Knitting Blog

Use Your Stash: Using Knitting Yarns for Weaving

If you’re a knitter looking to get into weaving, you might think you need to buy yarn specifically made for weaving. There are a lot of benefits to doing that: It’s much easier to warp from a cone than from a hank, for example, and with many more yards of yarn on the average cone than in the average skein, you can warp the whole loom without tying on a new length of yarn. But with the volume and variety of knitting yarns on the market (and the volume and variety of yarns located in many knitters’ stashes), there’s no reason not to make almost any yarn work for weaving.

Balls of Colored Yarn

Knitting yarns will fall into two categories: yarns suitable for the warp and yarns suitable for the weft. While just about any yarn can be used for the weft, there are some pretty specific requirements for what yarn would make a good warp.

Choosing a warp yarn

The first, and possibly the most important factor, is strength.

A warp yarn needs to be strong enough to hold up under the tension of the loom. Fortunately, this is pretty easy to test. Take your desired warp yarn in both hands and give it a sharp tug. If it breaks, it’s probably not strong enough for a warp.

If you can pull fairly hard and it still won’t break, it’ll probably hold up just fine. Most commercially available multi-ply wool yarns do OK as warp, as do most varieties of cottons, silks and linens. Most single-ply yarns are simply not strong enough.

The next indicator of warp suitability is how grabby a yarn is.

For most plant fibers, this isn’t a problem, but trying to find a shed in a sticky mohair blend is usually more trouble than it’s worth. This is also pretty easy to test. Take a length of yarn and fold it in half. Give the strands a roll between your palms, then try to pull them apart. If they separate easily, it’ll probably work for the warp. If they want to hold onto each other or if they start to felt together from just that cursory roll, it probably won’t work. Because the warp threads pass by closely to each other every time you change the shed, if they stick together too much, it will be difficult to pass the shuttle through.

Further considerations for weaving with knitting yarns are largely those that come up when using yarn specifically for weaving as well.

There’s the weight or grist of the yarn, particularly as relative to reed size. Worsted weight yarn, for example, is not ideal for use in a 10 dpi reed. If the yarn is too thick for the holes, the constant rubbing as you move the heddle will weaken the yarn, and you’re more likely to have a warp thread break (which is never any fun).

There’s also the amount of yarn to consider. Knitting yarns are sold in smaller lots. If you have a lot of yarn to work with, calculating the exact yardage of warp you’ll need is a lot less necessary. If you want to make a scarf out of one skein of hand-painted sock yarn, doing the math to figure out how long and wide you can make the warp will save you a lot of time in the long run. Of course, you can always just wing it, but you’ll have to be prepared for stripes or a smaller-than-anticipated finished object.

Woven Rainbow Tea Towels

Photo via Craftsy member shoeboxcat

Choosing a weft yarn

The weft is where all those yarns that weren’t right for the warp get to shine. Something soft that comes apart if you look at it funny? Perfect for the weft, where that softness can shine. Something so hairy and sticky that you can’t get the shuttle in? Excellent for the weft, where that grabbiness can be a plus to hold everything in place.

This is the perfect application for all those novelty yarns you bought to make quick scarves with but wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot knitting needle. Ladder yarns add a nice burst of color and shine and boucle yarns weave up soft and squishy, with none of the hunting for the next stitch that comes with knitting or crocheting them. Almost any yarn can be used for the weft.

Preparing knitting yarns for weaving

You can prepare yarn for weaving in much the same way you’d prepare them for knitting. Warping a loom involves pulling yarn out at a much faster rate than just knitting, so a center-pull cake is perfect for this. The flat bottom of a cake allows it to stay where you put it. A hand wound ball, on the other hand, has a tendency to jump and roll all over the room. If you don’t have a ball winder, you can still prevent the ball from rolling everywhere. Just place the ball in a box or drawer, closing or sealing it enough so there’s only room for a strand of yarn and the ball won’t pop out at you.

Yarn that is already packaged in center-pull skeins can be used as-is like it were a cake. As you pull yarn out of the middle of the skein, it will flatten and generally stay where it’s put.

By following these simple guidelines and testing yarn for strength and stickiness, you will have no problem using knitting yarns for weaving. Make that stash work for you!

Have you woven something using knitting yarns? Tell us about it!


Barry Almand

Long time knitter now learning how to weave. Very informative. Thanks


Exactly the information I was looking for. And well-written. Thanks so much. Going to give weaving a try.


I was looking for this info…thanks. ☺


I would value a chart that gave suggested dpi for the various weights or thicknesses of yarns sold for knitting
Eg I saw someone say 12dpi too loose for sock 4 ply. She went up to 15dpi but that wore the yarn. In the end she used 16dpi, but 2 threads at a time in an 8 reed. This sort of thing is hard to find out yourself!


Thanks! Also like others above this is exactly what I wanted to know! Cones can be pricey and I’m wanting to get back into weaving after a long time and was wondering if I can start with some wool for the warp. I have been looking at ops shops lately and there are so many bags of brand new wool if you look around! I’d prefer this to practice with first. 🙂


I just finished a scarf-size sampler or different weaves in my rigid heddle loom where I used handspun yarn from Lincoln wool, that was not dyed and this worked perfectly for warp. This is not necessarily a scarf, because it is a sampler… For the weft I used a variety of yarn from a stash. In the case of some yarn, I used 1 two-ply but I also tried doubling this yarn to see the different texture displayed in a particular weaving structure. It was worth the try.


Hi! This may be an odd question, but I was wondering if it is possible to knit with weft string…? I have a lot of it that someone gave me and I’d like to try weaving but I won’t have a chance to for awhile. In the meantime, I thought I’d make use of some of it. If I knit, say, 3 or 4 strands together at a time, do you think that would work for certain projects?! Thanks!


I have pre rolled balls of t-shirt yarn, that I want to weave on my rug loom. Can you show me how to do this without taking apart the links of material?


I’m a weaver. I’m not sure you’re using the right term. Weft yarn can be anything, from fine to bulky. You call what you have “weft string” which isn’t specific enough. I wonder if you’re talking about fine cotton rug warp? It’s very strong and has a good twist and is rather fine, smaller than fingering. There’s also 8/2 un-mercerized cotton, which is popular with weavers for things like towels and such. It’s fine and just a bit smaller as the stronger 8/4 cotton. It will sometimes break apart when you give it a tug test. It can be used for warp and weft, but with care in the warp. It’s relatively soft cotton and weavers sometimes put two ends together, used as if one. You could knit with a couple strands held or twisted together. Two strands are about equivalent to DK weight. I can see it making it up into nice wash cloths, edgings, lace work, etc. Even a baby blanket. Try a sample and see how it goes!


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