How to Weave? Weaving for Beginners in 5 Steps
Once you have dressed the loom, or wrapped the yarn around the loom, it’s time to weave…well, not just yet. I know that you are excited to weave! When I make my first frame loom, I was over the moon to start making something. But, I had no idea what I was doing- which is expected. While weaving, I have learned a few steps and tricks for starting a project on a loom. There are so many more techniques to try, but here are some of my go-to’s.
( If you have not yet build a loom or do not have one, check out my tutorial, How to make a cardboard loom?
You can find a video tutorial below for with directions and tips.
Basic Weaving Terminology / Information
The warp are the vertical yarns that are held in place during weaving. The warp hold the design in place. The warp can vary in thickness and color- a thin and sturdy yarn is normally used, but depending on your project it may vary. For beginners, I would recommend a warp yarn with very little give (or elasticity).
The weft are the yarns used to create the pattern and design on the warp. Normally these yarn are added to the warp horizontally. They are woven in and out of the warp to create a pattern or design. The weft various in colors, fibers, textures, and thickness. Diversifying the weft yarns in a project create an elaborate design, while using yarns with similar elements create a more uniformed appearance. Experimentation will allow you see which style is the best fit for your project.
How to weave
Over-under method (Plain weave)
You may have created some paper weaving projects as a child on cardboard or with a plastic cup using the “over-under” method- meaning, with a piece of yarn or paper, you weave it under a yarn and over the next yarn. You repeat this process until you get to the end. The same process applies with a loom and it is called plain weave.
In the post 6 Weaving Patterns for Beginners I have written six step by step tutorials on the basic weaving patterns that all weavers should learn, including plain weave.
Basic Weft Information
The first yarn woven has an end- it is called the tail. An1.5 inch of the yarn tail should remain out, when it is first introduced to the warp.
However, unlike the strips of paper used, you will use a string of yarn. It is continuous and it has to move between and around warp yarns.
The job of the weft is not only to decorate the warp, but also support the warp. The edges of the warp, or the selvedges, should always be picked up by the weft yarn. This will insure that your weave remains straight and consistent. It will also secure your piece together. Missing one warp yarn can disrupt your weaving pattern. You can read more tips for keeping straighter edges on my blog post, How to weave straighter edges?
5 Steps to Take before Weaving you project
Below are some tools used- find more information about each of these tools on this post, 10 Essential Tools all weavers should own.
1. Prepare a shed stick
What is a shed stick?
A shed stick is a piece of flat, thin wood or plastic that allows you to weave between the warp yarns easily. When the shed sticks is positioned vertically, it creates an opening, which allows you to pass the weft through.
You may wonder why this is important. Think about the paper weaving example. It is easy to move the paper pieces with your hands up and down, because there are not so many pieces. But, when using a loom, your piece can have many yarns to keep organized and the tension of the warp yarns must be kept. Therefore the yarns can not be moved too much.
How to use a shed stick?
The more yarns the loom has, the more you must pay attention to the weaving pattern, so a shed stick will hold in place one pattern. Let me explain with some directions:
Weave the shed stick into the warp. Start with the first yarn of the warp. Weave the shed stick under the first yarn and over the next yarn. Continue this pattern until you get to the end of the warp. Keep the shed stick in between the warp yarns that you just woven through. Center the shed stick.
Now one side of the plain weave pattern is being held in place by the shed stick. Weft yarns are sent through easier.
How about the other yarns?
Yep, those yarns you will have to weave in manually. Just think of every other row as a small gift from your shed stick.
How to create a shed stick?
The shed stick must be (about1 inch to 1.5 inches) longer than that warp diameter on each end – this will allow you change the position of the shed stick while it is between the warp. Whether you use a piece of plastic or wood, the shed stick must be flat and thin. You will run the shed stick along the warp often, so it should not have any fibers that can grab hold to the yarns while it is moving.
Dimensions of a shed stick vary depending on your project size, but a rectangular form 12-14 inches by 1.5 inches is good.
A quick alternative is using a ruler. Its shape and texture is ideal for this. In the video tutorial below, I use a thin, sturdy piece of cardboard as my shed stick. Careful though, not all pieces are created equally, and sometimes they do snap when you place too much pressure on them.
2. Add warp spacers
Before weaving any yarn, weave in warp spacers. This can be a piece of card stock paper or even a long paper towel.
There are a few reasons for this:
First, it gives space for tying the warp off at the end of the project. Once the project is finished, the piece will be cut and tied off in order to remove it from the loom. You will need some extra yarn to secure the woven piece in place. These extra yarns are normally woven back into the piece later.
This additional space can also be used to attach to a dowel for hanging and display. In this case, you must adjust the amount of spacers for the size of the project dowel.
