Many years ago, a starry-eyed young spinner in an Earth-Mother phase assured me that one could spin any fiber on anything, and then proudly demonstrated that she could spin with a potato stuck on a stick. To which I responded, "Of course you can ... but why?" An innate part of being human is the ability to invent and use tools, to improve them, and to take pleasure in them. Ancient people did not spin with sticks and potatoes if they had a choice, nor did they weave with nothing but rough sticks. The thousands of beautifully balanced and decorated spindle whorls, the ornately carved heddles, and grave goods depicting weaving all attest to the fact that textile artists then, as now, prized tools that were well-made, pleasing to look at, and right for the job. Even with the simplest of looms, weavers still enjoy their carved beaters and beautiful wood weaving swords, and one need only watch the weavers fondling silky-smooth shuttles at a show or conference to know that this is an ancient urge.
Great handwoven cloth depends on having the right tools. There is a wide assortment of weaving tools available to weavers, and knowing what is available is important even if you don’t feel the need to have some of them right away. Fortunately, the experts created this useful guide to weaving tools that covers handling yarn, warping, and weaving itself.
There are so many kinds of weaving tools to choose from, and the best choices depend on how and what you weave. There are specific shuttles for everything from damask to rag rugs. Do you need a raddle? It depends on how you warp. And what’s the best way to use the tools you have? This free guide explains how to set up your warping board for efficient and comfortable winding. There are even plans to make your own warping board with the free instructions in this booklet.
Using the Best Weaving Tools
A peek into a weaving studio with an assortment of tools. Photo courtesy unsplash.com
Your Weaving Teacher: Tools of the Trade by Deborah Chandler In an effort to save you some of the aggravation that Deborah experienced in her early weaving days, she covers a wide assortment of tools that are available to weavers, so you can then at least know what is available even if you don't feel the need to have some of them right away. No doubt some might be left out, and new things come out on a fairly regular basis, but she recommends that if you have a problem that seems like there ought to be a tool for, ask your shopkeeper, or invent one.
Using a Warping Board
Students at a weaving studio showing how to wind a warp. Photo by Karen Piegorsch
Warping Board Ergonomics by Karen Piegorsch From a purely physical perspective, using a warping board doesn't top the list of ergonomic issues for most weavers. Viewed holistically, though, winding a warp is a complex task. There's the mental activity of counting, the need to apply even tension while winding non-overlapping threads, muscle tension induced by anxiety to avoid problems at the loom, and repetitive motion. Add personal concerns (e.g., shoulder injury; fibromyalgia), and there's ample motivation to apply these basic ergonomic principles.
Make Your own Hand Weaving Tools
Build your own warping board from PVC. Photos by Kelly Wetzel
Make Your Own Warping Board by Kelly Wetzel There's an easy-to-make warping board! The materials are inexpensive, you need very few tools, it can be taken apart easily for storage, and it can grow or shrink with the length of your warp. It's a perfect solution for weavers who don't have much space, who are budget conscious, or who travel to teach. The materials in this warping board cost less than eight dollars. To make the board, all you have to be able to do is cut some pieces of plastic pipe and use glue. Learn more details to easily make your own with these helpful instructions.
The Right Weaving Shuttle for You
Various types of boat shuttles. Photo by Liz Moncrief
Are You Using the Wrong Shuttle? by Madelyn van der Hoogt Weaving shuttles are wonderful tools. They come in beautiful woods and finishes, they are not expensive (compared to looms!), they don't take up much space (you can never have too many!), and they make weaving a joy—especially if you are using the best shuttle for the task. Learn more about the various shuttles available from boat shuttles and stick shuttles, to ski shuttles and end-feed shuttles.
Types of Yarn
Find out the weight of that mystery yarn with a spinner’s tool. Photo by Christina Hammel
Demystify Mystery Yarns with an Easy to Make Yarn Balance by Christina Hammel So you have boxes of mystery yarn that came with the loom you just bought for a bargain price. And you've long been amassing unknown cones from guild auctions, yarn trades, and the occasional garage sale. How do you use these? Many projects call for using a variety of specific yarns you don't have. Or, a project calls for a certain yarn in green, and you have an unknown green yarn—can you substitute? Learn the necessary steps to determining the yards per pound of the yarn on your mystery cone with these free instructions.
Weaving supplies can be costly and time is precious. The right tools help you make the best use of your weaving materials and time. To help you find the right tools for your weaving interests, we've put together a free eBook, Hand Weaving Tools: A Guide to Using a Warping Board, Weaving Shuttle, and More.
It’s always hard for new weavers to know how to set priorities for what to buy, especially since weaving tools can be expensive. What do you really need? Everyone knows you need a loom, but with that come tools, like raddles that enable efficient warping. A weaving shuttle is probably the most important piece of equipment you’ll need and those come in various types, each with its own best use. There are a few types of warp measurers; a warping board is probably the most common. If affordability is your aim, learn how to make your own warping board with the free instructions in this eBook!
There are so many choices for weaving tools, and none of us can have (or needs) all of them. But, as Deb Chandler points out, the right tools can make for more efficient weaving, giving you time to do more and make more of what you love. And that is priceless.
Published 2016; Revised 2023