Weaving With Linen – Material Spotlight

Weaving With Linen – Material Spotlight

I may be a bit biased when it comes to linen because much like my love for cotton, linen is a staple in my own studio.

That being said, it has a permanent home in my own weaving studio for a reason. Aesthetically, linen’s natural colors and natural shine work perfectly in my tapestries as warp and weft.

So what makes weaving with linen so special? Read on.


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!


Types/cultivation


Linen is a natural bast fiber made from the flax plant (the same plant you get flax seeds from.) Bast fiber which also includes hemp, jute, and milkweed are fibers made from the inside of the straw-like stems of these plants. The anatomy of a bast fiber shows a harder outer layer, the phloem (this is the fiber layer), and a core.

Flax plants have two varieties: textile flax and linseed flax. These two types of flax are grown to either produce linen or to harvest the seeds for many other different uses. They have slightly different appearances and are also grown, harvested, and processed in different ways.

As I’m sure you can guess – we will be focusing on the textile flax.


weaving with linen - linen yarn and flax painting

In the field, flax can reach heights between 30” – 47” which means the fibers used to create linen are similarly long. They are also planted close together to encourage vertical growth over horizontal growth. Prior to harvesting, the flax plant grows delicate blue flowers.

Flax naturally comes in different colors depending on its growing situation. Minerals in the soil as well as where it is grown can affect the color of the finished linen, but it may wash out eventually.

Due to the makeup of the fibers, it also contains waxes, pectin, and gums. These things all can wash away over time making your linen yarn whiter and less dense. You also get two different types of fiber from linen processing. Line flax (long, luxurious, and shiny fibers) and tow flax (shorter and weaker fibers).


weaving with linen - line linen and tow linen

Flax grows well in moist and warm locations. It is harvested when mature, but not too mature in order to get the best quality fiber. Once the plant matures for a longer period it is no longer a good choice for fiber. Instead, the seeds can be harvested to be used or replanted next year. 

To harvest the flax for linen it is always pulled from the ground and never cut. This is because it allows for the longest possible fibers. These stalks are then dried and after drying there are multiple time-intensive ways to extract the phloem from the rest of the plant. 

If you are interested in reading more about how to turn flax into linen then I recommend Linen – From Flax Seed To Woven Cloth by Linda Heinrich. This book is a must for anyone interested in learning more about every aspect of flax and linen. It goes over the growing, harvesting, processing, dyeing the linen as well as linen weaving projects.

I also recommend The practical spinner’s guide: Cotton, Flax, Hemp by Stephanie Gaustad. This book is a great introductory book to these three cellulose fibers and is a good option if you want to learn more, but want something a little less in depth.



Uses


Linen is one of the most often used yarns for tapestry warp. This is because of its incredible strength and ability to hold up to the tension required by tapestry. 

Learn more about tapestry HERE.

Beyond tapestry, linen is also often used for lightweight clothing and home goods. The word “linens” has become synonymous with sheets and towels even though traditionally they weren’t always made from linen.

In the next section, you can see why linen works well for all of these things.



Linen pros


Weaving with linen is great for anything that needs to be fast-drying. It is also incredibly absorbent. Linen is actually the most absorbent natural fiber! Towels are a fantastic example of this since you want your towels to absorb moisture but not hold onto it.     

One of the most well-known properties of linen is how lightweight it is. If you think about summer-y linen pants then you can probably imagine their breezy nature made possible by the linen. 

Linen is also a resilient fiber. If you are looking for something that will wear well then this could be a great option. When exposed to sunlight, linen does not discolor but instead reverts to the natural color of cellulose (white). 

Just like cotton, linen is actually stronger when wet. This is another reason why it makes such a good option for towels or the like.


Very strong 


weaving with linen - linen yarns

If you are looking for a fiber with the greatest amount of strength then look no further than linen. For reference, linen has historically been used to create rope (alongside hemp and jute.)

You don’t make rope out of fragile materials.

Due to its strength, it makes a fantastic warp for anything, but especially tapestry since it requires such high tension. Also, if you don’t love the look of linen (…why?) then hiding behind your tapestry weft won’t be an issue.

Depending on the weaving you are creating, though, it may not be your ideal choice for warp on a pattern weave since it will be seen. Instead, find the strongest yarn that you can that works with what you are creating.


Naturally shiny


Unlike cotton that needs mercerization to be shiny, line linen is actually naturally shiny without any treatments. (Learn about mercerized cotton and other yarn treatments HERE). Tow linen, though, is less shiny because it is shorter and requires more twists when spinning than line linen. 

Line linen is almost always wet spun which also adds to its shiny appearance. This means that it uses a spinning process that requires warm water to smooth and soften the fibers. Tow linen can be wet spun, but is usually dry spun. Dry spun tow linen is even more absorbent and has a “tooth” to it that can be a benefit for certain types of woven textile or rope.


Linen cons


weaving with linen - crimped and wrinkled linen

Memory (stays crimped etc.)


