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How Do I Choose the Best Weaving Thread?

By J. Barnes
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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Choosing the best weaving thread for your project can mean the difference between a pleasurable weaving experience with a quality result and a technically frustrating one that ends with a poorly executed or incomplete project. In choosing your threads, remember that weaving requires the use of two different types: the warp thread and the weft or filling thread. As a weaver, you should be aware that each of these threads presents a specific set of selection criteria. When choosing warp thread, the most important factor is that it must be strong enough to not break during weaving and should not fray. For filling thread, a wide variety of products can be used, and the best choice typically will depend on what suits your project.

Warp threads are the lengthwise yarns or strings that are used to dress the loom. They must be strong enough to withstand the tension of the equipment and the abrasive effects of the weaving process. With your entire weaving project riding on how well it performs, the weaving thread that you choose for your warp is the most important choice as you are planning your project.

Although most fibers can be used for the filling, only certain types can be used for the warp. If the product that you are considering has not been designated as a warping thread, two simple tests will give you some idea of how it will hold up during the weaving process. To see if the thread will break while you are weaving, try giving a sample of the thread a series of hard and repetitive tugs between your hands. Then, roll the thread between your fingers to see how much it will fray, if at all.

Rugs and tapestries demand the use of heavy string or twine that will tolerate the beating process, but depending on the project, a warp thread does necessarily have to be thick or of a heavy weight. Some synthetic fibers, although they might be fine and delicate in appearance, can make for a very strong warp thread. Typically, synthetic fibers such as acrylic, nylon, polyester and rayon are less elastic than natural fibers such as cotton, linen, silk and wool. Of these natural fibers, linen has the least amount of elasticity, and wool has the most.

If you are a beginning weaver, it would be best for you to avoid any of the “fuzzy” yarns. These have a tendency to stick together, especially on multi-harness looms. This will prevent you from achieving a clean, deep shed while you are weaving.

Choosing the best weaving thread for your filling is the one area where you can have the most fun and enjoy the most flexibility. Almost any material — plain or novel — can be used as a filling thread: crochet thread, embroidery thread, knitting thread, sewing thread — even grasses, leaves and twigs. In selecting your filling threads, just keep in mind that your fiber should fit your project, and understand whether your handwoven article will need to be cleaned. A stiff thread that would work well for an upholstery fabric or a wall hanging might be entirely unsuitable for a soft blanket, a scarf or a wrap. Read your thread and yarn labels with the same care as you read the ones on your clothes, and wash and dry clean them according to the instructions.

Weaving threads differ vastly in cost and quality. A skein of acrylic yarn purchased for a bargain price at your local craft store might be fine for children to experiment with in a beginning weaving class. If you are a serious weaver, however, you should be prepared to pay more for a quality product. Remember to choose your weaving thread according whether you want it to perform as a warp or a filling yarn, and you will be free to explore all of the colors and textures that your fibers have to offer.

How To Thread a Weaving Loom?

How you start to thread, or warp, your loom is going to depend on what type of loom you have. Looms come in all sizes, from large floor looms to small lap looms. The two basic types are frame looms and the notched or peg loom.

Threading a Frame Loom

On a frame loom, you have to first tape off your spacing using washi tape. Leave just enough space in between one-quarter inch wide pieces of tape for your warping thread. Continue using washi tape along one side of the frame, then do the same for the opposite side of the frame.

To warp your loom, or wind your warping thread across your frame loom, tie a slip knot at the first space on the upper left corner of the frame. Pull the thread down over the front of the frame, under the opposite side, and back up over the top in the next space. Keeping the thread pulled tight, go underneath the top of the frame and come back around to the top at the next space. Continue in this manner until your entire frame is threaded. Tie off your warp thread at the very end.

Threading a Notched or Pegged Loom

On a notched or pegged loom, start with a slip knot in the upper left corner. Stretch the thread down the side and wrap it left to right around the notch or peg. Pull it back to the top and wrap again from left to right. Keep going until the whole loom is warped. Tie off your thread at the end.

How To Prepare Needle and Thread for Sew in Weave?

For your warp thread, use a cotton thread or yarn that isn’t stretchy. Your warp should be fairly rigid to support the weft, or the threads you use from side to side to create your woven project. It should also have a high tensile strength to support the friction created by the weft.

Sizing Your Warp Thread

You may want to use a sizing solution on your warp thread to make it stiffer and more compact when it dries. You could use hairspray or spray starch as a fast and easy means of sizing your yarn, or you could soak it in a solution of flour, milk powder or gelatin, then hang it to dry. Gelatin is preferred, since it doesn’t attract pests or spoil like flour or milk powder solutions.

Weaving Your Weft Thread

To weave your weft with a needle and thread, you need something that will easily traverse the warp. On smaller looms, you need a wool needle, also known as a knitter’s needle — as opposed to a knitting needle, which is a long, straight, blunt-tipped, eyeless needle. A wool needle has the same blunt tip, but is much shorter and thinner and has a loop at the end for yarn or other thicker materials to be threaded through.

On larger looms, you need a shuttle, a wooden or plastic device that holds several feet of yarn or thread to weave in and out of your warp. There are several different designs of shuttles, and different methods of wrapping them, which can vary from project to project.

For your weft thread, you can use just about anything, including cotton, linen, wool, mohair or denim, even grasses and twigs. You can use a thinner thread such as embroidery floss or thick thread such as chunky chenille yarn.

Beating Your Weft Thread

As you weave your weft through your warp, you need to move it down the warp to form your design. To that end, you need a tapestry beater — a wooden tool with teeth that go over your warp threads and push down your weft threads. A tapestry beater isn’t a must-have, though. You can use a regular fork or even your fingers to achieve the same result.

Can You Use Clothing Thread To Sew in Weave?

You can use clothing thread for both the warp and the weft when weaving. The key to successfully doing so is maintaining even tension in both directions. Keep the warp tense, but not so tight it will break. Maintain a steady pull on the weft to have a nice, smooth product when you’re done weaving.

Keep an eye out for breakage, especially in the warp, where it’s more difficult to fix. If a thread breaks in the weave, it’s easier to tie in a new thread.

To weave with clothing thread or similar lightweight materials, you should use a tapestry needle to do your weaving. These blunt-ended needles have smaller eyes than wool needles, and will stay threaded with thin fibers.

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Discussion Comments
By Talentryto — On Jan 28, 2014

Rundocuri, my grandmother was an expert weaver and she also enjoyed using yarns that were soft and fuzzy. She always took her time when weaving with these yarns, and use to say it was important to keep the yarn as smooth as possible while you work.

By Rundocuri — On Jan 27, 2014

I am learning to weave, and experimenting with new types of threads and yarns. Though this article warns against "fuzzy" yarns, I love the soft feel of the finished product when these yarns are used. Does anyone have tips on weaving with these types of yarns?

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