Frame loom weaving
How to weave a textured wall hanging
Want to make your first steps into weaving but no idea where to start? Frame looms are one of the best starting points for a complete novice, as they are inexpensive and very simple to use.
That said, don’t think they are only for beginners! Great artists out there create absolutely stunning pieces on these kinds of looms! The simpler the tool, the bigger the creative potential very often, or:
“Art isn’t in the tools, material, equipment you use. It’s in the way you see the world.”
For me, frame loom weaving is often a creative, spontaneous sidekick besides my floor loom sessions, where I have to count and pay attention all the time.
I divide frame loom weaving into three big categories:
- textured frame weaving
- geometric frame weaving
- pictorial frame weaving
Textured weaving is in this division the easiest to start with as irregularities and “errors” are part of the game. It’s a bit like playground time. You can mix and play around without too many restrictions or rules and the result is always so satisfying.
The only real “rules” for me, in order to create a great textured wallhanging, are two things:
- Use and mix a lot of different, especially differently textured yarns and
- PLAY! Give yourself permission to let go of your perfectionism and simply play around with colours, textures and materials. Find your flow!
I hope this article can teach you the very basics of how to weave a textured wall hanging so you can dive in right away.
1. Materials and preparation:
On the left, a typical weaving kit with all the necessary materials:
- a frame loom with optional heddle bar
- at least two stick shuttles
- comb, needle and scissors
- cotton warp thread
- a LOT of different fibres: thick cotton string, wool, velvet, recycled silk ribbon, unspun fibre…everything you can imagine in fact.
(I show here as an example the “Neutrals weaving kit from Funem” in the front. It contains everything you need to start right away. I added the raphia, the pistachio fibre and the golden thread additionally).
Before we start, some important vocabulary to know, I’ll use here all the time:
- Warp: the warp is the ensemble of vertical threads you fix on your weaving loom. It needs to be strong and fixed with even tension on the loom. A strong cotton thread is a good yarn to start with as a warp. The action to put the warp on the loom is called warping.
- Weft: the weft is the yarn you use to weave perpendicular to the warp. Here you can use whatever yarn or fibre you want to, especially when doing textured weaving.
- Plain weave: Plain weave is the basic and perhaps the most important weaving structure you will use mostly with frame looms. It consists of guiding your weft over one warp string and then under the next for a whole row and doing the opposite the following row. These two rows together form plain weave or sometimes called tabby, too.
2. Warping your loom:
When you have all your materials ready the next step is to warp your loom with the cotton thread.
(I wrote an article only about this question: How to warp a simple frame loom in under 20 min, so I’ll go here a bit faster. If you have a doubt have a look at the other post.)
- Make a knot around the base bar, best is a double knot, it has to be tight
- Start to go up and down with your thread from the base bar to the top bar and wrap the string around the notches (not around the bar!).
- At the same time pass the thread always through the heddle bar, but only through the deep notches.
- Continue in this way the width of your wall hanging. Remember: you are not obliged to start with the first notch and you don’t have to warp the full width either.
- Once you warped the width you want, warp backwards. You warp a second time around the notches of the base and top bar, but this time you pass through the smaller notches of the heddle bar.
- Finish at the same point you’re started and make another double knot around the base bar.
- Insert at the bottom of your warp a “spacer”, for example a piece of cardboard, to leave some space for the finishing at the end.
- Wrap your shuttles with the weft yarn you want to use first. In general, the shed on a frame loom isn’t very big, so don’t fill up your shuttle too much.
- When you want to make fringes, weave at least 4 rows of plain weave with your warp cotton thread in order to build a stable base for your finishing knots.
- Here we are – ready to go!
3. Basic techniques for a textured woven wall hanging
Basic plain weave
Plain weave is a flat weave. You can easily create shapes and cover a lot of space with it. It’s also the foundation and stabilization for other, more textured stitches and serves as a transition between these areas.
As explained above plain weave is THE basic weave structure to know:
You go with your weft over one warp string and then under the next for a whole row and do the opposite the following row. This means in fact that you go over every second thread in one row and in the next row under these same threads.