If you have ever owned any linen clothing then you know how hard it can be to get wrinkles out!

Linen fibers have a memory and don’t always like to cooperate when you are trying to force them to do things. If you use linen in your weaving, but then unweave it – it will retain a crimped appearance where it went over and under your other yarn.

This also means that when purchasing it won’t be found in balls but instead only on cones or tubes. These help to tame linen’s wild nature.


Takes time to soften


Right off the cone linen isn’t always luxurious. While it has it in its nature to become a soft and beautiful fiber, until its been washed a few times, it will be stiff.

Not only does the linen naturally have waxes and other substances in the fiber, but oils are often used to more easily spin the flax into linen. All of these things make for a stiff yarn.

Linen can shrink after being washed so always make sure to either wash your linen yarns before weaving or make sure to do a sample and know the amount of shrinkage you have to account for. You can learn more about shrinkage HERE or in my ebook that you can purchase below (it has so much more in it too!)



Breaks down when dry


While linen is pretty resilient nothing is perfect.

Whereas it does very well when wet and when heat is applied, it likewise breaks down in low humidity situations. The linen fibers themselves can start to fray and break if they get too dry. Traditionally linen was woven in humid rooms for this reason. You don’t want your linen to be wet, though, because it is also prone to mildew.

Keep in mind that humidity can be bad for your loom, so be careful if you decide to work this way.

Generally speaking you should be fine in your regular home studio.


Can be costly (compared to cotton)


Linen is not the least expensive option you can choose when weaving, but not a lot compares to its strengths (and it’s strength!)

When compared to cotton, linen tends to be more expensive so if you are making a sample just to see if something works then I recommend sampling with a similarly sized cotton instead. This obviously doesn’t work if you need to test for linen shrinkage – in that case use the linen.

FYI, 8/4 cotton and 8/4 linen are actually different sizes. Learn about yarn sizes HERE.


weaving with linen - books

Whatever the reason you are looking to weave with linen, it is a great material that has so many different uses. If you haven’t tried it yet or you are looking to get started with this versatile, but underappreciated fiber then check out some of my favorite linen yarns.

Bockens Lingarn Linen 16/2

Bockens Linvarptrad Linen Rug Warp 8/2

Gist Yarn Duet Cotton/ Linen


References


Heinrich, Linda. Linen: from Flax Seed to Woven Cloth. Schiffer Publishing, 2010.

Gaustad, Stephenie. Practical Spinners Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp. Interweave Press Inc, 2014.


Weaving With Weft Floats To Create Texture And Patterns

Weaving With Weft Floats To Create Texture And Patterns

Are you in a weaving rut? There are so many different patterns and interesting things that you can do with weaving, but what if you are looking for something a little less regimented? 

With the grid system inherent in weaving it can be hard to think of it as anything other than a strict process, but it doesn’t have to be.

Taking a more experimental and unplanned approach can be a great way to try something new, break your artist’s block, or just add some visual interest in an unexpected way to your weaving.

One way to do this is to try weaving with weft floats and go for a free form weaving style that allows you to make decisions as you go.


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!


What is a float?


weft float patterns

A float is any weft that goes over more than one warp. The same can be said for any warp that goes over more than one weft. Today’s post, though, will focus on weft floats and not warp floats.

A float will be two or more picks* long, but the longer they are the more likely the fabric will be less stable and more sleazy**.

*A pick is one row of weaving. This is used to describe weft and means that your weft will have woven across to one selvedge but not back to where it started.

**Sleazy is a real textile term! I promise! It means loose and is usually used to describe fabrics with a lot of drape but not a lot of structure.

Basically, any pattern other than plain weave will use floats to create the pattern. Even two of the three basic weave structures use floats to do this. Make sure to read about the three basic weave structures HERE.

While you can use regimented patterns to weave twill, lace, and much more – if you are looking for something a little more organic you can mix it up and make up your own.



Over three under one


While a float pattern like over three and under one can be done on a floor loom through the aid of harnesses to create your pattern for you, you also have the option of doing this same pattern by hand on a frame loom or a rigid heddle loom. 

Over three and under one is only one example of the type of float pattern that you could create. Some other examples you might want to consider playing with are over two under two (a modified plain weave), over three under two, or really any combination of over and under that you can imagine. You can also mix it up to use more than one float pattern in the same weaving and even the same pick!

If you are doing this by hand then you also have the ability to change up your pattern at your own whim. The ability to mix it up will allow you to combine any number of patterns and floats at any time. While changing it up for every pick might not be ideal because it could make your weaving a little messy, if you do it well then it can create an interesting piece with character and texture.


Use a pick-up stick


Using pick up sticks to weave weft floats

Pick-up sticks are a great and simple tool that every weaver should have in their studio. They are basically a smooth stick that is preferably wider than your weaving. Pick-up sticks can be used for multiple things, but most often they are used to create a shed in your weaving. They are great for use on a frame loom when you don’t have a shed tool built in already or on any loom with heddles that you need to create a different shed on. Pick-up sticks are used often on rigid heddle looms to greatly expand their options without attaching a second heddle.

