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Pillow Sampler Weave-along Day 5

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Pillow Sampler Weave-along Day 5

October 9, 2020

Welcome to the final day of our weave-along!

Today we’ll cover: Weft Floats

Materials & equipment:

  • weft yarn—Stephanie used worsted-weight. Novelty yarns work really well with this technique.
  • shuttle
  • pick-up stick a little longer than your weaving width

Slots and holes in the rigid heddle reed allow floats to work: warp ends in the holes move up and down, depending on whether the rigid heddle is up or down. However, warp ends in the slots stay on the same plane. When the heddle is down, we can manipulate all the ends that are up at the top of the reed: we can pick up some of these ends and they will form floats as we weave.

Pick up:

Stephanie sets the reed in down position and starts picking up warp ends behind the heddle. She starts at the right selvedge (you can work from left to right if you prefer), skipping over the first 2 up threads and picking up the 3rd one. She repeats across the warp—skip 2, pick up 1. The pick-up pattern didn’t work out evenly but seams in the pillow can disguise this problem. If you’re planning a project where the both selvedges are visible, figure out how to center the floats unless you prefer an asymmetrical look.


When the pick-up stick sits at the back of the loom, close to the warp beam, it has no effect on the weaving. When you manipulate it to rest just behind the heddle, it picks up certain warps to create floats.

  1. Start on the right edge with the heddle up—this can help you keep track of sheds and picks. Move the pick-up stick back. Weave 2 plainweave picks, weaving in the tail on the second pick. You’ll end on a down shed, with the yarn at the right selvedge.
  2. Start weft float pattern: Place heddle in neutral, with all the warps on the same plane. Slide the pick-up stick forward and turn on its edge to create the shed—we’ll call it the pick-up shed. Wrap the selvedge and lay in the weft. Turn the pick-up stick on its flat side and beat. Change to the down shed, lay in the weft from the opposite selvedge, and beat—this creates the ground. Repeat these picks 2 more times for a total of 3 float rows.
  3. To lock (anchor) the floats, push the pick-up stick back. With heddle up, weave 1 pick and beat—this row locks the float.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for this 7-row pattern, weaving for 4″. You’ll begin every other pattern repeat on the left selvedge instead of the right one.

TIPS for weft floats:

  • On the float row, always go around the selvedge.
  • After each float row, weave a pick in the down shed—this creates the ground underneath the float row.

Weaving the pillow back

  • Use stash yarns to create weft stripes. If your yarns are similar in weight, the selvedges will be fine. If you use a heavier yarn, change to a different yarn if the selvedges start to bulge. If you use a thinner yarn, double it on the same shuttle.
  • Make the back the same length or slightly shorter than the front (a shorter back will make the pillow’s front poof out more).
  • Weave a header for 1/2″ as you did at the beginning.


  1. When your weaving is complete, cut it off the loom and staystitch the warp ends. (For a project that won’t be seamed, hemstitching creates a beautiful and secure finish.) To staystitch, set up your sewing machine for straight or zigzag stitches. Position one end of the fabric so you can stitch along one weft pick, from one selvedge to the other, at the edge of the header. Make two or three lines of stitching and cut the sewing threads. Repeat at the other end of the fabric. The weaving cut off the loom and awaiting staystitching on the warp ends to prevent unravelling
  2. Wash the fabric in warm water with a touch of your favorite wool wash. Stephanie uses whatever soap sits at her kitchen sink; today it was Method dish soap. Fill the sink to cover the woven piece. Place the piece in the water and push it down with your hands; the soap will break the surface tension and allow your piece to wet more thouroughly. Soak for 15 minutes, then agitate the fabric lightly with your hands. By this time, the soaking water is probably lukewarm; to minimize shrinkage, rinse in water that is the same temperature. Gently squeeze out excess water and roll the fabric in a dry towel to remove even more water. Once the fabric is damp but not dripping, let it air dry completely. Set your iron to the wool setting and press the fabric from the wrong side with steam and a press cloth. Pull the fabric so that its corners are square and each side is even. Let it air dry again.The finished weaving with long loose ends
  3. Trim the warp ends next to the staystitching with sharp scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat. Don’t cut off the staystitching.The warp ends next to the staystitching are cut-off with sharp scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat
  4. Resize the pillow form: Lay either the pillow back or the front on the pillow form. Line up your woven fabric so that one staystitched end and the weft pick between front and back sit at two edges of the form. Now adjust the form so that 1″ shows below a selvedge. Use a marker or chalk to draw a line on the pillow form about 1″ above the other selvedge. We’re sizing the form bigger than the woven fabric so the pillow plumps up. The fabric set atop the pillow for sizing
  5. With your sewing machine set for a short stitch length, sew along the marked line. Sew a second line parallel to the first one, 1/4″ away, on the “waste” side of the pillow form. Cut between these lines. You now have a resized form for this project and an extra form to use for another weaving project. Sewing the resized pillow end on the sewing machine Two resized and resewn pillows lay upon a table
  6. Sew the pillow cover: fold the fabric in half, right sides together, at the weft pick between front and back. Seam along each selvedge, using a short stitch length and a 1/4″ seam allowance. Pillow cover is sewn along the edges
  7. From the wrong side, press these seams open using a seam roll if you have one. (If not, do your best with the ironing board.) Fold up 1/2″ along the staystitched edges at the cover’s opening and press—this step creates a smooth edge for hand-sewing the opening closed. Turn the pillow cover right side out and press the seams.
  8. Insert the pillow form into the pillow. Use a needle and thread to hand-sew the opening edges together.Sewing the pillow cover closed by hand once the pillow form is inserted inside

Your pillow is complete! Photograph it and post it on social media! We’re so proud of you!

The completed pillow sit atop the sewing table

Thanks so much for joining us!

We’re going to end the weave-along with a fabulous interview with Mary Zicafoose!

Mary Zicafoose, an ikat tapestry weaver, creates cloth that tells her artistic story. For over 40 years, she has honed her craft to master the slow and intricate technique of weft ikat. Through this medium, she draws deeply on images and symbols to create engaging pieces that hang in embassies, museums, and private collections worldwide. Her recent book, Ikat: The Essential Guide to Weaving Dye-Resist Cloth, offers lessons that advance in complexity to learn this ancient technique. Follow her adventures and see her book at

Interview highlights

  • ikat—exotic dyeing and painterly weaving
  • Mary’s new book on (mostly warp-faced) ikat
  • Mary’s weaving origin story
  • weaving symbols into the future
  • healing through art & weaving
  • landscape and sand hill cranes
  • mono prints & knotted carpets

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