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What is the difference between knitting and weaving?
Posted on: 10 Mar, 2019


Knitting and weaving are two popular ways of creating fabric or cloth. When I first started textile design, I was curious about the differences between weaving and knitting. Below, is a comparison between the knitting and weaving in five areas: process, tools, technique, yarns and types of projects. 

1. Process

1.1 What is knitting?

1.2 What is weaving?

2. Tools

2.1 What tools are needed for knitting?

2.2 What tools are needed for weaving?

3. Technique

3.1 Keeping Tension

3.1.1 How to keep tension while knitting

3.1.2 How to keep tension while weaving

3.2 Design

3.2.1 What are common knitting designs?

3.2.2 What are common weaving designs?

4. Yarns

4.1 Sizing / Weight

4.2 Material / Texture

4.3 Color

5. Types of Projects

1. Process:

1.1 What is knitting?

Knitting is created with loops, or stitches, that run together for the entire project.  A knitter uses two knitting needles to create these loops. Knitted cloth can also be created with a knitting loom. The loom holds the yarns in places are the knitter moves the stitches between the loom pegs. These loops form a cloth that can be sewn together or attached to other cloths and yarns.

1.2 What is weaving?

A loom is used to organize and hold the yarns of a woven project. Two sets of yarn are interlocked in the weaving process- the yarn used to keep the structure of the woven piece and the yarn used to decorate.

A set of yarn is vertically wrapped around the loom and it remains in place during the entire weaving process. It gives the structure to the woven project. It is called the warp. The warp is later removed off the loom when the woven project is finished.

The second set of yarns run horizontally in between the warp yarns. These yarns are called the weft. The weft yarns are used to form patterns with colors, shapes, and textures.

2. Tools:

2.1 What tools are needed for knitting?

Knitting requires a set of knitting needles. A string of yarn is moved back and forth from needle to needle to create continuous loops of yarn, or stitches.  There are various styles, materials and sizes of knitting needles. Here are the 5 different types: straights, circular, DPNs, interchangeable, and cable needles.

Knitting Needles (Knitting Pins)


Single point, or straight, knitting needles are pointed on one side and have a stopper on the other end, which keep the stitches on the needles. Therefore, beginners usually use them. They are normally made of wood or metal.


Circular needles are used for in the round projects (projects that are created in a tubular shape and the stitches connect). As stitches are formed they remain on the extended part of the needles. These needles are also used in seamless projects, such as sweaters, scarves and blankets.

Double Point Needles (DPNs)

DPNs, or double-pointed needles, have two pointed ends. DPNs are typically used for knitting in the round- for example, socks or hats. These are used when the circumference of a knitted piece is too small for circular needles. Knitting in the round, usually requires 3 to 4 DPNs.


Interchangeable knitting needles allow versatility in knitting. These needles are usually in sets with various sizes and attachments. These attachments allow the knitter to alternate the function of the needles.

Cable Needles

Cable needles are typically only used in the knitting technique of cabling- this is when a group of stitches are crossed over another group of stitches. Cable needles are shorter than other kinds of needles and they can be hooked or straight.

Other tools for knitting

Knitting Looms

Knitting looms are used to knit yarns, but on a loom. Knitting looms are usually circular or rectangular shape in various sizes with fixed gauges. Unlike knitting needles, the yarn is secured to the loom while knitting. It produces tubular projects, such as scarves, hats, and scarves, which can be knitted a bit quicker than using needles.

Tapestry Needles

A tapestry needles is easy to weave through stitches, because it is has a blunt end. It also has a large eye, which thicker yarns can pass through easily. These needles are used to tuck away yarn ends and move between warp yarns.

Stitch Markers

Stitch Markers are hooked onto the stitches throughout the knitting process. Once a stitch marker is reached, it can indicate several things to the knitter- for example, to change rounds, where to decrease or increase stitches, or begin a certain stitch pattern.

Needle gauge guide

Needle gauge guides gauge the size of a knitting needle. Although the gauge of the needles is labeled on most needles, some needles may not have this information. the size of the needle can effect the type and thickness of yarn used in a project.

 Yarn gauge guide

A yarn gauge guide gauges the number of stitches per inch. This helps the knitter decide how much yarn is needed for a project. With this information, the knitter can also choose a correlating needle.

2.2 What tools are needed for weaving?

Due to the numerous parts and tools of a loom, I will mention the main tools needed. For more in-depth information about tools needed for weaving and looms, you can check out my blog post What are the types of looms? or How do I set up my loom and start weaving?.

