Introduction: Adaptable (Tapestry) Weaving: Use Whatever You Have

This instructable will teach you the basic principles of weaving. You can adapt these principals so that you can weave with whatever you have at hand: plastic bags, old clothes, yarn, grass, electric cords, sticks, thread-you can weave all these materials and more. Sure some of these materials are more appealing to work with than others, but once you start thinking about possibilities, even kinda of crazy ones, you'll see more ways you can make weaving work with what you have to hand. And with all basic principals, once you've played with them you can start to manipulate them in the ways you are most interested in.

As I explain the basics I will occasionally add in some extra weaving info and a few troubleshooting tips.


loom: anything you are weaving on

warp: this is the thread that you set up on the loom. It doesn't have to be "thread".

weft: this is the stuff you put over and under the thread that is already on the loom (warp)

shed: the space between two sets of warp threads where the weft is passed. Made by picking up the opposite threads from the last pass.

I call this tapestry weaving because in the form that was taught to me that's what you end up with. The weft completely covers the warp and creates an image. The weft doesn't necessarily go edge to edge as colours are frequently switched.


The supplies to make a tapestry weaving are quite adaptable. If you don't have what I am using, think about the purpose of the material and substitute it with whatever you have to hand. Remember you can scale up so that you are working with a big weave (ex: a fence post and a tree with garden twine as the warp

You need:

-a rigid-ish frame: I'm using a metal picture frame.

-a strong, low-fray thread or string: I'm using a cotton thread a friend used for lace making.

-material to weave: I'm using tee shirt yarn I made from old clothes.

-a cutting edge: I'm using scissors

You could add:

-sturdy starting material: I'm using a chopstick

-marking equipment: I'm using a sharpie because it's permanent and I can make lines that are thicker than my warp threads which makes thread spacing easier (more in the extra weaving info)

-masking tape: removeable. Need I say more?

-a ruler: I prefer ones that have markings down to 1/8in or 0.5 cm.

Step 1: Warp the Loom

Tie a knot on one edge. This is now Edge One. I usually arrange this edge closest to my body.

Pass your warp thread over the opposite edge, Edge Two, and return under Edge One, wrapping to the top. Repeat until you have as much warp as you want. Finish by tying off on the same side as you started (Edge One) so that all of your threads have a pair.

There is a crossing point in the threads which will become more visible as you go (or if you shove a chopstick in it as pictured). This space created is the shed, and you will create a new one each time you pass weft through.

Troubleshooting: Thread tension

I like to weave with tight threads. This means that I have to try and keep my warp tight, which I usually do by pinching the warp thread closest to my body with my non-dominant thumb. Everytime I add a warp thread pair I can pinch the new one and pull the old ones tight as I can.

If you don't have tapestry needles (a sturdy needle with an eye big enough to pass your weft material through) then you may prefer a looser tension so that your fingers are able to pick up threads more easily.

Step 2: Weave: Over Under

(Optional: find the crossing in the warp threads and put something sturdy in it. I'm using a chopstick but have also used cardboard and a pencil in the past. You might want to do this is you want to have even spacing in your weave from the start. There's more details on warp spacing at the end of this instructable.)

Pick up every other warp thread. I've used a needle to do this but you can use your fingers.

Pass your weft material through the shed (space you created). In the image that is the red tee-shirt yarn.

Slide the material snug against the base, which is a chopstick in the demo. I use my fingers in a crab pincer shape to slide from both the front and the back of the weaving. I've also used a fork.

Pick up the threads that you passed over last time.

Pass your weft material through the shed.

Repeat until done. Seriously. That's all there is to weaving.

To finish of your piece cut of 3 or 4 warp threads at a time and knot them together.

***Remember that you don't need to pick up all the warp threads in one go*** you can work across a weaving a few at a time. Often if you don't have a needle or shuttle to guide your weft this is easier.

Troubleshooting: Tucking ends in

When you start with a new piece of weft there will be a loose end hanging. You can sew these in later or you can do what I prefer to do and tuck the end in with the next pass of weaving as picture in the second image.

Troubleshooting: passing lots of weft through (look at the materials image)

You can create little bundles for each colour that make it easier to pass a bunch of weft through a shed. The cardboard cut out I have my warp thread on is a great shape to make at home to gather a bunch of yarn or string so that it is easier to pass it repeatedly through a weaving.

Step 3: Examples

Sampler: The first image is a sampler I did to play with tee-shirt yarn. The weave is exactly as I have described so far (1 over 1 under) but I change the colours of my weft to create patterns. Samplers are great ways to get the hang of a new material or technique because it's ok if they don't turn out perfect and the can be reminders in the future as to how you made a project. I've even made stitches on mine to tell me how many warp threads I've used in spots.

Chevrons: Tapestry style means you are not stuck weaving straight across. You can build up areas and go back to fill in the remainder, which can be helpful when you are making patterns. ***You can only fill away from the worked weaving** If you leave blank spots and pull weft into them, the weft will distort to fill the blanks.

Needle pouch: This is woven so that the weft completely covers the warp. In order to do so you have to leave enough weft that it can wrap half the weft. If you think of looking at this type of weaving from the side your warp runs up and down like rods but the weft snakes in an 's' shape, over and under the rods.

CatMermaid: This is an image of an incomplete tapestry weaving that has a specific image to guide it, called a cartoon. To make a cartoon you draw what you want and secure it behind the weaving so that the outlines can be seen. This weaving is using yarn, which completely covers the warp, unlike the tee-shirt yarn in the Sampler and Chevrons pieces.

Thanks for checking this out, I hope you enjoy weaving your own creations.

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