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Weaving might sound old-fashioned and boring to some but weaving is making a real comeback amongst craft-enthusiasts and creatives. Although the industrial revolution might have taken weaving out of our homes and into big factories, the fundamental weaving process stayed remarkably unchanged.
In this article we will go over some of the basics of weaving and help you choose your first weaving loom.
Learning How To Weave
As mentioned already, the weaving process hasn’t changed much over the years. Basically, you interlace one kind of yarn or thread at a right angle with a second kind of thread. Before starting, long vertical lines of thread are attached to a loom and spaced appropriately. This is called the warp. The warp can be considered to be the skeleton of your weaving project. Now a second piece of thread, called the weft, is used to interweave it with the warp.
Different effects can be obtained by different weaving patterns. The most basic pattern is the plain weave, were the weft goes over and under alternating warp threads. Different patterns such as the satin weave or the twill weave can be used not only for a decorative function, but they can also change the characteristic of the resulting weave.
Does alternating your thread over and under the warp every single time sound like a lot of work to you? That’s because it is! But fortunately there is a solution called shedding. Most good looms come with either a weaving sword/shed stick or a reed. For easy and fast weaving, these are must have items. They allow you to shed the warp; raise one set of warp threads while lowering the other set of warp threads. This way your weft yarn can go through the warp in one easy motion, rather than the bothersome up and over manoeuvre. More info about weaving sword/shed stick or a reed and how to use them later in this article.
Basic Weaving For Beginners
If you are still a beginner at weaving, there are only two procedures you need to know: setting up the warp and the 3 primary motions of a loom. The warping process completely depends on the type of loom you use. If you opt for a simple loom model, setting up a warp will be relatively simple. For more advanced models that include a reed, it will take some more time to set up your warp but the weaving process will also be much faster.
(Source: wikimedia commons)
How To Warp A Loom
For the basic loom without a reed, you can see how to set up the warp in the video below. You start by tying the warp on one end of the loom and then you keep winding the warp around each end until you reach the desired width of your project. Then you fix the warp by knotting the end as well and check if all the strings have the same amount of tension. You will often find that the threads are not equally spaced. You can fix this by using some scrap thread, that you can remove when you are completely finished, and weave about 3 rows.
If you bought a loom with a reed included, you will have to do some additional steps. The main difference is that you manually need to differentiate all the warp thread into two sections by pulling the right string through the eyes of the reed. Thankfully you will only need to do this once, and it will drastically increase your weaving speed. This process is much easier to understand through the visual format, so take your time to watch the video below that shows how to warp a rigid heddle loom.
Primary Motions Of The Loom
Now that you have warped your loom you can finally start weaving. These three steps form the core of weaving and it’s best to master them before you try making anything too difficult.
- Shedding: we already mentioned that manually weaving over and under every individual warp thread would be too much work. So most people use a weaving sword or reed to help them separate the warp threads for them.
- Picking: sound pretty difficult but it basically means that you move the weft thread through the opened up warp. This can be done by hand and using a shuttle can often be useful if you use very long thread.
- Beating-up/ battening: to get a consistent result you need to push the weft to the end of the cloth. This can be done with the reed or else you can use your fingers, a pick or even a fork.
Buying a Weaving Loom
There are many factors to consider when you are planning to buy a good weaving loom that is for sale. First of all, you should consider the model and dimensions. A simpler model is more fitting as a weaving loom for beginners. This models often only consist out of a frame on which you can attach your warp. The size of these frames will thus limit the maximum size of your projects. Higher end weaving looms often have two wheels and both ends that can be used to roll up the weave if it’s longer than the loom itself. This way the length of your weave can be almost unlimited.
Secondly, depending on your budget and aspiration you should make the choice between using a reed or a weaving sword, also known as a shed stick. These tools are crucial for shedding, the first step of weaving. Weaving swords are often provided when you buy a simple loom but if you don’t have one, you can use any kind of hard material such as wood or plastic in a long rectangular shape. You can insert the shed stick into the warp as shown in the video below. The shed stick can be used to create an open warp such that the weft passes through easily. The downside is that this only works one way; on your way back you will have to weave up and down manually again.
This is where the reed shines! The reed looks like a long comb with a lot of slits that the warp goes through. Unlike a weaving sword, a reed is operating in such a way that the weft can pass through easily in both directions. Additionally, the reed can also be used to do the battening for you. Reeds will thus not only help with the first but also with the third step of weaving.
If you go with reed, you might also want to consider purchasing a threading hook. Warping your loom with a reed can be a little tricky. Especially pulling all the warp threads through the eyes of the reed can be fidgety and frustrating work. A threading hook makes this process considerably more easy. Additionally, if you are planning on weaving something long like a scarf, chances are you also are working with very long weft thread. As a result, you will have to pull the entire thread through the warp every single row. The quick and simple solution is using a shuttle; a small piece of wood on which you can wind the yarn.
Finding the best loom amongst all the weaving looms for sale is no easy task. After all, there are lots of different brand and models to choose from. Below is a small list of weaving looms that are popular and you might consider when you are new to weaving.
The Beka weaving frame is a nice weaving loom for beginners that have absolutely no experience with weaving before and aren’t quite sure if weaving is for them. It is made from hard maple wood and 20” x 23”. Since it is pretty lightweight and comes with a stand you can opt to lay it flat on the table, use it in an upright position or even us it as a lap loom while you are sitting down in a comfortable chair. Additionally, it comes with a pickup stick, weaving needle and a shuttle. Due to its simple nature and the absence of any moving parts it can also be ideal as a weaving loom for kids.
For beginners with more serious ambitions we recommend the Schacht Cricket loom. With a weaving width of 15” it is big enough for most projects. It comes with an 8-dent reed and some additional goodies such as a threading hook, warping peg, shuttle etc. This model has indentations on one side which makes it suitable for lap loom weaving as well. Simple put the side with the indentations on the table and the other side and on your lap.
If you are looking for to do bigger projects, then the Ashford Weaving Rigid Heddle Loom is a good place to start. Even though it has a weaving width of 32” it is only around 10 pounds and is thus very portable, versatile and can be used for hand weaving. This model also comes with a reed nylon, 2 differently sized shuttles, threading hook, warping peg and clamp. Additionally, it comes with an instruction booklet
- Which weaving yarn should I use with my loom?
- Which weaving tools do I need in combination with my loom?