If you learn one new medium this summer, let it be how to weave. It’s one of those centuries old traditions that is both practical (in certain forms) and beautiful and can be sort of soothing to the soul. Wall hangings are a great way to cut your teeth on weaving and add instant charm to your space. This tutorial is a simple wall hanging with a few different elements you’ll need to make your own interesting piece. It’s the first part in a series I’ve developed with Elsie and Emma to share what I’ve learned through trial and error in my own experiments with weaving. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in.
I decided late one afternoon in 2013 that I wanted to teach myself how to weave. I didn’t want to spend much money on a loom or even wait a few days for one to arrive at my doorstep, so I just found an old drawer from a dresser I had stashed in the garage, flipped it over, and nailed about 20 nails across the top and bottom. It was makeshift and a bit wonky, but it did its job, and I ended up with my first wall hanging. I was hooked.
Soon after, I made a weaving that I turned into a clutch, and even took on the monster project of weaving my own 4′ x 6′ rug from strips of fabric. This year I’ve woven and sold my first collection of wall hangings, given an aluminum chair a woven makeover, and taught my first class at a sponsored event to a group of lovely ladies in Denver. So, let this be a warning to you. If you finish your first one, you may or may not be able to stop there.
My first loom was the lap loom shown above. It’s definitely a starter loom and was great until one of the pegs snapped off. You can always learn on a makeshift frame or wide piece of wood with nails across the top and bottom (see below) or even a sturdy piece of cardboard. Once you decide weaving is officially your thing, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a larger, more durable loom. While there is a wide range in pricing on handmade looms, most of them are going to be worth the investment.
-Loom. My Lap Loom Model A was purchased through the Met, but you can sometimes find them on Amazon a bit cheaper. The Ashford Frame Loom is a great price point for beginners but a quick Etsy search will give you the latest and greatest from a variety of small business owners such as Oake and Ashe and Roving Textiles. When you’re ready for something more substantial, check out Meghan Bogden Shimek or Funem Studio (Belgium) for beautiful looms.
-Cotton yarn for the warp. The warp is the foundation of your weaving and goes up and down across the pegs of your loom.
-Yarn for your weft. This can be any size, thickness, or color you prefer. All of mine was purchased at Jo-Ann, as they had the best selection of large craft stores, but if you have a local yarn shop in your area, I suggest checking them out for special colors and natural fibers.
-Wooden dowel rod, copper pipe, stick, etc. Something sturdy and wider than your weaving by 1″ – 2″.
-Tapestry needle. This will be about 3″ long with a large eye and a blunt end.
-Shuttle. Mine came with my loom and is shown above with the U-shaped ends. This is for wrapping your weft yarn around and sliding through the opening that is made when your shed stick is raised. I tend to not use mine and just stick with using my needle.
-Shed Stick. This is the wooden object to the right of the shuttle above. It looks like a paint stirrer. This is woven through your warp and left there to help save time when you’re moving your shuttle through to create a new row. Some use two sheds, but I find it most efficient to leave only one in on this type of loom.
If you’re going to make your own loom from a piece of wood or a frame, use a ruler and mark every 1/2″ across the top and bottom or as wide as you’d like it. I suggest only making it about 8″ – 10″ tall for your first. Mine was made in a hurry, so it ended up being slightly crooked, but it still got the job done. If you’re using cardboard, just cut a piece the size you’d like and tape one end of your warp yarn to the back near the top left corner and wrap it around every 1/3″ or so, and tape the other end on the back near the bottom right corner. You’ll just use the warp on the front of the cardboard.
Gather your yarn. I love mixing textures, so I tend to use at least three different textures in my wall hangings. Chunky yarns make for quicker work as they take up more space than smaller yarns, so keep that in mind when you’re making your selection. I gravitate towards tonal colors with lots of white, so I have used two pinks and two greens along with two textures of white. One of the biggest factors in any new project looking great is a great selection of colors. Scan Pinterest for color pairings that catch your eye, and maybe even make a folder to reference when you’re ready to start a new weaving.
Step Two: Continue on to make it as wide as you’d like, and finish with another loop knot. This will allow you to add a tassel to that last peg. You don’t want your warp to be too loose or too tight. As your warp fills with weaving, it will become more taut, so keep that in mind. Gently pressing down should even out any uneven sections.
Step Three: To create your tassels at the bottom of your weaving, cut a length of yarn and fold it in half and then in half again. I suggest between 15″ – 20″, and you can always trim it up when you’re done.
Step Four: You’ll make one of these per peg at the bottom, and slip the center of your folded fringe over the first warp string and under the second and then back to the top.
Step Six: Pull gently so that the knot tightens.
Step Eight: Do the same for your last peg by going through the loop knot and finishing it up.
Step Nine: Thread your tapestry needle with about 4′ of yarn for your first layer of color. I always like to start about three warp strands in so that my tails don’t stick out on the sides. To do this, skip the first three warp strands, and then go under the fourth and over the fifth and under the sixth, etc.
