(never mind how I know that)


How to build and use an inkle loom

What’s something fun have people been doing for ten thousand years? Weaving! These instructions will help you build a simple inkle loom you can use to weave cloth bands 2-4″ wide and 32″ long. It’s small enough to fit in your lap, it costs next to nothing, and you can make it in less than an hour!

Building materials one 1×4 board at least 3 feet long; one 1×3 board at least 2 feet long; one 3/4″ hardwood dowel at least 3 feet long; one 6 inch bolt, around 1/4″ in diameter, with a washer and wing nut to match; about twelve 1-1/4″ wood screws; wood glue.
Tools tape measure; combination square; saw; drill; 3/4″ drill bit for dowel holes, other drill bits to match bolt and screw sizes; clamp or vise; sandpaper.
Weaving materials a ball or skein of yarn (start with something strong and smooth likecotton), a few feet of clean, strong cotton string.

Building your loom

1. Measure and cut

a)    Out of the 1×4 board, cut one 16″ piece and two 8″ pieces.

b)     Out of the 1×3 board, cut two 12″ pieces and one 5″ piece.

c)     Out of the dowel cut four 8″ pegs and one 7″ peg.

boards cut

boards cut

2. Drill 

a)    On the 16″ board, mark a centered spot 1.5″ from one end.

b)     On one of your 12″ boards, mark a centered spot 1.5″ from one end.

c)     On the other 12″ board, mark spots 1.5″, 5.5″, and 7″ from one end.

d)    Using your 3/4″ drill bit, drill most but not all of the way through the boards in the places you have marked.

e)     On the end of the 16″ board that does not have a hole drilled in it, cut a 2″ long slot starting about 1.5″ from the end of the board. The slot should be just wide enough so that your bolt will fit through it. A jigsaw or keyhole saw between two drilled holes works best, but you can also just drill a line of holes then sand between them.

marks for drilling

marks for drilling

3. Add arms 

Take the 16″ board (the “trunk” of the loom) and lay it across the two 12″ boards (the “arms” of the loom) so that the arm with three holes in it is 5″ from the left edge of the trunk and the one with one hole in it is flush with the right edge of the trunk. Then turn it over and screw the boards together from the arm side.

holes drilled and arms on

holes drilled and arms on

4. Add feet 

Attach the two 8″ boards (the “feet” of the loom) under the “arms” you have just screwed to the “trunk” and perpendicular to both arms and trunk so that two inches stick out behind (on the side where the arms stick out).

feet on

feet on

5. Glue in pegs 

Glue an 8″ peg into each of the four holes in the arms of the loom. Glue the 7″ peg into the hole in the trunk. Clamp the dowels in place, or just prop the whole thing up so the pegs stay upright (and keep kids and pets away). Glue the dowels as close to perpendicular to the boards as you can make them, but don’t lose sleep over it.

A tip: use the best wood glue you can find for this, because weaving puts a lot of pressure on the dowels. I used Elmer’s glue at first and had to replace it later.

dowels on, glue drying

dowels on, glue drying

6. Make an adjustable peg

a)    Take your 5″ board and drill a hole the long way through it, about 1/2″ from one side. Use a drill bit that will make a hole your bolt will fit through. If your drill bit isn’t long enough, drill two holes that meet in the middle. A vise or clamp makes this easier. If you make a mess of it, just cut another 5″ board and try again. Make sure the bolt will go all the way through and out the other side.

b)     Thread your bolt through the hole in the peg, then put it through the two inch long slot you made in the trunk of the loom. Fasten the washer and wing nut to it on the other side. Make sure the whole thing holds together tightly.

That’s it – you’ve got yourself a loom!

What are those letters? You will need them when you use the loom. You might want to write them on the ends of the pegs in pencil to help you remember how to use it, at first.

adjustable peg with hole

adjustable peg with hole

adjustable peg attached

adjustable peg attached

loom finished (with labels)

loom finished (with labels)

One more thing: Make a shuttle 

A shuttle is just a little thing you use to hold the yarn you are weaving with. You can make one out of anything you have around – cardboard or a bit of thin board will work. Just cut it to about five inches long and into a rough H shape.

a loaded shuttle

a loaded shuttle

Using your loom

1. Make some string heddles 

When you weave, the warp threads go up and down, and the weft threads go side-to-side, over and under and over and under the warp threads. Heddles are nifty little devices that hold up every other thread of warp yarn so you can pass the weft yarn through the shed created between the threads. On big fancy looms heddles are made of metal or plastic, but on an inkle loom they are made of string, which is convenient because everybody has string. To make string heddles:

a)    Take your cotton string and start looping it around the B and D pegs on your assembled loom. Loop it around as many times as you want heddles. I usually use about 24 heddles for a 2 inch band with 12 threads per inch. I suggest making 24 heddles to start; you can put some aside or make more as you need them later.

b)     After you have looped the string around the B and D pegs 24 times, cut all of the loops together so they come out the same length.

