Introduction: Discover and Build an Inkle Loom!

I've been thinking about weaving for a while as something I might enjoy to pass the time or teach my children. The weather is getting colder lately and I'm finding more excuses to lay about in the warm house. One problem with weaving is that it can be extremely cost prohibitive. The artist may spend many thousands of dollars on weaving kit which takes up a lot of space. For me, space is at a premium and I hesitate to spend time and money on an introductory weaving course which I may not actually enjoy, just to have access to a loom.

I was looking around at various types of weaving and different types of looms when I came across Inkling. It is commonly used for weaving narrow bands and has been around for centuries. At first look, I thought it was limited by what it could produce and couldn't hold my attention for long. On the contrary, Inkle weaving seems to have a very low cost of entry for amazing versatility. Many different techniques can be demonstrated on this loom. Bead work, wire weaving, card and tablet weaving, picking, and probably many other techniques can be applied to produce everything from single color utility straps to truly mesmerizing patterns in a range of materials from the finest silk thread to the coarsest fibers. One of the warps pictured, is regular 100% acrylic yarn. The other warp is made with "yarn" cut from strips of old t-shirts.

Luckily, a ton of online information is available on Inkle weaving. Please be encouraged to search around and see if Inkling might be something you'd enjoy-- Then, come back here and build an Inkle loom!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Tools

Materials:

This project calls for a 1"x4"x6' #2 pine board from the home improvement center and a four foot long, 5/8" dowel. Additionally, a 3 1/2"x1/4" hex bolt with washers and a matching nut were used for the tension knob. (8) 1 1/2" wood screws backed up the joinery. The cutting order was straightforward. The store's associate was happy to cut my board in half, in half and in half again! Cost of these materials came to less than seven dollars. Heartwood from a log in the wood pile was used to make plugs, but any stick or dowel would work.

Tools:

My goal was to produce a loom that I could begin weaving on as soon as possible. A person could use more tools and get fancier joints, smoother surfaces or whatever they like. Three bar clamps, drill, assorted drill bits, pencil, small square, hand saw, pocket knife and wood glue were all that was needed for this project. Sanding blocks to 220 grit and two thin coats of mineral oil were used for a nice finish.


Step 2: Inspect, Orient, and Prepare

Check the boards against each other. Choose their best looking sides, figure, grain patterns, etc. and consider how each part will look best together.

These test holes were cut into the base. Call them "design elements". The larger hole was made with a 1 1/2" hole saw. The plug was retained for the tension knob. The longest board had an imperfect edge about 5 inches long, which was removed but not discarded, using a small handsaw. Later, the boogered up corner was glued, and clamped. At this stage, the two longer boards were sanded down on all sides with 120 grit sanding blocks. Edges to be joined were prepared to 150 grit.

Step 3: Glue the Base to the Long Board

The mating surfaces of the long board and base were given a thin coat of glue. Using bits of cereal box from the recycle tip to protect the clamping surfaces, bar clamps were applied. Sanding is a lot easier later if excess glue is removed now with a wet cloth. Next, the whole assembly was spun around, pilot holes were drilled and wood screws countersunk to strengthen and complete the joint.

Step 4: Mark Out for Dowel Holes and Uprights

The dowel holes were located while the glue was drying. Their placement was intuitive, following a couple of conventions. Dowel holes were generally located in the center of boards with relationship to the uprights, or in the center of revealed board surfaces. Dowel holes were located the same distance from the end of a board as they were to the edges. This was true for most of the dowel holes.

Step 5: Drill, Prepare and Glue the Uprights

After locating the holes, uprights were drilled out for dowels. To add stability to the joints, the uprights were toe screwed to the long board. Pilot holes were drilled for the toe screws, and countersinks were also drilled to give the 1 1/2" wood screws more bite. Joining edges of the uprights were dressed with a 150 grit sanding block. Finally, the uprights are glued, clamped, and screwed into place.

Step 6: Plugs and Tensioning Components

Inkle looms must have some way to tension the warp. This helps advance the work through the loom as you go, makes it easier to warp the loom with consistent tension, and allows for warp "take up" as the work progresses on the loom. A "paddle" system was chosen and was made by splitting and whittling the 5 inch section of the long board that was retained in Step 2.

In Step 2, "design elements" were drilled into the base board. Another 1 1/2" hole was cut into the long board, adjacent to the hole in the base. Now the "design element" becomes functional as a thumb hole for portability!

By sandwiching the 1/4" hex head bolt between the two 1 1/2" rounds, the tension knob is created. It was shaped by chucking the bolt into the drill and dressing it on a sanding block. Bits of cereal box were used to protect the threads of the bolt from the chuck. The walnut plugs were turned, similarly. Wood filler was made with sawdust and glue.

The tension slot was laid out in Step 4 and cut by drilling holes along the layout line, and hogged out with a cutting bit.