Instead of manually weaving with a tapestry needle you can use a pick-up stick to make your life a little simpler by creating a shed. This will also give you the ability to see the pattern in the weaving before actually placing your yarn. 

You can buy pick-up sticks that are made for weaving with smoothed-out edges for easy flipping, but you can also use a ruler or anything that is flat and strong if need be. Most makeshift pick-up sticks won’t be smooth, though, so be aware that it will apply more friction to your warp which could eventually degrade the yarn. Due to the size of my weaving sample, I used a wood tapestry needle as my pick-up stick!

If you are interested in learning more about alternatives to weaving tools then check out this post HERE.



About pattern weaving


Pattern weaving on a frame loom or rigid heddle loom isn’t hard to do, but will sometimes require extra planning and/or patience. You can either plan out your pattern or just wing it. It just depends on what you are going for. 

It can be freeing to wing your pattern as long as you are willing to possibly create something that isn’t cohesive in the end. If you don’t like what you made then you can always undo it and try again with nothing lost – except some time.

If you are interested in pattern weaving (the more regimented kind) then I highly recommend That Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon. It includes many different patterns and drafts as well as a lot of really useful information for weaving patterns.


Get It On Amazon


Use graph paper


weft floats weaving pattern planning

If you do decide to plan out or create your own pattern then one of the best ways to do this is by using graph paper. The graph paper corresponds really well to the warp and wefts that create your weaving since they create a grid-like system. 

Planning out your weaving on graph paper beforehand can help save you some time and avoid possibly having to un-weave in the future. When using the graph paper you will choose to either color in your warp or weft (usually the weft) with each square corresponding to one pick of your weaving. FYI, you more than likely you won’t be able to find graph paper that is to scale but it doesn’t really matter. The graph paper is just there to help you visualize the finished pattern.

When weaving free form patterns that you plan with graph paper it can help to mark each pick of your pattern on the paper as you weave it. This can help keep you from losing track of where you were since you are not using heddles to create your pattern.

Designing patterns this way on graph paper can be a really fun way to plan out what you want to do without having to take the time to make a sample. That being said, samples are never a bad idea!

Do you like to weave free form or would you rather weave a strict pattern? Let me know!


Creating And Maintaining Your Warp Tension

Creating And Maintaining Your Warp Tension

There are a few things that are really important when you are setting up your weaving. (Ok, there are a lot of things) Some of the big things are EPI, PPI, choosing the right materials.

(If you are interested in learning more about planning your weaving check out my ebook!)

One other aspect of setting up your weaving that is really important is your warp tension.

The tension of your weaving will affect how the warp and weft interact and how easy it is to weave certain types of weavings.


Why it’s important (tapestry vs pattern)


Creating an even tension on your warp is important because it will set up your weaving for success. Starting off your weaving with uneven tension or tension that is not right for the type of weaving you are creating is not ideal. In fact, it will make weaving harder.

I have said it many times before, but high tension is incredibly important when weaving tapestry.

Make sure to check out my entire tapestry post HERE.

Since tapestry requires your weft to flow around your warp it is important that it doesn’t move much or really at all. So in this case: the tighter you can make your tension the better. This is why certain types of looms are better for tapestry than others.

If you ever try weaving tapestry on a loom with inadequate tension you will notice that it can become frustrating when your warp is moving as you are trying to beat your weft. It won’t fully compress unless you fiddle with it. Weaving already takes long enough – we don’t have time for that!

Pattern weaving, on the other hand, requires a tension that is less tight. That does not mean that you want a loose warp. You want the warp to still be tight enough that it it maintains your correct warp spacing.

Pattern weaving (this includes plain weave) actually deflects the warp instead of flowing over it. This means that you will need a little bit of flexibility in the warp so that it can move. If your warp is too tight when weaving a pattern then it won’t weave up correctly.



How to get good tension


warp tension half bow

When you are setting up your warp and tying it onto your loom you will always want to start at the selvedges and work your way in. That means you do one set of warps on one side, then another set on the other side. Move back and forth until you get to the last set of warps in the middle. 

If you were to start on one side and just make your way across to the other side, you will probably end up with the beginning set of warps being a lot looser. Then you will have to start over.

It is also a good idea to not try to make your warp as tight as you can during this first step of tying on. Tensioning works best when all of the warp is already tied on. 

My favorite way to tie my warp to the front apron is with a half-bow. Check out my post on 5 essential knots for weavers.

The half-bow is a great option because it is easy to untie if you need to adjust your tension and it is very strong. A lot of weavers will use a simple square knot instead. This will work, but if you have to adjust it then it can be hard to undo. It also makes it harder to take your warp off your loom when you are all done. The half-bow is just as strong as the square knot but makes your life a little easier. 


How to test it


As you weave you will begin to know what is a good tension for what you want to weave. Until then, there are a few things to look for when setting up. 


Tapestry warp


Your tapestry warp should be similar to a string instrument.

