Unspun wool roving are fibers that have been carded and are ready to be spun into yarn. When used along with or in lieu of spun yarn, especially when dyed in such beautiful cotton candy colors, it becomes another element that can add so much more texture and depth to your weavings. Use it to fill your entire warp or in smaller amounts to create a variety of shapes and layers.
You can find wool roving in a variety of gorgeous dyed colors online. I searched Etsy first with the phrase 'wool roving' and found a variety of colors in bulk available, but I also wanted some smaller amounts. I then searched for 'wool roving samples' and came across a bundle with the pinks and reds shown. Each of the amounts I bought in the pink/red bundle are shown in this weaving. They each weighed about .25 oz and were about 12" wide. They could have been stretched or split to make thinner strands, but I wanted a bulky weaving. Just to give you a reference, the pack of 13 colors I purchased was about $11 plus shipping, but I probably won't use all of the sample colors as I only loved about 3/4 of them. The mint roving I purchased weighed 4 oz and was about 12' long. It cost about $10 and I've got a lot left over for future weavings. Just do some searching until you find the colors you want at a price you like.
– cotton yarn for warp and fringe
– 3' or so of wool roving in blue (or color of choice)
– four 12" lengths of wool roving in various shades of pink and red (or color of choice)
– chunky wool yarn in white or cream
– dowel rod cut to fit width of weaving (not shown)
– large tapestry needle
Step One: Warp your loom with your cotton yarn. I started my warp in the top left corner and ended it on the bottom right corner, but you can also end it on the top right corner for an even amount of tassels. Add your fringe to the bottom as shown in steps 3-8 in my Weaving Basics post. I cut three lengths of chunky yarn per peg for a total of 51 lengths. They were about 25" long each. You can always trim these up when you're finished with your weaving.
Step Two: Weave about 2"-3" from the base of your warp to fill space until you add your next fringe. Again, if you're unfamiliar with this step, review the Weaving Basics post mentioned in the last step before proceeding.
Step Three A: Cut cotton yarn or a yarn of different texture than the first layer of fringe below. I used three strands of cotton yarn per two strands of warp and then three more for the last strand since I ended my warp at the bottom instead of the top for a total of 51 strands again. These were about 16" long and then I trimmed them up a bit when I was done. Place your three strands under two rows of warp and then pull up in the center of your strands as shown.
Step Three B: Bring the ends of the strands in towards the part you pulled up and down through it. Tighten by gently pulling the ends down at the same time and adjusting things. You'll start on the first two warp strands and then add a fringe to the next two until you've made it all the way across.
Step Four B: Then I adjusted things so they looked neat and placed the fringe in front. If you end your warp at the top, you will have two strands here instead of one.
Step Five A: You are ready to add your roving. Just like with regular yarn, I like to always start about three strands in instead of on the very end. It makes for a cleaner edge in my opinion and helps keep the tails from sticking out. Tuck your tail under the outside right edge, and over the next warp strand and under the third warp strand. This gets you started without having to pull all of your roving through for just three strands.
Step Five B: Start your first official row by bringing the other end of your roving up and around the right edge so that it goes over that strand and then under the second strand in and over the third strand and so on.
Step Six: When working with roving, I skip using a needle and just use my hands. This process is a little bit slower, but weaving with roving usually is a quicker job anyway since each row takes up so much more space. I just hold it in the palm of my hand and use my fingers to pluck through every other strand, raise those strands up, and pass it through to my other hand.
Step Seven B: Then gently push your roving down to meet your fringe from the center out to each edge. This keeps each row from being too tight and creating an hourglass shape. The amount of tautness left can be adjusted to create a little bit of bubbling as seen in this example or a lot more bubbling as seen below.
Step Nine A: Weave a few rows with your length of roving. Once you get to one edge, cut off about 3" of a tail and wrap it either over or under the edge and tuck it into the next row. The tail should now be on the back of your weaving. Pick up where you left off with your cotton yarn and weave three rows to help the warp keep its intended width instead of pushing out too wide with the bubbled roving.
