a blog post on the difference between weaving, knitting, and crochet. These three fiber arts are ways to create a textile – essentially creatinga surface. Embroidery is different because it is meant to be used on a surface.
Embroidery does not make fabric, but it adorns it. That doesn’t mean that it is purely decoration. In fact it has a rich history and can be used in many different ways as an Art form in itself. Embroidery works so well with weaving because it allows you to easily add to your weaving outside of the regular weaving grid.
Embroidery techniques you can use on your weaving:
Couching to add extra non-yarn materials
Couching to add large yarn
French knots for dots
Chain stitch, stem stitch, or back stitch for outlines
Straight stitch for details
Satin stitch to fill in small areas or add emphasis
One of my favorite things to do with couching is to use it to to add non-yarn materials to your weaving. This works for organic material of basically any shape or size! If you are couching something and the yarn you use stands out a lot then you can wrap the couched yarn with a matching weft yarn. This will help it to blend in a little and make it look more intentional. You can see that I did this in the picture below.
Ok, so the sticks in this picture aren’t actually aren’t couched onto the weaving… but instead embedded in the weaving itself. That being said, the weft wrapping works exactly the same!
Couching works really well when you want to add some larger yarn to your weaving as well. This is a great method to create beautiful smooth lines that are otherwise hard to create with the pixelated weaving format. You can outline woven shapes, or just create brand new 3 dimensional areas on your weaving surface.
How to couch
Couching is probably one of the easiest embroidery techniques I’ll be going over because the yarn or thread you are using is not meant to be a part of the piece. Instead it’s only goal is to keep something else (yarn or other materials) in place. Due to this, you can afford to be a little less precise.
Start out with your couching yarn on your tapestry needle and a knot tied to the end so it doesn’t come back through the weaving surface. The yarn will come through the back of the weaving. Place your object or large yarn on the weaving surface and bring the couching yarn around it and go back through the weaving. Make sure that when you are going through your weaving that you are going between wefts and not through them. You don’t want to pierce the yarn!
Continue across the object in equal increments and when you get to the end finish your couching yarn like a weft tail.
If you want to wrap your couching yarn for some emphasis you can come through the back of the weaving just like when you started and bring it around the yarn until it is completely covered. The wrapping yarn can travel to the next couching yarn on the back.
French knots are a great way to make small 3-dimensional dots on your weaving. They can be used to simply add small areas of texture or just individual dots around your weaving. These simple knots are also a good stand-in for small bunched flowers. The size of the yarn that you use can make a big difference on the knots themselves.
Thicker yarn will produce more prominent knots – but make sure the yarn isn’t too large that it displaces the weft it goes through.
How to do a french knot
Start from the back of the weaving with a regular overhand knot to keep it from coming through. Wrap your embroidery thread or yarn around your needle 1 to 3 times depending on how big you want the french knot to be. While wrapping the yarn around the needle keep it tight the whole time. This will help to make sure the knot doesn’t just become a bunch of messy loops.
Next, insert your needle back through your weaving directly next to the knot and pull all the way through. You can travel on the back of the weaving for the next french knot and finish just like a weft tail.
Using chain stitch, stem stitch, or any other of the simple embroidery stitches on the surface of your weaving can be a great way to add some texture and outlining to certain areas. Which ones of these embroidery stitches you use depends on the style that you want for your weaving.
The chain stitch is a great 3-dimensional braid-like line that you can use with smaller yarns to make them fuller.
Stem stitch looks like a twisted piece of yarn that makes an interesting outline that is straighter than your chain stitch.
How to do a chain stitch
The chain stitch comes from the back of the weaving and back around adjacent to where it came out leaving a small loop. You will then come back through the loop and continue the process for the entire stitch.
Your chain stitch doesn’t only for outlines. You can also use it to fill in spaces! Use small chain stitches next to each other to create a textured raised surface on your weaving.
How to do a stem stitch
A stem stitch is constantly coming back on itself. Start by coming up through the back of the weaving and going back down through it in a straight line (at the end of the previous stitch.) When you come up next you will come up in the middle of the straight line instead of at the end. Continue for the entirety of the stitch. With this one, you will have to be careful going around curves, so keep in mind that you will probably have to create smaller stitches to avoid gaps.