So in case it is not clear, I want you to strum your warp.

I do this every time I set up my weavings. It isn’t going to have the same musical sounds of a guitar when you strum it but it should make a sound. If your warp doesn’t make a sound then it isn’t tight enough.

I also press down on the warp with the palm of my hand and I’m looking for very little give. You will never get it so tight that there will be no give (if you did it would probably break).


Pattern weaving


warp tension test press down

Your pattern weaving tension is a little harder to describe. You are looking for tension that gives but is not loose. You can try to strum it, and it may make some noise, but it will be duller than the noise of your tapestry warp.

Press down with your palm and it will be softer.

You are looking for your warp to be firm, but not super tight.



How to fix it


The best option is to make sure that your tension is right to begin with.

That being said, even if you tension your warp perfectly from the beginning it is possible that your tension could be off as you weave more.

Losing tension on parts of your warp can happen for any number of reasons including but not limited to: your warp is long, you have a lot of different patterns, holes, or there is pull in throughout the weaving. All of these things could use up different amounts of warp or move your warp so that the tension changes.

If this happens then there are 2 main options that you can choose from to fix your tension.


Wedge


warp tension fix wedge

If the tension is only a little off then you might be able to get away with a wedge.

A wedge is anything that you can put under the warps that need tensioned at the back beam to take up any slack. You can use cardboard, folded paper, a small piece of wood, or really anything that can add a little extra height to the back beam. Keep in mind that things like cardboard will compress over time so you may have to change it out or try something harder that won’t compress.

This is ideal to fix small areas of tension or areas that don’t need a lot of help. If you need a lot of tension fixed then you will be better off with the weighted option.


Weight


warp tension fix weight

When your tension is off a lot in certain spots then you will want to try something a little more heavy duty then cardboard. In this case you will need to weigh down your warp yarn to create that extra tension.

The amount of weight that you need will depend on how much tension is required. You will want to attach your weight to your warp and have it hang from the back beam. You may have to create a hook or a device to attach your weight, but you may also be able to use some scrap yarn loosely tied around the warp(s) to attach your weight.

A lot of weavers will keep heavy nuts and bolts to tie to their yarn, but if you need a lot of them to make up the weight you want you can put them in a small container to keep them together. Then hang the container from the warp.

If you are weaving on a floor loom and have that height to your advantage a great option to use is a water bottle or jugs depending on what you need. In the image above I found that using a c-clamp gave me just the right amount of tension I needed.

You may have to play around to find what works best for the tension you need.

Don’t be afraid to attach weird things to your warp! We have all done it.

Let me know the “weirdest” thing you have used to fix your warp tension in the comments!


Weaving Patterns In Plain Weave

Weaving Patterns In Plain Weave

I love plain weave.

Maybe that is a boring statement, but by the end of this post I think you will agree with me.

Plain weave is one of the most versatile weave structures that you can work with and can create anything from intricate tapestries to simple scarves. 

Despite the fact that “plain” is in the name it doesn’t have to be a plain weaving. With only the use of different colors, you can make interesting and dynamic patterns without any special tools. The greatest thing about making patterns in plain weave is that you can easily create these patterns with a rigid heddle loom or a floor loom because your only requirement is to be able to weave over one and under one.

While plain weave isn’t always a balanced weave (tapestry is plain weave!) in order to create our color patterns we will be working with a balanced plain weave. We need to see equal amounts of warp and weft for these to work.

Plain weave patterns always work best when the colors are contrasting. This helps them to stand out and gives you the best result for your effort.


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!



Stripes


Stripes are the simplest pattern that you can make with plain weave.

Just because they are simple, though, doesn’t mean they have to be boring. When it comes to your stripes you can weave both vertical and horizontal stripes with horizontal being the simplest. 

Horizontal stripes only require you to change your weft yarn colors periodically. To make them more dynamic you can change the size of your vertical stripes in many different ways. Try creating thicker stripes that lead to thinner ones or alternating thing and thick for another fun option.

Vertical stripes can take a little longer to set up because you have to warp your loom with different colors. This isn’t hard to do but may require a little extra time to measure out and a little more thought to set up. Once they are warped, though, you with be weaving only one color weft and should be able to do that relatively quickly. Similar to horizontal stripes you can vary the sizes to keep things interesting!

Once you start combining warp and weft stripes you start to get into plaid territory.


Plaid


plain weave pattern plaid

Plaids are a combination of vertical and horizontal stripes. Most of the time you will be varying the size of the stripes to create more interesting patterns. You would do this by having different quantities of your colored warp or weft yarns.

If your horizontal and vertical stripes are all consistently the same size then you will be getting a gingham check pattern instead of a plaid. (Also a great pattern, though!)

A lot of times you will want a variety of big and small stripes in both the warp and weft. They also often contain more than 2 colors in order to create your more intricate patterns.

There are many different types of plaid patterns so play around with your warp and weft to create something that you like!



Houndstooth


plain weave pattern houndstooth

When it comes to houndstooth there is simple and complicated. 

