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Breaking Weaving Rules – Experimental Weaving Ideas

Breaking Weaving Rules – Experimental Weaving Ideas

Weaving Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

Have you ever heard the statement that you need to learn the rules before you can break them?

For the record, that is a statement that I definitely agree with! I even have it on the Warped Fibers classes page when I’m talking about my weaving philosophy.

Weaving and art in general is meant to be explored and expressed in any way that you see fit. Knowing the rules first, though, means that you will be better at controlling your experimental techniques.

So if you understand the weaving rules, then read on. If you’re brand new, then read on! You can see what you have to look forward to.


Your Weaving Has To Be Straight


break weaving rules - straight selvedges

Most of the time you probably want straight selvedges on your weaving. If you do, then you should check out my post with tips for getting straighter sides to your weaving. Neat edges on your weaving generally create a clean and classic look. If you want something else…

Have you ever thought about not having straight selvedges on purpose? There are quite a few different ways that you can purposefully manipulate your selvedges to weave up wavy or uneven sides. One of the ways that you can do this is by using a technique called Navajo Wedge Weave. Essentially, you’re weaving eccentrically the whole time and therefore adding extra weft. This is what creates their signature selvedge design. If you’re interested in that technique than I recommend checking out THIS link.

These wavy selvedges aren’t exclusive to Navajo Wedge Weave, and in fact can be seen whenever you add a lot of eccentric weft to your tapestry. It just may not be as precise.

Another option? Look at the image above! In this case, I am manipulating the bottom selvedge and making sure it weaves up as a wavy uneven shape. All you have to do for this is to cut the shape you want out of a firm paper, card stock, or cardboard and place it in your warp. Then you can weave around it!

Here’s a rule you don’t want to break: Always weave from selvedge to selvedge at the top and bottom of your weaving if you can! This will make finishing your weaving much easier if you don’t have to worry about multiple tails or splits in your weaving.



Some other options for you are to manipulate the selvedges manually. Simply pull in your selvedges on purpose! Be careful because when you do this it will be hard to bring them back out if you want to.

Your EPI is going to change when you do this, so be prepared that your tapestry may turn into more of a balanced weave. If that happens then you will want to think more about your warp choice because it may become visible within your weaving! The color of your warp becomes very important when you are weaving a balanced weave!


Your Split Tapestry Has To Touch


break weaving rules - split tapestry

Split tapestry is a technique that creates a slit in your weaving and allows you to weave clean vertical lines between two shapes. Most of the time you want to treat this split as though you have a selvedge in the middle of your weaving. A.K.A. Don’t pull too tight so that each side of the split touches so that you can sew it up later. Then pretend it was never there!

What if you want to create a hole?

There are a few ways to do this, but one way is to play around with this idea: pull your split tapestry on purpose! 

Keep in mind that if you do this you will have to deal with the consequences when it comes to the rest of your weaving. Just like pulling in your warps in the previous section, when you pull your warps in this way it will change your EPI at that part of your weaving. You will have to work to put it back – if that’s what you want. Or just embrace it and make it works with the rest of your weaving. 


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!


You Can’t Combine Weaving Types


Just because you set up your loom for one type of weaving doesn’t mean that you can’t add in some others! If you think you will want to have multiple types of weaving in the same piece then you can set it up for the highest EPI you will need. Then you can just float over the warps you don’t need later on in the weaving when you want to change your weaving type.

This is an idea that is similar doubling your tapestry warp! When you double your tapestry warp you have to ability to add in balanced weave in addition to your tapestry. You could also weave up twill or other patterns by just playing around with your weft floats.

For example, if you want to weave both balanced weave and tapestry on the same piece then you could set your loom up for 12 EPI and then when you are ready to weave tapestry – weave over 2 and under 2 in order to recreate a 6 EPI warp sett.

If you’re worried that the two patterns or weaving types aren’t going to work together or weave up easily then make a sample! Samples can save you a lot of time and heartache.


Your Weaving Has To Be Flat


breaking weaving rules - 3D weaving

Just because you probably wove your weaving flat, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way! There are a lot of different things that you can do to or with your weaving to take it to the next dimension.

Some examples:

Gather it!

Once your weaving is off your loom, you can choose how you want to display it. You can check out THIS post for some general display options. 

You can manually gather your weaving and tack it down to a canvas – just like I did in the image above. If the three dimensional areas are large then you might want to consider adding a little bit of wire to create an armature. Otherwise, eventually gravity will start to pull it down and won’t be quite so… perky.

Sew your weaving in the round!

One of the great things about weavings is that they’re fabric and fabric is flexible! You can sew your top and bottom selvedges together to create a continuous strip or twist it to create a mobius strip.

Pulled warp!

A technique where you leave negative spaces in your weaving to pull and gather later. This is a more controlled way to create a three dimensional weaving. It also allows for gathering without the need for something to tack the weaving down to.

You can also add texture, objects, and embellishments!

Any of these things will add more dimension to your weaving without actually changing the weaving. You can either embed them into the weaving or use embroidery to attach them to the surface.

Think about the things that you know you’re not supposed to do when you’re weaving and see if you can make them work for you! There are some rules that need to be followed if you want your weaving to turn out a certain way, but breaking weaving rules just might get you something better.