Step 7: Install Dowels, Final Sanding and Finishing

Each dowel was cut a bit long and glued into place. Their final length was adjusted by laying the loom on it's face and working out the wiggle against the floor. After the glue dried, the back of the loom was sanded through the grits to 220, making the dowels flush with the board.

Because everything was sanded to 120 before glue up and care was taken to remove excess glue as it was applied, the final sanding was a simple matter of giving the whole project a once over with 220 grit sandpaper. Sharp edges were knocked off and dowels were slightly rounded on the ends.

Finish was 2 light coats of mineral oil applied with a rag.

Step 8: Making the Heddles

At this point the loom is finished. The loom gets it's "action" by raising or lowering the warp behind a set of heddles that hold certain warp threads in place as others are passed up and down. This creates the "shed" for passing the weft into the warp.

Heddles for this loom were made with nylon kite string as shown and the ends melted together with a lighter. Many of these will be needed and they may be used over and over again. Keep in mind that heddle weaving is only one option. This loom may also get it's "action" with cards, tablets or other techniques!

Step 9: The Shuttle

Weavers use a "shuttle" to pass the weft back and forth into the warp. Several frustrating attempts were made to produce a shuttle that would work. This is where it would be advisable to employ more tools, particularly in the clamping department. Drilling larger holes into tiny pieces under nothing but hand pressure just isn't safe. In the shop, I was able to produce my own shuttle, but I wasn't really happy with the results I got with it. In the end, I purchased one from a weaving supply. I'm very glad I did, as it is much more enjoyable to use.

There are a couple schools of thought about the best way to wind the shuttle. Have fun with it and decide which way works best for you.

Step 10: That's It! Now Go Weave Something Awesome!

My first projects are off of the loom! I am very pleased with the whole process. The loom is fun to make, enjoyable to use and weaving is just as gratifying as I suspected it might be. The tricky part now is that I just can't stand to have the loom sitting idle!

Thanks for checking out my first 'ible! I hope you have as much fun making and using this loom as I have had making, using and writing about it. Please leave any feedback or questions in the comments section, and PLEASE don't forget to vote for my project!

Comments

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JermaineM10 (author)2017-07-29

INTERESTING. Might try it out sometime.

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brianchadorourke (author)2017-03-14

I am in the process of making a four frame jack loom, 2 foot warp. I think had I seen this instructable sooner, I might have tried this one first!!! Here's a picture of it. It is almost done. I'm calibrating and leveling it atm.

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JimM98 (author)2017-02-02

Nice construction. This is basically what Bress shows in her "Inkle Weaving" book. I've made that one & there are a couple of issues with it, the biggest one being it doesn't have enough tension release. From studying several looms that work well, I've found there needs to be 1" of tension release for 17" of warp & have an unconfirmed report of even more being needed for one project. Easy enough to fix by turning the lower center peg into another tension release.

Picking the heddle pin up above the warp run is another good idea so the warps don't touch. I generally use a hanger bolt for the tension pin(s) with fender washers on the back side & a star knob, although I try to steer clear of cams in general. I prefer to use a bigger dowel & separate the starting pin from the tension release, but that's tough to do on this design.

I'd suggest using 3/4" or even a 1" dowels on this loom. There's plenty of room & it makes moving the project easier. Most important, there is less chance of the pins bending under pressure which can ruin the project through uneven tension.

An addition that my daughter found helpful was a vertical foot on the right end that stuck out both sides so she could steady it with her foot. She found that she usually weaves sitting in a chair or on a stool. She puts the left end in her lap with her foot on the right end on the ground. She can use her knees to squeeze the base near the right upright.

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dadosutter (author)2015-01-11

First a prototype in (bad) pine and then a final version in Eucalyptus. It was the first time I used this wood and it showed to be pretty nice.
Thanks for the great projects!

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joen (author)dadosutter2017-01-24

Very nice! Well, you have the pictures. All you need is instructions and you have an Instructable.

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mimmo (author)2017-01-15

Hi, I made one of these a few days ago, before I've seen this post. I approximated the dimensions from photos on the web. However, what my wife tells me is that she's having a bit of trouble inserting the shuttle when pushing the wool upwards and I think it's because I may have placed the two upper dowels too high on the side pieces. I'm guessing that the distances between the dowels should be proportionally a certain fixed distance. If you or anyone else has some guidance on this I would certainly appreciate it. thx

author
OGoi (author)mimmo2017-01-16

Thanks for the question! I think that what I understand you are having problems with is the length of the heddle strings, (step 8). If the loops are too long, the shed will not open up enough to, a) separate the wool fibers of the neighboring string, and b) open the shed enough to accomodate the shuttle in the first place. Try shortening your heddle strings!

author
mimmo (author)OGoi2017-01-16

thanks for the reply, we thought about that my wife used the guidelines for the heddle strings based on the same model of the loom that is sold online. However, by placing the upper dowels too high it may have the same effect as making the heddle strings too long. I was fascinated by the design and was convinced that geometry matters here, so I measured the angle of the strings on the commercially available loom and confirmed that my upper dowels are a little too high, so I will shorten the height, place 2 new dowels and give it a try. This is half the fun for me :)

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MakerIan (author)2016-09-10

nice instructable I Guess I wont have to write this up ;)

I used one of these back in the day to weave trim for various costuming bits. I used silk embroidery floss for my threads.

iirc Inkle meant scrap, and this is where we get the now uncommon word usage of "I have an inkling" ie I have a scrap of the idea you mean. Although I read this from an actual book 30 years ago, the internet seems to have lost this... or I am making it up in my older age.