For the purpose of using only plain weave we are going the simple houndstooth route. Just because it is simple, though, doesn’t mean it is less than.

This simple houndstooth pattern is created by warping two colors in two warp increments and weaving two picks of each color before switching. It is basically just stripes of color that offset each other to create our houndstooth pattern!

If you are interested in weaving up a houndstooth scarf then make sure to check out my free houndstooth stripe scarf pattern that you can find on the Warped Community page! Once you join the Warped community you get access to all of the free stuff (patterns, a free course, and more) plus discounts on future ebooks and a weaving tip in a quarterly email. If you love to weave – we would love to have you!


Log cabin


plain weave pattern log cabin

The log cabin plain weave pattern is another really fun and interesting pattern you can play with. 

To create your log cabin pattern you will be alternating two colors of warp and weft one pick at a time. 

For example if you are working with grey and blue then your warp will go 1 grey, 1 blue, 1 grey, 1 blue and so on.

The weft would do the same thing: 1 grey, 1 blue, 1 grey, 1 blue. You would do this until you are ready to switch to create your alternating pattern. In that case you would do 2 picks of one of your colors and then continue with just 1 each.

If you have ever woven pick-and-pick in tapestry then this is basically the same pattern but in a balanced weave.


Create your own plain weave pattern sampler


plain weave pattern sampler

If you are really interested in plain weave patterns then I highly recommend creating a sampler to try out all of your options. This will give you some experience with everything that is possible all at once. 

Warp once whenever you can!


Plain Weave Color Patterns Sampler

10 EPI

96 Warp Ends

Total Warp Length: 2 or more yards

3/2 Cotton – 2 colors of differing values (A & B) I like this perle cotton.

Not sure about weaving with color? Check out the weaving color theory post HERE

Floor Loom Warping: Straight draw on 4 harnesses

Rigid Heddle Loom Warping: Plain weave with 1 heddle

Warp Pattern:

    BBBB x24

AABB (Ax12, Bx12)

    ABAB (Ax12, Bx12)

AAAB (Ax18, Bx6)

Weft Pattern:

2 inches of each:

B

A

BA

AB

BBAA

BBA

AAB

BBAAA

AABBB

BBBA

AAAB

AAABBB

BBBAA

Play around with any extra warp you have on your loom! Try out different combinations and make sure to write them down for easy reference in the future.

Finishing your sample:

Since this is a sampler you don’t have to do anything special to finish it off. The simplest thing you can do is to just tie off your warp to make sure it does not come undone. An overhand knot (check out my post on weaving knots) is a great and simple option for this.

If you want to finish off your weft tails then make sure to learn about that HERE.


Plain weave doesn’t have to be boring! Try out these simple color patterns to mix up your plain weave projects!


Weaving Color Theory – How Color Affects Your Weaving

Weaving Color Theory – How Color Affects Your Weaving

Color theory in weaving is initially pretty similar to color theory in any other art form. That being said, you may not have learned it if you didn’t go to an art school.

No worries!

There really is a lot to color theory so I want to go over some of the most important aspects that can affect your weaving.


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!


What is color theory?


weaving color theory on the loom

While it isn’t made specifically for weavers, I always refer to my Understanding Color textbook from school (that link is the newer edition.) This book includes some of the science behind why we see colors the way we do and where these color theories initially came from. You can skip those, though, if you are only interested in the colors themselves.

Another book you could look into that is more weaving oriented is Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom by Syne Mitchell. While this is a book on weaving with a rigid heddle loom, it does have a separate chapter on color theory that is good to look at and reference.



Primary, secondary, and intermediate


Primary colors are the three colors that all other colors can be made from. You might remember this from elementary school. All colors stem from the many possible combinations of red, blue, and yellow.

Secondary colors make up the other three main colors. They are made by combining any two of the primary colors together. These colors are orange (red and yellow), violet (blue and red), and green (yellow and blue). 

Intermediate colors happen when you start combining a secondary and primary color. Red-orange, yellow-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green are all intermediate colors. 


The color wheel


weaving color theory yarn and color wheel

These three color categories (primary, secondary, and intermediate) are what create the color wheel.

A physical color wheel can be a really useful tool to start out with when you are using more than one color. Having an inexpensive color wheel in your studio helps to take some of the guesswork out of choosing colors that will work well together. The one pictured above is the one that I use and I like it because it rotates to show different color combinations while blocking out the other colors. It also has a front and back that shows either tints or shades.

You can get this same color wheel HERE.

Another category to consider are complimentary colors.

Complimentary colors are colors that complement each other!

Looking on a color wheel, these are the colors that lay directly across from each other. Blue and orange are complementary, so are violet and yellow, and red and green.

This also works for any of your intermediate colors. Try using yellow-orange and blue-violet together to make your colors pop.


Cool and warm colors


Colors have a temperature.

