BRANCH WEAVING 101
I took a weaving class while I was art school and I cringe just thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved and I still love weaving. What I hated and still hate with a passion is setting up and preparing the loom to actually start weaving. Have you ever seen a loom? Like a full-fledged weaving loom? And I don’t mean one of these new cute mini hand looms that you can buy on Etsy… I mean one of those huge honking versions of it? It’s intimidating looking (look at this one) – all the contraptions, wires and levers! Ugh! I’m glad to report however, after many MANY hissy fits and embarrassing moments, I did produce a few bits of fabric that are pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. The best thing about branch weaving is that there is minimal set up and the process is just as rewarding as weaving on those big honkin’ looms.
If your new to weaving, I don’t mean to intimidate you. It’s a very rewarding craft. Keep in mind, I took on a huge project as a beginner weaver. I wish I had started with branch weaving so I could develop a taste for it without having to go through that difficult set up. Branch weaving is weaving at it’s most basic form, just bringing string or yarn over and under a set of string or yarn to produce fabric. That’s it! The set up is not nearly as complicated as a regular loom however it is the same concept and just as rewarding.
You’ll learn to branch weave with three steps: setting up, weaving and finishing . Don’t be intimidated by the steps – it’s actually pretty easy – I’ve just broken it up in all steps possible so that anyone can learn.
Enough talking, let’s start!
MATERIALS NEEDED FOR BRANCH WEAVING:
- A forked stick/branch. My stick measured about 53 inches lengthwise. The “V” measured 22 inches lengthwise and the opening about 10 inches maximum. However, the opening within the area of the “V” that I was working on measured a maximum of about 6 inches.
- Yarn and/or string of different colours and thicknesses.
- A fork
- A darning needle
- A picture hanging hook (with small nails) and a hammer (only if you’ll be hanging your branch on the wall).
Before we proceed with our branch weaving project, I think it’s best that I explain a few terms:
WARP: the warp is the string/yarn that we will stringing on the branch vertically and will stay static.
WEFT: the weft is the string/yarn that we will be bringing over and under the warp horizontally to create the weaving process
The yarn/string that you choose for your warp should be somewhat sturdy and relatively thick. Keep in mind that it needs to support your weft and quite a bit of “poking and prodding” with the needle and fork. I actually used string from the hardware store for my warp an it worked perfectly however you can just as easily use yarn.
Your warp also needs to be pretty long. I didn’t measure or cut mine. In order not to run out, I cut my string after I was done setting up the warp. This was kind of a pain but I was glad for it in the end.
Ensure that your branch will be able to handle the pressure of the yarn. You will be readjusting the warp to make it taut and this will compress the branches of your “V” shape together by as much as a few inches. If you branch is quite thick and doesn’t move, you won’t have to worry about this. It’s a good idea to test it out before committing to your warp.
Also make sure to remove any small sticks or leaves that you don’t want in your branch weaving design.
Step One: Setting up the Warp
I‘ll be referring to the “arms” of the “V” as sticks.
- Start by tying a double knot at the very begging of the bottom of where the two sticks join, leaving approximately a 4 inch tail. Bring the active string over the top stick, loop under the stick and loop once again over the stick bringing the active string back to the outside of the lower stick. Loop again over the bottom stick and bring back over to the top stick.
- Repeat this process until your warp covers the amount of the “V” area that you would like to cover with your final product.
- There essentially will be two warps. One at front of the sticks and another at the back. This is normal. Concentrate on the front warp and try to keep your strands about 1/4 inch apart.
- When you get to the end of your warp, tie a single knot. We’re not going to tie a double knot right now as we’ll be going over our warp and we may have to untie this knot.
- Fix any strands that are too close or too far apart. You can do this with you fingers, just by moving and sliding the loops over.
- Test the tautness of your warp. The stands should be pretty taut and visually they shouldn’t look lose. You can fix the tautness be holding down the loop with your thumb and pulling the other side of the string and then repeating that process until you get to the end and then re-knot. However, this will be tricky because as you will be fixing the tautness of your warp, the sticks will continue to compress towards each other therefore making the other strands loser. So it’s a never-ending game. Aim for your strands to be pretty taut but with a little slack in them too. Once your warp is taut enough for your liking, re-knot the end with a double knot.
