4 Simple & Creative Ways To Weave With Fabric

4 Simple & Creative Ways To Weave With Fabric

Normally when you are weaving your plan is to create fabric. 

But, have you ever thought about weaving with fabric?

I have talked a bit about fabric weaving before in two different posts. First, check out how to make t-shirt yarn, and then check out these rag rug ideas.

Those two posts are only just the beginning of how to weave with fabric, so I want to go over some more options!

There is something kind of special about weaving with fabric because you have a lot of control over your yarn. Since you are creating your own material to weave with you can choose the size of your yarn and even use fabric that has meaning to you, images that further the context of your weaving, or text.

Maybe you just have a lot of fabric scraps and you are trying to not be wasteful. That is great too!

Lets put it to use.


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Fabric as warp


fabric warp

Warp must be strong, resilient, and should not stretch too much. (Learn more about choosing warp yarn)

Fabric probably is not one of the first things that come to mind when you think about warp or yarn in general, but it can be a great way to incorporate some new materials into your work.

Unfortunately, fabric warp does not work for every type of loom. So when could you use fabric as warp? 

Frame looms and specifically simple frame looms are a great option for this!

Since they only require short lengths of warp yarn they allow you to tie individual strips to your loom at the correct EPI. Keep in mind that depending on if you are weaving a balanced weaving or a weft-faced weaving the fabric warp may not be very noticeable. On a weft-faced weaving the fabric will only really be seen as an interesting fringe. (Not that that is a bad thing!)

Using fabric strips as warp is really only possible on a frame loom since it will be much thicker than the yarn you would normally use. If you were to try to use fabric on a floor loom or rigid heddle loom you would probably have a hard time getting it through the heddles or the reed. Fabric yarn also does not usually come on a cone like your typical warp yarns do. This would make it hard to get the length that would be worth it for an advancing warp.


Fabric as weft


weave with fabric
-lithic – Nicole Bunting – 2019

If you are looking for a really simple way to incorporate some fabric into your weaving it can be as easy as cutting it into strips!

Fabric strips are very simple to add into your weaving and depending on the size of the strip can compress down or stay bulky. One of the most well known examples of weaving with fabric strips is rag rugs like those linked earlier in this post.

You can use these strips together with a fabric warp for an entirely fabric weaving or a mixture of fabric and yarn. If you are weaving weft-faced than stiffer and thicker fabrics will compress less, whereas thinner or sleazier fabrics will compress more. Play around with different types of fabrics to create areas of interest and texture.

When in doubt about how a fabric will act in your weaving – follow the Warped Fibers tried and true method: create a sample!


Spinning fabric weft


spinning fabric into yarn

It can take some extra time, but if you want to use fabric as your warp and you want it to have a more yarn-like appearance then you can actually spin fabric into yarn!

This requires the use of a drop spindle for best results.


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In order to create spun fabric yarn you will need to utilize water to reshape the yarn and tension to keep it spun. 

First you will cut your fabric into strips about 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide and wet them down.

Attach your fabric to a leader yarn* on your drop spindle with a simple square knot. *Your leader yarn is just scrap yarn that you tie to the shaft of your spindle. This leader will come up and over your whorl (the round part), into the notch on the side, and hooked on your hook.

Start twisting your fabric until you get to the end of your strip. If it starts to get too long then unhook your spun yarn and wrap it around the base of the shaft.

At the end of your strip open up the end a little bit and insert your next wet fabric strip folded in half. Fold over the new strip and keep spinning.

Continue this until you reach your desired length or you run out of fabric!

You can use either a niddy-noddy or just weight your yarn as it dries to allow the yarn to keep its new spun shape.

Use this spun fabric just like any other yarn!


Fabric warp & weft (sort of like paper weaving)


weave with fabric warp and weft
Daily Mantra – Nicole Bunting – 2014

You do not have to use a loom to weave with fabric!

If you have ever woven with paper then you can weave with fabric in much the same way. 

The easiest thing to do is to cut your fabric strips for your warp or weft and lay them out flat. Either weigh them down with something heavy, attach them to something at one end, or use artists tape to keep it in place.

I like to use a giant art clipboard to house my fabric weaving because it makes it portable and easy to handle. If the fabric is longer than the clipboard then you can simply roll up the already woven fabric at one side similar to your fabric beam on a floor loom.

This will make it so you can easily manipulate the strips up and down to weave your other fabric in. 

Do not forget to stitch your fabric weaving at the selvedges to make sure it does not come undone.