Interested in the back stitch? It’s the the opposite of the stem stitch. Actually, if you look at the back of your stem stitch – it IS a back stitch. Instead of coming up through the middle of your stitch you will always come up at the end of your stitches.
More Embroidery Stitch Options
Straight stitch – Actually the easiest stitch that you could ever use. A straight stitch is when you come up through the back of your surface and back down in a line. That’s it. This creates a really simple line that could be used to create stripes or lines. These lines could be as long or as short as you want. The longer the line, though, the looser it will be. You could add a bunch of short lines in an area in different directions to create shading or a fun pattern.
Satin stitch – A stitch used to fill in areas with color created by placing straight stitches adjacent to each other in very close proximity. Due to their closeness, you shouldn’t be able to see the surface of the weaving between each stitch. Could be used to add a 3-dimensional effect to tapestry shapes. You can either fill in with the satin stitch by coming up across the weaving and coming up adjacent to the previous stitch – which will make the front and the back look the same or bringing up the thread adjacent to the previous thread each time.
Honestly, you could add almost any of the many embroidery stitches to your weaving surface to add dimension, texture, and emphasis! These are only a few of the simplest options that you can use. Try out some of these techniques and let me know what you like!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission that helps keep the blog going – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!
The best gifts are those you make.
It’s not just something your mom told you when you gave her that macaroni necklace as a kid (I’m sure she loved it).
Giving the gift of woven art is an amazing handmade present that pretty much everyone would be lucky to receive. Perhaps I’m biased, but there’s not much like receiving something that someone put time and energy into. That being said, who has time to create large woven artwork for everyone on their list?
Instead, you can create simple DIY woven gifts that shouldn’t take too long or cost too much. That way, you can make more! These handwoven gift ideas could be great for holidays, birthdays, thank yous, or anytime!
Simple Handwoven Bookmark
This attractive little weaving is a perfect gift for someone who loves to read and enjoys the little things. You can weave this in many different designs depending on who you are giving it to. The simplest design would be simple horizontal stripes! This woven bookmark is a simple plain weft-faced weaving (tapestry).
Make sure to choose yarn that is on the thinner side. You don’t want anything too bulky between the pages of the book. You can also either iron (if you are using acrylic yarn than be careful of your heat settings) or press it to flatten it our some before gifting.
EPI – 6 Ends Per Inch
Yarn used – 8/4 Cotton rug warp and sock weight knitting yarn for weft
Size – 1 1/2″ x 5″
You can easily make different sizes for different books. This size is great for a small book.
Weaving instructions – You can weave as simple or as complicated as you want. You can easily make a very attractive woven bookmark with self-striping yarn with very little effort. If you want to get more detailed you can weave shapes or patterns (note that patterns will probably require a different EPI).
Weaving up a more balanced weave as opposed to a weft-faced weaving will also create a thinner bookmark. Experiment with different patterns and sizes!
This bookmark was woven on a simple cardboard loom to make it as fast and easy as possible. If you warp your cardboard loom like your EPI Mini-loom then you can actually weave a bookmark on each side and get the most out of your time.
You can also weave this on a frame loom or rigid heddle loom if you want! Do what works for you!
Finishing – You can finish this bookmark with simple overhand knots. You then have the option to either leave the warp as is or for a more frayed look you can un-twist the plies of your yarn. Don’t forget to tuck your tails back down your warp channels so the bookmark is flat and smooth on all sides.
Similar to those friendship bracelets you may have made as a kid – this woven bracelet is a step above and makes a great gift for anyone who appreciates wearable art. You can create a thin band for the wrist or ankle or a thicker band to be worn like a cuff. Another option is to gift a few bracelets of different sizes to mix and match! If they all have complimentary color schemes than wearing thinner and thicker bracelets together can be a lot of fun.
