How To Make Paper Yarn

How To Make Paper Yarn

Creating yarn out of alternative materials has become sort of a tradition here at Warped Fibers because I am always looking at ways to upcycle materials and create something unique!

I have also previously discussed weaving with paper as it pertains to paper strips (taking it beyond a “kids” craft.) 

If you are interested in weaving with paper but you are looking to incorporate it into your weaving practice in a more traditional way then creating paper yarn is a great idea. This allows you to create a long thin yarn that you can use as a continuous weft. This yarn can be used just like any other weft yarn and is not limited to any type of loom!

Here are the other alternative yarn tutorials that you can follow:

How to create t-shirt yarn

How to create plastic bag yarn

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What you need


Scissors (not fabric scissors!) or a paper cutter

Ruler (if using scissors)


A piece of strong scrap yarn (approximately 8 inches) I am using 8/4 cotton rug warp


Drop spindle (I am using a top whorl spindle)

Niddy noddy (optional)

Choosing your paper

yarn for paper yarn

You can use almost any type of paper to create yarn, but the thinner the paper the better. This is because thinner paper will be more pliant and easier to spin.

Some examples of good paper to spin are:


Tissue paper (what I am using in this post)

Paper towels

You could also spin pages from your journals, notebook paper, or really any paper that is not too thick.

Something to keep in mind when choosing your paper for spinning is to pay attention to what is on the back of the paper. This is because when spinning your paper it exposes both the front and the back. 

If you use paper this is heavily pigmented on one side and white on the other it will create a sort of swirled pattern on your yarn. This could be a really great effect that may want to exploit. If you want a paper yarn that is the same throughout, though, then you will want to make sure it is the same color on the front and the back. 

You may also consider changing your colors as you go to create a self-striping yarn or one that creates a gradient as it continues. Both of these options will require different colored paper used in a specific order as you spin.

How to make paper yarn

cutting paper into strips for yarn

It is important to cut your paper into strips first before attempting to spin your yarn. This will make your paper easier to work with as well as keep the finished yarn the same size throughout. 

You can either cut your paper by hand with scissors or use a paper cutter to do this. The paper cutter may be a bit faster and cleaner, but if your strips are not perfectly straight it is not that big of a deal. Just try to keep them relatively consistent and you will be fine!

If you have used a drop spindle before then this process is not all that different from spinning roving into yarn. The general idea is the same.

If you have not used a drop spindle before – no worries! Here is a quick explanation (and a video following that) of how they work so that you can experiment with your paper.

Attach your leader yarn to your drop spindle by tying a double knot around the shaft. Then fold one end of your first paper strip into thirds and tie the other end of your leader yarn to your paper at this spot with a single knot.

spinning paper yarn on drop spindle start

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Bring your leader yarn up to the hook by placing it in the notch on the whorl. Your leader yarn and paper should then be hooked into your hook to keep it in place while spinning.

Wet your first paper strip just enough to make it a tiny bit damp. Do not soak your paper or it will just fall apart. If it is not wet enough it will not spin easily or smoothly.

Play around with the amount of water you need to see what will work best. Keep in mind that different papers will also require different amounts of water.

I keep my water for spinning in a small dish or bowl next to me and I usually do this on top of a towel to keep my workspace from getting too wet.

spinning paper yarn on drop spindle

Start to twist your damp paper around your leader yarn to get it started.

Normally (for fibers) you would hold your spinning material and let the drop spindle hang as it spins. Depending on your paper it may not be strong enough to withstand this. If it is then great! If not then you can instead either roll the shaft on your thigh or just keep it low while twisting the spindle manually (this is what I did and you will see it in the video below.)

This twist that is created will follow up your yarn and the paper and apply the twist to your paper. 

Continue to spin your drop spindle as needed until your paper is spun to your liking. Keep the very end of your paper unspun and attach a second strip by placing them together – one on top of the other. Then fold them over each other before continuing to spin so that they “grab” onto each other. Continue spinning and the twist will transfer to the second paper and join them together.

If your paper ever breaks then you can reattach it this same way!

…and yes, your paper will probably break multiple times, but practice helps to keep this to a minimum.

spinning paper yarn -adding a new strip

Setting your paper yarn

niddy noddy with paper yarn and drop spindle

Once your yarn is finished you have a few different options to set it and make sure it stays together. Essentially you will be applying a bit of tension to your new yarn while it dries to make sure it does not unply itself. 

The easiest way to do this is by hanging it from something and applying a light weight to it. You want to make sure not to use anything too heavy so that it does not rip your new yarn before it is set.

The potential issue with this method is that it can create creases in your yarn, but it is not the end of the world and works if it is your only option.