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Add fabric to the surface of your weaving


weave with fabric - couching

If you are not into the idea of weaving with fabric, but you have some fabric you want to use you can also attach it to the finished weaving.

One of the best ways to do this is to use embroidery techniques. (Learn about embroidery techniques you can use on your weaving)

This can be a really fun way to incorporate special fabrics into your work and/ or showcase specific images or patterns in your fabric. You can either cut the fabric out to be square or shaped depending on what you are wanting for the finished piece. Another option is to couch it onto your weaving in strips like shown above.

You could design your entire weaving around a specific fabric that you like and showcase it. 

Woven fabric can be either the star of the show or an interesting material that works with all the others. If you are looking for fabric ideas to incorporate you can consider some of these:

  • Fabric scraps from important outfits or events: Wedding dress? First day of school outfits? Baby blanket scraps?
  • Write out your thoughts or ideas on fabric strips
  • Salvaged images from your favorite old t-shirts or t-shirts from those you love

Fabric is special and as a weaver I know that you know that! It can bring to mind really important parts of our lives. So instead of just making fabric – next time also try making with fabric. Then let me know how it goes in the comments below!


What Weaving Can Teach You – Life Lessons

What Weaving Can Teach You – Life Lessons

Most of you are probably here because you want to learn to weave, but have you ever thought about what weaving can teach you? 

Weaving requires not only learning the techniques, but also appreciating it for what it is. It is so much more than just how to interact your warp and weft.

There are things that you can do to bypass some of these things, but for the most part, they are a part of weaving no matter what.

And to be honest, you will learn these whether you like it or not.

That makes them sound bad. They are not bad – I promise! In fact, the things that weaving can teach you can be used in other parts of your art practice and your life.

I like to call these #weavinglifelessons.

Weaving is an adventure that starts with a spark of interest and never really ends. Along the way, you may start to realize that as you learn how to weave, you learn so much more.

This would not be the first time I have mentioned #weavinglifelessons. It is amazing how this art practice can teach you so much about yourself.

You didn’t know that weaving would change your life, did you?



Patience


linen yarn weaving life lessons

If you have been weaving for any amount of time (or you read what I wish I knew before I started weaving post) then you know that weaving is pretty… slow.

It is not a “I have this idea and I want to get it out as quickly as possible” artform.

It also is not a source of instant gratification.

So what I’m trying to say is:


weaving takes time

Especially if you are weaving detailed tapestry, then your entire weaving will probably take longer than you think it will. 

Here is the thing though, it will be worth it.

All that time it takes you to weave up each shape, image, or pattern – once it comes together – it will be worth it.

You just have to have a little bit of patience to get that far. If there is anything that can teach you patience is a technique with such a big payout. 

If I am being honest – I am a generally impatient person. Weaving helps me to really appreciate the process, though. Since you can literally see it growing with each row of weft that is added, this definitely helps.

Here is a bonus tip: step back from your weaving on occasion. This is related to patience but takes it a step further. Sometimes it can be hard to see just how much progress you have made when you are so close. It takes stepping back and seeing the entire weaving from a different perspective to understand and appreciate your progress.

Do this in life too. Sometimes we are too close to something to understand how it is coming together. Step back to see the bigger picture.


Decision making / Problem solving


wool yarn what weaving can teach you

If you have read through my Weaving Shapes e-book (click the image below for more info) then you know that one of the biggest parts of weaving shapes (or weaving in general) is making decisions.

I strongly believe that you can weave one thing one day, and the same thing another day and have it turn out differently. 

Actually, try that out! That is a fun project idea.

Since we are all affected by our lives and our surroundings. Different days produce different results.



When you are weaving something you have to decide how to make it work on a grid. Depending on what you are weaving, this could be simple or hard. You have to problem-solve in order to make the smoothest curves and most precise shapes that you can.

Each day you may weave a little different, though. One day you may beat a little harder which makes you add an extra weft or two. This will change your weaving. While you can try your best to weave the same everyday – we are all human. These little shifts in our day-to-day weaving are a part of what it means to weave by hand. It is what really makes it stand a part from that which is woven by machine.

Each time that you place a weft you are making a decision.

Learning how to weave and the problem solving that it involves can be translated to your life. Sometimes you just have to make the decision to move forward and if it does not work out? No worries, fix it and try again.

If you sit and ponder about how to weave what you want to weave for too long, you will never actually get anywhere.


Forgiveness (yourself)


linen yarn weaving lessons

Sometimes things do not turn out exactly as you want. You did not weave enough wefts, it does not quite match your image, or anything in between. 

This is fine.

