Paper Weave Patterns

One of the initial encounters many people have with weaving is creating woven paper placemats during their school days. However, as we delve deeper into the world of “serious” weaving, we often leave paper behind. But have you ever wondered why?

Considering that weaving is a form of fiber art and paper is a fiber, it begs the question: why not weave with paper? The use of paper in weaving offers a plethora of possibilities beyond the traditional fibers associated with the craft.

Additionally, paper weaving provides a simple way to express your creativity without the need for a loom. It can serve as a means to overcome artist’s block or as a soothing activity to clear your mind between projects. (For tips on breaking through weaver’s block, check out this article.)

So, how do we elevate paper weaving from a childhood craft to a form of art? Let’s explore some starting points for weaving with paper:

Designing patterns

One of the aspects I love about paper weaving is the opportunity to incorporate patterns, especially those with floating elements. Floats occur when the weft passes over multiple warp threads before going under again. (Learn more about weaving with floats here.)

The use of stiffer paper and longer floats creates depth and visual interest, allowing the pattern to come alive on the weaving’s surface. Experimenting with different types of paper, such as tissue paper or watercolor paper, yields varying results.

It’s important to understand that all weaving should be viewed as a pixelated image or pattern, but this is particularly pronounced in paper weaving due to the flat and rectangular nature of the material. Creating patterns for paper weaving is straightforward with just a pencil and graph paper. If you’re looking for inspiration, Pinterest is a great resource for easily translatable patterns displayed as illustrated diagrams resembling graph paper.

While you can follow these patterns directly, using graph paper to plan your paper weavings opens up endless possibilities. Each vertical column on the graph paper represents a warp strip, and each row represents a weft strip. The advantage of weaving with paper patterns over yarn is the absence of limitations imposed by looms or tools. Paper weaving patterns offer boundless variations within a single piece without the need for reeds, heddles, pick-up sticks, or any other traditional weaving tools.

Paper weaving ideas

Weave photographs

Weaving photographs is a captivating and unique variation of paper weaving. Since photographs already contain images, any weaving and cutting you do will result in a fragmented composition.

An excellent example of this can be seen in the work of David Samuel Stern, who weaves together two similar photographs to create surreal and ghostly images. You can take this concept further by combining a photograph of a person with a place that holds significance to your relationship or combining a photograph with plain colored paper that complements or accentuates the colors in the image.

Watercolor weaving

If you’re seeking a subtle touch of color or patterns, watercolor can be a simple and effective way to add visual interest to your weaving. Even using just one shade of paint provides endless variations depending on the concentration and application on your paper. You can also experiment with different colors, paint densities, and designs to create unique effects. Watercolor paper, known for its stiffness, lends itself well to creating dimensional paper weavings. If painting on your weaving is not your intention, card stock or smooth bristol paper can be used to achieve a raised effect against the background.

Weave with your journals/books

At Any Given Moment, Nicole Bunting, 2020

One of the ways I enjoy weaving with paper is by incorporating journal excerpts. While I usually write directly onto paper, usually watercolor paper, you can also weave pages directly from a journal if you’re willing to part with them. The image above showcases a paper weaving I created using journaling on watercolor paper stained with tea.

Another exciting idea is upcycling an old book, especially one that you no longer need, and weaving some of its pages. This provides an ideal canvas for drawing, painting, or even printing on top of the woven pages. For more images of the weaving titled “At Any Given Moment” and my other artwork, check them out here.

Weaving with paper is not confined to childhood pastimes. Discover how you can transform this humble material into the next level of artistic expression in my comprehensive 35-page ebook. Complete with full-color images, infographics, and instructions, this resource will elevate your paper weaving skills. Plus, at the end of the ebook, you’ll find a provided pattern for exploring beyond plain weave.

Tips for weaving using paper

Materials needed

  • Paper (tissue paper, photographs, watercolor paper, card stock, any paper of your choice)
  • Artist’s tape or painter’s tape
  • X-Acto knife or paper cutter
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Cork-backed ruler
  • Archival glue or thread

Cutting your paper strips for weaving

While it’s possible to cut paper strips using a cork-backed ruler and X-Acto knife, a paper or photograph cutter offers a faster and simpler alternative. This tool is not limited to cutting paper strips for weaving but excels at it. It streamlines the preparation process and ensures even and precise cuts, eliminating the risk of uneven strips. Investing in a cutter of this kind is highly recommended, particularly when working with irreplaceable photographs or delicate paper.

Choose your warp and weft

As paper is a free-standing material for weaving, there is no definitive warp or weft. However, laying out either your horizontal or vertical strips first can simplify the weaving process. Ensure you have a flat surface to work on, which won’t be needed until your weaving is complete. To keep your strips in place and prevent any unraveling during the weaving process, tape them down at the very edge using artist’s tape or painter’s tape. Before taping, gently rub the sticky side across some fabric to reduce its adhesiveness and ensure clean removal.

Once you’ve finished weaving, secure your creation to prevent it from unraveling. You can apply a small amount of archival glue at the edges where the warp and weft strips meet for a seamless finish, or sew them together for a decorative edge. If choosing the glue option, it’s advisable to use archival glue to avoid yellowing the paper over time.

Paper has the potential to be more than just a material for school projects. If you try out some paper weaving projects, I’d love to hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below or tag @cole.bun on Instagram!