Not to be confused with weaving shapes – shaped weavings are standalone weavings that are not confined to the more traditional 90-degree angles.
This is not the first we have talked about shaped weavings at Warped Fibers, but it is time to take a deep dive into weavings that go outside the “box”.
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First, (do I even need to say this?) there is nothing wrong with traditional weavings with right angles, but sometimes you want something different. Sometimes creating a shape with your weaving will better bring justice to your vision and ideas.
Shaped weavings can take many different forms (both in the finished product and how they are made.)
If you are interested in weaving shapes then make sure to check out my e-book!
One of the simplest ways to create a weaving that is not completely (or even a little bit) square is with the use of placeholders.
I first mentioned the use of placeholders in my post on weaving rules to break and again in my post on creating a 3-dimensional woven gift box.
I thought it was time, though, that we take some time to really focus on what these placeholders are, how they work, and the different ways you can use them.
First, placeholders are anything that you can use to take up negative space in your weaving. Normally, you never want to weave with negative space below your weaving area. If you try to weave on top of open negative space then your weaving will constantly be wanting to fill in that space. With every beat of your weft you will have to nudge or move the wefts back into place.
This can get a little old in a short amount of time.
Placeholders give you something to beat against which not only makes weaving faster (you are not constantly fixing it) but also easier because you can be less careful with the force of your beat.
These placeholders can be either straight or shaped depending on what you are wanting to create.
When it comes to inserting your placeholders it is as easy as just weaving them into your warp in plain weave.
Over, Under, Repeat.
This will keep them in place and ensure your weft can easily be woven on top of it. Make sure they also extend past your selvedges so that they stay in place better.
When choosing shaped weaving placeholders you will want to choose something that is rigid, but also flexible. My favorite thing to use for this is cardstock. It is easy to cut into any shape you want, flexible enough to be woven into your weaving, but it also holds up to the beating of your weft.
If you are using a floor loom or any loom that utilizes an advancing warp, you will want to break up your placeholders into strips if they are large. This will allow them to more easily wrap around your front and cloth beams. I did something similar to this in my post on getting multiple weavings out of one warp.
Depending on the shape of your placeholder you may need to cut it out if you are planning on warp replacement (coming up!) If you are going to finish it normally by cutting your warp off your loom then you can skip this step.
Shaped looms are also a good way to create shaped weavings because they take some of the extra work out of using extra materials. No extra warp here!
The biggest downside to using shaped looms is that you may need to have extra looms around.
Ok, maybe this is not a downside, but it could be an obstacle.
Shaped looms could be as simple as a large triangular loom to weave up a shawl to a more complex solution of nails on wood in the shape that you want to weave.
When creating a shaped weaving loom I recommend using finishing nails like these that have very small heads. This will make it easier to remove your weaving when it is finished!
Keep in mind that every shape will not work for this type of weaving.
Experiment and have fun with it!
Sometimes you may want to weave an irregular shape on a regular loom and there is a way to do this that allows you to create clean selvedges all the way around!
That technique is called warp replacement and requires you to weave up your shape normally at first. That means warping up a frame loom or other loom the traditional way. You may want to utilize one of the techniques we talked about earlier (specifically placeholders) to make the weaving a little easier. This will make sure the weft does not start sliding down the warp.
Once you are finished with your weaving you have two options for your warp replacement.
- You can replace the warp while your weaving is still under tension
- Replace the warp once the weaving is off the loom
Regardless of what options you choose, the actual replacement of the warp goes the same! That being said, I think doing this while under tension makes it easier because you do not have to worry about the weft moving.
Start out with a warp yarn that is the same or thinner than the current warp. This warp will then be put on a tapestry needle and go down one of the selvedge warp channels that you have created. When you get all the way through that warp channel move over a warp channel and go up that one. Continue all the way across your weaving!
An extra-long tapestry needle can be really helpful when doing warp replacement. It is not necessary, but I will take just about anything to make things easier!
This will create a small area of visible warp just on the selvedges of your weaving. Keep this in mind when choosing your new warp. You can choose a warp that is similar in color to your weft so that it blends in or one that contrasts the weft if you want it to stand out.
As you make your way up and down your warp channels make sure that you are not piercing the front of the back of the weaving. I recommend turning your weaving over and over as you go to avoid warp floats!
Once you have gone across the entire weaving you can cut it off your loom and pull out your old warp! This sounds a bit scary! I know! If you did it correctly, though, the new warp should hold everything in place and the old warp should come out with no issue.
It is actually pretty satisfying!
Lastly, you will take the ends of your replacement warp and weave them into your weaving to finish it off.
Now you have a shaped weaving with smooth selvedges!
You can also use this technique if you have small areas on the inside of your weaving where you would have exposed warp. The warp replacement does not have to go over the entire weaving.
Do not forget to weave in your weft tails as well. This will give you a nice smooth weaving!
What to do with shaped weavings
Beyond just creating shaped weavings for the sake of art, you can also use your shaped weavings for other things!
Large shaped weavings (triangles) for shawls.
Small shaped weavings for patches or pins.
Shaped weavings are a great way to move outside the traditional squared-off format of tapestries. No matter what you want to weave, there are different ways to create the shapes that you want. Do you like to weave up shapes? Let me know in the comments!
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