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
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.
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!