Warm colors: Red, yellow, orange

Cool color: Blue, violet, green

That being said you can have a cool red if it contains some blue or a warm blue if it contains some yellow. These things are sometimes only really easy to see when placed next to another red or blue to compare it to. The temperature of your colors affects how they interact with other colors and how you perceive them. More on that below.



Simultaneous contrast


This is a pretty cool ( and interesting) phenomenon that occurs when you pair a neutral color with a primary or secondary color. When this happens and when other colors aren’t present, the neutral color can “take on” the appearance of the other color’s complement. For example: if you have a blue square and add a smaller grey square in the middle, that grey square will take on a slight orange appearance. 

Complementary contrast, on the other hand, occurs when you have two colors that have any amount of complementary relationship next to each other and they change visually. When you have a red-violet next to orange it will appear more violet, but next to a red it will appear redder. 

Basically, colors are affected by the colors that are around them. 


Value and hue


Hue is the name of the color – think blue, green, or yellow. Value is the amount of light or dark in the color.

If it is a light value then it is closer to white; a dark value is closer to black. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they contain those colors though. This just means that if you translated your hue into a greyscale then it will lean towards either end of the spectrum. (More on that soon)


What does this mean for weaving?


weaving color theory proportions

While all of these aspects of color theory can be applied to your weaving, there is also an extra aspect that you will have to consider when it comes to making your weaving. This is because of the way that the different colored yarns will inherently interact with each other. 

This is especially true when you are weaving anything other than weft-faced weavings. Since weft-faced weavings don’t show any warp, you don’t have to worry about the way the color of your warp visually mixes with the color of your weft. You only have to worry about the way your weft color interacts with the other weft colors. 

In plain weave and other patterns, the way that your warp and weft colors interact is crucial. Two colors in plain weave will also visually behave differently than two colors in a twill. That’s because in a twill you will see more of one color than the other. A plain weave has the potential to look a little muddled depending on the colors you choose. In this case, you can think of your weaving sort of like pointillism. In pointillism, your paint is applied in small dots or areas of color instead of mixed together. Your mind actually mixes the colors together to make an image.

If you are weaving a pattern, colors of contrasting values will show your pattern better. It could get lost if the values are too close. Think black against white and grey against white. There is a big difference in how these two sets of yarns would showcase your pattern. That does not mean you have to have a lot of contrast to make a good weaving, but it is something to keep in mind.

Even in the example above with the blue and orange warp/weft (complimentary colors) they tend to look a little more muddled in the image on the right. When two colors have a similar value, it is better to have one of the colors be more dominant or at least have large areas of color instead of a lot of smaller areas.


Color behavior


weaving color theory color behaviors and tapestry

This next theory is really good to keep in mind when you are weaving imagery. Just like with painting or any other image-based artwork you will want to pay attention to how your colors interact with each other overall to create a cohesive image.

Cool colors tend to recede when warm colors tend to advance. Saturated colors also appear closer than those that are de-saturated. Think about looking at the mountains and how they look less colorful as they get farther away.

Another thing about color behavior is that colors have different associations. What do you think of when you see the color red? Stop…

Green is associated with go, but also sustainability. These color associations can come in handy when you are creating your imagery. 

Colors can also elicit different emotions. Blue tends to be calming whereas yellow and red actually make you hungry! This was always a really interesting thing to learn for me because if you think about the main colors of a lot of fast-food restaurants – they are yellow and red. 

Are you planning on making your viewer hungry? Maybe not, but just keep in mind how powerful colors can be.



Some tips for figuring out your colors


The first thing you will want to do is make a sample – at least if you are doing plain weave or a pattern. You might be able to get away with just yarn wrapping if you are creating a tapestry since you don’t have to worry about the warp and weft interacting. *Yarn wrapping is simply wrapping your yarn around a ruler or cardboard in the same amounts you plan on using to see how well they interact. See my post on letting your yarn determine your weaving for an example.*

If you are unsure about your colors then I recommend having enough space on your warp to try out different things with some room between and/or something to cover up the other samples when you are looking at them. Remember those contrasts we talked about? Yeah, don’t let that affect your decision making when looking at two different samples. 

When you are looking at your weaving samples you can do a few things if you want to test out just how well they are working. Since your sample is on a small scale, it can be harder to determine which sample has the best value contrast or which colors compliment each other best.


What you should try


weaving color theory - perceiving values


Squinting.

Yeah, that may seem a little weird, but squinting at your weaving helps to eliminate some of the surroundings that could be influencing your colors. It will actually help you focus by narrowing your field of vision. Try it out!

Another simple thing you can do is take a black and white photo. This will help you see the difference in values better than anything else. That’s because when you take a black and white photo or convert a photo to black and white the only thing you are viewing is the value of those colors. In the images above you can see how just turning the image of the weavings or yarn makes a really big difference in the perception of it. This is usually pretty easy to do if you use your smartphone to take a photo.

Do you have any issues with color and weaving? Let me know!


-Nicole

Resources


Holtzschue, L. (2006). Understanding Color: An Introduction for Designers. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Mitchell, S. (2015). Inventive weaving on a little loom: Discover the full potential of the Rigid-Heddle loom, for beginners and beyond. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.



