Starter Guide to Weaving!
Hello, friends! Today's blog post is about tapestry weaving! For a long time, weaving was something I wanted to get into but felt overwhelmed by - I admired the beautiful wall hangings I'd see (the braids! the tassels! the texture!), but had no idea where to start.
But once I figured out the basics, I was in love, and I believe you will be, too. It really is a simple, beautiful hobby that is so relaxing and doesn't have to be expensive. Once you have your loom and a couple of small tools (some of which you may already have around the house!), you can use your own yarn stash to make beautiful projects!
So here's my all-in-one-place, make-it-easy-for-you Starter Guide to Weaving! I've got all my favorite video links, tools list, and terms in one spot for you! I'll also note which of our looms and loom kits include the tools mentioned, fit with the videos shown, etc. Find it all here, and message me with questions!
Tools you will need:
Loom: you can find individual Small Weaving Looms, as well as kits, in our shop - all are a great size to start a first project!
Thread for warping: you'll need a sturdy fiber like cotton for your warp threads. Wool thread can break more easily, so just a word of caution. Experiment with different colored warp threads to add more color dimension to your weaving!
Tapestry or weaving needle: a needle to thread your working fiber over and under your warp threads. You can use a metal tapestry-style needle or a longer weaving needle made of either metal or wood. You may also see a tapestry bobbin, which works like a needle, except it has a small area to wrap or hold some of your working yarn as you weave, instead of threading it through the eye of a needle. This is all a matter of personal preference. Generally, a longer weaving needle that can run through more of your warp threads at a time will help you weave a little faster, but a regular needle works just fine too, as long as the eye is big enough to hold your bulkiest yarn!
Weaving comb: this helps you push your rows of weaving down as you go.
Weaving shuttle: optional for small loom projects. This carries your yarn back and forth across your work. It's useful when the loom and project are big enough that you are using a good amount of a single yarn color at a time. When you use a shuttle, it replaces a needle for guiding the yarn over and under your warp thread; you instead push the shuttle through the warp. This might be a tight fit on our Circular Loom Kits (because those are pretty small), but would feel more natural with the Small Weaving Loom with heddle bar - it's up to you! Note: two shuttles are included with the purchase of every Small Weaving Loom.
Ready to start? Let's do it:
Gather materials and tools. Plan your colors!
Warp your loom. This video from Melonie Wallace shows you how to warp with a heddle bar (included with the Small Weaving Loom), but the process for threading through the tabs of a loom without a heddle bar is the same! Also, Melonie taught me how to weave via her virtual Fibre Studio classes and is a wonderful teacher - I highly recommend taking a look at her site!
Twine your loom with this easy tutorial from Spruce & Linen. Placing a twine stitch at the top and bottom before you start will make sure your piece is secure and beautiful when you finish. You've got this!
Weave. Have fun with your design! Here are a few options:
- Tabby, or plain weave - think of this as the basic knit and purl of weaving. Run your needle over and under every warp thread; on the next row, reverse!
- Basic braid (here, the artist is weaving in the round, but this basic braid - also called Double Soumak - works just the same on a square loom)
- Block weave (weaving 2 up and 2 down, or more!)
- Twill weave (1 thread up and 2 down)
- Soumak braid (great for your roving, but use it with anything!)
- Add tassels!
- Weaving with a circular loom (just a bit different than a rectangle, and it's so fun to see it in action in this short video - watch Felicia Lo Wong of SweetGeorgia Yarn warp the loom and demonstrate tabby and soumak braid)!
Tips and tricks:
- Move your weft yarn across the loom in an arc shape, or an upwards diagonal, before you push it down with your weaving comb/fork. This helps keep a good tension so that your weaving isn't too tight and pulling in at the sides, and keeps your edges looking neat.
- While any thickness of yarn can be used for weaving, worsted and bulky weight yarns generally work best for creating the textural braids and bumps popular in wall hangings - and allow you to weave quickly! But weaving is excellent for improvisation AND stash busting (if you're a crocheter or knitter). You can weave with thinner yarns held double, use a bit of fingering weight yarn as the center accent in your circular weave, or create tassels. Torn fabrics also make great weaving materials!
- If you are working with roving, gently run your hands along it before you weave - this will smooth the fibers in one direction so that it glides more easily through your weaving!
- Don't weave to the very top of your loom; leave some space for the finishing steps!
Yay, you finished! You have a few finish options:
- If you previously twined to seal your edges, you can slide your work off the loom, cut the loops at the bottom and either weave them in or leave them (ta da, fringe!). But be sure you twined, or things could unravel!
- Hem stitch your bottom edge.
- With either of the above options, keep the bottom loops and use them to attach tassels.
- You can attach a dowel or even a tree branch to the top loops! You did it - show it off!
Tapestry Terms (not a total list, but now you can speak some of the lingo like a pro!):
- Block weave: taking two threads up and two threads down (vs. a single thread at a time, as in tabby/plain weave). The weave can also take up more than two threads, as long as the same number are down (a different number up and down is twill).
- Braiding stitch: as it sounds; weft pattern mimics a horizontal braid.
- Heddle: a bar on the loom that speeds up the weaving process by helping alternate warp threads.
- Hemstitch: technique for finishing or hemming the end of a weaving project.
- Shuttle: a flat stick, usually with a notch at either end, that carries yarn back and forth across the loom as you weave. The yarn is wrapped around the shuttle (like a bobbin) and held in place by the notches.
- Soumak braid: a weaving technique that uses two separate strands of yarn or roving to create the appearance of a braid.
- Tabby, or plain weave: the foundational hand loom technique, in which you thread over, under, over, under, a single warp thread at a time, and then go in reverse on the next row.
- Tapestry needle: a large sewing needle, usually with a large eye designed to accommodate bulky yarns and threads. May be straight or bent at the tip, which is usually blunt. Occasionally called a yarn needle, as knitters and crocheters often use it for weaving in ends and seaming.
- Twill weave: taking one thread up and two threads down.
- Twining: optional, but helpful, weaving technique placed at top and bottom of warp threads. Twining provides a border to keep the weaving from unraveling, add structure, and create a clean edge when the project is finished. Twining can also be used as a decorative element within the weaving pattern.
- Warp: the vertical threads on a loom. Usually done with cotton or another sturdy thread.
- Weft: the horizontal threads on a loom.
- Wool roving: wool fiber that is carded, usually by a spinning mill, into a long cord about 2-3" wide. Made for spinning, weaving, needle felting, etc.
- Wool top: wool fiber that is combed, also by a mill, so that all the fibers run in the same direction (slightly smoother than roving, but either are excellent for weaving).