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How to Make a Simple Weaving Loom and Basic Weaving Techniques: part 2
Submitted by Pam on Fri, 05/01/2009 - 17:23
This is the second in a series of three weaving posts and the first of two tutorials.
This tutorial covers "loom" construction and basic weaving technique. The next tutorial, called "Beyond the Basics," covers adding yarns, weaving in beads, floating yarns, adding small pieces of yarn, and twisting yarns together to create a new yarn. (That one will be posted tomorrow.)
Don't be put off by the length of this tutorial. This is a very easy project! Many of you will be able to look at the pictures and get a clear idea of how to do this. However, for those who have never had any experience with weaving, I have tried to be as thorough and detailed as possible.
I mentioned in the first post that the design and nature of this weaving process won't even allow perfection! It's my hope that you will simply have fun and accept every imperfection, every missed warp, every uneven space and every meandering row of weaving as an important element in the overall design!
One more thing: I'll be using the terms "warp" and "weft" throughout these tutorials. Warp refers to the long, vertical yarns that are wrapped around the branches. Weft refers to the horizontal yarns that are woven through the warp yarns - that is, the blue, orange, white and brown yarns in the picture above.
CONSTRUCTING THE "LOOM"
For the top and bottom parts of this loom, you can use almost anything - from old broom handles to discarded pipe, as long as it has some weight to it. The weight of the bottom piece is what holds your warp yarns taunt during the weaving process.
Since I used branches that fell from the firs and big leaf maples on our property, I will refer to the top and bottom pieces of the loom as "branches" throughout this tutorial.
If you choose to use tree branches, be sure to remove the bark to prevent creatures hidden under the bark from finding sanctuary in your home! (I found a millipede hiding under the bark of one of mine.) Also, use garden pruning shears to remove small side branches, cutting as close to the main branch as possible.
You can determine the length of the branches and the distance between them according to the size of the weaving you are planning to make. I guessed at the length of the branches and ended up having to cut them down after I completed my weaving. But I suggest you NOT follow my example. - measure first, especially if you have a specfic area picked out for display.
For reference, my "loom" measures 4' from top to bottom and the branches are about 30" long (later trimmed to 22"). The weaving itself is about 14" wide.
1) Cut a piece of twine about 30" long and tie it near each end of the "top" branch. Hang it from a couple picture hangers attached to a wall.
2) Tie the two branches together as shown above, using wire or strong twine or rope. The side wires are not structural and we'll remove them as soon as we complete the warping . Their only purpose is to hold the two branches in place until the "loom" is warped.
WARPING THE "LOOM"
I'm using a "fancy" yarn here that looks more felted than twisted. It's not quite as thick as a standard 4-ply yarn. You can use anything from perle cotton to 4-ply yarn as a warp yarn.
The spacing between the warp yarns will be slightly uneven and may even shift a little during weaving. This is not a problem.
Create the warp:
1) Mark the midpoint of the top and bottom branches of your "loom". You can use a pencil mark, or if you need something more visible, a fine-point marker.
2) Decide how wide you'd like your finished weaving to be. Divide this figure in half, and measure out from each side of that midpoint mark you just made. Make a mark where each edges of your weaving will be.
3) Tie the end of the warp yarn to the bottom branch of your "loom", either at the left-hand or right-hand mark you just made. (Some weavers feel more comfortable warping from right to left, and others, vice versa.)
4) Begin wrapping the warp yarn around and around the top and bottom branches, moving from the marks on one side of your "loom" to the marks on the other side. You can space the yarns as you wish - grown-up weavers are usually comfortable working with 8 to 10 warp yarns per inch. Young children are usually more comfortable working with 4 to 6 warp yarns per inch. (And keep in mind that every time you wrap the yarn around a branch, you create two warp yarns.)
5) As you wrap, try to keep the warp yarns evenly taut across the weaving area. Watch that you don't create slack in the side wires by pulling the yarns too tight, or allow the yarns to become too loose. However, expect some play and uneveness in the tautness of the warp yarns.
6) When you have finished wrapping, tie the yarn to the bottom branch and cut it, leaving about 6" beyond the knot.
7) Remove those wires you installed at the beginning of the project. The warp yarns are now holding the branches in place.
YOU ARE READY TO BEGIN WEAVING!
Notice that I began the weaving process using a flat shuttle. A flat shuttle is a weaving tool with a notch at each end, which carries several yards of yarn. Within five rows of weaving, however, I decided that using my fingers worked much better, at least for me. I'm leaving pictures of both methods in this tutorial, because the techniques are basically the same - just different tools.
