During my past as a primarily multi-shaft loom weaver, I was, like many of my multi-harness kin, hesitant to use pick-up sticks. I had myself convinced that creating patterns on a multi-shaft loom was far less work than using a pick-up stick or two. Then one day I realized: It takes usually about 6 hours (or more!) to wind a warp and get it properly set up on my floor loom. With direct warping, however, I can usually warp in less than an hour, and setting up a pick-up stick takes only minutes—and is far easier on the body.
Beyond the ease of setting up a pick-up stick is the benefit of quick changes: You can remove the pick-up stick and change your pick-up pattern as many times as you’d like during your weaving, each time taking only minutes to do so. I’ve seen weavers use this to their advantage and weave highly intricate patterns where no 2 picks are exactly alike—a feat not easily possible on any non-computer-aided floor loom!
Sara switches her pick-up stick when she switches her weft color in this clever checkered towel.
Of course, you don’t need to change your pick-up stick to a new pattern every pick to weave something spectacular. As an example, one project I think really showcases the versatility of the pick-up stick is Sara Goldenberg White’s Summer Plum Towels from the Summer 2023 issue. With a simple striped warp, Sara uses a clever combination of weft and pick-up to create 3 different towels on one warp. It’s really a master class in how small adjustments make a huge difference.
For her first two towels, Sara swaps out both the weft yarns and the pick-up sticks between towels but follows the same pick-up sequence. For the third towel, she uses both pick-up sticks and both weft colors to create a chunky checkered pattern. On all the towels, pick-up occurs only in the areas where the two colors overlap. It’s beautiful and brilliant—a set of coordinated towels each with its own personality, all with only a few swaps of the pick-up stick. It's the kind of weaving I love: an easy-to-weave pattern that looks far more complex than it actually is.
I say all this not to enter the debate as to whether rigid-heddle or multi-shaft looms are superior—I love both types of looms equally and for very different reasons. But it’s hard to deny the versatility of the pick-up stick and the wonderful ways in which you can change the direction of your pattern in just a few minutes. Of course, if you want to learn more about how to use pick-up sticks in your weaving, make sure you check out Sara’s video course Pick-Up Stick Basics and Beyond.