When you have a frame loom with a heddle bar this under-over movement is quite simple – it’s the bar that produces this effect by turning it in one or the other sens.
- For the first row of plain weave for example turn the bar upwards. The warp threads will split into two groups and in between a space, called the shed. This shed serves to pass your shuttle with weft yarn from one end to the other.
- Next turn your bar downwards, the threads split in the opposite way and you can pass your shuttle again. Beat these rows down firmly with your comb. Your first two rows of plain weave are done! Easy Peasy!
But what if you don’t have a heddle bar? The simplest frame looms often don’t have one.
No panic, you can naturally weave without, too.
They’re in fact two ways:
- First, you can simply weave without any other tool and do the over-under movement with your shuttle without creating a shed over the whole width. It’s possible, but often very tedious as the shuttle is packed with weft yarn and doesn’t slide easily.
- The other possibility is to create in a way for your own bar. For this, you’ll need a supplementary wooden stick, a little larger than your loom. Insert this stick for the first row in the over-under way and once you picked up the threads across the full width you twist the stick so that is standing upright on the sides of your loom. A shed is open and you can now easily pass your shuttle with weft yarn through. Unfortunately, for the next, the opposite row, you have to pull out the stick and reinsert it in the opposite way. This might seem like double work, but try it out, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to insert an empty stick in this way than try to pass without an open shed your shuttle.
Rya knots are in fact knots used for traditionally rug making.
You can use these knots everywhere in your weaving, but in textured wall hangings, they’re used mostly to make fringes.
The most important thing is to understand that these knots aren’t stable on their own: After one row of knots, you always have to make two rows of plain weave to stabilize them.
Another thing about rya knots: I use them here as fringes, so I don’t cut them down. Normally, when used for rug weaving, these knots are cut until only 1-2cm of height is left. This gives the typical rug “flor” look.
1. Cut your fringes the length you want. To produce always the same length, wrap your yarn several times around something, for example your hand, and cut them open afterwards. Prepare in this way a bundle of fringes.
2. Depending on the thickness of your yarn, take one or several of these fringes and hold them horizontally above the first two warp threads.
3. Roll the right part of your fringe around the right warp thread and the left part around the left thread.
4. Pull out both sides to the front and afterwards pull this knot downwards. Pay attention not pulling too much, you don’t want to deform the warp spaces.
5. You’ll notice that in fact, these are not real knots. So next you have to weave two rows of plain weave to stabilize them.
6. After your two plain weave rows you can attack the second row of knots. Start this time with the second and third warp thread in order to fill out the space better and give an impression of volume.
7. You can make as many rows of fringes as you want. I do always at least two. You can naturally make your rows in different colours or you can even use different colours in the same row or only make one fringe in another colour…give your imagination free rein! That’s the fun part of it!
Soumak is another rug making technique.
It produces an interesting braided effect which adds immediately texture and volume to each woven piece. I like it most in a contrasting colour or done with wool roving.
You work soumak with a long tail of yarn you wrap around each warp string. It’s a kind of circular movement I find quite relaxing. You can use 1,2 or even 4 warp threads to wrap your yarn around, depending on the thickness of yarn you use as weft. Soumak consists of two opposite rows and – the same as for rya- you have to stabilize these “false” knots afterwards with two rows of plain weave.
- You start the row under the first thread at the right. Leave only 5-6cm of yarn outside to tuck in later.
- Work from the right to the left. Wrap the yarn tail over 1 or 2 warp threads going to the left, enter backwards, pass behind one of these warp threads going back to the right and come out again to the front.
- Go with your weft over the next 1 or 2 warps threads to the left, enter backwards… and so on all the way through.
- When you turn around to create the second row, wrap the weft around one warp thread to the right, come back behind one warp thread to the left and so on.
- You should see a kind of braid or V-shape appear.
Weaving with roving
Roving is fibre before it has been spun into yarn.
It’s one of my favourite materials to work with as it adds immediately texture, volume and warmth and because it’s simply a pleasure to touch. It’s often my highlight in a woven piece.