You could also snugly wrap your yarn around the back of a chair or anything that can keep it tight while it dries. This is also a really inexpensive option but does depend on having a good place to keep the yarn in the meantime.

The traditional option is to use a niddy noddy.

This funnily named tool is the option most used by spinners who are creating a lot of yarn on a regular basis. This tool is specifically made to create a skein of yarn once it is finished setting.

Want to learn how to weave tapestry? It is more than just imagery (although that can be a big part of it too!) Follow along with this self-paced online course that you can take from anywhere at any time.

There are now 2 ways to take it – either purchase the whole course at once for a discount or “create your own” course by purchasing just the parts you want! Either way, get 10% off for being a member of the Warped Community!

Weaving with paper yarn

newspaper yarn and weaving

Using paper yarn for weaving is not that different from weaving with any other yarns. Since it is spun to be one continuous piece of yarn you do not have to start and stop it as you would if using paper strips. 

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that more than likely your paper yarn will only be suitable for weft. 

If you remember from our post on choosing your warp yarn, the warp has to be strong. It is the yarn that is under tension as it sits on your loom. If you use yarn that is not strong enough to hold up to the tension of your loom then it will break and it will probably break often. 

If you do have broken warps then you can fix them! Learn how to fix a broken warp on different looms here. 

Unless your paper yarn is very strong, you will want to designate it as weft only. This will ensure you get the most out of your paper yarn and you are not constantly having to fix broken warps. 

niddy noddy with paper yarn and spinning yarn book

If you are interested in learning more about spinning then I really like The Complete Guide To Spinning Yarn by Brenda Gibson.

This book goes over spinning all types of materials with different spindles and spinning wheels!

Let me know what you are using your spun paper yarn for in the comments.

Warp Finishing: Fringe Options

Warp Finishing: Fringe Options

There are many different ways to finish a weaving. One of the most common and possibly iconic ways to do this is to have fringe at the bottom.

As with most things, though, fringe for your weaving is not always so straightforward!

There are many different options both for how you create your fringe and what your finished fringe will ultimately look like.

You can go really simple with overhand knots at the base of your scarf or as “complicated” as macrame along the edge!

Your ideal warp finishing and fringe options might even depend on the type of weaving you are creating.


Functional weavings (scarves, rugs)?

These may require different choices for finishing.

… or they may not.

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Warp fringe vs rya knots

The simplest way to have fringe on your weaving is to use the warp “waste” that is already on the weaving. This warp is what is leftover from attaching it to the loom and/or taken up by headers and scaffolding.

If you are planning to utilize this warp yarn for your fringe you will need to be aware of this before you even start weaving. This is because you will need to account for the extra warp when you are setting up your weaving and in your calculations.

Learn more about the weaving process and the order in which you should start your weaving here.

Another thing to keep in mind when using your leftover warp is what color your warp is. This is a given if you are weaving up something that is balanced or pattern woven. These types of weavings show the warp in the actual piece so it is important to the overall aesthetic. 

If you are weaving tapestry, though, then the color of your warp is not always something you need to consider. Since a tapestry is a weft-faced weaving you do not see any warp. That is unless you use some of it for fringe. 

Learn more about what tapestry is here.

If you are looking for a fringe that is full and overflowing, then using your warp waste probably will not be enough. Your fringe will be limited to the amount of warp ends that you have. If weaving tapestry, then these warp ends are usually even fewer since tapestry requires a smaller EPI.

Learn about EPI here.

rya knots tapestry fringe

If the idea of using your warp yarns is not going to give you the fringe of your dreams, you have the option to create new fringe using rya knots.

Learn how to create rya knots here.

Rya knots are great for this because you can use as many strands of yarn as you want for fuller fringe. They also give you the option of using colors that are not in your warp and/ or different colors in the same space.

Rya knots are great for fringe because they also allow you to create really long fringe without using your leftover warp. You do still have to plan for your fringe at the beginning, but you can at least wait until your warp is on and you are ready to start creating.

Fringe variations (twist, braid, macrame)

Sometimes straight fringe is just not what you are going for.

No worries!

There is a wide range of types of fringe that you can create with either your warp waste or rya knots. These are most often done with your warp, though.

These options are great for when you want your fringe to have a little extra “weight” to them. That means they will hang well when on a scarf. They are also good to keep your fringe from getting tangled and matted. 

No matter the option you choose, it is a lot easier to work with your fringe if your weaving is weighed down so it will not move! Something as simple as putting a book on your weaving will keep it in place while you attend to your fringe.

Twisted fringe

scarf fringe and fringe twister warp finishing

Twisted fringe is a really classic option that creates a heavy fringe that will drape well on a scarf.