Weaving is an easy medium to fix. That is one of the reasons I like it so much. It is not like ceramics where if you drop it it will break or if you do not knead it well enough it will have bubbles and explode (can you tell I have not had the best experience with pottery…?)

If something does not work out then you will either have to un-weave it or live with it.

It helps to forgive yourself and not worry too much about the extra time spent (patience) or the change in your plans. Perhaps this situation taught you something, or maybe it just means that you get to spend some extra time weaving. Either way, no matter how careful you are, at some point you will have to fix something.

Even when you become an “expert” you will make mistakes. You will probably just make different mistakes.

So do not fret. It happens to all of us.

You learn to not spend too much time getting worried that it did not work out. Instead – you fix it, learn from it, and keep going. 

In the meantime, you can check out my post on the 5 most common new weaver mistakes.


Taking your time saves time


mercerized cotton yarn learn from weaving

Slow and steady wins the race.

Measure twice, cut once.

We have all heard these before, but weaving can really make them make sense.

It can be so tempting and so easy to speed forward and try to get to “the good stuff” aka the weaving, but that is not always almost never the best policy.

Sometimes you may not even be doing it on purpose as a means to get to the finish line and instead you are just getting lost in the process. This is incredibly easy to do, and arguably the ability to get lost in the process is one of the best things about weaving. Who doesn’t want to get lost in their artwork?

With all that, though, paying just a little more attention to your process will save you a lot of time in the long run. Taking your time to set up means you do not have to undo any mistakes. Not only does this save you time, but it can also save you some sanity.

Trust me, it is incredibly annoying to finish warping your loom only to notice you made a mistake at the very beginning! If you took a second to double check your work then you would not have to waste time undoing and redoing the whole thing.

While I firmly believe that making mistakes is how you learn best, avoiding mistakes and knowing how to avoid mistakes also helps you learn.

Speeding through the process is not only not a good idea because you are bound to make mistakes, but because you are bound to miss the things about weaving that make it so amazing.

Take the time to really enjoy the process, because if you do not enjoy the process then what is the point?


Do you have a favorite thing that weaving has taught you? Let me know in the comments below!


-Nicole

Like the yarn in the photos?


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Choosing The Right Mix Of Looms For Your Goals

Choosing The Right Mix Of Looms For Your Goals

Having more than one loom is not a necessity to be a weaver.

The only thing you need to be a weaver is a desire to weave and access to a loom and other materials.

If you are lucky enough to have your own studio, then you might be wondering which type of loom you should get and whether or not you should get more than one. Choosing a loom (or looms!) doesn’t have to be complicated and really just depends on what you want to weave and where you want to weave it.

So first: Why would you want more than one loom?

You might not.

But having more looms gives you some options to weave more and keep your weaving momentum. You can create a weaving loom collection that compliments your weaving goals.

So before we get into having more than one loom, let’s first go over looms in general.


Quick loom type comparison


choosing the right mix of weaving looms

I will not be going over every type of each loom. There are just too many! Instead, I will be talking generally about floor looms, frame looms, and rigid heddle looms.

*And a quick note that when I talk about floor looms, the same things usually go for table looms. They work very similarly – I just use floor looms and not table looms.

For a more in-depth comparison between floor looms and rigid heddle looms go HERE.

For information on the different types of frame looms go HERE.

This post is not meant to be a versus post. Instead, it is about making your looms work together and getting the most out of your tools.


Floor looms


choosing a loom floor loom

There are many different types of floor looms, but they all basically do the same thing. They utilize their mechanics to make longer and more complicated weavings. 

One of the biggest features of floor looms is their ability to have advancing warps. This means that you can create longer projects. If you are looking to create yardage* then this is an option that you will want in your studio because their warp capacity, as well as the finished weaving capacity, is much larger than your other options.

*Yardage is woven fabric that is meant to be sewn and used to create textiles like clothing or curtains.

Due to the loom’s ability to raise your warp in different patterns – more complex weavings become simpler to do. You are not required to pick each individual warp to create your own shed. All you are required to do is remember which treadle to step on and in what order.

If you are looking to create a complex pattern weaving then a floor loom is your best option.



When you are looking to weave tapestry you can usually use a floor loom with no issues. Keep in mind that some floor looms are not ideal for tapestry, but most should be able to hold a tight enough tension. High warp looms (those with warp that is perpendicular to the floor) are great for tapestry, but low warp looms (warp parallel to the floor) are a bit controversial for tapestry. As long as it can hold a tight enough tension, though, you should not have any issues.

You can learn more about warp tension HERE.