c)     Now take each string, loop it around pegs B and H (not B and D!), and tie a nice strong surgeon’s knot to keep the heddle from coming apart. (A surgeon’s knot is just like a square knot, except the first tie has two twists in it.)

looping heddles

looping heddles

tying heddle

tying heddle

2. Warp the loom

Now you are ready to warp your loom, which means putting the long up-and-down threads on it, ready to receive the side-to-side weft.a)    Temporarily tape the start of your warp yarn onto the loom just above the adjustable peg.

b)     Wind your yarn around the pegs, alternating between ACDEA, the short path, and ABCDEA, the long path. Start with the short path (and don’t start with A; start where you taped the thread).

c)     Every time you use the long path, grab a string heddle and fasten the thread with it to peg H (H for heddles, get it?). Lay the heddle across the yarn, then put both loops of the heddle over the dowel so that the heddle connects the yarn to the peg.

d)    When you have used up all your heddles, go around one more time on the short path.

e)     Then cut the yarn and tie the end to the starting piece you taped to the loom. (This will look strange, because the tied yarn will reach diagonally across the band. But don’t worry, you will be cutting that part off at the end and you won’t see it.)

Tips:

  • Be careful to place the knot of the heddle on the H peg. Otherwise it will stick in your weaving.
  • Be sure to alternate between the long and short paths. If you get the sequence wrong, unwrap the yarn and fix it. You will thank yourself later.
  • You will find as you warp that you keep running out of room to put the threads onto the pegs. Periodically stop and push in the threads you have already placed to make room for more. But keep them lined up, not jumbled.
  • Keep your tension consistent throughout so no threads are extra tight or loose. When I stop to put on a heddle I temporarily loop my thread around peg A to hold it in place without pulling out all the tension.
first short path

first short path

first long path

first long path

heddle added to long path

heddle added to long path

3. Weave! 

You are now ready to begin weaving.

a)     With your hand below the B peg on your loom, pull forward on the warp threads to create an up shed. When you pull up, the threads held back by the heddles will stay back, but the others will move up. Leaving a few inches of thread loose at the start, pass the shuttle through the shed and out the other side.

b)     Now push the warp threads back down to create the down shed (heddle-held threads up, other threads down) and pass the shuttle back through it. That’s it, you are weaving! Just keep doing that — up shed, pass through, down shed, pass back. This part is the hardest to describe in words. If this explanation makes no sense to you, just watch some people do this online and you will understand. Search for “warping and weaving on an inkle loom” and you will find lots of videos.

c)     After some number of passes back and forth, you will reach a point where you can’t fit the shuttle in between the weaving and the heddles anymore. Grab hold of the weaving at peg A and pull the whole warp — woven and unwoven — toward you. The whole thing will spin around in a circle. This is why you connected the start and end threads: so that the whole thing could spin around on the loom (cool huh?).

Tips:

  • Watch the edge of your weaving (called the selvage) so that you don’t get giant loops sticking out or, conversely, squeeze the weaving too tight so it gets distorted. You’ll get a feeling for the right tension as you go. If you make a mistake, just reverse your actions, fix what you did wrong, and start again.
  • If it’s very hard to move your weaving and advance some more unwoven warp, let up a some tension by adjusting peg A, shift the warp, then put the tension back.
  • If your weaving starts to drift out towards the ends of the pegs – likely if you glued them in a bit crooked – just keep nudging the weaving back into place. (Never mind how I know that.)
up shed

up shed

down shed

down shed

4. Finish the weaving

At some point you will no longer be able to pull the weaving around the circle anymore, because the part you wove at the start will approach what you are now weaving! When this happens, you’re done. Here’s how to finish:

a)     Get out your scissors and cut across the threads (not the heddles). Leave equal amounts of extra yarn on each side.

b)     Now you have to finish both ends of the weaving. Otherwise it will all unweave itself. On each end of the weaving, go through the threads tying consecutive threads together in simple knots. You can also machine zig-zag the ends to make it stay together better.

Congratulations! Your woven band is complete. You can now sew it into things by hand or using your sewing machine.

some woven bands

some woven bands

Resources

I built this loom starting with instructions I found at [http://thegardengoblin.com/heritage-crafts/building-a-simple-inkle-loom]. It only makes short bands, but people have built much larger inkle looms that make longer bands. If you look around on the internet you can find lots of designs that might inspire you. You can of course buy an inkle loom for $40-80, and those are likely to be stronger and more beautiful than this one, at least if your carpentry skills are as bad as mine. But anything you can build out of scrap wood is essentially free, and you can’t beat that!

Good luck, and have fun weaving!

Cynthia Kurtz

This document can be distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


1 Comment so far
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Is the math on the dowels right? a 3ft dowel is 36″, and the four 8″ cuts alone take up 32″, leaving 4″ (less kerf) for your 7″ dowel piece…am I missing something?

Comment by Mitchell Willie




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