More Designs on the Needle Pillow Warp

This post may help explain how my needle pillow cloth was woven. These pieces were made on the same warp. I had made a dozen or so pillow fronts and backs (in plain weave or tabby). Then I got creative and played with ideas of what else could be woven on the same warp. This is a scroll I made. I used the fabric I wove on the needle pillow warp for the background. It measures 7 ¾” x 26” including fringe.

I wove some samples and decided to make this for my scroll. The warp was handspun singles from Bouton. I wanted to see if I could use this fragile cotton for a warp. I used a sizing for the first time in my weaving life. The pattern weft is silk and shows up nicely against the matt cotton.

Here is a piece with two samples. The I used silk chenille that I’ve been hording dyed with black walnuts. In one part I used the chenille as the pattern weft. It looks similar to the needle pillows except I used only 1 block. The tabby was black sewing thread, I believe. For the flat sample, I used the reverse: the chenille for the tabby weft and the sewing thread for the pattern weft. Again I only used one of the blocks.

For this sample I used all sewing thread (easier with only one shuttle.) Again I used only one block and the pattern and tabby wefts were sewing thread. I do love to try things.
Notice at the bottom where the warp floats are is where the two-stick heading was.

Sometimes the floating wefts don’t seem to meld together.  See how the floats snug up to each other in the needle pillows and in the Chenille sample above? Read below.

This illustration and quote are in The Weaving Book by Helen Bress and is the only place I’ve seen this addressed. “Inadvertently, the tabby does another thing. It makes some pattern threads pair together and separates others. On the draw-down [draft], all pattern threads look equidistant from each other. Actually, within any block, the floats will often look more like this: [see illustration]. With some yarns and setts, this pairing is hardly noticeable. If you don’t like the way the floats are pairing, try changing the order of the tabby shots. …and be consistent when treadling mirror-imaged blocks.”

Make Your Own Needle Pillow

Here is a needle pillow I made which I use quite often. (I made quite a few to give as gifts when traveling.) The technique can be called Monk’s Belt, Overshot, or Overshot on Opposites. I think the definitive book about all of this is The Weaving Book by Helene Bress. I call it Overshot on Opposites. It’s similar to what we normally think overshot is but the blocks are clear with no half-tones. I was asked for the draft. A weaving draft has 4 parts. This photo represents the drawdown draft. I’ll address each of the separate drafts below. I hope beginners can make needle pillows and learn a little about drafting as well.

Here is a close-up of the weave. The threading draft is next.

Here is the threading draft. The alternate blocks are threaded on shafts 1 & 2 and 3 & 4. How many threads in each block depends upon how many warp threads are in an inch (epi). In my case I think I had 16 ends per inch and the blocks had 4 warps in each block to measure about ¼” wide.

The treadling draft for overshot is always special in that every other weft is plain weave (also called tabby). In between the tabby rows are the pattern rows which have the floats that make up the blocks. To make the floats in the pattern, you have to raise the shafts for the block you don’t want to show. So, when you want the wefts to show where shafts 3 & 4 are threaded, you lift shafts 1 & 2. When you want the floats in the 1 & 2 threaded blocks, you treadle to lift the threads in the 3 & 4 shaft areas.

Treadling drafts only show the pattern wefts and use the words “Use Tabby” to indicate that you treadle tabby rows in between the pattern rows.

For the tie-up draft, this is a great way to tie up the treadles on 4-shaft looms. Once the treadles are arranged this way, you’ll never have to change the tie-up again. For most overshot patterns, the two tabby wefts are: lift 1 & 3 and 2 & 4. See how you can “walk” the treadles to accomplish that by pressing both the 1 & 3 treadles with the left foot and then the right foot treadles the other tabby: 2 & 4? I always like to walk the treadles whenever I weave if it is at all possible for more efficiency and ease.

Look at the treadle tie-up and the finished pillow. Can you see what treadles to press to lift shafts 3 & 4 (for floats in 1 & 2 areas)?  And what treadles to lift 1 & 2 to make the weft float over the 3 & 4 areas? Then remember to “Use Tabby” between these pattern rows. A trick to remember which tabby to use is to have the shuttle be on the side of the cloth that your tabby foot will be used next. Weave drafts are explained in my book, Weaving for Beginners in the chapter on weaving a sampler. It is available on my website:

Neddle Cushion Details

Here are the needle cushions as they were woven, before cutting them apart. After sampling, I was happy with the way they looked. See below for some of the problems that needed solving.

I hated the spaces between the pattern threads as seen here. Read how I solved that below. I chose different colors of the pattern threads and doubled the number of threads to make them thicker. Then I was satisfied.

I went to my bible on Overshot techniques, Helene Bress’s book. On page 206 in the Overshot chapter was my answer! Her book has such depth with many ways to think about how one can design things. There must be thousands of images.

© 1981 Helene Bress