Pick-Up Inkle Weaving Techniques

By Eve the Just

My home on the web: www.norsegirl.com

Contained within:
Reading a Pick-up Weaving Pattern
Pick-up Weaving Set-ups
Horizontal Stripe
Pick Up Inkle Weaving


Ages ago I printed off the instructions for pick-up patterns off www.Inkleweaving.com. While it was hard to understand, I did manage to wrap my head around it, and so could any other competent weaver, however as the instructions themselves are now gone, this is no longer possible. I am not sure why the instructions were replaced with a basic description and the direction to go buy a book, but I don't think that serves the weaving community well. Thus, I present my version of the directions for pick-up inkle weaving, making my best effort not to infringe on the original author's copyright (ie written by memory of the technique, not by looking at the source documents). Please let me know if they are easy to follow or not.

Please note, this tutorial assumes you already know all about inkle weaving, from setting up looms and reading patterns to actually doing the weaving. If you don't know, there are lots of sites out there, including www.Inkleweaving.com that can help you with this information.

The basic theory of pick-up inkle weaving is that one uses warp floats to create a pattern. Warp floats occur when a warp thread, instead of switching sheds like the rest of the threads, stays where it is until the other threads come back to meet it. As the name implies, it floats over the rest of the weaving. The other implication of the float, is that a float can only begin or end in the natural shed for that thread. In other words, all floats are uneven numbered in length. As floats are floating above the weaving, like brocading (which uses weft floats, and which is described somewhere else on my site), there is a limit to how long you can make them. If you make a float too long, it will catch and snag and the weaving will be ruined. This is especially true if you intend to wear the piece. The appropriate length for a float is generally determined by the width of the threads you work with, but a good general rule is to never make a float longer than 5. You may get away with 7 depending on the thread, but don't count on it. Floats of 3 are ideal.

Additionally, to get a clear pattern, the pattern threads (those warp threads that will be making the floats) are generally either thicker thread, or multiple threads of the same type as the background. I usually use crochet cotton for my weavings and I have found success both by using triple strings of crochet cotton and by using a thicker cotton yarn. The thicker cotton warps up more quickly, but I think I preferred the outcome with the tripled crochet threads. To start, use a thicker thread for your pattern thread rather than multiples of a thinner thread. Just trust me on this one.

In order to get floats, as the name "pick up weaving" implies, you're going to have to pick up and/or drop individual threads in each row you weave. While this makes interesting patterns, it is time consuming. I expect pick-up inkle weaving takes 2-3 times longer to complete than standard inkle weaving, though I have never actually timed the difference. I think it is well worth the effort and I think the act of having to count out every row makes the weaving process more interesting, but there are others who don't have the patience for it. Give it a shot and if it bores you to tears, by all means, go back to standard inkle weaving. Any hand-work is still a million times better than buying commercial trim :) And besides, I have no documentation to prove this was done in period anyway, I just think it looks cool.

Reading a Pick-up Weaving Pattern

Pick up inkle patterns are unique in that they indicate what kind of set up you need to warp, but they don't tell you explicitly. Instead, they are telling you what to do while you are weaving. The secret to reading a pick-up pattern is to realize that it only indicates the pattern threads. Black (or otherwise coloured) squares indicate that thread is on the top of the weaving while white (or uncoloured) squares indicate the thread is on the bottom.

If this makes no sense at all, keep reading and I'm sure it will all come clear.

Pick up Weaving Set-ups

There are two different warping patterns (that I know of) for doing pick-up inkle weaving. Which warping set-up you pick will depend on what kind of pattern you wish to create. Generally, horizontal lines use the "horizontal stripe" set-up while diagonal lines require the "basketweave" set-up. This is what I meant when I said the pattern implies the warping pattern but doesn't explicitly tell you how to set up your loom. Examples of each type of pattern are included in the sections on horizontal stripe and basketweave set-ups .

The "horizontal stripe" set-up is easier to warp than the "basketweave" set-up, but the technique for weaving is the same.

The Horizontal Stripe Set-up

This is the simplest set-up to warp. Give yourself a border of your background colour, now simply alternate your threading using one background thread and one pattern thread. You should have all your pattern threads in the open positions and all your background threads in the heddle positions. Make sure you have the same number of pattern threads as there are columns (counted left to right) in your pattern. The number of rows (counted top to bottom) is irrelevant. Warp your background colour border on the other side and you're ready to go.

For example, this is the set-up you would need for this pattern:


Note that in this pattern there are 6 columns and the repeat is 10. The repeat (number of rows) is irrelevant, but the number of columns is vital for the set up.