-Nicole


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Let Your Yarn Determine Your Weaving Project

Let Your Yarn Determine Your Weaving Project

Yarn First – Project Second


It happens to the best of us. Weaver sees yarn. Weaver buys yarn. Weaver has no idea what to do with yarn.

We’ve all been there.

In fact, if you’re like me you have quite a stash of yarn that is sitting and waiting to be used! Skeins and cones that I picked up just because I liked the color or as souvenirs. So what happens when you find this amazing yarn, but you don’t have a project in mind? Have you ever thought about letting your yarn determine your weaving project?

Let’s go over how to create a weaving project around your yarn instead of the other way around.


Know Your Yarn


The first thing you need to do is determine what the yarn can be used for. You need to look at the size, fiber content, strength, color, and feel.

I go over finding your perfect warp yarn in THIS post so check that out if you’re wondering about whether your yarn will work as warp. Once you determine that, you can move on. 

Generally speaking almost anything can be used as weft, but not every weft is created equal. At least not for every weaving project.


Size


Think about this in relation to the warp you are choosing. Perhaps you are using the same yarn as warp and weft, in either case, think about how your yarns will interact.

Your yarn size plays a really important part of the type of weaving that you are trying to create. Consider what type of weaving works well with the yarn you have. If your yarn is really thick, it might serve you best as a rug weft or couched onto the surface of your tapestry. Really thin yarns aren’t always ideal for tapestries unless you are weaving something intricate – unless you want to be weaving forever.

The yarn’s size can help you figure out what EPI you should use or at least start with for your sampling. Even if you didn’t purchase this yarn online, you can always check out the information for similar sized yarns to see what their recommended warp setts are as a good place to start. Hopefully you have the packaging or information stickers from the yarn you are wanting to use. This will tell you what size yarn you have. If you don’t know the size, then you can estimate an EPI to start with by figuring out the WPI.

I talk more about WPI in my weaving planning e-book! You can learn more about that by clicking on the image below!


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!


Fiber


What’s your yarn made of?

Since different materials have different things that they excel at, this is important to keep in mind. If you find yourself with a wool yarn, you probably won’t want to use it to make tea towels since the wool would take a long time to dry.

Some examples of types of fibers that you might want to use for common weaving projects:

Towels (fast drying) – Cotton and linen

Scarves (warm, drapes well) – Wool, Alpaca, Acrylic. A spring or early fall scarf might be made from cotton or cottolin instead because it’s lighter.

Rugs (holds up to heavy traffic) – Wool, Acrylic, Cotton (mostly as warp)

Tapestry – Cotton or linen warp and wool weft (wool dyes better than other yarn types)

That doesn’t mean you are stuck using these materials for these particular projects. For example, most of my tapestries are made with cotton and linen weft because I’m more interested in the material than the range of colors that I can get. So do whatever feels right, but keep in mind what may be the best fit.


Strength


yarn determine weaving - strength

How strong does your yarn need to be? If you’re using it as warp then it’s important that your yarn be strong in order to hold up to the tension it will be under. This is even more important if you are using it for your tapestry warp since it requires an even tighter tension than other weaving types. 

Even weft will need a certain level of strength especially if you are creating a functional weaving. Yarn that is easy to break isn’t ideal for rugs that are going to see a lot of traffic. They will be more likely to fall apart after some use.

Different fibers are going to have different strengths mostly due to the way they are spun and the properties of the material. For example, linen is a very strong yarn because the flax plant that is used to create it has long fibers. The longer the fibers are, the harder it will be for them to pull a part.

To test your yarn out you can hold it in each hand and pull! Do this a couple times like you can see above. If it breaks easily, it is most suitable for non-functional work or as an accent yarn.


Color


yarn determine weaving - color

Color doesn’t play a huge role in the type of weaving you can create, but it might play a role in the type of weaving you want to create. You can play around with color combinations between your different yarns to create fun and interesting weaving projects. 

Try wrapping your yarns you want to use around a piece of card stock or cardboard for a super quick way to see how good they look together. You can even save this and put it in your yarn notebook or sketchbook for future reference. On that note, make sure to record your new yarn in your notebook so if you like it, you can remember where to get more!

You could also just have all your skeins/ cones next to each other for color reference, but wrapping them let’s you see your colors in the ratio that you will see them in your weaving. Also, it looks nice! (it’s the little things sometimes)



Feel


This can be as simple as holding the yarn.

Is it soft or scratchy?

This will help you to determine if your yarn is suitable for functional weavings like scarves and blankets or better off used on your woven wall hangings.

If you want to use it as a scarf then try rubbing it on your face and neck! Since this is where your scarf will be worn it’s important that it’s comfortable. Something to keep in mind is that some yarns will get softer after washing, so you might want to test it out after it’s been washed. Do this by either washing a woven sample or a few strands of the yarn. Some yarns get fuzzier and some get softer after being washed.

Another thing you can do is to squish the yarn between your fingers to get a feel for how tightly spun it is. Yarns that aren’t spun as tight and have more air in them tend to feel softer because they have some give. Looser spun yarns will compress more when you beat down on them and might even drape better.

