Take a look around. Do you see anything that is woven?
Clothing, blankets, and curtains are just some examples I can see right now.
The basics of loom weaving have stayed the same for the past decades. As a result, weaving has been considered a boring activity only meant for lonely spinsters and grandmothers.
But the times have changed!
Weaving is making a huge comeback amongst creatives and art-enthusiasts. It’s a great way to spend your free time in a relaxing way and be productive at the same time. If you get the hang of weaving with a loom, you will soon be able to wear your own hand-made items.
However, using a weaving loom for the first time is quite tricky.
This guide will help you choose the best weaving supplies and teach you how to use them.
Finding the Best Weaving Loom for Beginners
First things first. You won’t be able to do any weaving without owning a loom.
There are many different types of looms and you will be able to choose from many different brands. Looms can be categorized into two different types.
Basic Beginner Loom
The first weaving loom type has a very basic design; a rectangular frame made out of wood with a row of needles on two opposing sides.
This simplicity makes them good beginner looms. While weaving you can clearly see what is going on and you can get a good understanding of the weaving process. Additionally, it is easier to learn some basic weaving loom patterns for beginners on these weaving frames.
If you are the type of person that likes simplicity and control, we recommend using the Beka Weaving Loom. This weaving loom is made from hard maple wood and is 20” x 23”. You can place it flat on a table or in an upright position. Since it is pretty lightweight, you can even sit down in your favorite chair and use it as a lap loom while weaving. This model even comes with a pickup stick, weaving needle and a shuttle, which a useful weaving tools to have.
Best Rigid Heddle Loom for Beginners
The second loom type we recommend beginners is the rigid heddle loom. The rigid heddle loom is a compromise between the basic weaving frame mentioned above and an industrial weaving loom.
A quick glance at the rigid heddle loom will reveal some extra components that you won’t see on a basic weaving frame. As a result, mastering this type of loom will take some extra time. Additionally, the price point of these looms is much higher. Therefore, we only recommend the rigid heddle loom to beginners that are fully committed to weaving and will use it regularly.
If you are passionate about weaving and ready for a challenge, we recommend the Ashford Weaving Rigid Heddle Loom. Depending on the size of the loom, you will have a weaving width of 16” to 32”. Using the front bar will let you make your weave as long or as short as you want. It even comes with some goodies such as a shuttle, threading hook, warping peg and instructional booklet on how to use a weaving loom.
If you want to know more, check out our article on finding the Best Weaving Looms For Beginners.
Essential Weaving Tools
A weaving loom is really the only thing you need to start weaving. There are a lot of weaving tools out there. Some people swear by particular tools, while others never use them. However, there are a few weaving tools that everyone should consider buying. These tools will make weaving much more easy, faster and enjoyable.
If you plan on weaving something big you will need lots of yarn. Working with a big ball of yarn is inconvenient. Not only is it difficult to move it through the warp threads, you might end up with a big bundle of knots. This is where the weaving shuttle kicks in.
The shuttle is normally a piece of wood or plastic you can wrap the yarn you are using around. There are several different versions such as the stick shuttle, the boat shuttle, and the ski shuttle. Since they are pretty similar, you won’t need to worry that much about their individual pros and cons when buying one. Anyone into loom weaving should use a weaving shuttle, regardless of your loom type or if you are a beginner or experienced weaver.
Shed Stick and Weaving Sword
The shed stick and weaving sword are two different terms for the same thing. While weaving on a basic loom, you will need to pass the yarn over and under a certain number of warp threads to create a pattern. To speed up this process, you can insert the shed stick into the warp threads. By changing the shed stick from a horizontal to the vertical position you can lower or raise a set of threads. You can then pass the shuttle through in a single swoop.
If you are using a rigid heddle loom, the built-in reed already functions as a shed stick. Therefore you don’t necessarily need one. However, for some advanced loom weaving patterns, you will still need an additional shed stick with your rigid heddle loom.
Some weaving looms already come with these tools. In that case, you don’t need to buy a second copy. Of course, there are many other tools out there. If you are interested in discovering other tools like the warping peg or weaving comb, then give our article on the best weaving tools a try.