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Essentials For Setting Up Your First Weaving Studio

Essentials For Setting Up Your First Weaving Studio

Setting up your first studio can be … intimidating.

Not only furnishing the studio but also what to look for in the space and how much storage you need.

When trying to find space for your weaving studio just remember that it can be anywhere. You might consider a second bedroom, dining room, shed, or a rented studio downtown. My personal studio used to be the dining room in my house! Before that I used our second bedroom. If you can find the space for your perfect studio then go for it, if you can’t then make the space you can find perfect.

If you’re not there yet, then make sure to check out my post on weaving without a studio.


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!


Space


setting up your first weaving studio install wall

The studio itself can be just as important as what you put in it. You may not always have a choice when it comes to actually choosing your space. If you have the choice for your studio space then there are some things that you might want to consider when looking around for the perfect studio.

You will want to consider both the furniture you have and the furniture you might want. Knowing what you want to weave will really help because it can determine the types of looms that you will have in your weaving studio. If you are planning to weave lots of large weavings then you need to make sure you have enough room for a floor loom or possibly a large rigid heddle loom with a stand. If you are planning to stay small then a smaller space where you can sit and weave on a frame loom might be all you need.

Generally, we can probably all agree that the larger the studio the better! That being said, making good use of the space you have can be essential.


Install wall


One of the things that I looked for in my studio was a large blank wall. This might sound kind of weird, but it’s perfect for installing your weavings to photograph them. If you are weaving on a frame loom then you can also hang your frame up while it’s in progress in order to step back and get a different perspective.

This is something that I definitely recommend, especially if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired. Gaining a new perspective on your artwork can help you to see it in a new light. But I digress…

This wall will ideally be painted a bright neutral white for the best background for your finished weavings. Keep some spackle (I like this one because it goes on pink and turns white when it is dry) on hand to fill in your large holes from installation if you are using nails. Make sure to gently tap down any convex surfaces from pulling the nails out pre-spackle. This will help keep your wall flat.

You also have the option of editing the holes out of your photographs, but eventually, you will have to fill those holes. You should also keep a small container of the same white paint on hand for touch-ups after your spackle dries.



Lights


Natural lighting is the best for making artwork of any kind. If you have a lot of windows then that can be good for both lighting and inspiration.

Beyond natural lighting from windows, you will want your lamps or light fixtures to use white light and nothing too warm. If you are weaving artwork that will be shown in galleries then think about the lighting that they use. It’s usually bright white lighting.

Think about where your weaving will end up and make sure that you are considering this when choosing your yarn for your weaving. Your yarn will look different in different lighting.

I use this LED lamp for my desk. It is great because it has multiple brightness levels that you can change with a quick touch and an easily adjustable arm so you can move the light wherever you need.


Inspiration


setting up your first weaving studio inspiration

Inspiration is a really important part of your studio. Having plants, photographs, artwork, or anything else that inspires your weaving is great to have around.

Keeping a cork board to collect items that inspire you is a great way to keep them on display but still make them easy to swap out. I tend to also collect things that inspire me and have them live amongst my yarn and books.

If you are lucky to have a great view then that in itself could be your inspiration. Think about where you will be sitting the most – at your loom, desk, or somewhere else – and try to make that have the best view in the studio.


Materials


I’ve written a few posts already on materials that you might want for your weaving studio. So check out my post on 6 studio necessities or my supplies page for my favorite supplies that I currently have in my personal studio. Otherwise, these are some other materials that you either need or could be useful.



Yarn


You probably aren’t going to get too far without yarn in your weaving studio. While you can weave without yarn ( check out weaving with paper) most often, yarn will be the go to. As far as yarn goes, if you are weaving tapestry then I recommend starting out with some 8/4 cotton rug warp.

You will also need weft but that is a little harder to recommend because it really depends on how or what you want to weave. Tapestry is often woven with wool, but I usually use cotton and linen. 

If you are not planning on something specific then grab a few cones of your favorite color that will inspire you to start creating! If you are looking to buy yarn online then check out THIS post with my favorite online yarn stores. You might also want to look at THIS post about the difference between weaving and knitting yarn.

You will also probably want shuttles or bobbins if you are weaving anything that will require large amounts of specific colors. Butterfly bobbins are a great option for when you only need small amounts of color at a time. If you want to learn more about the differences between shuttles, bobbins, and butterflies then make sure to check out THIS post.


Other supplies


setting up your first weaving studio materials

While the next set of supplies may not be essential, they may makes things a little simpler.

Scale

This probably isn’t something that you would normally think of for a weaving studio, but having a scale can really help you to price out your work. All you need is a simple kitchen scale like this one! Weigh your yarn both before you begin your weaving and after you are done. If you kept track of the price of your yarn in something like a yarn notebook then you will have easy access to the price per ounce of your yarn. Use this to figure out just how much the yarn you used for your weaving cost.

