Texture in Plain Weave  – Starting Simple

As promised last week, here is the first post on how to introduce texture into your weaving.  This is especially for people with simple looms, rigid heddle, 2 or 4 shafts.  I’m not going to go into tapestry here as there are many people with way more expertise than me in tapestry, so I’m focussing on looms that can create 2 sheds through some kind of mechanical means – either a rigid heddle or a shaft system. 

When we first start to weave, it is my experience that most people begin with a balanced cloth.  By that, I mean that the warp and the weft show equally in the fabric.  You space the warp so that you can insert weft threads of roughly similar size to create a cloth with equal effects of the warp and the weft.  The simplest weave to use is plain weave, the interlacing of weft over one warp end then under the next warp end, and repeated over and under across the width of the fabric.  The next pass of the weft sees it doing the opposite of the previous pick, with the weft going over the warp end that it went under last time, and under the warp it went over last time.  This basic interlacement is called plain weave, and quite often is what is referred to as ‘tabby’ in weaving books.  Why tabby?  I’ve no idea and if anyone does know, I’d love for you to contact me so we can share it!! 

Anyway, with smooth yarns in plain weave, you get a smooth appearance to the fabric.  No surprise there.  But there are several things you can do to vary this right away. 

Balanced Plain Weave

1)         You can use a different weft yarn ( ie not the same as the warp), one that has little bumps (noil) or little loops (boucle), you can use a thicker yarn or a thinner one. 

2)         You can use two or more weft yarns and weave them using one for a while before switching over to the other one, and you can vary the stripe widths. 

3)         You can use two weft yarns, one thick and one thin, which you use alternately so you get a ridged effect.

4)         You can use two warp yarns and do any of the above.

5)         You can space the warp by sleying (put the threads through the reed) in different amounts so that some warp ends are crammed together and others spaced apart as you go across the warp.

6)         You can space the weft so that some parts you beat really hard, and other parts you beat really loosely.   


Finishing can make a tremendous difference, depending on the yarns you’ve chosen. Generally the more wool content your yarn has, and the more the area of just one yarn being used, the more potential it has to full and pull in. 

If you use overspun yarns (not really recommended if you are new to weaving) then just immersing the fabric into hot water causes it to buckle and pucker – exciting to watch!  NB – you need to sett overspun yarns slightly more open that you normally would so the yarns have room to react. 

Cottons can get a slightly crazed look to them – called tracking – which can be very effective.  If you are using combinations of yarns, observe what happens with different finishing treatments, especially if one of the yarns is a cotton and one a wool.  You’ll find that if you have used them alternately across the warp that they cancel each other out a bit.

But if you have say a 1” group of cotton ends, followed by a 1” group of wool ends, watch what happens when you finish it.  The wool should shrink, causing the cotton to ruche up a little.  This is called differential shrinkage.  Try finishing off with cotton down the edges of your piece.  They will ruche up beautifully to create an undulating edge.  Lovely in a scarf.   Vary the proportions to see what happens.

If you want to start trying out texture in your weaving, have a play with the ideas I’ve suggested above as a means of finding out what you like and don’t like.  As with everything in weaving, slight alterations – to sett, to beat, yarn choice, washing at the end – can have quite dramatic results, so it’s worth experimenting. 

Have fun!  It would be brilliant if you were to comment on your results on this blog, and it would be wonderful if you would upload and share with us images of your experiments.   If you have a curious mind, you’ll find this fascinating! 

Next week I am going to post photos and talk about warp repp, and show you an interesting warp repp effect that I found quite by accident!  If you have any feedback you’d like to share, please feel free to post a comment on this blog, or email me Stacey@theloomroom.co.uk

Also if you’d like to pass this on to friends and weavers you know, I would be honoured. 

I look forward to your company next week. 

© Stacey Harvey-Brown 2010