There are plenty of ways to add texture to a handwoven fabric. It’s a huge, wide world of weaving out there and it’s far too much to cover in one single article. So here’s how I approach it. When I think about texture + weaving, I think in these general categories:
Adding texture by using different yarns for warp or weft…
The simplest thing you can do to add texture to your handwoven projects is to swap out a basic, smooth yarn for something with a different texture. Consider the effect of swapping out a thin cotton yarn for a slubby or bouclé cotton yarn. Or consider the effect of using a fuzzy mohair yarn on your final finished fabric. Perhaps a deliciously cosy cashmere yarn or maybe a slinky silky yarn? You could weave nothing but plain weave and still have endless variety!
Adding texture through weave structures on a multi-shaft loom…
While plain weave structures are typically flat and smooth, there are more complex weave structures that can be achieved with a 4- or 8-shaft loom to produce an all-over textured effect. By warping the loom with different configurations, you can create fabrics like waffle weave or honeycomb which create little square “bubbles” that pop up after wet-finishing. There are even weave structures that produce undulating waves or pleats automatically through the weaving process.
If you are interested in exploring this kind of handwoven texture, I recommend UK weaver, Margo Selby’s book, Color and Texture in Weaving: 150 Contemporary Designs. Margo’s work specializes in designing 3D textiles for interiors.
Adding texture in frame loom weaving…
For the past couple months, I’ve been enchanted with the sculptural aesthetic of woven wall hangings that have started to re-emerge. Created in fresh new colour palettes of millennial pink and celadon green, I’ve been curious about creating my own. I finally cobbled together this little weaving (above) to try out some tapestry techniques using wool spinning fibre or roving.
When I weave scarves or shawls on my floor looms, I’m generally working with one warp yarn and one weft yarn. When combined, they produce a smooth, even and flat fabric. But a tapestry wall hanging is more graphic in design and more sculptural in form. Rather than creating a wearable fabric that needs to flex and conform to your body, tapestry is meant to produce a visual design. One that can feature bold shapes and colours as well as textures.
One of the ways to play with texture in frame loom weaving is to mix and match yarn sizes and styles, doubling up the yarns to cover ground more quickly or to create some dimensional qualities. But multiple strands of yarn could be quite heavy on a woven piece when hung on the wall. If your design is asymmetrical, you might find one part of your woven wall hanging starting to sag or droop from the weight.
Here enters the roving. As a soft and airy puff of carded or combed wool, roving or spinning fibre can quickly add a third dimension without adding a lot of extra weight. It covers ground quickly too, making for easy and accessible projects.
In this particular weaving, I split the Polwarth+Silk spinning fibre into thinner strips about a finger-width in size and used these strips with a “looped tabby stitch” or “loop (pile) weave” technique. Basically, it’s the same as plain weave, except that I pulled out a bit of fibre to the front of the weaving to create some dimension. So this entire weaving was made with plain weave… either flat or raised, with some Rya knots at the bottom to finish the whole thing off. Super, super easy.
If you are interested in giving these techniques a try, let me point you to some very helpful resources:
- Maryanne Moodie’s online tutorials and book On the Loom are all available here: https://maryannemoodie.com/
- Kate at The Weaving Loom has awesome photo tutorials and videos at https://www.theweavingloom.com/weaving-experiments-woven-textures/
- You can also find me talking about my experience weaving this project on Episode 14 of my vlog here: https://bit.ly/TBF14weaving
- Learn Frame Loom Weaving here on the School of SweetGeorgia with me as well in this short video course