Yarn ball winder and yarn swift

These tools usually go hand in hand. More than likely if you bought some yarn on a hank instead of a cone, then you will want to wind it into a more easily usable form. If you bought your yarn online, then you can always check to see if the company or shop will wind it for you. If that is the case, you may not need either at all!

If you are buying a lot of yarn, though, that doesn’t come already in ball form or there is no option to do that, then you might want to invest in these so that you are not stuck doing it all by hand. (Although you definitely can do that too.) You can check out The Woolery for ball winders and yarn swifts.

Warping board

If you are weaving on a floor loom, table loom, and sometimes even a rigid heddle loom then a warping board or warping mill is an essential tool for you to have in your studio. You will need this in order to measure out your warp for your weaving project. You could also build a warping board yourself if you are so inclined as they are essentially a frame with pegs.

The one I have is a Harrisville warping board. Learn how to use a warping board HERE.


Furniture


Loom


setting up your first weaving studio loom

The loom that you choose will vary depending on what you want to weave, how much space you have, and the price point you are looking at. When you are first starting out you may have to choose your loom more based on the last 2 points then the first. 

Like a lot of things in life, the right loom might just be the loom that you can get at the moment.

The loom that gets you weaving faster is better than no loom at all. 

We all have a dream loom, but if you can find a loom that will at least get you on your way to practice, make smaller weavings, or simpler weavings then you can get your dream loom at a later time. You are not married to it, so you can change it out when it no longer serves you or you can just get more than one loom! No one said you can’t have many looms or different types of looms.

The loom pictured above from my studio is a 36″ Harrisville 8 harness 10 treadle floor loom.


Desk or table


While a loom is generally the most thought about furniture that you will want in your weaving studio, it is also important to think about the extra space that you will need. Having a desk or table to sit at to sketch, plan out your weavings, layout your finished weavings for finishing and more can be invaluable.

If you are using a frame loom, having a desk is a great way to keep the frame at a better height for use so you are not bending over too much. (Learn more about your weaving posture HERE.) I also use my desk for cutting paper for paper weaving, storing projects in progress that aren’t on a loom, resting my rigid heddle loom on, and more.


Seating


setting up your first weaving studio seating

The seating options you have in your studio can play a major role in how you use your space. 

I recommend a comfortable chair where you can sit and come up with ideas, sketch your next weaving, or take in the inspiration of your studio. I also like to sit back and work on my finishing techniques like weaving in my weft ends in a comfortable chair. Having a comfortable chair in the studio makes it not only a place to create but also a place to relax.

If you are weaving at a floor loom then you will want a good loom bench. I recommend one that can tilt when you sit on it so you can adjust your hips to sit straighter. I often put a pillow down so it’s not so hard for long periods of time. You can find some with different pockets or cubbies to keep your yarn and supplies so they are within reach. The one that I use (pictured above on the right) can be found HERE. I love having the pocket below to hold the things that I need for the weaving I’m working on.

When sitting at a desk either working on a frame loom, rigid heddle loom, table loom, or doing anything else make sure to choose a chair that is comfortable and keeps you from slouching after being in the studio all day. Don’t start hunching over! I like this ergonomic chair (pictured above on the left) because it helps keep my back straight while working.


Storage


setting up your first weaving studio storage

There is never really enough storage in a studio no matter what. Just like most parts of your home, I’m sure, if there is space then you will fill it. Then when you find something else you need, well you will have to find a place to put it too!

Vertical storage is one of the best options that you can use to make the most of the space you have and often the most underutilized in and out of the studio. Getting long shelves that go all the way up to your ceiling can be a great way to take advantage of unused space for more yarn!

Depending on the type of yarn you use, you may want to consider keeping your yarn in a closed area to keep it away from moths. Specifically, any protein fibers like wool are a tasty treat for moths. Cellulose fibers like cotton and linen are safe from moths, but as most things do, they can still accumulate dust and dog hair if left in the open.

Think about how you use your stash.

Do you go through it fast? Then you are probably safe to keep it out on open shelving so that you can see it at all times. Because who doesn’t like to look at a beautiful yarn wall? But if you will take a long time to go through your yarn then you may want to keep it tucked away and just take out the yarn you are using for each project. You can have a separate shelf or basket to put that yarn in for easy access.

Beyond your yarn, consider storage for books, tools, frames, and finished work. You can learn more about storing your finished artwork HERE.

Cabinets and plastic storage drawers can be used to house any number of things that you will want to keep out of sight or protected. You can make better use of space by putting the storage drawers under your desk and out of the way. I use storage drawers to keep fabric, installation materials, and other miscellaneous art supplies. You can use a simple strip of tape and a marker to label them so you never forget where you put that hammer.

No matter where your studio is make sure that it reflects you as an artist and maker. Your studio will probably look different then mine because we are making different things, but starting out with some of the above examples can help you get going. If you are having trouble then make a list of what you are doing and what you want to do and go from there.

If you have a perfect studio in mind (or you already have one!) let me know about it in the comments!


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