I add it always by hand, as it’s very fragile and you can rip it off easily. I use it in general in two ways:
- as regular plain weave: In this case, do a row (or a part of a row) in plain weave and afterwards pull out randomly some bumps of roving between the warp strings. Attention to stabilize at least every second row of roving with a plain weave row in a finer yarn.
- in form of a soumak braid: use your roving for a soumak braid in the way described above.
When you use roving pay attention to always rip it off instead of cutting it apart with scissors!
Looping is a great technique to form another type of pile or texture. You can combine loops with rya or soumak, let your imagination run wild!
You pass a simple plain weave row and afterwards, you pull out this weft pick to create loops. The challenge can be to create consistent loops and how to arrange them (but naturally, you are not obliged to make them consistent).
As for the previous techniques, the loops themselves are very unstable on their own. After one row of loops, you need absolutely at least one row of plain weave to stabilize the whole construction.
1. Pass a weft pick.
2. Working in the direction of the weft, pull up loops between the warp threads, as many and as often as you want to. If you want consistent loops, wrap these loops around something, for example, a rod. Otherwise use only your fingers and pay attention to the previous loops stay outside when pulling up the next one.
3. Add a row of plain weave and beat him down very firmly to stabilize.
4. You can now pull out the rod if you used one.
There are several steps to finish your wall hanging once you’ve finished the proper weaving part:
1. Turn your tapestry over and work on the back. First tuck in all the tails hanging on the back or the side. For this, take your tapestry needle and enter the ends behind two or three rows of weaving and afterwards cut them off.
2. Pull out the “spacer” cardboard at the bottom. Cut off the warp loops one by one from the bottom bar. But attention: Only cut off one pair at a time and knot these two threads together firmly with a double knot. When you cut off several at the same time you risk getting lost and forgetting to knot one! (Guess why I know this…).
3. Now you can work on the upside part. Here no cutting is necessary, Pull out one loop at a time behind the notches and add an overhand knot on each of these top loops, paying attention to knot firmly against the last row without deforming it.
4. Everything is secure. You can choose now how to hang up your wall hanging. The easiest way is to insert a driftwood stick in the upside loops but you can find many other ways over the Internet, have a look.
5. Hints and Tricks so everything goes smoothly
1. Straight edges
One of the most difficult things for every weaver is to keep the edges straight and neat. They have the tendency to pull in and deform in this way your weaving. On the other hand, they shouldn’t be too loose either.
A technique employed by weavers and tapestry weavers is to hold the weft either at a 45° angle before beating it down or to make “mountains and hills”.The first one is used mostly by weavers and the second one by tapestry weavers, test which one you prefer.
2. Puckering / bulging tapestry
When just cut off the loom most tapestries will be a bit bulging or puckering. This is completely normal. Lay them down in this case backside facing you and give them a good steam boost with a hot iron for several minutes moving the iron up and down. This will relax the whole weaving, some fibres will even bloom a bit and have more cohesion. I find the effect of a simple steam boost always so surprising. It can really change a woven piece form “mehh” to “wow”!
3. Hidding weft ends on the go
No one loves hiding 20-30 weft ends once the weaving is finished. I know, in the creative flow stage, no one wants to think about finishing either, but it can really be a good idea. You don’t even need a needle when you do it right away.
So, my advice: Tuck in the weft ends immediately when you finish or start a yarn.
To do so, simply wrap the end around the last warp thread, insert it into the open shed for 1cm or so and pull the rest outside to the backside. Continue your weaving as normal. The weft threads are fixed in this way and you can simply snip them with your scissors without any other finishing in the very end.
6. One last word to finish
As said at the beginning of this article, the most important things in a textured wall hanging are for me the materials.
Texture, texture, texture… this kind of wallhanging is all about texture…try to mix and match shining materials against muted ones, textured yarns side by side with smooth fibres, effect yarns or glamourous ones with natural hemp… The contrast between these different materials adds interest and a certain kind of tension…recycled sari silk, linen, cotton string, velvet ribbons, wool roving…today you really have so many choices and possibilities to play around with…and naturally don’t forget about colour!