EPI – 12 EPI
Size – 1/2” wide and 5“ long (6 total warp ends) or 1/4″ wide and 5″ long (4 total warp ends)
These bracelets are only 5″ long because I made them to go over my wrists and I have tiny wrists… That being said, the weaving doesn’t have to go all the way around the wearer’s wrist so if you don’t know exactly how long to make it then don’t worry!
You can make them as long as you want and as wide as you want. For a thinner bracelet – I don’t recommend any less than 4 warp ends though, for ease of weaving.
Yarn Used – 16/2 Cottolin for warp and weft. This is a GREAT yarn for this because it drapes really well and is super soft. This makes a comfortable and long weaving bracelet.
Set Up – A cardboard loom is really easy to use here as well. Wrapping the warp all the way around should give you plenty to work with for sizing the finished bracelet.
Weaving instructions – Again, just like the bookmark, you can make simple stripes look very impressive. Change up their sizes or position to create fun patterns or designs. Due to the size of the yarn and the weaving – you can get away with using a weavers knot instead of weaving in your tails for these woven bracelets. Normally I would never recommend weavers knots for a finished piece, but they end up being so small that it works out ok. Just try to make sure the small knots end up on the back of the bracelet.
Finishing – Finish these up with simple overhand knots that are flush with the edge of your weaving. I recommend anchoring your bracelet with your yarn, a book, or something heavy to make it easier to tie.
To create a movable knot you will want to start an overhand knot on one side of the bracelet, but don’t pull tight just yet. Place the other end through the loop. Then you can pull that knot tight. Place 2 more overhand knots on each end of the bracelet to keep it from coming undone. Trim off any excess. Make sure to leave enough slack in the bracelet for the receiver to get their hand through!
If making an anklet or you just don’t want to do the movable knot – then you can skip to the overhand knots at the ends of each side and the wearer can tie on the bracelet or you can add a bead button instead!
Variation Idea – Make a wider bracelet that has a button or snap on the ends. If you decide to do a button to close it then you can use split tapestry on one end for the button hole. No need to cut into your bracelet if you can plan ahead.
For this variation you would want to choose a finishing method that eliminates the warp at the ends. I.E. weaving them back into the weaving itself.
DIY Woven Ornament
You can make many different types of ornaments with weaving, but a miniature wall hanging might just be the cutest option you have. Again, you can keep this pretty simple and it will still be impressive. Due to its size, I don’t recommend trying to be too detailed. If you are looking to add something extra then using embroidery on the surface of the ornament will probably be a simpler idea.
EPI – 6 EPI
Yarn/ Materials Used – 8/4 cotton rug warp and similar sized yarn for weft. Small dowel rod or stick.
Size – 2″ x 2″ – 12 total warp ends
Weaving Instructions – You can weave as simple or complicated as you want. You could do an entire ornament with rya knots or do one color tapestry and embroider on top.
Finishing – Attach your weaving to the dowel rod or stick by taking your warp yarn coming from the top of the weaving and bringing it around. Insert the warp back into the weaving and secure it by going back up an adjacent warp channel. Use an extra piece of yarn and tie it to the ends of the stick – you could also braid it for a more finished look. This will be how you hang it.
Tuck in any tails at the back.
While not actually a woven gift idea, this ornament does use yarn and is incredibly simple. You can possibly even use left over yarn from other projects if you have enough on hand! These are great when given in groups of a few ornaments and they’re so fast that it will probably take you less time than any of the other DIY gift ideas on this list.
Materials Needed – Any yarn that you have laying around! Play with fun colors and textures. You can use different sized yarns for variation in the pom-pom or the same yarn throughout for something simple. You will also need a pom-pom tool or a fork. Don’t worry – the pom-pom tool is an easy DIY.
DIY Pom-Pom tool – Find some cardboard or chipboard. Cut a notch out of the rectangle.
Done. That’s it. Now we make pom-poms!
Instructions – Wrap your yarn around the pom-pom tool or fork a lot. Like a lot a lot. The more you wrap it, the fuller it will be. Make sure to leave a little bit of room at the inside of the notch so that you can gather your ball later.
You can use more than one color of yarn for a fun multi-colored pom-pom. Wrap each color a few times and repeat. If you are using more than one colored yarn then just make sure to start and stop the yarn at the edge of the maker and not in the middle.