The twist is also pretty easy to do, if not time-consuming by hand.

One great thing about a twisted fringe is that you have the option to use a fringe twister to make this process go faster and help your twists to be more consistent. Regardless of if you are using a fringe twister or doing it by hand, your general instructions are the same!

I am using the Schacht fringe twister and I love how quick it makes the twisting go! This fringe twister allows you to twist up to 3 bundles of yarn at a time, but you can twist only 2 if you want smaller finished fringe bundles.

You start your twist by taking at least 2 fringe yarns and twisting them together. Do this at least 1 more time, but for larger bundles do it a total of 3 times.

Make sure you twist them all in the same direction! This is important.

Take all 3 of these twisted bundles and then twist them together in the opposite direction.

Tie a knot at the very end and move on to the next bundle! Make sure you twist each bundle the same amount so they are consistent.

Check out the video below to see the fringe twister in action!

If you are using the Schacht fringe twister then attach 2 or more warp yarns to each clip. Try not to cross them over each other when clipping in order to keep it clean when you start to turn the handle.

Turn your handle clockwise.

Count how many times you turn the handle and remember it for the rest of your bundles.

Take all of your twisted yarns off and put them into 1 bundle.

Clip this 1 bundle together and twist counter-clockwise.

Detach and tie!

twisted fringe scarf

Braided fringe

braided fringe scarf

Braiding is another simple way to get bundles of fringe on your weaving. You can either do a simple braid with 3 strands of yarn or double it up. If you want to get real fancy then you can also do multi-strand braids. 

Here is a refresher of how to do a simple 3 strand braid:

Take 3 strands of yarn and separate them. Take 1 of the outer yarns and cross it over the middle yarn.

Then take the other out yarn and cross it over the new middle yarn.

You will keep doing this until your braid reaches the desired length or you run out of yarn!

Tie a knot at the end to keep everything together.

Macrame fringe

macrame fringe scarf

If you are feeling really fancy then you can do macrame at the bottom of your weaving. This will not be individual bundles of fringe, but instead will elongate your weaving with a lace-like texture on the ends. 

I will admit that macrame is not my expertise, but I have been known to do very simple macrame at the end of my weavings on occasion.

You can do this simple macrame technique like this:

You will be using smaller bundles of yarn for this. Make sure they all have a knot at their top at the edge of the weaving to keep your weft in place.

Take 2 small bundles of yarn and tie them together about an inch down from the edge of your weaving.

Move over to the next 2 bundles of yarn and repeat this step all the way across.

On your way back you will then take 1 bundle of yarn from each not and tie those together.

You can do this as many times as you want, just make sure to alternate which bundles you are tieing together to create your lacy “net” fringe!

Side (selvedge) fringe

If you are wanting something a little different then you can create side fringe on your weaving! This is really simple to do if you just ignore one of the main things that I teach.

That is, to weave in your weft tails as you go! Most of the time you want to weave in your weft tails. They can get in the way, and it makes the finishing process a lot easier. 

If you do not weave them in, though, it can be an aesthetic choice.

You can even exaggerate your side fringe by purposefully starting and stopping your weft yarns more often – as much as every single pick of your weaving. This will give you a consistent selvedge of fringe all the way up! 

You could also do some side rya knots every few picks to get some extra fluff on the sides.

Side fringe is not something I see too often, but if done well it could be a really fun addition to your weavings.

Tapestry vs functional weavings (scarves)

twisted fringe scarf and rya fringe tapestry

I already touched on this a little bit earlier, but the type of weaving you are doing may determine the type of fringe you have or at least the decisions you have to make when creating your fringe. 

It is very common to just use the rest of your warp on functional weavings like scarves. That is because there is usually a large number of warps to begin with and you will probably not want something too fluffy at the end of your scarf.


You do you.

As for tapestry, adding rya is the most common method for fringe, but if you like the look of using your warp then there is nothing wrong with that!

How To Fix Threading Mistakes: Repair Heddles

How To Fix Threading Mistakes: Repair Heddles

Ideally, when you are warping your floor loom or table loom you will not make any mistakes. 

While mistakes help you learn (the Warped Fibers motto!) avoiding mistakes should still be your goal. 

The best way to avoid threading mistakes (or any mistakes) is to take your time and look over what you have done before moving forward. 

This is really important in many of the steps of warping and weaving, but especially when you are threading your heddles. 

If you are new to using a floor loom or have never used one before here is a little refresher:

On a floor loom (or table loom) your heddles are the metal pieces that are within your harnesses. These heddles will have a hole in the middle of each one that you thread your warp yarn through. The heddles that you choose to thread will depend on the pattern that you are weaving up. 

