The Basics of Weaving
BY JANE PATRICK
»In weaving, two sets of elements — threads, With loom weaving, the first step is to put
or yarns, and paper strips, or pliable sticks, the warp on the loom — a process called
for instance — are interlaced. One set, the warp » warping. On a frame loom, the warp is placed
(vertical), is crossed by another, the weft (horizon- directly on the loom. More sophisticated looms
t »al). Together, warp and weft form a woven structure. r »equire more preparatory steps.
The most basic weave, called plain weave, Individual warp threads are referred to
is a simple over-under, over-under pattern. as warp ends, ends, or threads, and are
From this elementary basis, infinite variations are measured in ends per inch (epi). The weft is the set
p »ossible. of threads that cross the warp. Each line of weft is
called a pick or shot. If the weft is yarn, thread, rag
Weaving can be done without a loom, as in strips, or another long, flexible material, it’s usually
basket weaving, or with a loom, as in fabric w »ound onto a shuttle for easy handling.
weaving. In either case, the premise is the same:
t »wo sets of elements cross each other. You can pass the weft over and under alternate warp threads one at a time, or you
A loom is simply a device that holds the can lift alternate warp threads all at once to make
warp elements in place and taut, so that the a space for passing the shuttle through. This space
weft can be woven over-and-under across them. is called the shed. In a frame loom, a shed stick
A loom can be as simple as a picture frame or piece (or pick-up stick), a flat stick with pointy ends, is
of cardboard, or as sophisticated as a computer- inserted in the shed to hold it open for the shuttle
controlled machine. No matter the style or degree to pass through. The edge of the weaving, where
of sophistication, a loom’s primary function is to the shuttle exits and then re-enters to return to the
hold the warp. The main difference between a sim- other side, is called the selvedge. The fell line is the
ple frame loom and a complex loom is the amount last row of weft you’ve woven in the developing cloth
of work it will do for you. — the place where woven and unwoven warp meet.
THE ANATOMY OF A LOOM
Shuttle Holds the weft thread and carries it back and forth through the warp threads.
Heddle On a rigid heddle loom, raises alternate warp threads all at once.
Shed stick Used with a frame loom, it raises alternate warp threads.
Warp The vertical threads on the loom.
Shed The space between raised and lowered warp threads.
Cloth beam or front beam
Warp beam or back beam
Jane Patrick is the author of Time to Weave: Simply Elegant Projects to Make in Almost No Time (Interweave Press), on which
this article is based. Read her blog at