Step Ten: Repeat over and under until you get to the other side. For the sake of consistency, treat that last loop knot as a single warp strand.
This is when your shed can cut your weaving time in half. I wove my shed stick over and under and over and under all the way across and left it there, so that every time I need to weave from the right to the left I can stand it up and easily pull the needle through. If you’re using a shuttle (the stick with the U-shaped ends above), then you’d wrap your yarn around that instead of using a needle, and then you’d slide it through that space created when you stand your shed up. Scoot your shed up as you add weaving so that it’s always about 4″ above your last row. Once you get to the top, you may have to ditch it, as there won’t be much room.
Step Eleven: When you’re pulling your yarn through, pull up to the opposite corner, and then gently push the yarn down so that it rests snugly on top of the previous row. Some use a fork for this step, but I find my own hands to be just as effective with these thicker yarns. If you start with smaller yarn, you’ll want to try using a fork and see what you think.
Step Twelve: Keep going over and under the opposite of the row before until you reach the side where you started. If you end on an under, then wrap it over and continue. If you pull your yarn out on a row, it’s usually because you didn’t wrap around the outer strand.
Step Thirteen: When you get to the end of the yarn or would like to switch colors, end on an under, and keep the 3″ – 4″ tail tucked in the back. Be sure to leave about that much so that you can stitch it under and hide it on the backside.
Step Fourteen: To continue the same color or add another color, stick the tail of the new cut of yarn under, and leave a 3″ – 4″ tail. It should go under so that it looks like it’s picking up where the last piece of yarn left off.
Step Sixteen: Add another layer or two, but finish on the end this time.
Step Eighteen: I chose two warp strands a little bit in from the edge and wove my three green pieces through them both.
Step Twenty: Next I grabbed the loose ends and pulled them down through the raised strands.
Step Twenty-Two: I counted strands so that I got three rya knots on the left and three on the right. Once I was done, I gave them a trim.
Step Twenty-Three: Now it’s back to weaving with the yarn we set aside. I wrapped it around the edge one extra time to help fill in the blanks from the space the rya knots were taking up. Then I continued under the warp strands that held my rya knots and picked back up for over and under in the center and then went behind all the rya knot strands. This filled in the space between the two sets of rya knots.
Step Twenty-Five: I then continued back the other way, going over and under all the way across.
Step Twenty-Seven: I found the center of my warp and used the same method to make another rya knot. I kept my strands longer than the green ones, but shorter than the white tassels, to create layers and keep the eye moving.
Step Twenty-Eight: After adding another section of peach with the basic over and under weaving technique, I decided to start a soumak stitch. This can create a braided effect and add some stronger texture to your piece. This time I did start from the edge and came up from under the outer warp strand and then wrapped back around it and came back up after the second warp strand. I made sure to leave a 4″ tail to tuck in later.
Step Twenty-Nine: I wrapped back to the left and then came up after the third warp strand.The trick is to go forward two strands and then back one strand each time.
Step Thirty-One: I finished until I got to the end. You can see how the pattern is different from the basic over and under.
Step Thirty-Three: Wrap back to the right, and then come up after the third strand from the edge.
Step Thirty-Four: Wrap back to the right, and then come up after the fourth strand from the edge. Repeat until you’re all the way across that row. You’ll wrap around the other edge and then be done. It should look like a braid.
Step Thirty-Five: I then added another layer of peach before starting with my chunkiest yarn. Again, I started from about four rows in, and instead of going over and under every other strand, I did two strands at a time. This creates a basketweave. It’s just another way to add texture and keep things from feeling monotonous. I added four rows of that and then another few layers of light green in a thin yarn to lock things down.
Step Thirty-Six: Once I was done with adding more yarn, I flipped my weaving over to clean up the back. In the past I’ve just tied random ends together and trimmed them, but that can get bulky. The preferred method is to take each tail in your needle and stitch them through the back side of some of the yarn. Then you remove the needle and trim the ends.
Step Thirty-Seven: Here’s a shot of the messy back and the green that has been tucked in nicely and trimmed.
Flip it back over, and carefully cut your warp strands two at a time and about 4″ – 6″ above your last row of yarn. You’ll want enough that you can tie a knot and then fold them behind your weaving and tuck them in just like the last step. Tying a knot secures your weaving from falling apart. Once all of your warp strands are tied in knots, you can gently pull it off the bottom pegs.
Using more warp yarn, tie a knot in one end, and stitch through each knotted strand and up and over your dowel rod, copper pipe, driftwood, etc. I have these on hand, so I used them, but dowel rods are much cheaper.
Weaving can seem so intimidating to a beginner, but it’s one of my favorite mediums. For more weaving inspiration and step-by-step photos for creating a variety of woven projects, check out my new book, DIY Woven Art. It’s a great resource for beginners! –Rachel
Credits// Author: Rachel Denbow. Photography: Rachel Denbow. Edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.