The best way to test the drape of a yarn is to – you guessed it – create a sample. Drape is determined by the warp and weft material as well as the weave structure. But, a strand or two draped over your hand unwoven is better than nothing if you can’t weave up a sample.


Create a sample


yarn determine weaving

I’m sure you saw this coming…

Samples are an amazing learning tool that you can use as a new or more advanced weaver. I use them all the time!

Doing these samples can help you figure out certain things like if your yarn is going to shrink after washing it. Does it get softer after a few washes? How do your different yarns (if using more than 1) interact?

Create a sample and then put it through the ringer (or washer) and try it out in different scenarios to see if it holds up to what you want it to do.

This will help you to figure out what to do with your yarn because now you have a real life example of what it is or isn’t good for!

Make sure your sample is large enough to actually get some information out of it – at least 2 inches by 2 inches. Or make more than 1. That being said, if you have limited amounts of this yarn then multiple samples may not be the best option. You don’t want to use it all up before you can fully make something! In that case, prioritize what you need to know in order to get weaving.

You can check out my weaving planning post to learn more about shrinkage and my post about the importance of samples and what else they can teach you.

Once you have all of this information, the only thing left is to find your inspiration and start weaving! If you’re letting your yarn determine your weaving project then it’s very possible that the yarn itself is your inspiration! In that case – just make sure it will work first!


-Nicole


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What I Wish I Knew When I Started Weaving

What I Wish I Knew When I Started Weaving

I’m pretty lucky that my weaving journey started in an academic setting. I learned how to weave as a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, which meant I was surrounded by those with common interests, an abundance of materials at my disposal, and a wealth of knowledge. This meant that I was a bit sheltered from what it was like to learn to weave as most people do (as you’re probably doing) – on your own. 

Just because I was able to get a degree in Craft/Material Studies with a concentration in Fibers, doesn’t necessarily mean I knew what I was getting myself into when I started! There are some things that I learned while I was in school and since I left that I wish I knew when I started weaving.

For the record – NONE of these things would have kept me from weaving or exploring fiber art, but I do think they are good to keep in mind for new weavers.


Weaving Takes Time – Sometimes A Lot Of Time


I wish I knew when I started weaving - loom

I know that all art takes time and depending on the type of weaving that you are making, it might take more time than another. I promise that the first time you weave tapestry, you will be surprised at just how long it can take you to weave up only an inch of weaving! Especially if you have a lot of color changes or you are weaving an intricate design. This will take longer than a single continuous weft from selvedge to selvedge. Check out THIS POST if you’re looking for tips to weave faster!

If you are weaving on a deadline, then keep this in mind! Weaving a sample might be a really great option to try to get an idea of how long your weaving will take.

Balanced weaving will take less time than tapestry, weaving on a floor loom may take less time than weaving on a frame loom, and taking your time can actually save you time. 

I’ll say that one again, just because it’s important.

Taking your time can actually save you time.

#weavinglifelessons

Don’t forget to account for set-up and finishing your weaving as well. Warping a floor loom is notorious for taking a lot of time and finishing your ends can be tedious, but set up and finishing are both essential parts of the weaving process. Just know that there are certain finishing techniques that take less time, it all just depends on what you want for your weaving.


Even Experienced Weavers Struggle With Selvedges 


I wish I knew when I started weaving - selvedges

… and other aspects of weaving. I know that I have written blog posts about how to fix and/or avoid some of your weaving mistakes. That doesn’t mean I always follow my own advice! I know first hand how easy it can be to get caught up in the process, lose focus, and have my selvedges start to pull in or forget to weave in my weft tails. 

When you are looking at a finished weaving, sometimes it can be hard to understand how much went into the piece you are looking at that you can’t really see. What you don’t see is every time the weaver got distracted by what they were watching on Netflix and pulled a little too hard on their weft. You don’t see all the times that they had to un-weave because they stepped on the wrong treadle and messed up their pattern.

Or maybe you do, and they left them there on purpose.

Whether you see them or not – I guarantee they happened.

It’s important to remember that you will probably always have to pay attention to these things – even though it does get easier the longer you weave! Trust me – I still make plenty of mistakes, but as long as you can recognize and fix them then you will be fine.

Plus, mistakes make us better weavers (and people!) So embrace them, learn from them, and remember: we all make them!



Fiber Art Is Underappreciated


You do what

Yeah, I get that one sometimes.

When I first made the decision to study Craft and Textiles, even one of my professors from my previous school thought I was crazy. 

“You should study painting or sculpture.”

Suddenly those options were the safe choice. 

Fiber art is so often underrated and overlooked, yet it has an even stronger history than some of the other more popular art mediums.

You rarely even learn about textile history in school even though advancements in textiles directly led to the industrial revolution and other really important historical events.

Did you know that weavings tend to sell for less than other art of similar sizes and creation time. That was a really hard one for me, but luckily I didn’t become an artist to be rich.

Don’t let this deter you if you love to weave, because you will find the right person to appreciate your art for what it’s worth.

If you find yourself defending your choice to weave (or do anything really) just know that the only opinion that actually matters is yours. Fiber art is a fantastic choice with historical ties, practical uses, and the ability to create something incredibly beautiful and meaningful.