Once done, take a new piece of yarn (probably the same color) and tie a knot as tight as you can around the middle of the wrapped yarn. You will be able to access this if you left space in the notch. If you didn’t then you can use a tapestry needle to assist you. Slide the entire thing off the tool and tie another knot on the other side.
If using a large enough piece around the middle you can use the remainder after knotting to hang your pom-pom from. If it’s not long enough, you can prepare another piece of yarn or braid and attach it to the knotted yarn.
Cut the looped yarn ends to separate them and create your ball. Trim and fluff as needed! The more yarn you wrapped and the the more you trim off the denser your pom-pom will be.
Woven coasters are a fun and simple project that you can weave up in little time. You can weave up simple stripes for a classic design without a lot of bulk on the back due to the changing of weft yarns. If you are looking for a more detailed design then you can paint it on with acrylic paint!
EPI – 6 EPI
Size – 4″ x 4″ – 24 total warp ends per coaster
Yarn/ Materials Used –8/4 cotton yarn in whatever color you choose. Cardboard loom or any frame loom. Fabric silkscreen ink, paintbrush and/or stencils. Iron and ironing cloth.
Instructions – Warping your frame front and back will allow you to get more coasters with just 1 warp. If you are planning to paint on your coaster then all you need is a simple weft-faced weaving of 1 color. You can change it up by adding in another color, but keep it pretty simple so that it doesn’t overwhelm the design. The less color changes you have will result in fewer tails to weave in at the end. Stencil or paint on whatever design you want! You can do this while it is still under tension or once it has been taken off the loom – personal preference. Polka dots are a cute and timeless option, but you can also use varying stripes, open circles, or any other geometric shape!
Finishing – Use an overhand knot on your warp as close to the coaster as possible. You can finish these with simple fringe (untwist plies for a fun shaggy look) or go for a cleaner look by tucking your warp ends back in the weaving. Don’t make the fringe too long or it will get messy.
Once your ink design is dry – cover your coaster with an ironing cloth and iron on the highest setting for your yarn. The silkscreen ink is heat set so this will keep it from washing out or transferring to your cup.
Other woven gift ideas:
Keychain – You can make this similar to the bookmark, but attach a keychain ring to the top!
Pot holders/ trivets – Think of this as a larger and thicker coaster! Test out your options before committing to make sure they will adequately protect you or your surface from the heat.
Headband – A woven headband won’t be stretchy (unless you can find a stretchy yarn) but can be woven with a button closure to get over and around their head.
Small mounted wall-hanging – When in doubt – make art!
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on your handmade presents for them to be special. Once you deem someone weave worthy, then any of these DIY woven gifts will be great for any occasion! Are you planning to weave up some gifts?
Your Weft Tail Method Depends On You And Your Weaving
Did you know that finishing your weaving starts during the actual weaving process? Or at least it should. It’s important to weave in your weft tails as you go to make finishing easier.
First, let’s go over what “tails” even are! If you checked out my post on the 5 easy to fix weaving mistakes than you might already know. If not – check it out!
Your tails are the ends of your yarn from whenever you start a new color or run out of the previous length of yarn. A lot of weavers let them hang out the sides of their weaving with the intent to deal with them later.
You want to try to reduce the amount of tails in your weaving as much as you can because it means you will have less to do later!
Let’s look at some different scenarios.
The technique that you decide to use when dealing with your weft is largely influenced by whatever method you prefer. There are some occasions where some methods aren’t ideal – but mostly it’s up to you.
For example, the first technique that I will be discussing is probably one of the least used techniques. That being said, it’s the one that I learned first and therefore the one I use the most often.
What can I say, you usually stick with what you know.
Need help planning your weaving project? Stuck trying to figure out how much yarn you need? What the h&^$ is WPI? Check out my e-book!
Weave 2 Weft Tails On The Same Side
This technique has the potential to build up your selvedges somewhat, but if your weft is thin enough – then this really shouldn’t be an issue. Using this method is possibly a little more secure than the overlapping method (discussed later) but really they should all be pretty stable. This is especially true if you finish them by securing them in a warp channel when the weaving is finished. (I always do!)
