A woven wall hanging is usually made on a frame or tapestry loom, but can also be made using a floor loom (although typically floor/table looms are used to make woven fabric rather than a wall hanging, but I don't want to be the one to limit creativity). Whichever loom is chosen the weaving is created using a warp thread and weaving in the weft using different stitching techniques and an array of fibers to create the desired visual effect The finished weaving can then be attached to a piece of wood or dowel or framed and hung on a wall.
Another method of creating a woven wall hanging is to create a macrame piece where sections are purposely left open to be woven. It is typically referred to as a macraweave wall hanging, but some people may call it a woven wall hanging because it's a more common phrase and is easier to describe marketing-wise.
What is a frame loom?
A frame loom is one of the most beginner friendly ways to explore the craft of weaving. It can also be referred to as a lap loom. There are many different already made frame looms out there in a variety of price ranges and a variety of options, but it is very
What are tension bars?
If you purchased an already made frame loom you may have moveable tension bars at the top and bottom. These allow you to adjust the warp strings as you weave to maintain the tension (you don't want it to loosen too much as you weave). Another positive to having tension bars is it makes it easier to incorporate a heedle bar.
What is a heedle bar?
A heedle bar lifts one set of warp strings (every other string) when turned and lift another when turned back, making it very easy to do a tabby/plain under over weave. Can you only use a heedle bar if you have tension bars? No. You can use a heedle bar on any weaving, but if you don't have tension bars you'll just have to warp with the heedle bar in place rather than inserting it later. Is a heedle bar necessary? No. In fact, while I had my partner make one for my loom, I have yet to use it. Shhhh, don't tell. I thought it was necessary when I first started, but I like weaving highly textured pieces so it turns out I rarely tabby weave. Also, not every loom comes with a heedle bar and because each frame loom has notches at different increments you may not have the option to add a heedle bar in later. If you think you'll be doing a lot of tabby weaving and you would like to order rather than make your own frame loom, try using a brand that has the option to order a heedle bar separately (so you can add that in later), or find a kit that already has one, but know that they are usually more expensive. The final option is to have someone handy make one to fit your loom. OR if you want a really budget friendly way to achieve a similar function drop a comment below and I will make another post on how to DIY your frame loom and heedle bar for less. Sounds confusing, but keep reading, I will explain more. Or if you're a visual person take a peek at the photo below.
What is a shuttle?
A shuttle is a tool that's used to wind large quantities of the weft fiber to make weaving between the warp strings easier. Shuttles can be made from anything, you can go fancy or low key. You can use a notched piece of cardboard, a scrap piece of wood a small ruler, anything really that can go between your warp strings with ease. The shuttle is like a needle going through the warp strings. It is particularly helpful if you are planning on using multiple colors (then you would have multiple shuttles wrapped with each color) or one color for a long period of time. It works best when using tabby/plain over under weave. Most frame loom kits comes with shuttles. Do you need a shuttle to weave? No. Is it helpful? Yes, if you're doing a lot of tabby weave. I generally do not use a shuttle. Don't feel boxed in or overwhelmed with all the tools out there, just get started. You'll find your style and learn what tools you need. That being said, it's really simple to DIY one if you don't have one. Shuttles really are great for kids or beginners learning tabby weaving. If you're not using a shuttle you'll be pulling larger bits of fiber through those strings so you can make a tiny ball to make it easier, or just pull it through. If you're doing that a little tip is to keep one finger on the warp string so you're not dislocating it as the fiber weaves through it.
What is a warp?
The warp is what I call the scaffolding of your weaving. It's the structure in which you build the rest of your weaving. The warp runs vertically (up and down) in your weaving. Since it is the scaffolding it is very important that the strings are both strong and tight, but not too tight. The ideal warp string is 100% cotton since cotton will be strong enough to support the weaving. If you're worried about how thick the warp string should be, the answer is personal preference. I like to use a slightly thinner string but I will use a thicker one occasionally. The key is to get a really high quality cotton string, especially if you're planning to make highly textured pieces or use really thick fibers in your weft. A frame loom can be double warped for finer more detailed weavings or single warped for larger, bulkier fibers. If you have a loom with notches that are spaced further apart it might be a good idea to double warp. Whatever method you choose for warping, the tension should be pretty tight. Think about running your hands across the warp strings. If they all feel about the same tension then you're good to go. If a few feel looser, then re-warp. Insider secret: keep one hand pulled tight on the warp string while warping to keep an even tension. The strings should vibrate a little, like a guitar when you run your hands across them. The warp strings can be any color cotton string of your choosing. Keep in mind depending on how you weave, the warp strings may or may not show. In the example below you don't actually see a lot of the warp strings (you only see it in front of the gold string). Use this information wisely when deciding which color warp string you want to use and which weaving stitch you choose throughout the piece. Strategically exposing warp strings in certain areas is another way for you to achieve the design our aesthetic you're looking for.