Another distinguishing feature of floor looms is that their beater is rigid. This means that unlike rigid heddle looms, the beater only moves backward and forward. This makes the weaving process a little more streamlined. This may not be an issue for you at all, but if you want a beater that beats evenly every time with little effort – floor looms are a great choice.


Rigid heddle looms


choosing a loom rigid heddle loom

Like floor looms, rigid heddle looms can weave longer weavings. Generally, they are not as wide, though, so they are not usually used for yardage. This is also because they hold less warp than a floor loom. Don’t worry, their advancing warp still makes them great for longer weavings like scarves or multiple sets of towels. 

One of their (arguably) best features is that they are very simple and efficient to warp. If you are wanting to weave something long, but you don’t want the set-up to take a long time – then these are a great option.

Since they are so easily warped, rigid heddle looms also make great sample looms. If you want to create a long sample (like the one for plain weave patterns) then it is simpler on a rigid heddle loom as opposed to a floor loom.

Just like floor looms, rigid heddle looms also have the ability to create a shed. The shed makes weaving faster because you do not have to weave over and under manually.

Smaller than floor looms, rigid heddle looms also have the ability to be portable. Some are more portable than others (see my review on the Schacht Flip Folding Rigid Heddle Loom), but for the most part, most could be taken with you while traveling or to a workshop.


Frame looms


choosing a loom frame looms

With the many different types of frame looms they can all be better at different things. Generally speaking, frame looms are the best for weaving on the go. They are the most compact loom option and most of the time can fit in a bag or luggage. 

Since they are the smallest option, they are also perfect for weaving smaller projects. (Makes sense.)

A big feature of frame looms is they have much less warp waste. If you were to weave something small on a floor loom then you will be using more yarn than you need to. This makes them a really good choice for samples or just trying out new techniques. It also takes less work to get them set up so you do not waste time warping a loom for something that may not even work!

With frame looms usually having fewer moving parts, they are generally better suited for simpler weavings. Any complex patterns that you want to weave will need to be picked by hand. This does not make these patterns impossible – just more work.

Tapestry is a great option for frame looms since you are able to get really good tension on them. Also, since tapestry is only plain weave, the frame looms tendency towards simpler weaving structures is not an issue here.



Figure out what you want to weave


The most important thing to do when determining what loom or looms you need in your studio is knowing what you want to weave. As discussed above, each loom has its own areas where they excel.

So what should you do?

Sit down and write out what you want to make.

If you are only looking to create small tapestries, there is no need to purchase a rigid heddle loom, but a frame loom would be perfect. You could then consider a floor loom as well in the future to create larger tapestries.

Wanting to only weave scarves? Then a frame loom does not necessarily make sense. (Unless you want to make samples.) A rigid heddle loom would be perfect and a floor loom would help you make multiple scarves with the same warp.

Read more about getting more weavings out of your warp HERE.

You can also consider a checklist like the one I made below.


choosing a loom checklist

Keep your budget in mind


Budget might be one of the most important things to think about when purchasing one loom or more. Frame looms are mostly inexpensive and can probably be added to your studio for not much of an investment. So if you are thinking of adding a second loom, they might be your best option. Especially if you go for something as budget-friendly as a simple frame loom. 

Learn more about simple frame looms HERE.

If you have a specific budget, but you really want to weave yardage or complicated pieces then you might be best off saving up for your floor loom. If those things are not what you are hoping to make, you may consider a rigid heddle loom for longer weavings and a frame loom for small weavings, samples, and weaving on the go.


Utilizing more than one loom at a time


If you have the ability, having more than one loom is a great option for your studio. This way you can be weaving different things at the same time!

This is a great option if you tend to get bored of projects easily (especially those that take awhile.) If you have more looms then you can take a break from one project to work on another.

You could also try some things out on your second loom to see if it works instead of on your main project. This is a great choice if you are unsure if something is going to work out. Try it out on a sample and if it does not work? It’s ok because you do not have to un-weave it – just try something else.

Honestly, with how inexpensive simple frame looms are (you can just upcycle a picture frame) they make the perfect first, second, or third loom for your studio.

Just use your checklist for choosing a loom from there!

What is your preferred mix of looms? Let me know!


-Nicole

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How To Break Your Weaver’s Block

How To Break Your Weaver’s Block

We all love to weave, but sometimes it can be hard to weave.

Sometimes we want to want to weave, but it’s just not coming to you.

We have all been there.

I am assuming that since you are here that you love to weave. If that is the case, it may be hard for you to not feel inspired to weave.

I totally get it. 