Now, there are 2 schools of thought when it comes to dealing with your weft ends this way. They both involve the same methods, but the difference is literally how you think about it.
So when you are dealing with your tails you will want to weave them back into the weaving as you go along. That means weaving about a half an inch of the end of your yarn on top of the previous line of weaving. You will weave the tail as the next line of the pattern and let the remainder of the tail (3-4 inches) hang out the back.
Back of weaving with weft tails on the same side
The part that trips most people up is what to do next. Since you will be continuing your weaving you will have to weave on top of the tail. Since the tail is woven in the next line of the pattern it can be confusing to know where in the pattern to start your next weft thread.
Do you start over or under?
So thought number 1 is this: You ignore the tail completely and go off of the pattern of the previous full line of weft. That would mean if you are weaving plain weave and the full line of weft ended over a warp then your next full line will start under.
Thought number 2: You follow the tail yarn. Since the tail is already the opposite of the previous full line of weft then following it will mean you have chosen the correct next line of the pattern.
Either way, it will result in the exact same thing, but it all depends on what makes the most sense to you.
It can be counter intuitive to start out with the same pattern as the tail, but once you get past it, it will weave up correctly.
If you use this technique I recommend trying to vary the sides that your weft ends on to try to keep the bulking down as much as possible.
I would say that the biggest advantage to this method is the ability to stay consistent since you are starting and stopping all your weft tails the same way for the whole weaving and staying on the same side you ended on. This keeps everything weaving more fluidly.
Front of weaving with weft tails on the same side (beaten down)
Weave Weft Tails On Opposite Sides
Much like the previous technique, you will want to weave your weft tail about a half inch or so into the next shed and let the rest hang out the back of the weaving.
Instead of starting your next weft immediately on top of this tail, you would instead start on the opposite selvedge and then weave that tail in.
The biggest advantage to this technique is that it will help to keep the weft build-up to a minimum since you are spreading it out across both sides. Also, in this case you won’t have to worry about the ignoring or following conundrum of the above technique.
Back of weaving with tails on opposite sides.
Unfortunately, if this is your technique of choice, it doesn’t quite work when weaving discontinuous weft because you will have different colors on different selvedges. This technique is really best when weaving from selvedge to selvedge.
There may also be a time when (while weaving on a floor loom) it is important to have your treadles matched up to what side the weft is coming from. This can be a useful trick if you have a hard time remembering which treadle raises which harness. In this case, a different technique would work better.
Front of weaving with tails on opposite sides (beaten down)
Overlap Weft Tails Anywhere
Probably one of the most popular options for dealing with your weft tails is the overlapping method.
In this method, you could essentially start or stop your weft yarn anywhere in the weaving. You would just make sure to overlap the 2 wefts by a few warps and let the remaining tails hang out the back.
This is easily the simplest method as it requires very little thinking or planning ahead. That being said, I recommend still trying to stay close to your selvedges because the overlapping areas tend to be hidden better when directly in the middle of the weaving.
Another thing to consider, is that if you are overlapping different colored weft yarns and you are wanting a full pick of each color – then you will definitely have to overlap at the selvedge. If you overlap in the middle, your horizontal line won’t be quite as straight.
Back of weaving with overlapped weft tails
Front of weaving with overlapped weft tails (beaten down)
Dealing with your tails with your balanced or pattern weave isn’t much different than with tapestry. The overlapping method tends to blend into a pattern better than weaving in the tails at the selvedges. In general staying at the selvedge helps to keep the eye away from any inconsistencies that the weft ends could create. Pattern weaving has a higher chance of exposing your yarn ends due to the fact that it is more open.
The overlapping method should work especially well when working with wool (although it will work for any fiber) and if you plan to wash it. As long as the wool isn’t superwash than when you wash the fabric after it is finished it will allow the 2 wool weft yarns to felt together. The felting will help the weaving be more cohesive visually and allow it to be more stable as it essentially combines the two yarns into one.