What is a weft?
The weft is what you weave! It's what I call the fun part. The warp is all business but the weft is the part where your imagination can shine through. The weft can be any type of fiber, wool, cotton, roving, silk, velvet, there is no limit to what you use to weave! Each type of fiber gives a different look, even if you're using the same type of weaving stitch. Meaning a tabby weave in wool roving versus tabby weaving with silk will look slightly different. Stay tuned for a more detailed post on different weaving "stitches." And if it's taking me too long to get the post up, drop a comment below to give me the kick I need to make one!
What is a 'Sett'?
You may have noticed that you are currently on Sett Intentions Weaving's website you clever person :) Did you think I misspelled 'set'? Of course you didn't! That second 't' was added intentionally as a play on words with the weaving term 'Sett'. A Sett in weaving is the foundation of the weaving, it determines how the finished piece will look and perfrom. Sett describes the amount of warp strings in an inch, sometimes referred to as the epi. This measurement helps you plan your project and is really important when using a floor or table loom (described later). In tapestry weaving it isn't as vitally important to know what your sett is. Basically, if there are lots of warp strings per inch then your piece is called a warp facing weaving. If there is equal amount of warp strings as there are weft then it's balanced and if there is next to no warp strings visible then it is called a weft facing weaving. This information is not crucial as you begin tapestry weaving, but it's still good to know. When using a floor loom this information will help you achieve the desired drape/stiffness of your finished woven fabric, so it is vital to plan accordingly. If you're familiar with my work and are wondering what classification my pieces fall into, they are weft facing. My warp strings are rarely visible, the result is a highly textured weaving.
Can you only weave on a frame loom?
Once you understand the basics of weaving you can easily move onto weaving on just about any structure. Another very popular way to weave is to warp a circle (using an embroidery hoop, a metal wreath, or even a pretty picture frame). The way that you warp a circle is different than a square/rectangle, but weaving in the weft is the same. You can even warp sticks/driftwood with multiple junctions for a very natural look. Little hint: to make your piece look more professional and to prevent any sap or staining on your fibers make sure to clean and treat your wood by drying or staining/sanding depending on the look you're going for, before using it as a frame.
What is a floor loom?
A floor loom is a much larger loom. Literally it takes up the floor. It will not fit in your lap like a frame loom, unless you're a giant. While there are smaller "floor" looms, called table looms, they are still not meant for you lap, they are meant for, as the name would imply, a table. Floor and table looms are generally not used to create woven wall hangings, they are used to create fabric that can be made into anything really, from towels to jackets to scarves and everything in between. Does that mean you can't hang it up? Not at all. Weave what you want and do with it what you want. Floor looms use tabby weaving to create woven designs. The texture comes from the pattern and type of fiber used. This is a very basic description, there's A LOT more that goes into this, but I am attempting brevity. If you want to know more, comment below and I will get another post up on it. It is very mediative and an ancient craft that was practiced across the world. The sound of using a floor loom instantly provokes nostalgia, even if you've never heard it before, your very bones will recognize it. Make no mistake, warping a floor loom takes a very long time, even just prepping the fiber to be warped can take days. Floor looms are not for the faint of heart. You have to be committed. If you're looking for a hobby that you can take with you anywhere, or that you can just float in and out of, this is not that craft. This will consume you, in the best of ways of course. I promise once you start, you will be addicted. Don't say I didn't warn you. Floor and table looms are more expensive. Frame looms are a great introduction to weaving and if you like that moving onto floor looms is a natural progression. That all being said you can scout marketplaces and craigslist for used looms. Be mindful that antique ones may not be in production anymore so replacement parts may be trickier to find, but not impossible. All floor looms will require maintenance eventually, so it's best to get to know the mechanisms before getting one... but I get it, impulsivity is way more fun, so don't worry, if you got one and don't know how to use or fix it, you'll learn. Another way to try out a floor loom before purchasing is to look for weaving classes in your area. Check out local fiber guilds and see what nearby resources they recommend. You might be surprised to find that there is a large fiber community in your area and you didn't even know!
Hopefully this post helped explain some things about woven wall hangings and the very basics about how they are made. Maybe it even inspired you to start weaving! If that's the case, stay tuned because I will be releasing some virtual and in person workshops very soon.
Have a question? Ask below! Have a suggestion for the next blog post, drop a comment.