It Can Be Hard To Find Materials


I wish I knew when I started weaving - yarn

At least until you know where to look. I wish that weaving yarn and tools were able to be purchased more places in person.

Maybe some day.

You might be lucky to have a local yarn store (LYS) near you that sells these weaving supplies, but if you’re not then you will probably have to purchase them online.

There’s nothing wrong with buying yarn online and it could even mean that you have access to more types of yarn and information about what you’re buying. More options means the ability to shop around for the best price. That being said, I’m only a little jealous of those that can buy materials and not have to wait for shipping…

It also took a lot of looking around and researching to find the best places to buy online. That’s why I put together an entire post about the best online stores you can order your yarn and other weaving supplies from.

You can also do a quick google search in your area for local yarn stores. I was surprised when I moved across town that there was a LYS only 3 minutes from my house! They don’t sell a lot of weaving yarns, but the knitting and crochet yarn they sell is beautiful! Maybe you can even convince them to order some yarn just for you.


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!


More


Yeah, I just wish I knew more. This may seem like a silly one to include, because well obviously, but hear me out.

My first loom was a simple frame loom. From there I moved straight to an 8 harness jack-style floor loom.

These are my safe tools.The tools that I learned on and feel comfortable on. That doesn’t make them bad! In fact, they really truly are some of my favorites! That doesn’t mean they’re the only option.

Until I branched out after leaving the safety of the University setting – I wasn’t that interested in trying out other options. I didn’t know anything about other types of frame looms or styles of floor looms. I had never woven on a rigid heddle loom before, but I didn’t feel like I needed to. I now understand the importance of all the different tools and materials that I can use to work for me and create more art. There is such a thing as the right tool for the job – and such a thing as making the tool you have work. 

You may have your own safe tools and there is nothing wrong with that. Branching out and learning new tools and techniques, though, can be a great way to move forward as a weaver and an artist. I recommend starting a collection of weaving books and of course reading this blog every week!


I wish I knew when I started weaving - tools

There will always be something you don’t know and that’s ok! In fact, that’s probably why you’re here. So whether you are a new or experienced weaver, just know that there is always another step that can inspire you and move you forward.

Is there one thing that you wish you knew when you first started weaving? Let me know!


Simple Strategies For Weaving Faster

Simple Strategies For Weaving Faster

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!


Weaving is a labor of love. No one (I hope!) gets into it with the notion that it creates immediate satisfaction. At least not in the respect that it is finished quickly, because it probably won’t be. There are a lot of different stages to each weaving and there are plenty of ways to cut some corners or hit the fast forward button on your current weaving project.

This is especially true if you’re weaving on a frame loom! Specifically simple frame looms – they tend to be one of the slower ways to create a weaving.

One of the most common questions that I get while I’m teaching is “how do you weave so fast?” or “how can I weave faster?”

Here’s the thing – weaving can be a meditative act that forces us to slow down. This, to me at least, is actually a good thing.

Despite that – I get it.

Regardless of what type of loom you’re on, there are things that you can do to speed it up.

After all, the faster you weave your current project, the faster you can get to your next one!


Weaving Set-Up:


Use Appropriately Sized Weft


Knowing the size yarn that you need to use will not only ensure that your weaving turns out how you want it to, but it will also make sure that you’re not weaving harder than you need to. 

Using a weft yarn that is too big for your EPI will mean that it doesn’t weave up with the correct warp spacing and may end up as the wrong kind of weaving. Think balanced weave instead of weft-faced tapestry. Or it may just not look the way you want. 

A weft yarn that is too small for your warp sett is equally detrimental to the weaving. Even if you are going for a weft-faced weaving a weft yarn that is too small will make your weaving loose or just take too long! Tapestry already usually takes longer to weave because of the amount of weft it takes to build up your weaving.

Yep, weaving with a small weft yarn will take longer to build up than weaving with a larger weft yarn. Makes sense.

Essentially, you will want to choose the largest yarn that you can that will allow your weaving to build up the way you want it to without sacrificing your time. This might take some samples or using your EPI mini-loom to figure out, but the time you could save by spending some extra time planning could add up to finishing your weaving faster.


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!


Plan ahead (don’t make it hard on yourself)


Now, I’m not going to lie – I’m a big fan of winging it when I weave.



That being said, there are some things that I always plan, and some things you should plan too. One of the biggest reasons to plan ahead is to make sure you don’t have to redo everything after you’ve already started!

Nobody wants that.

Not having to re-weave definitely makes the weaving process faster.

So, you should plan your finishing before you start weaving. Really. This is because there’s a good chance you are going to need to know how you’re going to finish your selvedges or display your weaving when you are setting it up. You might need extra warp for fringe or extra plain weave to fold under (more on this under finishing below.) Planning this beforehand can save you time because you won’t have to waste time later trying to figure out what you can do with what you’ve already made.

You should also plan for your imagery if you have something specific in mind. Knowing how and when your imagery is going to weave up will allow you to follow along instead of making it up as you go. The benefit to this is that you can make sure everything will fit, and you can do it all when you are in the mindset to do so. Once you get to the actual weaving all you have to do is weave! You won’t have to stop when you’re in the zone to figure out where to go next. This is great because it can allow you to get lost in your weaving.