If your yarn is especially thick you can also splice it before weaving it back in. To do this you will untwist the plies of the yarn and only weaving in some of the plies. You would also start the next line of your pattern with a spliced weft – essentially creating a normal-sized weft in its place.
If you are weaving your tails in at the selvedges, just remember to follow your pattern with the tail. Doing this will help it to blend in to the rest of the weaving.
What You DON’T Want To Do
It can be really tempting to start one weft directly adjacent to the end of the previous yarn. You would think that this would eliminate your need to have double weft in your shed. While this is true, it also creates an exposed warp on the back of your weaving.
This could also be the case if you start weaving multiple colors in the same shed (discontinuous weft.) If you are weaving multiple colors than you are bound to have some tails in the middle of your weaving – there really isn’t any way to get around it. It can be especially tempting to try to avoid overlapping your weft yarns here since we’ve already discussed that you want to keep them at your selvedges. Don’t give into temptation! Overlap just a few warps – splice if you need to. I promise it will be ok!
One of the biggest reasons to avoid an exposed warp on the back of your weaving is because it will make the weaving different on the front and the back. If you want to create something that will be seen on both sides then you want to make sure you are weaving in your tails.
Not weaving in these weft tails also makes the line of weft slightly less stable. While the weaving itself isn’t going to just fall apart (Don’t worry!) You do want to make it so the weaving can be handled and weaving in your tails will do this.
The Last Tail
When you are finished weaving you have 1 last weft tail to deal with. Unlike the rest of your tails that are woven back in on top of the previous row, your last weft tail should weave under your last full line of weft. Just move up the weft yarn at your selvedge and weave back into the weaving a few warps. This will make it so that the last weft on your weaving is a full line. A full line of yarn will make it easier to finish off your warp.
Now What? Finish Them Off!
Regardless of the method you choose to weave in your weft tails, you will need to tuck them in once you’re done. This is much easier to do when the weaving is no longer under tension – so make sure you have secured your warp ends in some way so you can handle your weaving without worrying about it un-weaving.
On the back of the weaving you will locate a warp channel adjacent to the weft tail you are tucking in. You can thread your tapestry needle before inserting the tapestry needle down the channel if your tail is long enough. If it’s not long enough then you can insert the needle first and pull it through until the tail is able to go through the eye of the needle. Pull the tail all the way through and trim your tail!
Do this for all your tails and you are done! I always like to start in one corner and work my way across. It’s very satisfying to watch the back of the weaving get cleaner as you go!
There are many different methods and combinations of methods that you can use when weaving up your tapestry or patterned fabric. It really all depends on what works best for you and for your artwork.
Try out the different techniques and see if one feels better than the others! Then let me know in the comments what is your favorite way to deal with your weft tails.
Knots and yarn a lot of times go hand in hand. This can be a good thing – or a bad thing. I”m sure we’ve all had our share of unwanted knots that keep us from our weavings or other Fiber Art. If you are getting these knots because you are using yarn by itself with no shuttle or bobbin then you might want to consider making a butterfly to keep your yarn from knotting. Otherwise, there are some useful weaving knots that you will actually WANT for setting up and finishing your weaving.
The most widely used knot in weaving and probably in general is the square knot. If you only know how to do one knot – this is the one!
You can use a square knot many different ways when weaving. I use it the most often when setting up a simple frame loom to attach my warp or scaffolding to the frame. A lot of weavers also use this to attach their warp to the apron bar on the floor loom – but I prefer the half bow for that (keep reading for that one.)
The square knot is strong and simple to do. It is hard to undo if it gets tight, though, so make sure you are ok with potentially cutting it off later.
How To Make A Square Knot:
You will want 2 open ends of yarn.
Step 1: Twist yarn 1 around and under yarn 2.
Step 2: Bring yarn back over yarn 2 and up.
Step 3: Bring yarn 2 over yarn 1.
Step 4: Yarn 2 goes around and under yarn 1 (through the loop that was created.)
Step 5: Pull tight!
The overhand knot is often used as a method to secure the fringe on the end of a scarf or rug. Besides the square knot, this is probably the other most used knot on this list that you might use in other scenarios outside of weaving. While this one is very simple and well known – I figured it is still worth mentioning.
