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Loom Weaving: Techniques, Patterns & Supplies

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever worn a warm wool sweater or wrapped yourself in a colorful afghan? Both of these textiles are woven. In this lesson, explore the process of weaving as well as some of its tools and techniques.

Basics of Weaving

Weaving is an interesting and fun process that can be used to create beautiful unique fabrics. But how is it done?

First, let's review basics. Weaving is the process of creating a textile by interlacing two types of threads called a warp, which runs vertically, and the weft, which runs horizontally. It's an old art form and one that only needs simple equipment. Most important among those is a loom, basically a wooden frame that holds the warp threads in tension so weft threads can be worked over and under them in horizontal rows.

All over the world, people in many cultures practice weaving. Using a loom, they've developed weaving techniques that result in different surface patterns on the fabric. Let's explore a few of them.

Weaving Techniques and Patterns

The most basic type of weave is a plain weave, in which the weft passes over and under every warp thread. To make it, start on the left side, take a weft thread, weave it over the first warp thread, and then go under the second. Repeat this process until you get to the last warp thread. Then begin another row with the weft thread, this time working from the right until you return to the left edge. Continue this process until the desired length of fabric is reached.

Example of a plain weave
plain weave example

To create a twill weave, take the weft thread and pass it over two warp threads, then go under one warp thread, and then pass over two more warps. Again, start on the left, work to the right, and when you reach the right edge, begin the process over again, this time working right to left. Weaving in this manner creates a pattern of diagonal lines in the fabric and a fabric with two sides that look different.

Another type of weave is the herringbone or chevron weave. This method creates an arrow pattern on the woven surface. Again, begin on the left side. Take a weft thread over two warp threads and then under two warp threads. Continue to the right edge and then add another row, working from right to left.

Repeat this pattern of over and under for five or six rows, then reverse it to create diagonals going in the other direction. Repeat this new pattern for another five to six rows and then return to the first pattern. Creating this type of weave isn't difficult, but you have to remember to shift the weaving pattern at your chosen number of rows to effectively create the surface pattern.

Example of a herringbone or chevron weave
herringbone or chevron weave

Tools

Weaving doesn't require many tools, but there are some that make the process easier. A shed stick, also called a weaving sword, is a thin wood slat that fits between the warp threads. The shed stick is turned on its side (so it's vertical) to create a small gap between the warp threads. This gap is called the shed and it makes weaving easier. At its most basic, a shed stick looks like a small wooden ruler that stands on its thin side.

Another useful tool is a tapestry beater or weaving fork. It has tines that, as the name implies, look like a fork. It's used to press down on the weft threads to ensure a consistent, tight weave.

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