Second, it controls the weft yarn. The first few rows of weaving can become lost behind the initial yarns of the warp and the loom spacers (if you are using a cardboard loom or a loom with a beam). Therefore, these warp spacers create a barrier and give the weft a platform to start weaving from. This allows you to weave straighter and consistently.
Weft yarns need help adjusting to the warp also. Normally when you weave the first few rows, the weft is caught between the warp unevenly. These weft spacers initiate the shaping of the woven piece. You will still have to adjust the weft yarns, but the spacers work as a barrier that gives some structure to the initial weaving section.
Third, it gives structure to your warp. When weft yarns are added to the warp, the warp yarns spread out and sometimes loose their alignment. There can be inconsistencies in the space increments between each warp yarn and they will be need to be adjusted before weaving project yarns.Weaving a few spacers in before the weft yarn, will help the warp straighten out and find its placement.
Note: You do not have to catch the edges of the warp when adding the spacers. However, when adding the weft yarns next, you must catch the warp yarns.
For more directions, see the video with these steps.
3. Create shuttles/bobbins for your yarns
One way to get the weft yarns through the warp, is by wrapping them on a bobbin or shuttle. There are some differences between the bobbins and shuttles, but they are used for the same purpose. These terms “bobbin” and “shuttle”are sometimes used to discuss the same thing, but here is the difference.
Yarn bobbins are smaller and light weight. You can cut a small piece of plastic or card stock and wrap some weft yarns around it. These are great for tapestries
Yarn shuttles are a bit bigger and they can be bulkier, because they are used in larger looms.
I prefer using a paper shuttle, because I can cut the size that fits best for my project and to my preference.
1. Cut a 6 inch by 2 inch rectangular form.
2. On the shorter ends, cut two lines inward (to create a triangle) that is 1.5 inches high.
3. On the center of the paper shuttle, tape the end (the tail) of your desired weft yarn. Be sure to secure the tail so it is flat.
4. Wrap the yarn around the paper shuttle until it is full.
Note: Wrap enough yarn but not excessively. A thick shuttle can rub against the warp and disrupt the previously woven yarns.
4. Control weaving density
Above: Less pressure used. Below: More pressure used.
With each row of weft yarn you add, secure the yarns by adding pressure. This can be done by using a loom comb, or also know as a loom beater (for tapestries). There are various types and sizes of loom combs.
Some things to keep in mind about looms combs:
Similar to a hair comb, the wider the separation between the teeth of a comb, the easier it glides between the warp yarns. When a wider comb passes through the warp, but does not touch or push down every part of the weft yarn. In general, finer combs concentrate on very specific areas and details. A fine tooth loom comb pass through all, or most, yarns in a section when brushing the warp.
When securing the weft yarns, apply the same amount of pressure down in each row. This controls the density of the woven pattern. Using more pressure, will create a denser design. The warp yarns will not be so visible. Using less pressure, will create a looser design. The warp yarns will be more visible.
Tip: By using a ruler, you can monitor the width of the weft. Although the density of the weft will be visible, a ruler will show a correlation of the yarns and width woven. For example, 10 rows of yarn X, correlates to 1 inch.
You can check the measurements of the yarn by wrapping it around a ruler. Wrap a weft yarn around the ruler to see how many loops create an inch. This will give you an idea of how much yarn you need and the density of the yarn.
Learn more about weaving density and its relationship with weft and warp yarns in this post, Weaving Warp Spacing: EPI low density and high density.
If you do not have a loom comb / beater, there are two alternatives. Use a cleaned wide tooth or fine tooth comb, like the ones for combing hair. You can also use a fork that you can use for eating. Note: Hair combs and eating utensils should be cleaned before and after use, if you will be using them in a multipurpose fashion.
5. Control the edges
As mentioned in the Basic Weaving Terminology / Information section, edge control is very important. You can find more tips for stronger edges on my blog post Weave Edges: 10 Tips for Straighter Selvedge.
Here are my 2 top rules for staying in control of the warp edges, or selvedge.
#1: The most important edge rule is to always wrap the final warp yarn in the next row of weaving. Never leave a warp yarn on its own, because it will affect your weaving pattern. Its especially important to include the final warp yarn in the next row so that the weaving remains supported and cohesive.
#2: When starting a new row, you will open the warp to insert the loom bobbin or shuttle. Before beating the yarn, pinch the old end of the yarn edge, and gently give it a pull. Keep the new row on a diagonal and slowly beat it down to the previous row.
Here are my 5 steps to start weaving. I hope that they have helped answer any beginning questions that you may have for starting your first or next project.
Everyone has there own way of weaving, and you will develop your own steps and process for creating projects on a loom. I would love to hear how these steps and tips worked for you. If you have any addition steps that you used, please share them!