What do you need to get started with tapestry weaving?

I get a lot of pretty great email, but this one really made me smile. 

My 10-year-old grandson was given a loom for Christmas last year and there it stood on the piano as they couldn’t fathom how a large ball of wool was supposed to go through narrow slots. I retired and arrived for a visit and took one look at the loom and decided to figure it out. Well. I am completely hooked. My 10-year-old grandson has made his mom a little purse for her money and cards and he also made her a bookmark. And we are on a roll. The 5-year-old decided to combine weaving and rya knots and looks at his efforts admiringly at least once a day and won’t give the loom up.

That was all in the UK and granny is back in South Africa. I live in a beautiful little village in the mountains near Cape Town and have a longing to learn as much as possible about weaving.
— Caron Lehmann, South Africa

She goes on to say that she’d like to take the Little Looms class (yay for students in South Africa! I think that makes three.)

After I laughed for awhile about the ball of yarn fitting through the slots (I TOTALLY get how someone who doesn’t use yarn would be flummoxed!), I thought, this grandmother is awesome! She got her two grandchildren hooked on weaving, and she is ready to pick it up herself.

Which brings me to the real question:

What do you need to get started with tapestry weaving?

Here are a few starters.

A loom

This is a Hokett loom, intermediate size (about 9 x 10 inches). There are many other kinds of simple looms out there. Tools pictured are long yarn needle, tiny beater, and a shed stick (the white thing to the right).

A loom is anything that holds a warp tight. Some are better than others. If your loom is going to be bigger than a small lap loom, do consider something that has a tensioning device.


I like cotton seine twine a lot. It stands up to the abrasion of tapestry very well.

Weft yarn

There are many excellent tapestry yarns. Weaver’s Bazaar in the UK makes some of the best but there is probably something available in your country.

A few simple tools

You’ll need a tapestry beater/fork and if you have a loom without a shedding device, a shed stick and a yarn needle.

A willingness to experiment and perhaps a sense of adventure

It just helps.

Oh, and you might need a little instruction.

If you’ve never woven tapestry before, consider Kirsten Glasbrook’s book Tapestry Weaving or Kathe Todd-Hooker’s Tapestry 101. If you learn better from demonstration, consider an online class. I offer two entry-level classes: Weaving Tapestry on Little Looms for a quick start on simple looms, or Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry for a comprehensive look at the medium.

Then if you decide on the online class, you'll want to read about one more thing....

A technical aside: update your systems

I had a call last week from a delightful woman named Stella from Florida. She also wanted to know what she needed to get started in tapestry weaving, specifically with the Weaving Tapestry on Little Looms class. Her questions centered more around technology however. She was ready to go with the loom/yarn end of things.

After some conversation, it became clear that she wanted to use an iPad running OS 9.3 (from 2012). While I do think it is sad that our devices age out so quickly, I could tell her with a great deal of certainty that the course platform Pathwright would not run on an Apple device that didn’t have at least OS 10. Fortunately she did have a brand new Mac computer which will work like a dream.

I have had a few people have difficulties with the platform because they do not update their systems. I do get it. I don’t like to update my operating system because everything changes. But those updates are important. They fix bugs. They make things work better. And the programs you use online are based on the most recent versions of software.

So if you’re considering an online class or you’re in one and things seem a little glitchy, ask yourself when the last time you actually allowed your computer to update was. Do you update regularly or do you keep hitting that “remind me tomorrow” button when the notification pops up?

For my online programs to work, you do need to be running an operating system on PC or Mac from the last several years. I did not say you had to have a machine from the last few years, just an operating system that has been updated. And then you need to keep your browser updated. That is really important. Pretty much all problems with the platform (and again, there are very few) are because of browser issues. Use Chrome if you can. Otherwise try Firefox or Safari. Internet Explorer is also supposed to work (though really, use Chrome). And then do the updates. I promise everything in your online world will work better.

So are you ready to learn some tapestry weaving?

I'm excited to see what Caron and Stella weave no matter where they learn the techniques. My last blog post talked about the four things that beginners always struggle with. Maybe you should start there.