Step Nine B: Finish your cotton yarn about three strands from the edge and tuck your tail under again. Trim it off at about 3" long.
Step Ten B: Wrap it back over the edge strand and go over and under to the opposite edge. Be sure to do your arc as you push it down. I didn't want any bubbling in these roving rows, so I made a smaller arc and pulled it more taut as I pushed it down. Just be sure you don't pull so much that your warp edges pull in. Then wrap your end around the edge strand and weave it over the second and under the third to keep it in place.
Step Eleven A: Instead of starting my pink roving row where the tail of the red roving left off, I just tucked the tail of the pink roving in under the second strand, wrapped it over and around the first strand on the edge, back over the second strand and continued on. This keeps the rows full and even on both ends. If I were using regular yarn, I wouldn't worry about this and would just have picked up where I left off with the last color near the edge.
Step Eleven B: You'll gently push your roving rows down once you have woven all the way across. This locks the tail ends in so they won't unravel.
Step Twelve B: Start your next row as you did in step Eleven by starting with the tail tucked under the third strand from the edge, woven over the second strand, under the edge strand, over the top of the edge, and under the second strand again. Continue over and under to the opposite side.
Step Thirteen B: Then I repeated step eleven again. You can see the pattern of how the edges are tucked in on each side. Because roving is so bulky, it's rather forgiving for hiding these ends.
Step Fourteen: Weave another three rows of cotton yarn to help secure the width of your weaving and keep your roving in place. It isn't exactly necessary, but I wanted to make sure my roving didn't work its way out where I tucked it in at the top before I tied off the warp ends.
Step Fifteen: This is a close up of how your back side might look. I trimmed off the bulk of my roving tails but left enough that it won't slip out. I then used the leftover cotton yarn from the top rows and stitched over the roving ends and through the warp strands in between.
Step Sixteen: You can weave your way all the way to the top, but I wanted my design to only include these colors, so I stopped it here. Then I carefully unhooked the warp strands and tied them in loop knots as close to the top row of weaving as I could without pulling on the strands.
Step Seventeen: If you ended your warp on the bottom instead of the top, you'll have an uneven number. I chose to tie the three strands on the left side together. If you end your warp on the top, you'll have an even number and won't have to worry about this. I do like to work my way in from the edges as I tie off my warp strands to keep things from getting lopsided. Once these are all unhooked and knotted, gently pull your weaving off the bottom pegs as well.
Step Eighteen: Flip your weaving over and thread each knotted strand through your tapestry needle and stitch it through the back of your warp strands as shown. You can trim the ends or keep them. I kept mine. This act of stitching them through the back of the warp strands means they'll stay on the back side and out of the way for a cleaner finish at the top.
Step Nineteen: Cut a dowel, copper pipe, or stick so that it's about 2" wider than the width of your weaving. Then use more cotton thread and your tapestry needle to stitch it to the weaving. Tie a loop knot and loop it around one end of your dowel and then stitch under each knot you tied to keep your warp strands together in step sixteen. Space them out evenly once you've tied another loop knot for the opposite end. You only want a little bit of wiggle room between your dowel rod and your weaving.
There are a few tricks you can try with your roving if you want to experiment. Pull it apart to make thinner strands or twist it a bit to create a little more movement as you weave it through. Twist two different colors together for an altogether different effect. Use it in small spots as you weave with thinner yarn. Let the ends stick out in the middle for a different silhouette.
Use your imagination as you design your own weavings. It's always great to see what everyone else out there is designing, but I encourage you to look for ways to make your weaving your own—especially if you have plans to sell your work. It's so exciting to see a centuries old medium being revived and refreshed with fresh ideas and color schemes. Check out my new book, DIY Woven Art, for even more weaving instruction and inspiration. Happy weaving! –Rachel