You guys know I’ve been super curious about weaving the past couple of years (I never got a chance to tell you about my blissfully calm afternoon of Saori weaving in the midst of our moving mayhem) so I’m thrilled to have these little handmade, solid maple hand looms for the holiday collection at Fringe Supply Co. I own several frame looms and pin looms, and this design is a dream — it’s less fiddly to weave on since the sides are unobstructed. Plus it’s gorgeous. Not surprisingly, this has been one of the most popular items so far this season. When Kathy Cadigan and I were shooting the photos for the holiday catalog, she took a whole series of me using these tools. I love these images, and while the loom does come with a set of instructions, I thought a photo-rich tutorial here might be useful. Pictured in the bottom left photo above, the loom kit includes the I-shaped loom itself, the tiny shuttle, needle stick and bamboo skewer seen to the right of the loom, and the beater at the top of the photo. It also comes with a small amount of warp yarn, as pictured (although the color may vary).
Making small weavings on a loom like this is a great way to use up your scrap yarn stash. If you’re already a weaver, this is an excellent travel loom. And if you’re just curious about weaving, it’s a wonderful way to try your hand at it on a small scale. Fun for the whole family.
Step 1: Warp the loom
I don’t have photos of how to warp the hand loom, since I had done that ahead of the shoot, but it’s pretty intuitive. You simply tie or tape the end of your warp yarn (a nice sturdy, non-elastic cotton is best) at the groove in one corner — any corner will do — and then bring the yarn to the corresponding groove at the other end of the loom. Pulling it nice and taut, catch it around the back of the groove, wrapping the yarn into the adjacent groove. Then again, bring the yarn to the corresponding groove on the opposite side, catch it around the back and into the next groove, and so on. You don’t have to use the full width of the loom. If you want to do a smaller weaving, you can warp only as many grooves as you like, centering them on the loom. To tie off the warp, you can see in the top photo above that I just wound it around the top of the first and second notches at the beginning and the end to keep it secure while I weave. That will allow it to pop off later when I’m ready to remove the weaving from the loom. Same thing if I had just taped it on the back. Whatever works for you! Weaving is easygoing.
Step 2: Create a “shed”
As you likely know from grade school experiments with paper plates and construction paper, weaving is under-over-under-over-under, and then on the next pass it’s over-under-over-under-over. (Whether that’s over 1 under 1 or over 2 under 2 is up to you. Experiment with it!) You can do this with a tapestry needle if you like, or by threading your weft yarn through the hole in the end of the needle stick, but it can be helpful to use the weaving tools to create a “shed” — a space between the warp threads — to pass the yarn through. The bamboo skewer is for creating a “fast shed.” Take the skewer and pick up every other warp strand — under-over-under all the way across — then push it up onto the top of the upper cross-piece of the loom, as seen in the photos, and leave it there. This creates a small gap, or shed, that’s easy to pass the needle stick through. Insert the needle stick into this tiny shed space, following the path the skewer took, and turn it on its side to widen the shed, as seen above. For the next pass, you’ll use the needle stick to pick up the opposite warps — over-under-over — then back to the fast shed created by the skewer.
Step 3: Load the shuttle and begin weaving
Take a bit of your weft yarn and wind it onto the tiny shuttle as shown. You don’t want a big wad of yarn that will get stuck in the shed — just enough to make however many passes you want to make with that color. Then pass the shuttle through the shed. When changing colors, as seen here, or starting a new length of yarn, just leave the ends dangling — you can simply weave them into the back of the finished piece with a tapestry needle or your fingers. And you also don’t want to pull the weft yarn tight as you pass it back and forth each direction. Keep it loose, with a few inches between it and your previous rows, as seen above. Pulling it tight on each pass will cause the sides of your weaving to draw in. For the white roving seen in the images, I didn’t actually wind the shuttle. I just laid the end of the roving over the notch in one end of the shuttle and used that to push it through the shed.
Now pull out the needle stick, use it to pick up the opposite shed, and pass the shuttle back through the other direction. Continue in that manner, building your weaving upwards as you go. The closer you get to the top of the loom, the tighter it will get. You may find you’re not able to weave right up to the very top.
Step 4: Beat the weft into place
As you work, take the beater and use it to press the new rows of weft down against the bottom of the loom and each other. Whether you compress your weaving a great deal or keep it looser it entirely up to you. If you’re weaving with strips of fabric for a little rag rug trivet, say, you might want to pack them very tightly. If you’re making a wall hanging, you might choose to leave some sections loose for a different effect — it just depends what you’re going for.
Tie in long sections of fringe, test out different weaving techniques, have fun with it.
Step 5: Remove the weaving from the loom
Once you’ve woven as large an area as you want, gently remove it from the loom by either cutting the warp or popping it off the ends of the loom. Again, depending what you’re going for, you can leave a gap and tie knots along the top for inserting a piece of driftwood or a dowel for a wall hanging. Or tie the warp into knots along both ends right up against the weft, either leaving the loose ends as fringe or weaving them into the back. Or use a sewing machine and stitch along both ends, then trim or weave in the warp ends.
Et voilà. The first weaving on your beautiful little hand loom.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the fingernails on my left hand are actually blue in these pictures. I’d had a little glove mishap doing some indigo dyeing the previous weekend. What was I dyeing? More on that later.