You can do this by either creating a cartoon or drawing directly on the warp. Just make sure to use a marker that won’t transfer to your weft yarn. That means no sharpie. I like to use water soluble sewing/embroidery markers. I’ve used THESE before and they work really well. I just use a damp cloth on the warp right before I weave up to it so it will disappear. You can also purchase air soluble markers, but I’ve never used them so I can’t vouch for them.


Weaving:


Use a shed stick


use a shed stick to weave faster on a frame loom

If you are using a loom without a built-in shed tool then you can make one! The benefit to this is that you won’t have to manually weave over and under your warps – which takes time. Opening up a shed automatically lifts the warps that you want to go under and allows you to weave across easily without interference. 

Using a shed stick to open up a shed can help to decrease the amount of time it takes you to weave immensely! A shed stick only works on one set of warps, so you will have to manually weave in the other direction. This is still a lot faster than weaving manually both ways!

A pick up stick works really well as a shed stick! They are meant to pick up certain warps in your weaving and feature at least 1 tapered end to make this even easier. Pick up sticks are also work well because they’re not too wide and are smooth. The smooth finish is really important so they don’t catch on your yarn! The one I have has a single tapered end, but THESE are double ended so you can just pick it up and use it without having to orient it correctly.

If you don’t have a pick up stick or aren’t in the place to purchase one – don’t worry! You can use a ruler as an inexpensive weaving tool. Wood is the best option because plastic may not be strong enough and metal is too sharp. Finding one that is smaller than the inside of your frame is ideal because your ruler will probably be wider than a pick up stick. This means that it will be too hard to turn it sideways to create your shed if it has to rest on the frame.

Regardless of the option you choose, you won’t be able to use if for your entire weaving. Once you get close to the top, there won’t be enough slack in the warp to turn your shed stick sideways. You will have to resume to normal manual weaving, but you got there a lot faster!


use a ruler as a shed stick to weave faster on a frame loom

Maximize weft yarn amount


maximize weft to weave faster

Starting and stopping your yarn can take time. Every time you have to start a new weft yarn it takes you away from your weaving zone. So when it comes to your weft you have some options.

If you are weaving without the use of a shed, you have to find your Goldilocks amount of yarn. Long enough to keep you from having start over too often, but short enough that the friction doesn’t start to make your weft fall apart and it doesn’t get tangled. Usually this is about a wing span’s worth of weft. So do this:

Stand up.

Take your weft yarn end in one hand and unravel your cone/skein as you spread your arms out completely. This creates a long piece of weft yarn.

Cut your yarn.

That’s your wingspan!

Obviously everyone’s weft length will be a bit different depending on how tall you are, but it’s a good place to start.

If you are creating a shed in your warp then you have the option to use shuttles or bobbins. This can make your weaving even faster because they hold a lot of yarn without having to deal with it falling apart of getting tangled. Just using shuttles and bobbins can make weaving faster, but you can also maximize your weft yarn on your shuttles so that you can reduce your weft tails. Weft tails take time to weave back in so the less you have, the quicker you finish! Need to know how to get the most out of your shuttles? Check out this post!

Dealing with all your weft tails is usually done during the finishing part of your weaving process. The more tails you have, the longer it will take to finish! So minimizing the amount you have is always going to make weaving faster. This is the same for any loom – not just frame looms.


minimize weft tails to finish weaving faster

Find your weaving zone (don’t get distracted!)


Once you’re in the zone and thinking less, you’re not second guessing what you’re doing. One of my favorite ways to get in the zone is to put on some music with a really good beat. Use ear buds if you need to really drown everything else out. I often talk to my students about sitting back, weaving, and streaming tv or movies. This is great and one of the reasons that weaving can be a fun thing to get into. That being said, it’s not always the best way to weave fast.

If weaving faster is your goal, then I recommend eliminating distractions.

Beyond music, you can also try to weave when no one else is awake or if you can – just close the door! Have your water by your side (where it won’t spill on your weaving!) and anything else you may need within arms reach. If you have to get up to get it, you might find yourself getting stuck doing something else.


Push down the warp with your fingers


push down on warps to weave faster on a frame loom

There are times when manual weaving is necessary. You might not have a loom with a shed, a way to make one, or the desire to purchase anything new. You could also be past the point when you could use a shed stick. Or maybe you like weaving this way (that’s actually me…)

If you are using a tapestry needle instead of a shed and a shuttle/ bobbin then you can (and should) push the warps out of the way to go over them easier. I usually move my hand that doesn’t have the tapestry needle along the warps as I get to them and gently push down the ones that I need to weave over. This helps to lessen the amount of movement I have to do with the hand with the needle. It’s a really simple trick, but honestly one that I use all the time to weave faster on a frame loom.


Slow down… (stop making mistakes)


It may seem completely counter intuitive to list slowing down as a way to weave faster, but hear me out.

I’ve actually said it before in my weaving mistakes post – paying attention to what you’re doing keeps you from making mistakes! Mistakes cost you time. Just like planning ahead, slowing down helps you to only have to weave everything once. If you have to undo what you already wove, you’ve now spent twice as long on something that may have only taken an extra minute or two if you just slowed down. 