It is really important to pay attention and double-check yourself as you go when you are doing this step of the warping process. If you do not then if you mess up one heddle it may mess up the sequence of the remaining heddles. 

Threading mistakes are not fun.

If this is the case then there is no shortcut – you must undo all of your warps to the point of the mistake and start over. If you do make a mistake and it only affects a heddle or few then you can fix your threading mistake by using repair heddles. This is most likely if you have doubled up a harness but otherwise continued correctly.

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How to use repair heddles

Depending on the type of repair heddle that you choose to use, they should be easy to install wherever needed. 

Locate the spot and harness that needs your repair heddle and isolate it as best as possible. This usually means pushing the threaded heddles to the side. Since they will all have warp yarns in them this may be harder to do than it sounds, but do your best. 

Here is a little tip: Use a comb to keep your warps out of the way!

repair heddle isolation with comb

Installing your heddle will vary a bit depending on the type of repair heddle you are using, but they should all be pretty simple. Each repair heddle should have an opening at each end that will go around the metal part of your harness.

Re-thread your new repair heddle with the correct warp yarn and finish it off as usual!

For example, if you have a straight draw threading pattern: 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4 … and you accidentally thread 1,2,2,4,1,2,3,4 then you can un-thread the second “2 heddle” and insert a repair heddle on harness 3. This warp yarn will be threaded on the new repair heddle and you can weave as normal!

It is really that simple.

The hardest part about fixing threading mistakes is finding them before you go too far!

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!

Types of repair heddles

No matter the type of heddles you already have on your loom, you can really use any repair heddle you want because they all essentially work the same.

The one that you choose mostly depends on what you can get your hands on and what will fit your loom. Prior to purchasing repair heddles, you will want to measure the height of the metal bars in your harness. Most repair heddles will come in 9.5″, 10.5″, and 12.5″ options.

Wire heddles

wire repair heddles

Wire heddles are thin and usually come in multi-packs.

The multi-packs are really great because you will more than likely want to have more than one on hand at a time just in case. Since they are thin wire, they are generally pretty cost-efficient despite the fact that you buy multiple at once.

These heddles are easy to use because they untwist at the top and bottom which allows you to easily attach them to your harness at any spot that they are needed. Just twist them back together after putting them on your loom!

The wire repair heddles that I have can be found here.

For reference: my Harrisville 8-harness, 10 treadle loom, uses 9.5″ heddles.

Flat heddles

flat repair heddles

Flat heddles are great if you need something really sturdy or you want something that more closely matches your other heddles (assuming you have flat heddles!) 

These heddles do not require any untwisting at the top and the bottom, but instead, they open up and slide into place. This makes them a great option if you have trouble with dexterity or strength in your fingers which could make the wire heddles difficult to use.

These heddles are more expensive and are usually sold individually, but they are sturdier than wire heddles.

You can find these flat repair heddles here.

String heddles

string repair heddles

String heddles are usually a DIY option that can be great if you need something right now and you do not have other options on hand. The downside of a string heddle is that you have to DIY it…

They are not hard to make, but they take more time than if you had metal ones laying around. We will go over how to make them in the next section.

String heddles work the same way any other heddles do and they take up even less space than the other options when they are not being used. 

Even if you have other options ready for when you need them, it is not a bad idea to know how to make string heddles in case you need more and just can not wait for shipping.

How to make a string heddle

String heddles should be made out of strong yarn that is smooth. I like to use the same yarn that I use for tapestry samples: 8/4 cotton rug warp. This yarn is inexpensive and makes a great string heddle option.

You will also want safety pins for your repair heddles to easily install and remove them.

First, measure the height of your harness area that hosts your heddles and double that then add an extra inch. You should have 1 piece of yarn that is just over the same height as your harness (between the bars) when folded in half. This extra yarn will allow for your knots without taking away from the height.

Insert your yarn into the hole at the end of your safety pin. This first safety pin should sit at the fold of your yarn. 

how to make a string repair heddle

how to make a string repair heddle

Using one of your regular heddles as a guide, create a square knot at the bottom of the warp eye.

Create a second square knot at the top of the eye. This is where your warp yarn will be threaded through.

Using square knots creates an opening that is more easily threaded. You can also use overhand knots, but the opening will not stay open.

Learn how to make different weaving knots here.

Insert your heddle string into the hole of your second safety pin. Tie another knot to close up your heddle. Again, use your regular heddle to get this in the right spot.

Cut off any excess yarn.

how to make a string repair heddle

Your string heddle is now ready to use!

fix threading mistakes

You will always want to try to keep your mistakes to a minimum, but it is good to be prepared.

