Weaving with papers is a truly versatile craft, not least because a variety of papers can be effectively woven, and the pattern permutations are vast. Interweaving paper allows you to create some striking designs, yet it is one of the simplest art forms.
Paper weaving is as old as paper. In China and, particularly later, in japan, very narrow paper strips were woven to make bags, mats and even clothes of great durability. In the 1960s several major textile manufacturers wove paper in a search for new, non-synthetic fibres. For a short time paper fabric was available commercially, but never became popular.
All sorts of papers can be used for weaving, depending on the visual or textural effect you want to achieve. When you are starting out, practise using medium weights, but as you become confident you will want to experiment with the wonderful colour of tissue and wrapping papers and the texture and three-dimensional possibilities of handmade papers. You can also recycle anything from glossy magazine pages and sweet wrappers to old letters, maps and manuscripts.
The most basic method is to weave a warp (vertical strip) of one colour and a weft (horizontal strip) of another in a ‘one under, one over’ pattern, to produce a checkerboard effect. The number of ‘unders and overs’ can go through many mathematical permutations to create woven patterns of great intricacy.
Traditional paper weaves used paper that was twisted before being woven, but paper can also be woven flat, as strips. The strips need not be of equal width or be straight-edged. For example, identically sized but differently coloured squares of paper can each be cut randomly into strips, then woven together in strict order to create a tipsy chessboard effect.
Parallel-edged strips need not be woven flat. At intervals, the strip may loop out of the weave before being tucked in again, rather like a piece of knitted yarn caught on a nail. Arranged in patterns and at set heights, this can create beautiful relief patterns.