This year our family has made the decision not to buy anything that we can make. Along with that, we've stepped up learning to upcycle and repurpose the unused, unneeded and unwanted. My wife knits with recycled grocery bags and recently we discovered that they could be spun into a yarn-like poly fiber. One of us found an article on spinning plarn and now since we have a nearly infinite supply (family of 5, groceries love us) she would like to try weaving. Thus here begins a few Instructables on making the simple machines of homespun fiber arts, or what to do with all these dadgum plastic bags...
The first instructable in this series in on making a no frills rigid heddle loom from an old picture frame, a sheet from an engineer's notebook, two sets of window shade hardware, scrap wood, dowels, craft sticks and odd and end hardware gleaned from the habit of saving leftover and happenstance screws, nuts, bolts and washers.
It isn't perfect, but it is a good loom for learning to warp and weave on. If she likes it the first improvement would be in the head and tail bars. Anyhow, enough Monday morning quarterbacking, let's build.
References and Resources:
Step 1: Raiders of Other People's Junk
This project is exactly that a raid on the scrap bin and either a Salvation Army or Second hand scrounged picture frame. I rescued my frame from the Salvation Army store and it came with a hideous but thought provoking piece of 1950s lithography that brought Robin Williams and Walt Whitman to mind...Or maybe it was The Gorton's Fisherman. Anyway...
For this step you will need:
A Frame- Though any frame will do, I had in mind that if I was going to the trouble it wasn't for another potholder loom. My frame is 18' x 24".
One Sheet 1/4" grid/ graph paper. I tore a sheet out of my engineer's notebook.
1. Remove any artwork, nails, or studs from the inside of the frame. If it is used, clean it. Measure its length and width.
2. turn the frame over on your workstation so that you are looking at the back of it. Here you must decide if your loom will be longer or wider* (Think portrait or landscape), Orient it as such.
3. Cut the grid paper into strips 3 squares wide and as many long as it takes to go across the width. Glue in place along the top edge of both ends of the loom.
Congratulations. You can stop now if you have low requirements for fun. You have just completed a frame loom. With a couple of shed sticks and shuttles you can weave simple patterns to your heart's content. Go on to the next step to add the heddle support and the Upper and Lower Beams.
* We chose the wider orientation so that wider panels would be faster going when weaving rugs or placemats.
Step 2: Adding a Heddle Support and Beams
Okay here begins the part when your frame loom becomes a bit more advanced.
1. Measure and mark- 3 inches from the top on both left and right. Make a second mark a 1/4" inch more. This will help you locate the heddle supports.
2. You will need to measure and cut two strips 3" long and two strips 1" long. I cut mine from a 1" wide strip of 1/4" plywood.
3. Glue the strips in place. Long strips at the 3" position. Short strips at the 3-1/4" position. I didn't feel it was necessary to drill and screw them in place, if you do be careful that the pieces stay in place.
The heddle support will be of great assistance. With the heddle you can weave more complicated patterns and learn to warp for longer pieces.
The beams we are about to add will greatly increase the functionality of the loom by allowing you the flexibility of weaving longer pieces by holding the warp under tension.
I used the mounting hardware for old fashioned roller window shades. This proved to have very low clearance and sour first weaves will be with light thin materials. When it comes to weaving heavier yarns, jute or plarn I will replace the hardware with 2 1/2" long blocks of 1" x 2" pine. If you go ahead and do that, you'll save yourself trouble later. Remember to drill a 1/4" hole centered 1/4" from the top end of all four blocks.
4. Locate your beam supports to the left and right at both ends. I used the provided screws with the hardware. If you're using wooden blocks, remember to drill pilot holes in both the frame and the beam support blocks or you'll split one, the other or both.
5. Add the beams- cut a length of 5/8" dowel, round or square is fine, drill each end to accommodate whatever fastener you use, I used drywall screws because I have a couple of pounds of them in various sizes... tighten the screws until the beam is snug but will turn with moderate difficulty.
Step 3: The Improved Heddle
Yes Improved. I tried this project with a shed support and two shed sticks and hand tied heddles. I also tried to cut the reed (the part with slots and holes by hand with a roto zip bit in my Dremel and all of these methods were horrendous- loud, overly complicated, or inefficient for a person who wants to warp and weave as a method of relaxation not a hobby job.
To make your heddle:
1. Measure the inside width of your frame, mine is 22" and my heddle is 5 1/2" tall. A bit too tall, but this is a rough hewn project, improvements will be made if and when necessary.
2. Measure and mark two strips of wood 1 inch wide and as long as the inside of your loom frame is wide. No more than 1/4" thick. (It will rest in the heddle support and at 1/4" thickness it will need some fitting. I used 1/8" hobby plywood and I will shim if necessary to improve the fit.)
3. Measure the length of the craft sticks you're using and cut two 1" wide strips the same length as your craft sticks.
4. Measure and mark 1/4" from the ends of your long strips. (Saving room for the Heddle support.)
5. Use a square to check your work when you glue up the frame. I used wood glue and let it set up for 30 minutes.
6. While your frame is setting count out the number of craft sticks you will need. The right way to drill these sticks is to make a jig and use a drill press. With no drill press, here is what I did:
Measure and mark the center of one stick drill a 3/16" hole through it. This is your template. I divided my sticks into 4 evenish piles, then squared them up and clamped them carefully and tightly. I held the unclamped end tightly against the table and drilled through at maximum speed, but letting the weight of the drill to the work. Then moved my template stick to the next group... Rinse and repeat. In all I only had to re-drill two sticks that split.
Step 4: Assemble the Heddle
This is the slow and tedious part of the project. Prepare your work area and get ready. Squeeze some glue out on a card, get a few cotton swabs and have your frame and sticks ready.
I'm not big on form over substance, but in this case the method isn't just for a uniform cosmetic appearance, but to insure that the slots are wide enough for warp to pass through easily. So after measuring, marking, erasing and yelling I came up with a simple solution.
1. Starting at the left rest a craft stick on edge against the edge of the heddle frame.
2. Brush a thin film of glue on both ends of a drilled craft stick. Butt the edge of the stick against the face of the guide stick you placed against the edge of the frame. Press in place. Gently remove the guide stick.
3. Set guide stick on its edge against the one you just set. Brush glue on the next drilled stick. Butt the edge against the guide stick and so on. Be gentle and deliberate. Work slowly and accurately. Repeat until all of the reed sticks are in place. Remove guide stick from final space.
4. Let dry 24 hours.
Step 5: Legs
This loom is ready to warp as soon as the glue is dry. Simply set the heddle in place, watch an video to learn how to warp and weave. You can use it on a tabletop or on your lap supported on the edge of a shelf or table. However if you want to weave with your feet up in your recliner legs may be necessary.
The legs I made are simple and really and afterthought.
1. Cut two pieces of dowel of equal length. Drill a hole 1 inch from the end of each. I used two left over cable brads for hardware along with a washer and a drywall screw to attach them to the frame 3 inches back from the outside edge.
Simple and perhaps unnecessary, but this is a work in progress. Enjoy!!!