No matter how long you have been weaving and how well you think you double-checked your threading, it is inevitable that you will need to fix threading mistakes with repair heddles sooner or later. 

Either having them on hand or knowing how to make them, will make sure that a missing thread does not bring your weaving to a halt.

Warp Replacement and Shaped Weavings

Warp Replacement and Shaped Weavings

Not to be confused with weaving shapes – shaped weavings are standalone weavings that are not confined to the more traditional 90-degree angles.

This is not the first we have talked about shaped weavings at Warped Fibers, but it is time to take a deep dive into weavings that go outside the “box”.

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First, (do I even need to say this?) there is nothing wrong with traditional weavings with right angles, but sometimes you want something different. Sometimes creating a shape with your weaving will better bring justice to your vision and ideas.

Shaped weavings can take many different forms (both in the finished product and how they are made.)

If you are interested in weaving shapes then make sure to check out my e-book!


placeholder for shaped weavings

One of the simplest ways to create a weaving that is not completely (or even a little bit) square is with the use of placeholders.

I first mentioned the use of placeholders in my post on weaving rules to break and again in my post on creating a 3-dimensional woven gift box. 

I thought it was time, though, that we take some time to really focus on what these placeholders are, how they work, and the different ways you can use them. 

drawing on your warp for shaped weavings

First, placeholders are anything that you can use to take up negative space in your weaving. Normally, you never want to weave with negative space below your weaving area. If you try to weave on top of open negative space then your weaving will constantly be wanting to fill in that space. With every beat of your weft you will have to nudge or move the wefts back into place. 

This can get a little old in a short amount of time.

Placeholders give you something to beat against which not only makes weaving faster (you are not constantly fixing it) but also easier because you can be less careful with the force of your beat. 

These placeholders can be either straight or shaped depending on what you are wanting to create.

When it comes to inserting your placeholders it is as easy as just weaving them into your warp in plain weave.

Over, Under, Repeat.

This will keep them in place and ensure your weft can easily be woven on top of it. Make sure they also extend past your selvedges so that they stay in place better. 

When choosing shaped weaving placeholders you will want to choose something that is rigid, but also flexible. My favorite thing to use for this is cardstock. It is easy to cut into any shape you want, flexible enough to be woven into your weaving, but it also holds up to the beating of your weft. 

If you are using a floor loom or any loom that utilizes an advancing warp, you will want to break up your placeholders into strips if they are large. This will allow them to more easily wrap around your front and cloth beams. I did something similar to this in my post on getting multiple weavings out of one warp.

Depending on the shape of your placeholder you may need to cut it out if you are planning on warp replacement (coming up!) If you are going to finish it normally by cutting your warp off your loom then you can skip this step.

removing placeholder for shaped weavings

Shaped looms

Shaped looms are also a good way to create shaped weavings because they take some of the extra work out of using extra materials. No extra warp here!

The biggest downside to using shaped looms is that you may need to have extra looms around.

Ok, maybe this is not a downside, but it could be an obstacle.

Shaped looms could be as simple as a large triangular loom to weave up a shawl to a more complex solution of nails on wood in the shape that you want to weave.

When creating a shaped weaving loom I recommend using finishing nails like these that have very small heads. This will make it easier to remove your weaving when it is finished!

Keep in mind that every shape will not work for this type of weaving.

Experiment and have fun with it!

Want to learn how to weave tapestry? It is more than just imagery (although that can be a big part of it too!) Follow along with this self-paced online course that you can take from anywhere at any time.

There are now 2 ways to take it – either purchase the whole course at once for a discount or “create your own” course by purchasing just the parts you want! Either way, get 10% off for being a member of the Warped Community!

Warp replacement

finished tapestry with warp replacement

Sometimes you may want to weave an irregular shape on a regular loom and there is a way to do this that allows you to create clean selvedges all the way around!

That technique is called warp replacement and requires you to weave up your shape normally at first. That means warping up a frame loom or other loom the traditional way. You may want to utilize one of the techniques we talked about earlier (specifically placeholders) to make the weaving a little easier. This will make sure the weft does not start sliding down the warp. 

Once you are finished with your weaving you have two options for your warp replacement.

  1. You can replace the warp while your weaving is still under tension
  2. Replace the warp once the weaving is off the loom

Regardless of what options you choose, the actual replacement of the warp goes the same! That being said, I think doing this while under tension makes it easier because you do not have to worry about the weft moving.

Start out with a warp yarn that is the same or thinner than the current warp. This warp will then be put on a tapestry needle and go down one of the selvedge warp channels that you have created. When you get all the way through that warp channel move over a warp channel and go up that one. Continue all the way across your weaving!

An extra-long tapestry needle can be really helpful when doing warp replacement. It is not necessary, but I will take just about anything to make things easier!

weaving warp replacement tutorial

warp replacement tutorial

This will create a small area of visible warp just on the selvedges of your weaving. Keep this in mind when choosing your new warp. You can choose a warp that is similar in color to your weft so that it blends in or one that contrasts the weft if you want it to stand out.

As you make your way up and down your warp channels make sure that you are not piercing the front of the back of the weaving. I recommend turning your weaving over and over as you go to avoid warp floats!

weaving warp replacement tutorial

warp replacement tutorial

Once you have gone across the entire weaving you can cut it off your loom and pull out your old warp! This sounds a bit scary! I know! If you did it correctly, though, the new warp should hold everything in place and the old warp should come out with no issue.

It is actually pretty satisfying!

Lastly, you will take the ends of your replacement warp and weave them into your weaving to finish it off. 

Now you have a shaped weaving with smooth selvedges!

You can also use this technique if you have small areas on the inside of your weaving where you would have exposed warp. The warp replacement does not have to go over the entire weaving.

Do not forget to weave in your weft tails as well. This will give you a nice smooth weaving!

finished warp replacement front and back

What to do with shaped weavings

Beyond just creating shaped weavings for the sake of art, you can also use your shaped weavings for other things!

Large shaped weavings (triangles) for shawls.

Small shaped weavings for patches or pins.

Shaped weavings are a great way to move outside the traditional squared-off format of tapestries. No matter what you want to weave, there are different ways to create the shapes that you want. Do you like to weave up shapes? Let me know in the comments!

Using Pick-Up Patterns On Your Rigid Heddle Loom

Using Pick-Up Patterns On Your Rigid Heddle Loom

Starting out with rigid heddle weaving usually involves different types of plain weave patterns.

Let’s get this straight first: there is absolutely nothing wrong with plain weave! Balanced plain weavings can be incredibly beautiful, interesting, and dynamic. 

Check out my post on how to weave patterns in plain weave with color here.

Sometimes, though, you want a little bit more.

While some rigid heddle looms have the ability to have an extra heddle – that may not be something you are ready to do yet. Either because purchasing a new heddle is currently cost-prohibitive, or because you are looking for a simpler option that still creates interesting results. 

That is where pick-up patterns come into play!

This page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!

What is pick-up rigid heddle weaving?

scarf weaving in progress with pick-up pattern

Pick-up rigid heddle weaving is a technique that essentially adds the functionality of an extra heddle to your loom without actually adding an extra heddle. It also allows you to easily weave floats into your weaving.


If you missed my post on adding floats to your weaving (by hand) then make sure to look through this post here.

Floats are areas of yarn that sit over the top of more than one yarn. You can have both warp and weft floats depending on the pattern you are following. These floats can add visual interest to your weaving as well as possibly giving it a gauzy or lacy look.

Keep in mind that your pick-up weaving could probably look very different after it is washed – depending on the materials you use. Below is an image of the same weaving after it has been washed and dried. This scarf is made of 100% wool so washing it really brings out the character of this type of weaving.

pick-up scarf washed

What you need to weave pick-up patterns

pick-up stick options for weaving

Weaving pick-up patterns on your rigid heddle loom requires very few supplies to make the magic happen. It is really only one extra tool than you would need if you were weaving regular plain weave.

A pick-up stick.

Dedicated pick-up sticks are great because they are made with a tapered end to more easily pick up the warps that need to be separated. They also have rounded smooth sides that make sliding it through your warp and turning it into a smooth movement. This means you do not have to worry about friction abrading your warp yarns.

If you are looking to get started without getting a pick-up stick then you can also use a ruler or a flat shuttle as your pick-up stick. (I am using a flat shuttle in these images because my pick-up stick was not long enough for my 10-inch weaving.)

Keep in mind that you have to be careful with rulers since they are usually “sharp” on their sides. Using a ruler with fragile yarns could lead to a broken warp!

I have also been known to use some very sturdy mat board as my pick-up stick. It is absolutely ok to use whatever you have on hand.

Not surprisingly, you will also need a rigid heddle loom and some yarn!

The rigid heddle loom I am using is my Schacht Flip Folding Rigid Heddle Loom.

You can read my review on the Schacht here.

You can read about purchasing yarn online here or check out my favorite yarns here!

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!

How to read pick-up instructions

When you are looking for pick-up patterns there are a few instructions that will come up. 

Up, Down, pick-up stick, up and pick-up stick.

Up and down are pretty self-explanatory, but we will touch on them quickly anyway. Whenever you see up or down in your pattern you will be placing your heddle in either the up or down position on your loom. 