Step Two: Start Weaving
Weaving patterns look something like this:
This pattern is basically the foundation of weaving. All other patterns are pretty much versions of this.
Weavers usually use a tool called a shuttle to bring their weft through the warp. However, since we are doing a relatively small project and aren’t expert weavers, we’ll use our darning needle instead.
The way that we set up the warp on the branch sort of produced two sets of warps. One at the front of the sticks, another at the back. If you’re a beginner weaver, only use the front warp while weaving (don’t worry, you won’t be able to see the back warp when your project is finished). I started with the front warp, then incorporated the back and then went back to the front. I will get back to this later on.
- Begin by cutting your yarn that you will use as your weft about 5 lengths of your warp. So my warp was approximately 11 inches, so I cut a piece of yarn about 55 inches long. Thread your darning needle.
- To begin our weaving project, we are going to use the simple pattern above. Weaving patterns start at the bottom and so does your weaving project. So at the bottom right of your warp bring your needle with your weft under the first string and repeat the last line of the pattern above until you’
re at the other end of your warp. Pull the rest of your yarn through but don’t pull too hard as this will grab the last warp string and pull it towards the centre. Pull just enough so that the yarn is nice and taut. Use your fork to push the weft evenly to the bottom of the warp.
- Repeat the same process with the second line of the pattern and remember that this line will be the opposite pattern as the one your began with. So, if you went under on the first line then you will go above on this one. Keep a careful eye on the end strings of your warp so that they are not being pulled towards the centre. This will happen a little bit but it’s better if you can prevent it.
- After a couple of lines of this pattern, you will begin to see this:
- Now you can continue with this pattern or you can change it up. I always like to end my yarn when I change patterns or colours, I find it looks cleaner. Also, I like to end my yarn at the beginning or the end of my warp. This is just a preference. If you end your yarn in the middle, make sure that there’s about a 4 inch tail left and then just tuck it through to the back of the other warp. We’ll weave this in at the end. You can start a new yarn anywhere’s on the warp as well, just make sure that you leave enough of a tail at the beginning to tuck it through to the back and to weave in.
- Here are some of the patterns that I used for my own branch weaving design:
- You will notice that pattern 3 is just our typical basic pattern, over and under. The difference here is that I incorporated the back warp into our weave along with the front warp. I also started this pattern somewhere’s in the middle of the warp and ended there too. I created sort of an eye shape and then filled it with the green yarn. I used the white string again in the basic pattern to fill the area around the “eye”.
This is very easy, you just weave as you’ve been doing and use your fork to bring your yarn tight against the previous pattern or shape. You can make multiple shapes this way, experiment! It’s easy to undo if you don’t like the results.
- Continue experimenting with patterns, colours, yarns/strings, shapes, etc. until you reach the very bottom of your top stick. I wanted my top weaving row to be as close to the stick as possible. This took a bit of manoeuvring.
- Guess what? You’re branch weaving!
STEP THREE: Finishing touches
- Your branch will most likely have bits of yarn and string sticking out everywhere’s. These are easy to hide. Thread your needle with the tail end and weave into the back warp using the basic over and under pattern. Repeat for each.
- All done! The beauty of these wonderfully woven branches is that you can put them anywhere and they looks absolutely gorgeous. You can put it on its side on a fireplace mantle, upright in a flower vase or hang it on the wall, like I did.
- To hang your branch on the wall: All you need to do is nail one of those little picture hangers to the back of your branch. I got my picture hanger in a picture hanging kit that I got at the dollar store.
First, hold your branch up against the wall where you would like to hang it. Put pencil marks on the branch on the areas that touch the wall. Nail the picture hanger near your pencil mark that is in the most centre position of the branch. Nail a small nail (even a flat tac would work) to the wall and hang the branch by the new picture hanger. . I had an idea where I wanted it and just hammered the nail in and believe it or not, it worked. Only one picture hanger on the branch did the trick – you may have to put more than one to make it hang the way you want it, especially if your branch is heavier on one side. I could have gotten really technical with this – measuring the length of the branch and figure it out exactly where I wanted it, etc, etc. but I didn’t.
How was your experience with branch weaving? Please tell me about it. Did you try different patterns? What about different yarns and string? I really hope you all loved branch weaving as much as I do. Enjoy xoxo
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