Memory Aids and Weaving Pick-Up

My working memory is bad, so over the years I have developed methods to help me keep track of pick-up sequences.

Christina Garton Aug 18, 2022 - 5 min read

Memory Aids and Weaving Pick-Up Primary Image

Colorful markers, like the highlighters shown here, help Christina keep track of her weaving. Photo credit: Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

I have ADHD, which means my working memory is terrible. While I can tell you the plot to a movie I saw only once when I was 7 years old, I also frequently start new emails and then immediately forget who I was going to email and why. I don’t just do this occassionally; these memory lapses happen multiple times a day, every day. It’s just something I’ve dealt with my entire life, long before diagnosis. For that reason, I’ve developed tricks and habits to help jog my memory, including—or especially—when I weave.


Anu Bhatia’s beautiful Sun Shimmer Scarf from the Little Looms Summer 2019 issue gets its complex patterning from a pick-up sequence. Photo by George Boe

Weaving pick-up sequences on the rigid-heddle loom is especially hard on my brain. I have to stop weaving constantly to change the loom or pick-up stick. Simple sequences are easy, but if there are more than 3 or 4 steps, I have trouble remembering what I’ve just done and what’s next. Take Anu Bhatia’s Sun Shimmer Scarf from the Summer 2019 Easy Weaving with Little Looms. The pick-up sequence in the scarf is so long that it has a graph. In theory, this is not complicated. You place your pick-up stick for the block, and then follow the sequence. But because Up and Pick-up are repeated, I will inevitably lose track of how many times I have repeated this sequence and need to count picks in my cloth to remember.

Color Coded Chart

One of Christina’s color-coded charts for the Sun Shimmer Scarf next to Anu’s pick-up sequence. Photo by Christina Garton

Instead of following the chart, I use color coding. This can be done for any pick-up sequence using physical objects such as beads or buttons or by making a new chart with markers. I assign each part of a sequence a color. Up might equal red, Down might be blue, and so on and so forth. Then, if I’m using buttons, I’ll line up the buttons on one side of me in order of one sequence or one block, depending on the complexity of the project. Immediately after doing the first part of the sequence, I move the first button, the one representing that step, to my other side. Then after the second step I do the same, moving it behind the first button. I continue until all buttons are moved to my other side and are in line, in order.

If I don’t want to use buttons for some reason (sequence is too long, too few repeats, my child wants to steal the buttons to make button soup) I can make a color chart. I write out the steps and color code them. Then I add columns for every repeat. As I do each step, I put a mark of some sort in the column for that step. If I have many repeats of a sequence, I might mark each column multiple times in different ways. In the example shown here, I’ve first marked each step with a line of the corresponding color for the first repeat, then an X for the second. Do what works best for you. My brain reads colors better than words; your brain might work better using arrows, shapes, or numbers.

Typically, after a few repeats, I’ll learn to “read” the cloth or get into enough of a flow state where I just know what to do next. It really depends on the sequence and where I am mentally—if I’m tired, it’s harder for me to remember the next step than if I’m well rested. What matters is that I have strategies I can put in place if I need them, so no matter how I feel, I can weave away, (mostly) stress free.

Now if you (like me) once thought pick-up was beyond your mental reach for whatever reason, but now feel as though you can give it a go, I must recommend our new course, Pick-Up Stick Basics and Beyond with the incredible Sara Goldenberg White as the instructor. I've watched the video a few times and whether you're brand new to pick-up, or want to get some new tips and refresh your skills, it's a fabulous resource.

Happy Weaving!