When you see “pick-up stick” in your pattern you will move it up to right behind your heddle while it is in the neutral position. Then you will rotate your pick-up stick 90 degrees so that it creates a shed. After you are done you can then slide your pick-up stick towards the back of the loom. This is where your pick-up stick will live when it is not in use so that it does not affect the rest of your weaving.

pick-up stick for rigid heddle loom

“Up and pick-up stick” means that your heddle will be in the up position and the pick-up stick will be moved towards the back of the heddle while still laying flat against the warp. This will make it so the shed has both the up warps and the pick-up stick warps in a position to be woven under.

You can notice the difference in the warps that are being woven if you look at the right side of each image. This is the same pick-up stick just in different positions. The up and pick-up stick pattern will have a lot more warps on the surface and a lot less on the underside than the other positions.

up & pick-up stick for rigid heddle loom

Setting up your pick-up stick pattern on your rigid heddle loom

pick-up stick for rigid heddle loom set-up

The most important thing to know about setting up your pick-up stick is that your heddle must be in the down position.

A reminder of your rigid heddle “anatomy”: your heddle has 2 areas for your warps to go. You have slots and eyes (holes) which are what allow you to create a shed as they move in the up or down position. The warps in the eyes are physically moved up and down as the heddle moves.

Setting up your pick-up stick in your down position is important because the slot yarns are freer to move around. This allows the down position to put the slot warps on top. These free-moving warps, therefore, are perfect for manipulating and creating patterns.

The above pattern shows 6 up, 2 down, 5 up, repeat. Ending in 6 up. This is half of the pattern that you can see in the first image of the post (red and white scarf!) and it is a variation on a pattern I found in the book Inventive Weaving On A Little Loom by Syne Mitchell.

You can read my review on this rigid heddle weaving book here.

Tip: If you are having a hard time seeing your warps to set up your pick-up stick then you can slide a piece of paper into your shed. This will make it so the warps underneath are not visually interfering while you set up.

Let’s take a look at a pick-up pattern example.

Over 2 Under 2


Pick-Up Stick


Pick-Up Stick



In this pattern, you would put your heddle in the down position and weave in your pick-up stick in an over 2, under 2 pattern. 

Then you would follow the directions – remembering that “pick-up stick” requires the heddle to be in the neutral position and the pick-up stick turned 90 degrees to make a shed. 

Make a pick-up sampler

pick-up stick weaving sampler

When you are new to pretty much anything with weaving it is a really good idea to make some samples.

You may even remember the entire post I did about the importance of making weaving samples.

One of the best ways to really understand how to make a pick-up weaving on your rigid heddle loom is to keep trying different patterns and making sure you keep a record of what you are doing. You do not want to accidentally come across a pattern you really like and then not know how to recreate it later!

I did this…

I recommend trying out at least a few inches of each pattern to really be able to see how it will turn out on a larger scale. When you take it off the loom, you will also be able to clearly see how the back looks compared to the front. If there is weft floats on the front of the weaving then there will be warp floats on the back.

You can also add a plain weave border on each side by starting and ending your pattern with more “up” warps. Taking our earlier pattern as an example – if we want to add a border we could change it to: over 6, under 2, over 2, repeat, and end in over 6.

This can give your weaving a really clean look, but make sure try it out first in a sampler to see if you like it.

Let me know what types of pick-up patterns you have been working on!

Yarn Ball Winding Options – Preparing Your Weaving Yarn

Yarn Ball Winding Options – Preparing Your Weaving Yarn

Depending on your yarn buying options you may never need any of these tools to wind yarn. This is because weaving yarn most often comes already wound onto a cone or tube ready to go.

This makes setting up your loom or winding your shuttles simple!

That being said, you may purchase yarn on a skein. This yarn needs to be wound in order to use it, otherwise, it will become a tangled mess. 

Most often yarn on skeins is knitting or crochet yarn. Make sure you know the difference between these types of yarn! You can read about it here.

Depending on the option you choose, the yarn – once wound – will be turned into either a ball or a cake.

A ball of yarn is pretty self-explanatory, but what is a cake?

Essentially, it is the same thing except that the top and bottom are flat.

Neither one is better than the other, the different forms just come from the way that the tool winds them.

So if you find yourself with yarn that needs to be wound then what are your options?

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Ball winder

yarn on yarn ball winder

Probably the most well-known and common way of turning a skein of yarn into a cake: the ball winder is also one of the fastest ways to do it. Despite the name ball winder – it actually makes yarn cakes, but really it does not matter since they do the same thing!

