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!
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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.
Use a shed stick
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!
Maximize weft yarn amount
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:
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.
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
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…
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!
Fold Your warp selvedges
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.
I read a few articles on weaving as well as a few books, then I started a practice sample on my loom. However, the book that has been most helpful doesn’t say whether or not I should weave in the waste with a closed/neural shed or an open one, but the twining that takes place right after the waste needs a closed shed. Does it matter?
I’m not sure what you mean by waste. Do you mean your tails? If that is the case open or closed shed doesn’t matter as long as you weave them in!
Very helpful notes. I have used many of your suggestions. I am presently working on a very large frame loom (4ft x 2ft) and didn’t really think about the size of my weft yarn…it’s very small. I am committed to completing it but have learned this lesson well.
I’m so glad that you’ve been able to use some of what you learned from the blog! I also learned that lesson from experience. Good luck!