Choosing the Right Yarn for Weaving
Your final weave will exist for 100% out of yarn. Obviously, finding the perfect yarn for your projects is an important task. Using
Using low-quality yarn will lead to scarfs that shrink every time you wash them or tapestries that easily tear apart.
Good quality yarn, a variety of different colors and the right weaving technique are the secrets to creating interesting weaves.
When choosing yarn, you want to keep the type and the size of the yarn in mind.
The yarn you buy in the store is spun from fibers. These fibers can either be natural or synthetic. The most common natural fibers are cotton, hemp, linen and wool. On the other hand, synthetic yarn is normally spun from acrylic or polyester.
Every type has its own characteristics and you should familiarize yourself with the most common ones. For example, a warm blanket for winter will be best when woven from sheep wool, while a T-shirt for summer should be woven cotton.
If you are weaving tapestries or wall hangings, feel free to play around with the different types of yarn. You can even use different types in the same project to create interesting effects.
Synthetic yarn doesn’t have the same comfortable feel like many of the natural yarns. However, synthetic fibers are relatively cheap and beginning weavers can use them for practice.
Yarn Size and Yarn Weight
The second important factor to consider is the yarn size, also known as the yarn weight. The weight indicates how thick or thin the yarn is spun in the form of a number from 1 to 7. The numbers are categorized as follows:
- Super Fine / fingering
- Fine / sport
- Light / DK
- Medium / Worsted
- Super Bulky
If you just started loom weaving, you might want to experiment with a variety of yarn types and yarn sizes. You can only get a good feel of what every yarn is for by using them yourself.
We recommend beginning weavers to buy the set of 50 skeins offered by TYH Supplies to practice. These skeins are 100% acrylic and have a yarn weight of 3. Every color is 20 meters long for a total of over 1 km.
If you got the hang of weaving on a loom you can upgrade your collection of yarns by purchasing different yarn of different types and weights. You might be surprised by the beautiful color patterns some yarns have if you look around. Some of our favorites are “Kitchen Breeze” or “Pretty Pastels.”
For more details, read our guide on the best weaving yarns.
How to Use a Weaving Loom
Now that you have a weaving loom, some of the basic weaving looms and your favorite yarn, you are ready to start weaving. In this article we will go over the three basic things you need to know to start: how to warp a loom, the basic loom weaving patterns and techniques for beginners, and how to finish and remove your weave from the loom.
How to Warp a Loom?
The method of setting up the warp for your loom depends on the type of loom you own. As you can imagine, a basic weaving loom like the Beka Weaving Loom is pretty straightforward to set up. Whereas warping a rigid heddle loom will take a few extra step.
Warping a Basic Weaving Loom
If you are using the Beka Weaving Loom we recommended, you probably won’t have too much difficulty warping the loom. You want to tie the yarn to the first nail on one side of the loom. Then pull the yarn and wrap it around the nail on the opposite side. You go back and forth like this until you reached the last nail. Secure the warp by tying another knot at the last nail.
The trick is to have even tension throughout the entire warp. So before you start weaving, check if all the threads are even by slightly pushing on them. If there is a small bounce you are good to go. If some threads are hanging loose, you can pull and tug some of the threads to distribute the tension.
Warping a Rigid Heddle Loom
When working with a rigid heddle loom, you have two extra things to consider. First of all, you need to decide how long your weave is going to be and adjust your warp to the appropriate length. This is easiest to do if you have a tool called the warping peg. Secondly, you will have to pass all the thread through the holes in the reed.
To get started, knot your yarn onto the side of the front bar. Then pass it through the first slot of the reed, go around the warping peg and go back through the same slot in the reed.
If you have difficulty moving the yarn threads through the small slots, you can consider using a weaving hook or weaving needle.
Now move the weaving yarn around the front bar and repeat this process until you have filled up all the slots or reached the width you want your weave to be. After filling the last slot, you want to knot the yarn on the front bar again and cut away the remaining yarn.
Take the huge loop off the warping peg and cut it. Roll up the warp thread by rotating the front bar until the warp threads you just cut approaches the apron bar at the end of the rigid heddle loom. While rolling up the warp threads, you can place a layer of packing paper between the threads to protect them.
Remember you have two threads through every slot in the reed? You have to remove one thread per slot and move them to the smaller hole in the middle of the reed. This way you divide the warp threads into two different sections, which makes it easy to separate them while weaving.