You can use almost anything you have lying around, from fine yarns to bulky yarns and pencil roving, as your weft yarns.
1) Near the bottom of the warped "loom" begin weaving the first row of weft yarn: over, under, over, under, over...the warp yarns. You can begin with "over" or begin with "under", and you can begin at either side. Be careful not to skip any warp yarns.
2) In the picture above, I've placed the shuttle in front of (over) the warp yarn in my thumb, and am about to place it behind (under) the warp yarn closer to the wall.
3) Here, I've placed the shuttle over and under two more warp yarns.
4) Now I'm pulling the shuttle through the yarns...
...Until there is no slack left in the weft yarn. Be sure to leave about a 10" piece of yarn extending beyond where you began the first row.
5) Your weaving should look like this when the first row is complete.
6) Now begin weaving back in the opposite direction. If your last weft yarn passed under the warp, begin the new row by bringing the weft over the warp - or vice versa.
Continue weaving over, under, over, under.... This new row should be woven opposite to the one just below it.
7) When you've finished weaving the second row, beat the weft yarns to close the gap between the rows. (As you weave, you'll want to beat each new row of weaving, by the way.) Depending on how hard you beat the warps, you'll end up with a looser or tighter weave. Experiment and see what you like best.
I started out using a weaving comb for this task, but because my warp yarn is so loosely spun, its fibers got caught in the narrow wooden openings. So I tried using something I knew wouldn't tear the fibers and that everyone would have at home...
...A dinner fork! And it works beautifully. The spaces between the tines are wider than the wooden comb and can accomodate the thicker yarn.
8) Remember how I said that this style of weaving won't be perfect? Notice that the warp yarns are NOT evenly spaced here. Notice too that where the warp yarns are closer together, they tend to be more noticable. Where the warp yarns are spaced out, the weft yarn becomes more prominent. All of this adds interest and texture to your weaving.
9) As I said earlier, you can use almost any thickness of yarn you want. I happen to have this piece of heavy, thick yarn left in my stash. I purchased it from a weaving shop 35 years ago. I felt it would add visual weight to the bottom of the weaving, so I cut a piece a little longer that the width of the weaving and - well - this is the point at which I discovered that it is much easier and more fun to weave with my fingers! There is no way I would be able to insert this big, thick piece of yarn into the weaving with that shuttle!
Here it is! I have left the ends just hanging. Works for me!
And now a little finger weaving!
9) Use your fingers to work the weft yarn over, under, over, under the warp yarns. In no time you will develop your very own technique to move the weft yarn through the warp yarns.
You may find it easier to weave the weft yarn through several warp yarns at a time or you may prefer to work with one or two warp yarns at a time. Just play with it for a while, you will find your own style and rhythm.
First five rows completed! The thick yarn did what I wanted - it added weight to the bottom of the weaving. It also left things a bit uneven. However, after several more rows of weaving, things straightened out. I would simply beat the "valleys" lightly and the "hills" harder! (Refer to the close-up photo at the bottom of the post.)
10) Here is a close shot of what your weaving will look like using standard 4-ply yarn.
11) When you are pulling your weft yarn through the warp yarns, be sure to hold onto the yarn at the edge. That will keep you from pulling it too tightly - if you pul too tightly, you'll draw the edges of the weaving in toward the center. And that will give you a rather hourglass-shaped weaving. It's not necessary for the weft yarn to be tight. Try to keep it straight, but let it gently sit in the warp threads.
This is a good place to observe a couple things that you can expect as you weave:
- Notice that where the warp yarns are closer together they become more apparent. And as they are spread further apart, the weft yarns almost hide them.
- Notice that the weft yarns tend to compact during the beating process when the warp yarns are more widely spaced. If you want your rows to remain fairly straignt, beat the widely-spaced area gently and use more force on the tightly-spaced sections.
12) Here's an alternative way to create the edges of your weaving. If you don't like weaving back and forth to make straight edges, you can leave the weft yarns extending beyond the edges of the weaving. You can also weave one row at a time and leave both ends extending beyond the edges. (That's an easy method for children). Or, as in the piece above, I've left about half of the weft yarns extending beyond the edges of the weaving. Once you've finished your weaving, you can be trim these ends or leave them uneven, to become a fringe along the sides.
I have tried to make this tutorial as clear as possible, but if you have any questions, please ask!