 There are a variety of looms used for weaving. The type of loom used depends on the type and size of project created. There are two types of looms that I will describe: shaft looms and frame looms.

Shaft Looms

Large pieces of fabric are usually woven on shaft looms. Shaft looms hold more yarn and have more power to control and manage larger forms. Three common shaft looms are Countermarche, Counterbalance, and Jack Looms.

 Each individual strand of yarn is guided through heddles, which are used to move yarns and control the pattern. The heddles are attached to shafts that are controlled with levers or treadles. A reed is used to beat yarns down and control the density and tension of the weft yarns. As the fabric is woven, it is rolled and stored on the loom around the cloth beam.  All of these parts are connected to the loom.

Other tools needed for shaft looms

Yarn shuttles

Weft yarns are wound in yarn shuttles and it is sent through the warp yarns to create a design or pattern.  Yarn shuttles are normally made of wood and glide through the opened warp easily.

Yarn Bobbins

Yarn bobbins are also used to add extra yarns to a pattern or design. Bobbins are smaller than shuttles and can be made from paper, plastic or wood.

Tapestry Needle

A tapestry needle is used to weave new yarn to the warp. It is also used to finish a woven piece at the end of weaving. The tapestry needles guides the weft yarns into the warp to hide them from view and create a polished look to the piece.

Loom Comb

Although the reed works as a yarn beater, a smaller loom comb can be useful. Loom combs range in teeth wideness and material. The narrower the comb is, the more precise it will comb.

Frame Looms

Frame looms are portable, depending on size, and the yarns are woven within the four sides of the frame. Common frame looms are tapestry and pin looms.

There are different forms of frame looms. The tension of some frame looms is controlled by some mechanism of the loom-which can be adjusted while weaving. While with other frame looms the weaver must keep the tension manually.

Other tools needed for frame looms

Other tools commonly used for weaving with a frame loom are a shed stick, yarn shuttles or bobbins, loom combs, and a tapestry needle.

Note: This section contains some loom terminology which I have clarified more in my blog post, What are the Parts of a Loom?. If you are interested in learning more about the structure of a loom, click here.




Needle Knitting

While needle knitting the knitter keeps the tension of the stitches. Holding and puling the yarns tighter around the needles, creating stronger tension which makes the stitches tighter. The tighter the stitches are, the denser the stitches become. The same applies for looser stitches, which are created by using less tension.

The tension of the stitches also affects the amount of yarn used and the size of the finished product. Yarn thickness and elasticity play a crucial role in calculating the amount of material needed to create a project. A yarn with a certain thickness and tautness yields a specific product size. Therefore it is important to keep a consistent tension throughout the project, in order to have a balanced piece and enough material to complete the project.

 Loom Knitting

When loom knitting, the yarn is looped onto the loom frame pegs. Similar to knitting needles, the tension impacts the density and tautness of the yarns. When too many yarns are looped onto the knitting loom at one time, it can cause an increase in tension. Pull and pushing the yarns on and off the pegs can also effect the tension.  Gradually adding and removing yarns to the pegs will help keep an even tension.


Shaft Looms

The warp and weft yarns work together to balance tension, however most of the burden falls on the warp. Therefore, there are several parts of the loom that control the tension. The warp beam holds the entire unwoven warp supply.

When dressing the loom, or wrapping the warp yarns onto the loom, the warp is tied to a dowel that is attached to the main loom frame. This is secured with a lever. This dowel is tightened and wrapped around the warp beam. When the weaver needs more warp for the project, the yarns are advanced by the lever. On the front beam of the loom, another lever is used to move the woven part forward. This makes room for new warp. The woven yarns are rolled and stored in the cloth beam, then secured in place by a lever. When these two beams, the warp beam and the cloth beam, are well secured, the warp remains taut.

Strong tension also comes from the first initial wrapping of the warp yarns on to the dowel and warp beam.  This is crucial for warp yarns to remain taut and even while weaving a project.

Frame Looms

More expensive looms have a mechanism to adjust tension while weaving. Small levers or dials are used to tighten the warp yarns through out the weaving process.

On the other hand, the tension of some simple looms is held with nails. On these types of frame looms, the warp must be manually tightened. There are several methods to do this: you can move the surrounding warp yarns around, in order to balance the unevenness of the tension; a small stick can be added between the warp strand and twisted to build more tension.