After adjusting all the threads appropriately, you can attach the loose yarn ends on the cut side by knotting them to the apron bar.
Indeed, warping a rigid heddle loom is a lot of work for beginners and experts alike. There is no easy shortcut here. But you can easily earn back the time you spend on warping the loom due to the much faster weaving speed.
Basic Loom Weaving Technique for Beginners
The weaving process is defined by three fundamental steps that you will repeat over and over again. Although the exact execution of these steps might change a little from loom to loom, make sure you understand each step.
- Shedding: this is the first step of the weaving process in which you separate the warp threads such that the weft yarn can pass through it easily. If you use a basic weaving frame this can be obtained by rotating the shedding stick from a horizontal to vertical position. If you use a rigid heddle loom, you can simply move the reed from the upper position to the lower position and vice versa.
- Picking: this simply means moving the weft thread through the warp thread you have opened during the shedding phase. If you are using on big projects that involve lots of yarn, consider using a shuttle.
- Battering: after every row of weaving you want to batter (also known as beating) the weft threads to make sure they are compact and create a uniform consistency. Rigid heddle loom users can move the reed to beat the weft into position. If you are using a weaving frame you can use a weaving comb or improvise with your fingers or a fork.
Loom Weaving Patterns for Beginners
Weaving has been around for many decades already. As a result, people have come up with many different patterns to create interesting designs. However, as a beginner, it is best to get a firm grasp of the basics first.
The Plain Weave
The plain weave is what comes to mind when most people think of weaving. It is the most basic weaving patterns and easiest to start with. It results in a strong and hard-wearing weave that is can be used for many types of clothing.
To do a plain weave, move the weft thread alternatively goes over and under a single warp thread. On your way back, you will do the exact opposite; the weft will go under first and then over. This gives the well-known checkerboard pattern.
The plain weave pattern is shown below.
The basket weave is a slight adaptation of the plain weave. If you mastered the plain weave, learning the basket weave will be a breeze. Whereas in the plain weave you move over and under individual warp threads, when doing the basket weave the weft threads will go over a 2 or more warp threads and then go under the same amount of warp threads.
For example, you can go over the first 2 warp thread and under the next 2 threads.
Check the difference between the plain weave pattern and basket weave pattern shown below.
The twill weave is another fundamental weaving pattern. The twill weave gives the well-known diagonal patterns. This is achieved by moving the weft over several warp threads and then offset one or several threads.
Twill patterns are characterized by a fraction such as 3/1 or 2/2. The first digit indicates the number of warp threads the weave will go over. And the second digit tells you the number of warp threads the weft will go under.
Take the 3/1 twill weave as an example. First, you will go over warp threads 1-3, then under warp thread 4 and then go over warp threads 5-7, etc. In the second row, you go under warp thread 1, over threads 2-4, under thread 5, etc. Starting at the next thread every single row gives the diagonal design.
The pattern below shows the 3/1 twill weave.
Finishing and Removing the Weave from the Loom
If you came this far you probably just finished weaving your first project. Congratulations!
Now it’s time to finish the loom weaving process by removing the weave from the loom. If you are using the Beka Weaving frame you can cut off the knots on the first and last needle and carefully take off the loops on the remaining needles.
To prevent your weave from falling apart you will have to knot every single loop. You can use an overhand knot for this or any other knots you know. Pay some special attention to the two strings at the ends. You either knot these strings with an adjacent loop or use a weaving needle to weave it back into the weave.
Removing your Weave from a Rigid Heddle Loom
Just like setting up a rigid heddle loom, removing the weave from one take some extra effort.
Start off by cutting the yarn that is attached to the apron bar at the back of the loom. Then remove the loose warp threads from the reed by softly pushing down on the weave. Unroll your entire weave from the front bar and remove it by untying the bow ties.
Now you have your entire weave removed from the weaving loom, but you still need to knot all the tassels to make sure your weave doesn’t unravel and fall apart. You will probably notice that even after knotting, the tassels on one side are longer than the other ones. Simply use a pair of scissors to cut them both to the same length.
If you want to learn more weaving patterns or if you need more detailed weaving instructions, read our step by step guide on How to Use a Weaving Loom.