An overhand knot is useful in a lot of different scenarios – it’s also how I tie the end of my grey thread when I am attaching it to a weaving and how I tie up my warp bundles at the back of my floor loom. This knot also works well as a simple knot to secure fringe on a scarf or rug.
How To Make an Overhand Knot:
This can be done with any number of yarns.
Step 1: Create a loop with the end of your yarn(s) with the open end on top.
Step 2: Bring the open end of the yarn(s) around to the back and through the loop.
Step 3: Pull tight.
The lark’s head knot isn’t really a knot as much as a way to fasten yarn to something. It is notable as a common way to attach your yarn to a dowel rod when starting up a new macrame wall hanging. Two common ways that it can be used in weaving is for 4 selvedge weaving and on your frame loom.
When you set up a loom for 4 selvedge weaving – the lark’s head knot is used around the bar to attach it to the frame.
On a floor loom this same knot is often used to attach the apron strings to the apron rod. It can also be used to attach the treadles to the lamms of certain floor looms.
You can do the same thing around any object and in the step-by-step I have done it around a tree branch.
How To Make A Lark’s Head Knot:
You will want 1 piece of yarn and something to attach it to.
Step 1: Fold your piece of yarn in half and lay it underneath your dowel rod, stick, or whatever you are attaching it too with the loop end up.
Step 2: Bring the open end of the yarn up, around, and through the loop above the stick.
Step 3: Pull the yarn all the way through the loop and position where you want it.
Step 4: Pull tight!
The weaver’s knot is often used as a way to tie your new warp onto your existing warp. This is a GREAT thing to do because it can cut down on your loom set up time. If you are not a fan of the warping process and you already have some leftover warp/ loom waste still on your loom you can save yourself some time.
This is also a knot that you can use to attach 2 weft yarns together instead of dealing with tails. That is not my preferred method, as a knot can be hard to hide – but it may be an option for you to try out. If you are using it for this technique then you will want to snip off the extra tails and trust the knot to do it’s job and hold it together.
How To Make A Weaver’s Knot:
You will need 2 pieces of yarn.
Step 1: Yarn 1 should be straight and yarn 2 should be looped over at the end. Pull yarn 1 through the loop of yarn 2.
Step 2: Wrap yarn 1 under the yarn 2 loop.
Step 3: Bring yarn 1 over the loop of yarn 2 and back through it.
Step 4: Adjust yarn as necessary.
Step 5: Pull tight!
Just like the lark’s head knot, the half bow is used in both the 4 selvedge and floor loom process. On a 4 selvedge weaving, you can use the half bow on the other end of the yarn that is using the lark’s head around the rod. The half bow will instead be around the frame.
On a floor loom, using a half bow is my favorite way to attach my warp to the apron rod.
This “knot” is ideal for this because it is both really strong and easy to undo. Unlike the square knot that is hard to untie – the half bow comes off the rod easily. It is also stronger than a full bow because the size of the yarn around the loop is smaller and therefore holds tighter.
How To Make a Half Bow:
You will need at least 1 piece of yarn and something to attach it too. In this case I am using a frame and 1 piece of yarn that has been folded to have 2 ends. Your yarn will most likely be attached to a rod at the other end whether on a floor loom or warping 4 selvedge.
Step 1: Lay the yarn over your frame or rod with both ends together.
Step 2: Next, bring your 2 ends around the frame and split them so there is one on each side.
Step 3: Bring 1 end over and around the other end (like the first step of the square knot.)
Step 4: Pull tight!
Essentially, the second part of the half bow is just tying a bow (like you tie your shoes) and pulling out one of the loops. This is how I tie my shoes 🙂
Step 5: Create a loop with 1 end of the yarn.
Step 6: Wrap the other end of the yarn over and around the loop.
Step 7: Next, pull that same end through the other loop you created when you wrapped it around (this should now look like a bow.)
Step 8: Continue to pull that second end all the way through and tighten!
Knowing these weaving knots will help you out in a lot of different scenarios – both in and out of the studio!
