We’ve been a long time admirers of woven wall hangings and have loved seeing how these vintage flat weave textiles have come back in style thanks to such talented artists like Mimi Jung, Janelle Pietrzak, Maryanne Moodie and Meghan Bogden Shimek. I never imagined, however, that I could actually make my own – in fact, I was very close to commissioning a textile artist to weave a piece for our new home! But after hearing that Meghan, of Native Textile, was teaching a local workshop, I jumped at the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of weaving. I instantly became obsessed. And keep in mind, me and yarn don’t mix well. I’m a horrible knitter. Anyway, I loved the ease and tangibility of Meghan’s method so much, I was inspired to share some of her amazing tips with you. The entire process may seem intimidating at first but I encourage you to just give it try and follow the tutorial, step by step. Welcome to Weaving 101! You’ll be hooked, I promise.
- an assortment of yarn
- cotton warp twine or yarn
- wool roving (optional)
- a tapestry needle
- an open back frame or a canvas stretcher frame (for a custom size frame. tutorial found here)
- a thin wooden dowel (measuring at least the length of the width of the frame)
- a metal tube or wooden stick
- a fork
To make your loom, start by adding the warp to the wooden frame. The warp is a set of lengthwise strings that are held, in tension, on a frame. This is what you’ll be weaving onto. Because the warp is wound tightly around the frame, the yarn or string should be strong and not too thick or too thin. Cotton or nylon string is fine. Tie the end of your string into a double knot onto the bottom left of the frame. Loop the string under and over the top of the frame . . .
and back down under and over the bottom of the frame. Continue doing that, making a figure eight pattern each time.
Depending on how wide you want your piece to be and how big your frame is, you can make as few as 10 loops and as much as 25. Separate the strings about a 1/4″ apart from each other and make sure the tension is even and tight, but not too tight, before tying a knot at the top of the frame.
Double check your loom from the side. The strings should be criss crossed around the middle of the loom. Take the thin wooden dowel, which will serve as your shed rod, and slide it through the strings – under where the strings are crossed. Then push it to the top of the frame. You’ll immediately notice that the tension is tighter. The shed rod helps separate the upper and lower warp strings, making it easier to weave!
This is what your loom should look like. Notice how the warps criss cross above the shed rod. The strings are evenly separated. And there is clear separation of a top layer of strings (top warp) and a bottom layer of strings (bottom warp). You are ready to weave!
The weft is the term for the yarn which is drawn horizontally through the warp to create a weaving. For this, I like to use a variety of natural fiber yarns – some thick, some thin, some with interesting textures. It’s all about mixing it up! Cut the yarn to about 20-24 feet. Thread the end of the yarn through needle. Starting a few inches from the bottom of the loom, pass the needle under the bottom warps. That means under every other warp: over the first warp, under the second warp, over the third warp, under the fourth warp and so on.
Pull the yarn straight through, leaving a 4-5 inch tail. Pull the right side of yarn down towards the bottom of the loom, creating a small arc in the yarn.
Use a fork to comb down the middle of the arc. Then the left and ride sides, pressing the rest of the weft into a straight line.
Giving the weft extra slack with an arc allows it to be packed into place with even tension. Doing this will give your piece an overall consistency to it. It’s an important step and shouldn’t be skipped after each weft is passed through! Now wrap the yarn around and under the last string.
And bring it back through – this time through the top warps. Under the first, over the second, under the third and so on. Passing the yarn through the top warps should be easier than passing it through the bottom. This is because you’re not working with tension when weaving through the top warps.
Use the fork to press down the second row to that it is snug against the first. Repeat by going back through the bottom warps.
After a few rows, you can cut the yarn to leave a 4-5 inch tail. Or just continue weaving. If you run out of yarn, I’ll explain how to add more yarn later in the tutorial. I’ll also be showing you how to finish those loose tails at the very end.
To add tassels, cut a bunch of yarn double the length of the desired tassel length. Take a group of 3-5 strands, depending on the thickness of the yarn, and center it under the first set of top and bottom warps.
Slide a finger under the middle of the yarns, between the two wefts. Pull the center up, creating a loop.
Grab the ends from under the loop and pull tight.
Slide the tassel down and repeat.
If the yarn runs out while plain weaving, just drop the yarn behind the loom. Be sure to drop it with at least a few of inches of slack. Bring up a new piece of yarn, as if to continue the weft.
Create the arc as normal and press down with your fork. I’ll show you how to take care of the loose ends on the backside towards the end of the tutorial.
There might be a place where you decide to break up your weaving with tassels or sections of varying yarns. To plain weave just a small section, simply continue to weave as normal.
When you want to turn back simply wrap the yarn around the last warp and weave through the opposite set of warps. It doesn’t matter if it wraps around a bottom or top warp – as long as you return the yarn back the other direction through the opposite set of warps.Create a small arc.
And press down with the fork. Go back through and take it a few warps further if need be.
Make an arc and press down. Easy peasy. Continue weaving!
One weaving technique I love is the soumak, which looks similar to a fishtail braid. To do this, you wrap the yarn around each warp from the right side. And then back through around the left side of each warp. Place the needle under the first warp from the right side of the warp. Wrap the yarn around it and pull until you have a few inches of slack.
Then wrap the yarn around the second warp – again, from the right side. Pull. Then wrap around the third warp and so on . . .
Once you reach the end, mirror the technique – this time, wrapping yarn around each warp from the left side. Cut the yarn, leaving slack.
Wool roving is super soft wool that has not yet been spun into yarn. It usually comes in long, thick bundles that easy to pull apart and manipulate. Incorporating roving into your weaving is super easy – just treat it as yarn and pass it through like a plain weave. Under the top warps first.
And back under through the bottom warps. When you’re finished, simply give the roving a hard pull on each side and it will naturally separate. Again, be sure to leave some slack!
Continue weaving until you’ve reached the top.
To finish all the yarns dropped off the back and the ends, turn the loom around. Thread the extra slack through the needle and tuck it under a series of 3 wefts, lengthwise.
Trim with a pair scissors.
To hide the ends, thread the slack through the needle and tuck the thread through a series of 3 wefts, lengthwise, down the edge of your weaving. Trim.
With roving, simple weave the ends through the warps on the backside, tucking it under every other warp.
To take the weaving off the loom, carefully snip the warps that are wrapped around the top of the loom – one at time. Tie each set of warps into a square knot. Continue snipping and knotting until the entire piece has been removed from the top of the loom. Repeat the process at the bottom of the loom.
Hide the warp strings the same way you did with the yarn. Thread each section through the needle and pass it through a series of wefts. Trim and repeat the steps on the bottom.
To hang the weaving, pick out either a metal rod or wooden stick that measures a few inches wider than your piece. Here I used a piece of driftwood. Thread a 24 inch piece of yarn through the warp and over the mount. Tie into a double knot.
And back through the second set of warps, around the mount and back through the third set of warps.
Continue until you’ve reached the end. Tie into a knot knot and snip away any excess. Adjust with your fingers so the weaving lays evenly across the bottom of your mount.
And that’s all folks! Remember, this is just a basic tutorial. There are many more weaving techniques out there. Take a class, experiment . . . it’s all about having fun!
(images by HonestlyWTF; tutorial adapted from Native Textile)