It can be tempting to try and power through to get something finished faster, but that’s when mistakes happen. #warpedlifelessons

Let’s just say I know this from experience…



Practice!


Now for the best thing that you can do to weave faster. Practice.

When you start out you’re probably not going to weave very fast. Sorry.

This isn’t exclusive to weaving. Whenever you try something new you’re going to be slower. This is because you aren’t yet confident in what you’re doing and haven’t developed any muscle memory. These. Things. Take. Time.

Once you are more comfortable with what you are doing you will be able to do it faster, with less mistakes, and maybe more distractions. 

The only thing that can help you is just to keep going and keep trying. You will get faster (and better!) the more you weave.

Moral of this story? Weave More!


Finishing:


Fold Your warp selvedges


fold selvedges to finish weaving faster

One of my favorite ways to finish a warp selvedge is to just fold it under and tack it down. This is one of the fastest ways to deal with the ends of your weavings.

Unless you want to lose some of your finished weaving surface, you will want to weave an extra inch or so of balanced weave to fold under. So yeah, technically you will have to weave a little more to save some time. Balanced weave weaves up relatively fast though. Putting about an inch of balanced weave at the beginning and end of your weaving is the best option because it is the least bulky of the weaving types. You will want less bulk so that it isn’t noticeable from the front after you fold it over. You will also want to make sure you use thin yarn to further keep it thin. Generally, I like to use the same yarn as my warp. 

After you fold it under you can use grey thread to tack it down. This can be a lot faster than individually dealing with all your warps for more decorative finishes!

Weaving faster on a frame loom or any loom is something that may just take time and planning, but it’s doable! No matter what you do, though, weaving is a long game. Enjoy it.


The 3 Basic Weave Structures

The 3 Basic Weave Structures

There are so many different weave structures.

Like A LOT.

So I’m not going to go over EVERY weave structure, but I am going to go over the basic three that every weaver should know! These structures actually can play a big part in creating the basis for other weave structures that you will come across. These basic three weave structures are plain weave, twill, and satin.

First, though, what do I mean by weaving structure?

The weaving structure is determined by how the warp and weft interact with each other. These different structures determine a lot of different aspects of the fabric including how well it drapes, it’s strength, and the way it reflects light. Beyond these main three patterns are many others that are built off of them. Think overshot, double weave, woven pile, manipulated laces and more. 


The 3 Basic Weave Structures


While most often, you would characterize twill and satin weave as types of pattern weave structures – technically speaking plain weave is also a pattern! Just a really simple one. Not only are these three structures the basis for most weaving structures, but they are also the ones you are most likely to come across in the wild.

And of course by in the wild I mean the fabric making up your clothes and other common fabrics…


The Structure Fraction


The first thing we need to talk about though is the structure fraction. In order to understand how a fabric is woven it is often preceded by a fraction. 2/2 twill, 1/3 twill, and 7/1 satin are all examples of this. The top number of your fraction denotes how many warps your weft is floating over and the bottom number is how many it goes under.


Plain Weave


plain weave structure

This is the structure that most people think of when they think about weaving. It’s also probably the first type of weaving that you ever did – as a kid with paper or while making potholders. You know what I’m talking about.

Plain weave which is also called tabby is simply weaving your weft over one warp and under one warp. The next line of weaving will then be the opposite in order to interlace your threads and create your fabric. That’s the whole pattern. 

Due to the simplicity of this pattern, the structure is the same on the front and back of the weaving. As long as it’s not image based it will look the same regardless of the side you are viewing.

The EPI that you choose for your weaving will help to determine if the plain weave is balanced or tapestry. Balanced weave is a plain weave pattern with a higher EPI so that you see equal amounts warp and weft (aka a balanced amount.)


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!


Tapestry on the other hand is a little bit different. While there is more to tapestry than the fact that it’s plain weave – it is a big part. (make sure to click the link to read more about what makes tapestry tapestry as well as it’s history.) The short answer is that tapestry is a weft-faced plain weave fabric that has discontinuous weft. You may be used to seeing tapestry as image based wall hangings like The Unicorn Tapestries.

So how does it behave?

Plain weave will be the most stable of the 3 structures because the warp and weft have the most contact with each other out of all of the weaving structures. Plain weave is almost never preceded by a fraction, but if it was then it would be 1/1. Depending on the EPI, the gauge of your yarn, and the fiber content – plain weave has the potential to be the stiffest woven fabric. Especially if it’s tapestry.


plain weave structure

Twill Weave


twill weave structure

Twill is a weaving structure characterized by going over multiple warps and under multiple warps then shifting that pattern in the next shed. This creates a diagonal line across the surface of your weaving. Depending on the size of the weft that you use it could actually create a tactile ridge on the surface or be almost purely visual.

The most common twill pattern is a 2/2 twill that can be pictured in the diagram above. This means that your weft will go over 2 warps and under 2 warps all the way across your weaving. In the next line (shed) the pattern shifts over 1 warp and this continues with every line. The shift is what creates your diagonal pattern.

Twill is probably the second most common weave structure and one that I can ALMOST guarantee you see everyday and don’t even know it.

Denim.