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mmorse2 made it! (author)2016-06-19

The instructions were very vague regarding actual placement of the dowels and such, but I managed to get the loom made! The photos definitely helped fill in the gaps for the missing dimensions, and thank goodness for my spacial reasoning!

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hammer9876 (author)2016-02-17

My brother made something like this for me back when I was a teenager. Using cheap knitting yarn, and a wide tooth comb to keep things tight and separated, I made lots of belts and kept these three.

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RuthT (author)2015-09-05

This is a lovely iteration - the only thing I would suggest as a long-time inkle weaver is that the bigger doweling you use, the better durability you'll have over the long haul - an inkle can put a lot of stress on those pegs! Happy weaving.

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haadelphos2001 (author)2015-08-05

Very nice! I was thinking about making one of those this afternoon. I watched a youtube video the other day but your instructions seemed straightforward so I know feel even more confident in making my own. Being the tinkerer I will probably incorporate elements from other designs I have seen as well but I really liked this.

Thanks!

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woodland sprite (author)2015-05-30

You can weave wonderful things with these looms and in case the thought didn't occur; you can stitch the bands together to make wider pieces for projects. Bags, clothes, place mats or whatever you can think up. :D

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8ing (author)2015-02-02

thank you.its my first activity in instructables and i'm so happy for this

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OGoi (author)8ing2015-02-04

You're welcome! Congrats on your loom, and thanks for sharing it with me. I'm so glad that you made it and are enjoying it.

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manson1 (author)2015-01-12

Have you thought of making blueprints for this ible? It would make it that much easier for most people to be able to build this loom.

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OGoi (author)manson12015-01-13

To tell you the truth, I built this loom on my living room floor over the Christmas holiday weekend. I didn't even use a proper ruler. The through hole tolerances are probably up to 2 mm out, in some places... I think documenting something like this could make a good exercise for a drafting student but I hadn't thought of it until now. Thanks for the question!

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tomatoskins (author)2015-01-06

If you ever take a time laps video of this I'd love to see it!

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OGoi (author)tomatoskins2015-01-06

I agree! I hope to be putting something like that together very soon!

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zenTaurus (author)OGoi2015-01-11

looking forward to the timelapse. like keerthivelu, i'd like to see a vid of the loom in action. cheers!

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hammer9876 (author)2015-01-11

My brother made me one of these when I was a teenager - pre-internet. It works very well and I used it for many projects, mostly belts and guitar straps. I used a wide tooth comb to tamp it down after each shuttle pass. Produced a reasonably tight weave.

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Babs G. (author)2015-01-11

I have been weaving on an inkle loom (made near Eugene, Oregon) since 1964, and have used it to teach weaving in Liberia, Ethiopia, the U.S., and Mexico. I am thrilled to see it here! Here is a photo of a wide belt.

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carol_j_scott (author)2015-01-11

This is very clever. In all my years of weaving I have never heard of this type of loom.

Congratulations on the finished product.

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cpurola (author)2015-01-07

Beautiful Loom! Great work!

Years ago I made a smaller version to make beaded lanyards for friends. I'm terrible at measuring so used yardsticks. I covered the dowels with plastic straws and the top dowel with the bendy part to space out my thread. Worked great!

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OGoi (author)cpurola2015-01-07

Thank you so much for the compliment on my loom. I like the way you re-purposed the yardsticks in your design. I also thought about a closed design for mine, but read that it made weaving more difficult. I'm curious to know if you found that to be the case?

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smithy101 (author)2015-01-06

I really like this loom I've never seen it before and I've wanted to weave but have the same trouble you did starting I can't wait to make this :-}

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OGoi (author)smithy1012015-01-07

Thanks for the great comment. I really hope you do make this loom, and that you really enjoy working with it!

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keerthivelu (author)2015-01-06

if video of weaving will very helpful for us
please update... ;-)

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pinhasd (author)2015-01-06

i dont know how to weave were can i learn

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vsmith2 (author)2015-01-06

may seem a silly question, but does that have an type of "roller", to roll up the woven work?

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OGoi (author)vsmith22015-01-06

Thanks for the question! I think the whole loom could be seen as a "roller". As work progresses, the warp is gradually advanced around the dowels.

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