Your borders in this example will be nearly as wide as the pattern itself.

The Basketweave Set-up

The basketweave set-up is a little harder for people to wrap their heads around. Start by warping a border of your backgrounds threads. Now, warp a single pattern thread. Next, warp two background threads. Continue alternating one pattern thread and two background threads until you have a sufficient number of pattern threads. Again, the number of pattern threads should be equal to the number of columns in the pattern. Warp your border of background threads and you're ready to weave. For the middle section, you should see your pattern threads alternating between open and heddle. When woven using the regular technique it will create a kind of honeycomb, brickwork or basketweave look. To me, it looks like honeycombs.

For those of you to whom that was clear as mud, here's a sample pattern and the warp set-up required to weave it:


Note that I warp things backwards to the inkleweaving.com site. I do the open row before the heddle row. That way if my pattern is an odd number of threads (like this one is) I get to warp one less fussy heddle row.

Note that in this pattern there are 13 columns and the repeat is 6 (I have pictured 3 repeats so you get an idea what the pattern will look like woven). The repeat (number of rows) is irrelevant, but the number of columns is vital for the set up.

I have used B as my pattern threads, and if you count them up, you'll find there are 13 of them, equal to the number of columns in the pattern.

Pick up Inkle Weaving

Now we get to the hard part :)

Start by weaving a few rows just like you would in standard inkle weaving. The object here is to get your band started and stabilized. No point in wasting valuable pick-up time at this stage. Once you have your band fairly even you can start on the first row of your pattern. You can read the pattern top to bottom or bottom to top, it doesn't matter. Personally, I like bottom to top since the weaving is working up that direction, so the pattern and the band will look identical if you're doing it right. For the purpose of this tutorial, let's warp up the S pattern pictured above in the "horizontal stripe set-up" section and read bottom to top and counting the threads left to right.

Picking up is accomplished by creating an opening where the thread you want to manipulate is and then either pulling it up or pushing it down. To do this, hold the threads in the top of the shed that are to the left of the opening in your left hand and the top shed threads to the right of the desired opening in your right hand. Use one finger (from your dominant hand) to manipulate the thread either bringing it up to join the other top shed threads in that hand or dropping it from that hand (and not picking it up with the other hand).

Only pattern threads will be manipulated. The background colour threads just work their way merrily along as if they were a part of a standard inkle woven piece. If you get "floats" in your background threads you're doing something wrong.

Start working your pattern with the shed open such that the open threads are on top and the heddle threads are on the bottom.

Line 1: This line requires no adjustments, weave as normal.
Line 2: Switch your shed, pushing all the pattern (open) threads to the bottom. Pick up the first and last pattern threads (first and sixth). Pass your weft.
Line 3: Switch your shed, pushing all the pattern (open) threads to the top. Push down the second and third pattern threads. Pass your weft.
Line 4: Switch your shed, pushing all the pattern (open) threads to the bottom. Pick up the first pattern thread. Pass your weft.
Line 5: This line requires no adjustments, weave as normal.
Line 6: Switch your shed, pushing all the pattern (open) threads to the bottom. Pick up the last (sixth) pattern thread. Pass your weft.
Line 7: Switch your shed, pushing all the pattern (open) threads to the top. Push down the fourth and fifth pattern threads. Pass your weft.
Line 8: Switch your shed, pushing all the pattern (open) threads to the bottom. Pick up the first and last pattern threads (first and sixth). Pass your weft.
Line 9: This line requires no adjustments, weave as normal.
Line 10: This line requires no adjustments, weave as normal.


That's it, that's all there is to it.

Okay, I lied, that's not quite it. With the horizontal stripe patterns it's pretty easy to see where to start. With the basketweave patterns it's a little trickier. Here's the secret to figuring out where to start. Only look at pattern column (pattern thread) #1. Pick your start point at the beginning of a float, where the first pattern thread is in its natural shed. That means you can start at either end of a vertical black (coloured) stripe, but don't start in the middle. Now, you can only do this line on your weaving if your first pattern thread is on top in its natural shed. So if your first pattern thread is in the "open" row, the "open" row needs to be above the heddle row. The illustration below shows all the possible start points for this pattern. Note that I have pictured three repeats so there are really only two places you can start, and I'd recommend the bottom arrow.

The truth is that once you know what you're doing you can start anywhere, but as you're just beginning, take my advice on start points :)

If this is all clear as mud, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

Go on to my inkle weaving patterns.

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