Yep, denim is a twill weave structure! Go ahead, take a look at your jeans and examine their structure. Or just look at the pictures below. Sometimes with denim it’s actually easier to see the pattern if you look at the underside. This is because denim is actually a warp-faced twill where the warp is normally dyed indigo and the weft is white. Of course denim isn’t the only twill fabric, but it is definitely the most common.



Since twill contains floats (when a weft goes over more than one warp) it allows you to compress the weft more than you would on a plain weave fabric. With this denser weave, you get a durable fabric and with the floats you get a fabric that drapes better. This is what makes twill such a great choice for denim and other fabrics that need to be durable and easy to wear.

Using the twill pattern you can make many different variations. Reverse twill, chevron, and herringbone are just 3. You can create these patterns by changing the number of warps you float over and go under, changing directions, or skipping a line in the pattern.

What about tweed?

Tweed is often confused with twill because they have similar sounding names. Unlike twill, tweed is a fabric made in any weave structure with a rough wool yarn whereas twill could be made with any fiber. So you could have a twill tweed, but you could also have a plain weave tweed.


twill weave structure

Satin Weave


satin weave structure

Satin is a weaving structure that is characterized by long warp floats that go under only 1 weft before continuing their pattern. That means that the structure fraction for satin will always have a 1 as the bottom number.

One of the most notable characteristics of satin is the sheen that it has! The long warp floats let the light reflect off of the fabric creating a shiny surface. This does depend some on the type of fiber that is used to create the pattern, though. A wool satin just won’t have quite the same luster as a silk satin.

This weave structure also drapes very well because there are less connections between the warp and weft. Unfortunately, this also means that it is prone to snagging. Therefore it’s not a good choice for something you need to be durable.

Just like tweed is often confused for twill, silk and satin can be mixed up quite easily. Silk is a fiber made from the cocoons of silk worms and satin is a weave structure. You can have a silk satin which would be silk woven in a satin pattern, but you can also have polyester, nylon, and wool satins. This comes with the exception that cotton is almost always woven as a sateen and not a satin.

Sateen?!?

Yep! Another similar word to confuse you, but really it’s pretty simple. Beyond the cotton fiber content of sateen, you can also distinguish the 2 by the fact satin is warp faced and sateen is weft faced. Both of these will have long floats with a simple 1 point connection.


satin weave structure

Once you know about these 3 basic weave structures you will be better equipped to understand more complex patterns and structures. Knowing what each structure is made for will help you better choose the one that you may need at any given weaving moment.


References


What Is Tapestry? Definition, Usage, and History

What Is Tapestry? Definition, Usage, and History

Do You Know Tapestry?


Tapestry is one of my favorite types of weaving! For that reason It’s actually the one that I use to demonstrate a lot of different things here on Warped Fibers as you may have noticed.

But do you really now what tapestry is?

It’s a type of weaving that is often misunderstood and even misrepresented. The word tapestry is often used as a way to describe something with a rich and vivid story. This makes sense considering what tapestry was often used for when it was first created (more on that in the history section.)

It can also be used to describe an image based wall hanging made of fabric. You know the ones. They are usually brightly colored and have mandalas and other similar imagery. These are usually lightweight balanced woven fabric – not actually tapestry. At least not by the definition.

So let’s first go over the definition because there are a few things that a weaving needs to have to actually be considered a tapestry.


Definition


what is tapestry diagram

Tapestry is a weft-faced weaving featuring discontinuous weft.


That’s it. That’s the entire definition.

Let’s break that down a little bit, though.

Weft-faced weaving is a type of weaving that features the weft and not the warp. In a finished weft-faced weaving the only place you can see the warp is at the top and bottom selvedges and even then only if you choose certain finishing techniques. This is in opposition to a balanced weave (or pattern weave) where you see both warp and weft in the finished weaving. A.k.a. a balanced amount of warp and weft. 

A tapestry is generally going to have a smaller EPI than a balanced weave in order to allow room for the weft to compress completely. Using a higher EPI is possible but would mean you would have to use a much thinner weft in order for it to beat down all the way. If you look at the diagram above you can see that the cross-section of the tapestry shows the warp completely enclosed in the weft. This creates warp channels that account for the rib like texture. One great thing you can do is manipulate these warp channels for some interesting texture and emphasis.

Discontinuous weft is when your weft yarn doesn’t go from selvedge to selvedge. Instead, your shed will have more than one yarn in it – usually different colors. This allows for the creation of imagery, patterns, or shapes.

Due to the structure of tapestry, high tension is needed for best results when you are weaving. This will help the weft to compress more easily and completely cover the warp. When weaving a balanced or pattern weaving then the warp and weft will both deflect, but tapestry warp should stay straight. If your warp tension is too loose then you will have a harder time creating your weaving.


Tapestry Doesn’t Mean Imagery


What is tapestry

My tapestry in progress featuring natural rock patterns. This piece also features some balanced woven areas.


One of the most common misconceptions is that a tapestry is a weaving with an image.

This misconception is completely understandable. While a lot of tapestries do have imagery and imagery is made with discontinuous weft that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to portray an image.

Take for example basically all of my weavings! I weave tapestry most of the time, but I almost never weave imagery. Instead, I use the same techniques to weave natural patterns. You can also just weave shapes or play around with different textures. As long as the warp is completely covered by the weft and there is some discontinuous weft – you have a tapestry!