You can either get a manual one or an electric one depending on how much you want to spend and how much work you want to do. These are both great options if you will be winding a lot of cakes and want something that goes relatively fast. 

2 yarn cakes on table with plant


The nostepinne is the original ball winder! It is also the one you probably have never heard of – until now.

Nostepinne means “nest-stick” in Scandinavian and that is a pretty good name for this tool. It is a polished stick that you nest your yarn on to create a center-pull ball. These polished sticks are a simple tool that you can carry with you anywhere. They are actually pretty simple to use too, but they do take a bit longer to wind your ball than a ball winder. 

They also require a bit of patience to get the rhythm of the ball going. It will actually feel a bit odd at first, but sticking with it will get you a satisfying center-pull yarn ball!

How to use a nostepinne:

nostepinne to wind yarn directions

Open up your skein and either place it on an umbrella swift or stretch it across a stable surface.

Find one end of your skein and either wrap it around the far end of your nostepinne a few times or attach it with a slip knot. This will be the center-pull part of the ball.

Start wrapping your yarn around so that the wraps are sitting next to each other. After you have done this a few times, you can start to cross them diagonally as you twist the nostepinne towards you. You will want to try to catch it on the shoulder of the ball you are making as you go. This will help to make sure that it does not get loose.

Twisting the nostepinne while wrapping will ensure that the ball grows evenly and securely. You will want to make sure that your wraps are not just building upon themselves. Also, make sure that you are not wrapping too tight so you do not stretch out your yarn.

nostepinne to wind yarn directions

When you are done you can simply slide off your ball and tuck in the yarn end that was originally wrapped around the nostepinne!

This is the nostepinne I am using! The Kromski nostepinne in mahogony.

There is more than one way to wrap a nostepinne, but this is the way I was taught. You can always play around with it to find a way that feels natural to you. Another common method is to wrap your yarn in a figure 8 pattern. Try it out and see which one you like!

Knitting needle

Knitting needles are used in much the same way as a nostepinne since they are basically the same shape.

When it comes down to it all you really need is a stick to wrap some yarn around! 

The directions are also the same as for the nostepinne. The only difference is that there is no dedicated notch to attach the center of the yarn to, so just make sure to keep it separate. 

The advantage of the nostepinne over the knitting needle is that the nostepinne will be more comfortable to hold. Since it is a dedicated tool for that purpose it is made to be held for longer periods of time while you are working with it.

knitting needle to wind yarn directions

knitting needle to wind yarn directions

The advantage of the knitting needle is you may already have one in your studio!

If you only need to wind a ball of yarn occasionally then this may be a great option for you. If you will be winding yarn balls often then you may want to invest in a nostepinne or a ball-winder.

I am using the Clover bamboo knitting needles in size 17.

Winding yarn by hand

If you have none of the above and you still need to create a ball to work from then you still have an option! This option does not create a center-pull yarn ball, but it still creates a yarn ball that is in a format you can easily use for warping or shuttle winding.

I have actually gone over instructions on creating a yarn ball by hand in my t-shirt yarn tutorial. If you are looking for a yarn winding option that does not require any extra tools then make sure to check out my t-shirt yarn post.

Do you need an umbrella swift?

umbrella swift with yarn skein

No and maybe.

Let’s first start off with what is an umbrella swift

An umbrella swift is a tool that is used to hold a skein of yarn and turn freely as the yarn is taken from it in order to turn it into a ball or cake. They are often made of wood, but also sometimes made of metal and plastic and they open up much like an umbrella does (hence the name.) This means that despite their open size, they do get smaller and easier to store when not in use. 

Umbrella swifts are a great tool to have if you are winding yarn because it holds the skein for you and does the work of keeping it tangle-free during the winding process.

If you are using either the nostepinne, knitting needle, or winding a ball by hand then you do not need the umbrella swift. You can put the skein around a chair back or even around your knees while you are sitting in order to keep it taught and tangle-free. 

If you are using a ball winder though (and especially the electric ball winder) you will want an umbrella swift to accompany it. So while the ball winder itself is sometimes not that much more expensive than your other yarn winding options, the fact that you need the umbrella swift definitely adds to the expense. 

It does make things go smoother though! The video above was just for fun, but you can see how smooth the process is as the yarn goes from the swift to the ball winder.

I am using yarn by Sheep and Shawl on Etsy!

Regardless of how you decide to wind your yarn, it is always good to have some options in your weaving toolbox (literal and figurative!) If winding balls of yarn is not going to be a regular occurrence then stick with a simple method with inexpensive tools or ones you already have.

If you need to wind your own yarn often then I recommend investing a bit more to get a swift and a ball winder so you can spend more time weaving and less time preparing to weave.

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