Essential Weaving Terminology

Learning a new craft can be daunting when there is a lot of new terminology to pick up – however this terminology allows communication of both ideas and techniques. Once you have a handle on these terms you will be better equiped to explore the wide variety of weaving resources that are available.

I have put the terminology into two formats – the first has terms grouped together with similar terms or parts, starting with the most essential and adding more vocabluary as you move down the list. This is useful if you are just beginning as the words are arranged more thematically. The second is formated as a Glossary in alphabetical order – so if you come across a word and need to refresh your memory on what it means you can more easily look it up.

I hope these can be useful to you in your learning!

Loom – anything that holds a warp taunt.Warp – the lengthwise threads that are held by the loom.Weft – the crossways threads that interlace/weave in between the warp threads in different patterns.
Sett – how close the threads are to each other (and therefore how thick or lacy the fabric is) usually noted as epi & dpi.Heddles – for holding warp threads in order to control them and push/pull up or down to make a shed so that weft can be easily passed through.Shafts – frame that holds heddles, usually in a table or floor loom.
Reed – controls the spacing of the warp threads.Shed – the gap between warp threads when you pull them apart with heddles or pick-up sticks.Picks – each row of weft that you weave.
Beater – beam, frame or hand-held tool for pushing (beating) the weft into place.Shuttles – tool that holds the weft thread and passes it through the shed. There are many different types but the most common are stick shuttles, boat shuttles and tapestry bobbins.Pick-up Stick – a long smooth stick that you place into the warp between selected threads in order to ‘pick up’ those threads to create a pattern. Very useful on simpler looms like tapestry, frame and rigid heddle looms.
Warping Board – a frame with dowels along which you can measure out warp threads to the desired length and quantity.Plainweave – each weft thread goes over 1 warp, then under 1 warp, then over 1, etc. The next weft thread goes over/under the opposite threads to the one before.The simplest weave structure, but depending on your colours, yarn & sett you can achieve striking results.Twill – a common weave structure on multi-shaft looms (but can be done on simpler looms) where the weft goes under/over more than one warp thread. Well-known structures such as herringbone & tartan are twill weaves.
Balanced weave – the weft threads are spaced apart in the same density (dpi) as the warp threads.Warp-faced weave – the warp is more densely spaced and therefore more prominent than the weft, in some cases covering the weft completely like in inkle weaving – this makes very strong, long fabric, such as straps and bands and belts.Weft-faced weave – the weft is more densely spaced and therefore more prominent than the warp, in some cases covering the warp completely like in a tapestry.

Weaving Glossary

Balanced weave – the weft threads are spaced apart in the same density (dpi) as the warp threads.

Beater – beam, frame or hand-held tool for pushing (beating) the weft into place.

Heddles – for holding warp threads in order to control them and push/pull up or down to make a shed so that weft can be easily passed through.

Loom – anything that holds a warp taunt.

Picks – each row of weft that you weave.

Pick-up Stick – a long smooth stick that you place into the warp between selected threads in order to ‘pick up’ those threads to create a pattern. Very useful on simpler looms like tapestry, frame and rigid heddle looms.

Plainweave – each weft thread goes over 1 warp, then under 1 warp, then over 1, etc. The next weft thread goes over/under the opposite threads to the one before. The simplest weave structure, but depending on your colours, yarn & sett you can achieve striking results.

Reed – controls the spacing of the warp threads.

Shafts – frame that holds heddles, usually in a table or floor loom.

Sett – how close the threads are to each other (and therefore how thick or lacy the fabric is) usually noted as epi & dpi.

Shed – the gap between warp threads when you pull them apart with heddles or pick-up sticks

Shuttles – tool that holds the weft thread and passes it through the shed. There are many different types but the most common are stick shuttles, boat shuttles and tapestry bobbins.

Tapestry – Weaving depicting images or designs, generally used as a wall hanging or piece of art. Tapestry is entirely weft-faced and the warp threads cannot be seen. 

Twill – a common weave structure on multi-shaft looms (but can be done on simpler looms) where the weft goes under/over more than one warp thread. Well-known structures such as herringbone & tartan are twill weaves.

Warp – the lengthwise threads that are held by the loom.

Warp-faced weave – the warp is more densely spaced and therefore more prominent than the weft, in some cases covering the weft completely like in inkle weaving – this makes very strong, long fabric, such as straps and bands and belts.

Warping Board – a frame with dowels along which you can measure out warp threads to the desired length and quantity.

Weft – the crossways threads that interlace/weave in between the warp threads in different patterns.

Weft-faced weave – the weft is more densely spaced and therefore more prominent than the warp, in some cases covering the warp completely like in a tapestry.

View from above of Emilt weaving blue/green/black twill on a four-shaft table loom using a boat shuttle.
Weaving twill on a four-shaft table loom using a boat shuttle.

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