In fact, one of the most well known tapestry weavers doesn’t weave imagery. Sheila Hicks is well known for her small tapestries that were created as a sort of sketch book as she traveled. These weavings were mostly weft-faced and featured discontinuous weft, but none of them portray any sort of picture. Instead, most of her weavings featured blocks and strips of color.

If you can get your hands on it – I highly recommend her book Weaving As Metaphor that has images of everyone of her small sketchbook tapestries and essays. Just a warning, it is no longer in print, so it may not be cheap. That being said even the book itself is beautiful and is printed on handmade paper. Worth it.


History


Tapestry details - Vatican

Details from 2 of the tapestries in the Gallery of Tapestries at the Vatican, Italy.


The history of tapestry is quite fascinating and starts with the fact that in 4000 BCE the first domestication of sheep with the correct type of wool for yarn began. Previous to this, the only materials they had to make yarn and therefore to weave with were cellulose-based (hemp and linen) and didn’t take dye very well. The weavings created with cellulose yarns at the time were simpler for this reason.

Wool changed everything.

Wool took dye better. This was the beginning because it allowed for weft-faced patterns using different colored yarns. Suddenly people had an easy way to weave up shapes and they ran with it.

Tapestries were used for everything from clothing to wall coverings. It became incredibly popular as a way to line walls of drafty castles and homes due to it’s thickness and ability to tell stories (often biblical.) One of the aspects of tapestry that made it so popular is that because they could be rolled up and they were portable – unlike similar paintings of the time. You could take your narrative artwork with you for very little effort and it would keep your home from getting drafty. It was a win-win.



How They Were Woven


Traditionally, they were often woven sideways and then turned upright when displayed. You can see in the pictures above that the warp is actually going left to right. The vertical lines that you can see are actually weft hatching and not warp. They were and are still usually woven on an upright loom that allows the weaver to be able to see the entire design at all times. (More about looms later)

The image based tapestries (basically all traditional tapestries) were woven with a cartoon placed behind the weaving. The cartoon is a drawing of the image that the weaver follows to create the design. Sometimes they were woven from the back and in this case a mirror was used to reflect the cartoon so that the finished weaving wasn’t backwards. Today, many weavers still use a cartoon behind their tapestries, but some also draw directly on the warp. Word of caution: if you’re going to draw directly on your warp – make sure you are using an ink that won’t transfer. Absolutely do not use sharpie!

It was also common that they were designed by a master artist and woven by a group of weavers all working on them at the same time. This included artists like the painter Raphael who was commissioned to design 12 tapestries for the Sistine Chapel at the same time that Michelangelo was painting the ceiling.


historic tapestries - Vatican

Gallery of Tapestries – Vatican, Italy


What Isn’t Tapestry?


That might seem like a weird question, but since tapestry is so often misrepresented it’s important to talk about at least one very prominent example of a non-tapestry that is called a tapestry.

The Bayeaux Tapestry is actually an embroidery! A very impressive embroidery, but an embroidery nonetheless. It is a 224 foot long narrative embroidery depicting the conquering of England by the Duke of Normandy in 1066. It is made with the use of wool thread on a linen fabric. Unlike a real tapestry, it portrays it’s story through the use of different embroidery stitches to create the imagery on the surface of the fabric instead of woven into it.

So why is it called a tapestry?

Unfortunately, that’s a great question with no real answer. 

My guess? It’s because it is a textile with imagery that was used to tell a story back in a time when fabric was a great way to do it. It’s creation was for the same reason as many other tapestries (real ones) of the same era – to have a physical representation of a story and be able to transport it easily. For this reason, I can understand why they share a name.

If you’re interested in weaving with embroidery then make sure to check my embroidery stitches for weaving post!


Need help planning your weaving project? Stuck trying to figure out how much yarn you need? What the h&^$ is WPI? Check out my e-book!


What Type of Loom?


As mentioned above, a lot of tapestry weavers weave on upright looms – also called high warp looms. They are called high warp not because of their high tension, but because their warp is vertical to the floor. That being said, you can weave tapestry on any loom that allows you to have high warp tension. The higher the tension, the easier it is for the weft to flow over the warp and compress.

Low warp looms like floor looms aren’t always ideal because they can’t always live up to the tension needed. This is the same for rigid heddle looms. Rigid heddle looms are better for balanced and pattern woven fabrics. If you are looking for a low warp loom to weave tapestry on then countermarche and counterbalance looms tend to be best. Jack style looms can still work, but the smaller portable looms are probably best for balanced weaving.


So what do I weave tapestry on?


Most often my simple frame loom or my Harrisville floor loom ( a jack loom!) I know, I know. I just said that jack looms don’t usually make the best tapestry looms. Well, that’s true, but the Harrisville does a decent job and sometimes you work with what you have! If you are looking for something portable then there are a lot of other great frame loom options that you can use as well!

If you’re interested in learning how to weave tapestry then you can check out my classes page for my current online tapestry classes that you can take from ANYWHERE! You will learn how to weave many different techniques including building shapes, color blending, eccentric weft, creating imagery, textures, and more!


-Nicole

References



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