My Greatest Talent Is Unweaving, And It Should Be Yours, Too

One of my greatest talents is unweaving. You know, practice makes perfect and all that. I greeted my husband one night with the words “Guess what I did today? I unwove everything I wove yesterday!” His response: “Oh, so it must have been a good day.” I contend that if you love to weave, you must also like—or at least not hate—unweaving. Mistakes happen. Unweaving happens. I learned to weave from teachers, friends, and books such as Next Steps in Weaving and Learning to Weave, but I learned to unweave on my own.

My favorite is when I weave the wrong pick or picks, unweave, and then repeat the exact same error. You would think… right? If I make the same mistake more than once, it’s time to quit for the day.

Twill scarf without a tie-up error. Credit:  Susan E. Horton

Twill scarf without a tie-up error. Credit: Susan E. Horton

Errors are impossible to unsee, and they’ll haunt you. For example, I once wove a silk/wool twill scarf that looked great on the loom but when I took it off, I realized I had mis-tied a treadle, making the pattern slightly different on one side. I twisted the fringes thinking I would keep it. Truly, it was a mistake no one else would have noticed, yet even after washing and pressing the scarf, it bothered me. For me, the best course of action was to donate it to the local women’s prison. It went out of my life, and I hope it made someone else’s day.

I wish I had some wonderful tips for unweaving but I don’t. You know how it goes: somehow your shuttle doesn’t run on the shuttle race and ends up falling through the warp, or you forget to go around your floating selvedges and then have to back up and undo the undo. Basically my best advice is to take a deep breath, relax, and take your time. Unweaving is part of weaving and neither are notably speedy.

Sometimes, you need to choose between unweaving and surgical removal. For a few picks or pricey silk I’ll unweave, but when it comes to less expensive yarns or whole chunks, I use surgical removal. To do surgical removal, let off your tension slightly, use small sharp scissors to clip the weft ends close to the selvedge, and then use a blunt-nosed needle to pull the weft out. Then, really, try not to repeat the error.

There is one great bonus to learning to unweave: if you are demonstrating weaving to the public and start to run out of warp or weft, most people can’t tell if you are weaving or unweaving. And, you know, practice makes perfect.

Unweave well,

Featured Image: Loom and Scissors; authors: John and Lisa Merrill. Getty Images

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  1. Lee Ann W at 7:17 am September 13, 2017

    I agree whole heartedly ! You really do learn from unweaving and then making the same mistake again and again…… In my case I like to call it reverse weaving. It sounds more “professional”! Thanks for a great article.

  2. Karen D at 7:33 am September 13, 2017

    I said those exact words to my husband yesterday afternoon. And I have surreptitiously unwoven at demos to preserve warp. However, not everyone is oblivious. A teenage girl watched me for a few seconds and asked, “Are you taking that out?” Oops. I blamed it on a weaving error.

  3. Paula W at 7:49 am September 13, 2017

    I am a long-time knitter who never has trouble ripping out. I’m new to weaving on a RH loom and haven’t developed that same patience for ripping out the weaving mistakes. Because I mistakely untied the cross from my warping board, it took over 2 hours to untangle yarns and warp the loom. But I felt much better after I’d finished knowing I would see every twisted thread. Thanks for sharing – your article will inspire me to keep weaving my best.

  4. Leslie S at 10:16 am September 13, 2017

    I hate finding errors after taking my project off my loom, and I dislike unweaving (I do not have much weaving time). There are tools, though, to help us make fewer mistakes. I am the happy owner of a tempotreadle, which minds my treadling (comparing it to a wif), and lets me know when I’ve done something wrong. It is one of the best investments I’ve made in my weaving.

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