Weaving has all the qualities we love in learning a new craft: You start with just a few supplies. Once you get going, it’s easy to find your flow. And with a little practice, you can get a beautiful result. We learned the basics from Haley K., a Production Designer in Hallmark Ornaments. As a textiles major, she was accustomed to working on large floor looms, making cloth that required planning and careful calculations. “Having to teach myself to create small, simple weavings let me do something I love in a new way,” she tells us. The designers in our weaving workshop discovered a lot to love, too.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: WEAVING WORKSHOP SUPPLIES
- Loom: This is the frame you’ll create on. You can make one from cardboard (see below), buy one in a kit, or construct one yourself. It can be teeny tiny or big giant—all based on your attention span or what you want to create. A 13×18 inch loom is a good starting size—it lets you create a good-sized piece and a get feel for techniques.
- Dowel rod: Get one a little wider than your loom to hang your weaving on after you finish.
- Cotton string: You want a fairly smooth string for the warp, because you’re going to touch and pass yarn through it, and you don’t want it to pill up.
- Yarn: The artists in the weaving workshop told me they stood in the yarn aisle for ages choosing colors and textures. I like to mix different weights—thin, thick, textured, smooth—especially with wall-hangings. For this project, you won’t be designing a pattern, so the variation all comes from the yarn.
- Roving: For more texture, grab a bunch of these fluffy fibers that haven’t been spun into yarn yet.
- Weaving needle: This is basically an oversized tapestry needle, with a bigger eye hole to fit big yarn. The longer it is, the faster your weaving will go.
- Weaving comb or fork: You’ll use this to pack each row down. If you don’t want to buy one, use a wide-toothed comb or a fork.
- Shed stick: This is a stick—kind of like a tongue-depressor—a little wider than your loom. You’ll run it over and under your warp to make weaving easier. It’s optional.
Make your first weaving an experiment: Don’t expect to love it. Just play with the yarn, try different techniques, and see what happens. Even better—try weaving out on a cardboard loom.
How to make a cardboard loom
- Use a piece of sturdy cardboard the size of the piece you want to make. (A box flap is great for this.)
- On each end, make marks about a quarter inch apart.
- Use scissors or a ruler and craft knife to cut a half-inch long notch at each mark.
- Add cotton string for your warp: Pull it up through the first notch on the left, then run the string down and through the first notch at the bottom, then around the back of the cardboard and up through the second notch. Continue until you’ve covered the front of your cardboard with your vertical warp.
For the cardboard loom practice pieces, we started simple: A couple of straight rows across the bottom. This way, you get a feel for how to use the needle, comb, and shed stick together to create your weaving.
Start at the bottom of the loom, and weave your first row over and under the warp. Then go back, this time going under and over.
Experimenting on a small loom means you can try techniques without spending a lot of time or using a lot of yarn. And if you don’t like the result, just pull it out and try something different.
How to add fringe with a rya knot
Weave at least a half inch as a base. To make the fringe:
- Cut pieces of yarn a little more than twice as long as you want your fringe to be.
- Center the yarn horizontally over two (or an even number) of warp threads.
- Pull the ends of the yarn on the right side through to the back, around the warp thread on the right, and through the middle of the warp threads.
- Repeat on the left, then pull the yarn taut and push it to the base.
Try geometric or organic shapes
It’s as easy as decreasing or increasing the number of stitches you make across the warp as you add the next row. Counting carefully as you go will result in even, geometric shapes—but freeform patterns are just as gorgeous.
Slide a shape cut out of card stock through the warp threads as a pattern. But keep in mind it’s easier to add rows above than below when you’re starting out.
Use your comb to push the weft down after every row. And be careful not to pull the yarn too tightly on either side—you’ll distort the weaving. This technique is called “bubbling.” Use your weft thread (yarn) in an arch shape to weave through the warp. Then press the yarn down in the center before packing down the edges. This will keep your edges from pulling in. (Check out the video in this post to see how it’s done.)
Adding texture with soumak weaving
I love using roving with the soumak stitch for extra texture and to make organic shapes.
- Push the roving under two warp threads.
- Pull the left end of the roving up and across four warp threads, then push it through to the back.
- Backtrack two warp threads, and pull it up through to the front.
- Then repeat—go forward four threads, through to the back, and up between the second and third threads.
Going back and forth, row by row, will give you a braided or herringbone look, since the slant of the stitch will go in opposite directions.
Don’t limit yourself to yarn! Add strips of fabric, paper, leather, or twigs.
Designer Tuesday S. loved weaving so much she invited friends over to do it again one night soon after our weaving workshop.
For me—because on my other loom you have to be really exact—it was cool to see people just go for it on these smaller looms. They weren’t afraid to experiment or try a stitch with no name.
When you end your weaving, make sure you leave enough warp at the top to tie it onto a dowel rod. As you get more comfortable with weaving, you can try other shapes—natural wood, even hoops. To secure the weaving, do a Hem Stitch before taking it off the loom.
There’s so much you can do with weaving. Hang it on a wall, create throw pillows, make purses—I’ve covered a foot stool with one.
Social Media Content Director Ashley G. started with thin yarn and a tight basket weave, and was a little afraid she’d never finish. She did, and the result is simple and beautiful.
The color palettes our artists chose varied from neutrals to bright, bold colors.
My first class in my major was a weaving class. I really took to it. It was amazing doing something people have been doing for thousands of years—but not many people are doing now. There’s no right or wrong way. I’m really able to express myself.
What new art or craft will you try this year? (We are here for you if you need ideas.) Tell us all about it—or better yet, show us. We’re on Instagram and Facebook.
Photography by Pat Bush.