When using a loom with out a mechanical mechanism to adjust the warp tension, you should take into consideration the time needed to complete the project. Everyone creates art at their own pace, and should not rush the creative process. But, rather than letting the piece sit idly for long periods of time, give it more attention and try to finish the project before the tension is lost naturally.



There are various stitches in knitting. Here are basic ones.

Stockinette stitch

Stockinette stitch, abbreviated as St st, is typically smooth on one side. It is used for creating various types of projects.

Reverse stockinette stitch

Reverse stockinette stitch, abbreviated as rev St st, is created similarly to the stockinette stitch, but the stiches are created on another side.

Garter stitch

Garter stitch is created when you knit every stitch in every row. This stitch creates a horizontal ridge pattern.

Seed stitch

Seed stitch gets its name from the bump look that is created during the knitting process.


Faggoting, a collection of knit stitches, is an introduction to lace. This method creates an open texture with yarn.

Tricot stitch

Tricot stitch is created with continuous columns of loops. This is used in a warp knitting, in which a family of yarns is connected to each other rather than to only a row.


There are various weaving patterns. Here are basic weaving patterns.

Plain weave (Tabby weave)

Plain weave, also known as tabby weave, creates a checkerboard pattern, which is created by alternating warp threads while adding the weft yarns.

Twill weave pattern

Twill weave pattern creates a diagonal pattern.

Soumak weave

Soumak weave adds dimension to the warp by creating a braid weave pattern.

Chevron weave

Chevron weave creates an arrow pattern.

Herringbone weave

Herringbone weave, also known as broken twill weave, creates a V-shape weaving pattern. Its appearance is similar to the chevron weave, but differs by using a distinctive thread.

Rya knots

Rya knots create a fringe. This fringe can be added to the end of the weave, which extend the weave design. Fringe can also be added within the body of the weave. This adds volume and texture to the weave.

Pile weave

Pile weave is created by looping weft yarns around a rod while woven in the warp.

Diamond weave

Diamond weave creates diamond shapes through the weave.


Here is some general information about yarns. For even more information about the types and uses of yarns check out this website’s page, Yarns.

Yarn and thread come in a variety of sizes, material, texture, weight and color. Each of these factors affects the knitted or woven piece.

Virtually all yarns and threads can be knitted or woven, but here are a few things to consider when using them for your projects.


Most balls of yarns and yarn/thread cones have their size and weight labeled. The thickness of the yarn/thread is adjusted by the ply size.

Plies are individual strands of spun fiber. Plies can be spun thick or thin. After a ply is spun, it can be spun with other plies or remain on its own. But, the number of plies that a yarn has, cannot be the judge of the thickness of the yarn. For example, a single ply can be spun as thick as a 6-ply stand of yarn.

When considering the project size or area, you must calculate the thickness of the yarns. The thinner the yarns/ threads are the more loops and or rows will need to be made. The thicker the yarns/ threads are the fewer loops or rows will need to be made.

This also affects the time needed to create the project. Thicker yarns/ threads cover an area quicker than thinner yarns/ threads.


Yarns and threads are made from many kinds of fibers, which affect the texture of the yarn/thread. Yarns range in three main categories: natural fibers, synthetic fibers, and sustainable and ethical fibers.

Natural yarns come from plant fibers (such as cotton, jute and bamboo) or animal sources (such as wool, llama and mohair).

Synthetic yarns are created by man-made fibers, such as nylon and polyester.

Sustainable and ethical yarns come from sources that verify the well being of the animal producing the fibers, such as silk worms. These yarns are also good for the environment- most are made from recycled fabric and they are biodegradable.



Many natural dyes come plants, insects and minerals. They tend to be safe, however the mordant, the substance used to stick the dye on the fabrics, could be harmful. These mordants tend to have some metal or salt in them.

Metal and salt mordants are found in chemical dyes too, however they have stronger levels. These can be toxic for people and the environment.

Natural fibers absorb dyes differently and react to the mordant differently. Therefore there are variations between the colors and materials.

Synthetic or blended yarns have the widest variety in colors. These man-made fibers adapt to color without problem.


Textiles can be created in various ways- knitting and weaving are just a few ways.

Woven and knitted pieces can be used in fine art work, creating clothing and accessories, decorating interior and exterior locations.

These techniques can also be used with other materials, such as plastic, metal wire and natural plant fibers. Weaving and knitting intertwine fibers, yarns, and threads to create beautiful fabrics and cloth of design.



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