Breaking your weaver’s block can be a lot easier said than done and being stuck isn’t fun for anyone. Not everything is going to work for everyone and one thing may work one time, but not another. So I have compiled some of the things that I have done in the past to help me break through my own blocks.

That way, we can all keep weaving.


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Re-find your inspiration


weaver's block - color inspiration

More than likely there was something or someone that inspired you to start weaving in the first place. Perhaps it was a specific weaving that you saw, a specific weaver, or a style or weaving. The first thing that you can do is to go back to this and see if it can re-light that fire that it started at the beginning. 

Some really great options are to look at fiber art magazines or books. A lot of fiber art books contain how-to information, but you can also find many that talk about weaving in general and historical weavers. Sometimes just reminding yourself about what is really possible with weaving can be enough to jump-start you into your next project.

One of my favorite books for finding inspiration is Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric by Mildred Constantine. It is a HUGE book with tons of photos and information about different weavers and their amazing work. It is a great book to keep in your studio library.

Similarly, if you were inspired by nature then get back into nature! Visit somewhere new or learn more about the area that you are inspired by. Research can be a great way to go deeper into your own inspiration and can help you to take it further. It is one of my favorite ways to find inspiration.


weaver's block - find inspiration

Another idea that you can explore is weaving with colors you don’t normally use (in general or together.) Let your new color scheme inspire you to create something completely new! Perhaps your weaving just needs to be spiced up with some new yarn to get you out of your rut.

(Learn about weaving with color HERE)

Beyond new colors, you can also consider the types of yarns you don’t normally use. Do you like wool? Maybe try cotton! Want to stick with protein fibers? Alpaca is incredibly soft and versatile. There are so many different types of fibers that you can play with and they lend themselves really well to different types of weavings.

If these things don’t work, then you can always try to find new inspiration. Browse through Instagram, read through a weaving website (like this one!), or do some writing to get your thoughts out. 

Inspiration can be one of those weird things that sometimes hits you when you least expect it, so just keep your mind open!



Do a weaving challenge


weaver's block - weaving challenge

One of my favorite things to do when I am having a hard time weaving is to do a weaving challenge!

A weaving challenge is any set of rules that you can assign to yourself to get you back on the loom. It can be as simple as challenging yourself to weave a few lines per day for thirty days on one weaving. You make the rules. When you are done you will have a finished weaving that chronicles your month. If this sparks something then you can do one for every month to have a visual representation of your year.

You could also make one small weaving a day so that at the end of a month you have either thirty small weavings or one weaving made of thirty parts. I have always found that doing daily challenges works my mind and reminds myself that weaving is a part of my daily life. They say that doing something every day for thirty days makes it a habit!

Other ideas:

  • try out a new technique each day – different patterns or lace (learn about hand-manipulated lace HERE)
  • use an EPI you don’t normally use or try out weft floats


Take a break


weaver's block - try something new

Wait, so am I actually telling you to stop weaving? Yeah, if that is what you need to do and sometimes you do.

Maybe that is weird coming from a weaving website, but no matter how much you love to do something – sometimes you need a break. Then you can come back to it fresh.

Your break can either be completely free of anything artistic or trying out a non-woven medium. I recommend trying a different medium first, though, so that you are still flexing your creative muscles.

One of the best things you can do for your block is to not force it. Just because you want to weave does not mean your brain is in the right space for it. Not scientific – just an observation!

Taking a break could mean trying a different type of art or cleaning your entire house. Either way, doing this is a great way to clear your mind and make room for weaving again.

When you try some different types of art then it can break your creativity free after it has been locked up in your mind. Depending on what you end up making, you might even be able to incorporate it into your weaving practice!

– Trying out some knitting? Add it to your weaving.

– Embroidery? Embroider on your weaving! (check out embroidery for your weaving HERE)

– Watercolor? Cut it up and weave it! (check out weaving with paper HERE)

Whatever you do, you might even find that is the inspiration you needed all along. You could also create a weaving inspired by your watercolor painting or try to create the same image in tapestry that you did with embroidery.

Don’t want to stray too far from weaving? Try out a different type of weaving. If you are usually a tapestry weaver – try weaving up some balanced weave or patterns. Create a scarf or a patterned wall hanging. Really just do anything outside your norm.

When it comes down to it, a lot of times breaking your artist’s block just means trying new things and sometimes coming out of your comfort zone. Most of the time you will actually come out the other side of your weaver’s block more inspired and ready to create than ever.

So embrace the block – then break it.


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.


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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.


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!


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.


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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.


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


How to 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!


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