C. FAQ 3 – What yarns are suitable for backstrap weaving?

Here are some of the mercerized cottons sold in the US and which have proved  to be very suitable for making warp faced pieces on my backstrap loom.

Aunt Lydia thread by Coats is a size 10 crochet cotton. It wraps about 35 times to the inch which will give non US weavers a better idea of its size. I use this for bookmarks and keyfobs.

Patons Grace is a number 3 cotton which wraps 24 times to the inch. I use this for bags, placemats and table runners. This size teamed with double strands of embroidery floss is good for supplementary weft pieces. This thread has a lot of sheen.

Coats Royale size 3 (24wpi) is similar to Patons Grace but with less sheen.

Nazli Gelin Garden cotton thread (35wpi)…firm and smooth and comes in beautiful strong colors. I bought this from a yarn store in North Carolina but it is available online too.

Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale is a cabled mercerized cotton (12wpi). This weight is great for making a backstrap or for getting the hang of a new technique. I bought it at The Mannings. It is the same weight as Peaches and Creme and Sugar and Cream. However I don’t recommend using these cottons that have been designed for making dish cloths as they are too soft for warp faced weaving.

A member of the Backstrap Weaving Group at Ravelry has recommended Tahki Cotton Classic. You can see it at Webs. Cathyz made this backstrap with it:


I have a link to the Hand Weavers Studio site which has information about 22wpi (similar to number 3 US crochet cotton) and 32wpi (similar to number 10 US crochet cotton) cotton threads. I am told that they are pricey but they sell thread in convenient small quantities. This link was provided by Toby in the Weavolution backstrap group.

Barry in the Ravelry backstrap group gave me the link to Purplelinda Crafts which has a great range. I can’t guarantee that these are mercerized…best to check with them.

Dot provided details about this UK supplier who has mercerized cotton thread…

William Hall and Co.
We stock over 1500 repeatable yarns, many used for braid and tassel making. Plain and mercerised cottons, linens, cotton/linens, wools, viscose rayons, chenilles and fancy yarns in a large range of fast dyed colours. Send for details of our shade cards collections. Call us on 0161 437 3295.

Toby at Weavolution provided this info for those in the UK…

I’ve been searching for chunkier yarns to weave with. Most of the smooth/mercerized yarns I’ve found are very fine, which is great for detail on bands, but I’m trying to experiment with a range of yarns at the moment, to see which ones I enjoy working with the most.

Just thought I’d share this with my fellow backstrap weavers, the Patons Smoothie DK yarn is great for use on a backstrap loom! The range of colours seems excellent and its smoothness means it doesn’t stick. The finished product feels a lot like the thicker mercerized cottons, despite being 100% acrylic.

Here in the UK it sells for about £2.50 per 100g in Hobbycraft, and it’s widely available on ebay. It measures in at 14wpi (6wpc). I think it would make a great yarn for beginners who find it more difficult to manipulate very fine yarns and who need something that won’t get sticky! Also good for BIG projects I imagine!  :)

Knitting wool can be used for backstrap weaving but must be respun first so that it is strong and smooth enough to stand up to the abrasion of the heddles and will resist pilling as the yarns rub against each other. The yarn should be spun firmly enough so that it kinks back on itself as seen in the picture below.

I usually repsin the yarn and wind it into a tight ball leaving it for a few weeks before winding my warp.

If you spin your own yarn, the same applies.

I am not very knowledgeable about spinning wool. I spin it, I ply it, I weave with it, it works. Maybe I have just been lucky so far. That’s about all I can tell you!

So, I got this small ball of plied handspun wool from the experts in Chincheros Peru. I hope that it might give you some idea of the high twist…

I always ply the yarn as that is what the weavers here do and have never tried to use singles. Below is a piece I made from my handspun llama fiber.


  1. I have some friends going to Cuzco next week, I’m hoping they can pick up some overspun wool singles that the weavers use there. Do you know what this type of yarn is called in Spanish so we can ask for it?

    • I am not sure about Peru, but here in Bolivia, handspun wool goes by the Quechua name k’aytu. The Spanish name for wool “lana” is used to refer to the the store bought synthetics.

      I would have your friend ask for “lana hilada a mano para tejer en telar” (handspun wool for weaving). My understanding is that the wool is used plied, as it is here, so your friend should check that what she is being shown is in fact singles.

  2. Perfect! You know, if what they use is plied, then I’ll run with that. I did a second look at the piece I have that is so exquisite and fine, and it IS plied, just finer than my eyes can see easily.

  3. Good Morning Laverne from West Yorkshire :D

    Every now and then I drop in on your blog to see your wonderful woven creations. Today I’ve seen the pics of your sample purses, they are just beautiful!

    I’m just a beginner weaver and now that things have settled down at home I may even finish my first real weaving on my rather large table loom :) I like the loom, I just need to get used to it, but I love to “fiddle” as I call it. My fingers start to “itch” and I need to be making something. Crochet is really good for that as I can take the hooks with me and some yarn and just play around with an idea or attempt to make something I’ve seen. I’d like to do this with weaving too, well not necessarily take with me to do whilst waiting for Hubby to arrive by train but to just be able to sit down for a little while at home and be creative for 1/2 hr or more :D

    I’ll stop nattering and ask my question, with the yarn that you have spun and used in your weavings, have you found that after washing that it has shrunk a lot? Or would it depend on the type of weaving you’d be using it for, for example, a plain weave would shrink more than a warp faced weave?

    Otherwise, there’s nothing for it but to get my attic setup and get on with some sampling :D

    Thank you for the chance to read all about your travels and to learn more about the wonderful world of weaving.

    Alles Gute!

    • Hi Nicky,
      Welcome. Thanks for visiting.
      All my handspun (which isn’t much!) has been used for warp faced pieces like tool bags and shoulder bags and none have ever been washed so I am afraid that I can’t help you with that.

  4. Hello Laverne,

    Firstly thank you for your blog. I have wanted to try weaving since that kids loom kit way back when. But not until I discovered backstrap weaving and your site, was there any feasible way to attempt it.

    Secondly, as a complete beginner to all fiber arts, what would be the best way to learn about yarn from scratch? Ply, mercerised, cabled… I know nothing. Trial and error is daunting and expensive – also I have a loving two year old, which makes simply getting advice from a shop implausible (!)

    Maybe this is a silly question, but I was wondering if a website or a book or even attempting spinning late evenings (time that is mine!) would help.

    PS I am in Australia and have started weaving plain weave narrow bands using crochet yarn. I think nu 3.? Not sure of the brand.

    • Hi and thanks for your comments. I am not sure what to advise about your wish to learn about yarn from scratch. If you wish to understand just enough to be able to find suitable yarn for starting out in backstrap weaving, then I would simply ask your yarn store for mercerized crochet cotton, perle cotton…something with high twist. But, if you you really want to know all the ins and outs of yarn without having to actually buy and try the stuff, then I would suggest getting a good book to start with. I am sorry that I don’t know of one to recommend.I learned the little I know about different types of cotton by hanging out in the online fiber groups like Weavolution and Ravelry. There, you can ask all the questions you want in your own time. Ravelry also has load of spinning groups if you need advice about that.

      • Thank you, that’s great advice – you’ve given me the questions to ask in store to get started, and a direction for learning more.

        Thanks again, Jen.

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