Do you have a favorite weaving knot? One that I didn’t mention that you use all the time?
Straight selvedges are one of the hardest things to accomplish as a new weaver. In fact, “How do you weave straight selvedges?” is probably one of the questions that I get most from my students.
Selvedges that pull in are on the top of the list of the most common mistakes that new weavers make. I talked about 4 of the other most common mistakes a few weeks ago. If you missed it, you can check it out HERE!
For those new to weaving, selvedges (sometimes spelled selvages) are the edges of your weaving that often pull in during the weaving process.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you pull, if the sides of your weaving start to pull in – you can’t fix it without this way.
Trust me, I’ve tried…
There are a few different reasons why your selvedges may be pulling in to create the classic trapezoid shape that weavers try to avoid.
First, if you are lost in the process (which is a great feeling!) then it becomes really easy to get caught up in the movement and rhythm of weaving and lose track of keeping those sides straight. If you get distracted by the world or even your own thoughts then your weaving will reflect it.
Another reason why your warp may start to warp is simply because you aren’t giving it enough slack. Unlike warp, you don’t want your weft to be as tight as it can be.
Sometimes uneven selvedges can really add to the weaving, but don’t forget the golden rule of art “Learn the rules first, so you can break them later”.
So how do you create nice smooth selvedges?
It all depends, but let’s go over some scenarios.
Scenario 1: Tapestry
You’ve heard of happy little trees, well we’re going to make happy little hills.
Whatever you want to call them is fine.
Due to the structure of a tapestry a.k.a. a weft-faced weaving, it is really important to use extra weft in each row. The weft has to flow around the warps instead of just moving them in order to get the classic weft-faced weaving that is tapestry.
Think of the weft as creating a tunnel and the warp is going through that tunnel. I also call these warp channels and they’re important for finishing your tapestry.
The amount of hills is relative to both the width of the weaving and your own weaving style.
Everyone weaves differently.
The only right amount of hills is the one that gets you what you want. A.K.A. Straight selvedges.
Try out some different sizes and see what works best for you. Just be careful not to make mountains instead, too much extra weft is a different and totally avoidable issue.
Scenario 2: Pattern or Balanced Weave
Unlike tapestry, a pattern or balanced weave doesn’t need a lot of extra weft because it’s not covering the warp completely. The weft will actually deflect the warp slightly.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need any extra weft, though.
Unlike tapestry, we’re not weaving hills or bubbles.
Instead, I recommend placing your warp at a 45 degree angle before beating it down. No need to take out the protractor – just eyeball it.
Again, you don’t want to have too much weft – so experiment a little and find that Goldilocks amount.
On that note:
Too much weft can cause your weaving to be lumpy with loops of yarn on either the front or back.
Also, it can be tempting to try to fix your selvedges that are pulling in by overcompensating with your weft- but this just causes them to be even more uneven. You want to avoid creating loops on your selvedges as much as you want to avoid pulling in your warp.
Whether you are weaving tapestry of balanced weave, one of the best things you can do to create straighter selvedges is to place your weft at the edge of your weaving.
You can do this 2 ways.
1. Pinch it.
In this method you are pretty much just holding the warp in place while you compress the weft. Doing this makes it so the extra slack needed from the weft comes from the needle end and not the previous line of weaving.
2. Weave The First Inch.
What I normally do is weave and compress the first inch of each line before continuing with my hills or angled weft. Doing this keeps your selvedges right where you want them! It’s also easier to work with your weft in small increments at a time. Place your weft and then keep going.
With that being said, you don’t have to choose. You can take all of these tricks and combine them to give your weaving it’s best shot.
No matter what you do, one of the best things you can do is to pay attention to your weaving and not ignore your selvedges.
If your warp does start to warp – then un-weave it and start again. You’ll be happy you fixed it, even if it took a little time. Then try to remember the tricks above to keep it from happening again.
I know that trying to obtain straight selvedges can sometimes feel a little impossible – especially at the beginning. Like most things though, you WILL get better with time. If straight selvedges are what you are after then consistency and a little practice will get you there!
What’s your favorite way to keep your selvedges from pulling in? Let me know!