How to weave: Keep it simple and still turn out beautiful work

A beginner’s guide to taking up a new cultural pursuit

Want to marry meditation with making, and soothe your way into 2023? Weaving could be the answer.

It can conjure up images of cottage industry, and the spectre of Peig-like ladies by the fire, but hand weaving is having a more modern moment, as Niamh McCartney explains. “Hand-weaving is slow,” says McCartney, who studied textiles at NCAD, and has worked as a textile designer. “That is the beauty of it. It requires a certain amount of concentration, which I feel can help to clear the mind, as it is a repetitive and almost meditative process. And it’s personal. You can plan your complete design in advance or you can let it evolve as you weave. You can really go with the flow.”

Sounds good. But is it difficult? It’s January and I’m caught between brain fog and fancying a challenge?

“Weaving is really easy to learn. The basics are simple. You can choose to keep it simple if you want, and you can still make beautiful work.” But it can also get nicely complicated, if that’s what you’re after – “as complicated as you choose really,” says McCartney. “Weaving is both mathematical and tactile. There are endless ways to explore pattern, colour and yarns and how they work together. Making a high-quality fabric takes a very long time to perfect.”

I’m all about the one-month fad. Do I need to buy loads of expensive equipment?

Weaving can be done at home on a frame loom, which can be set up on the kitchen table. They don’t take up much space and a very basic starter one costs from under €20 at, or find out how to make your own out of bits of wood and Sugru at, where you can also pick up weaving basics. “Start small,” says McCartney. “Frame looms are very simple to set up, and fold up out of the way when you’re not using them.” So see how you go before investing in bigger fancier things. McCartney teaches weaving courses at Arran Street East, where you can get to tutored grips with the likes of warp, weft, heddle bars, shuttles and combs.


Where does weaving stand on the instant gratification stakes?

“It depends on the loom,” says McCartney. “Smaller items are best for starting out: things like wall hangings, coasters, placemats and scarves; things that are pretty much finished when they come off the loom. No sewing required! In the classes, the finished pieces are always completely different – the personalities really shine through the work and I love that.”

Solitary or sociable?

Unlike knitting, weaving isn’t something that you can necessarily do in front of the telly – though for a very simple pattern you might, if the programme was sufficiently mindless. But it can definitely be done with pals over a chat. “It’s a sociable and collaborative environment,” says McCartney. You just need good light, and a decent seat so you don’t get a bad back as you concentrate on your creation. In Ireland we have a rich tradition of textile weaving, and while the industry is smaller these days, there are still working mills making world class fabrics. Doing it yourself is a good way of understanding how fabric is made, adds McCartney. Which is great from a sustainability point of view. And sure where else would you get to say Warp Factor One?

Weaving courses take place at Arran Street East in Dublin and Schull, Co Cork, from €145.

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture