So you’ve built your frame loom. Now what? Here are the steps to weave on your frame loom using recycled materials. The class I designed this project for was interested in weaving a sturdy and reusable tote bag out of strips cut from old t-shirts. First, round up some old t-shirts in colors that are compatible with your warp yarn. The best ones to use are the shirts without side seams as the seams will add bulk to your weaving. Now cut straight across the the shirt directly below the sleeves. You will have a tube.
Place this tube on a cutting mat so that the closed ends are at the top and the bottom ends of the mat. The open ends of the t-shirt will be on the right and left sides. Now fold the bottom ends toward the top of the tube twice so that you will have several layers of thicknesses at this end. Do not fold all the way to the top of the tube. Leave about 1 1/2 inches between the top of the tube and the top of the layered material:
Using either a pair of scissors or a rotary cutter and a straight edge, cut 1/2″ wide strips through all layers of the t-shirt from the bottom edge to about 1 1/2″ from the top of the tube. Do not cut all the way to the top edge of the tube. Otherwise you will have several giant loops of t-shirt tubing! By leaving an uncut area at the top, you will have one long continuous strip of t-shirt material when you are finished cutting.
Now, carefully unfold the cut layers so that your t-shirt tube resembles a hula dancer’s grass skirt. Next, and starting on the left side make a diagonal cut from the edge of the tube to meet the first cut of the first 1/2″ strip. Continuing to the right, make another diagonal cut to the next 1/2″ strip. Continue making diagonal cuts to the end of the right edge.
You can start winding your long strip of t-shirt material around a stick shuttle. If you don’t have a shuttle, you can fashion one out of a wooden lattice strip or ruler, by cutting a v-notch at either end and using the notches to hold the t-shirt strip or rag material as you wind. But before winding, I like to stretch the t-shirt strip a bit to create a sort of knit tubing. Your rag strip will be better behaved this way as it will be easier to lay into the shed as you weave.
Now you are ready to weave! Lift up the dowel that holds the string heddles. This will raise the layer of warp threads that are held by the string heddles. The opening that is created by raising these warp threads is called a shed and this is the opening where you will insert the shuttle. Push the shuttle all the way across the width of the warp, leaving about a 2″ tail of the t-shirt strip/rag at the edge where you
entered with your shuttle. Now beat — more on that below.
For your next row of weaving, you will lower the heddle rod, and now pull forward the pick up stick that was used to pick up the warp threads that were not held by the string heddles. Pull this pick up stick as close as it will go to the string heddles, then flip the stick so that is wedged on its side between two layers of warp yarn. The warp threads that are not raised are the opposite of the threads that were raised in your first row of weaving. Insert the stick shuttle into this layer pulling the strip of t-shirt material all the way across the width of the warp. Remember to insert the 2″ tail of t-shirt strip from the first row into this shed before you beat. Now a little about inserting your weft and beating…..
When inserting your weft into the shed, do not pull tightly. Let the t-shirt strip/rag relax against the selvedge end of the warp. Be sure to place the t-shirt strip/rag at an angle once it is in the shed. This will avoid “draw in” which is a pulling in of your selvedges (the outside ends of your weaving) due to placing your weft too tightly into the shed. You will need to play around with different angles to find the one that would work best to keep your selvedges even. Now you will have to beat your weft down to meet the “fell line”. This is your last row of weaving. In the photo above, I have used a wooden Navajo tapestry fork to beat the weft down to meet the fell line. You can also use household items such as a fork or hair comb or pick as a beater. The photo above includes two wooden tapestry beaters that can be used. In addition to the Navajo tapestry fork, the other wooden beater is a weighted beater for weaving heavy wool rugs or tapestries.
I have woven an inch on this frame loom The t-shirt strips/rags pack very well after beating, and so the project will be pretty close to a weft faced weaving. That is, the warp threads will be hidden by the density of the weft material. As you continue weaving, the warp may tighten, so be sure to take off the tension sticks that you Velcro(TM)ed onto the top and bottom of the front of your frame. This will also make it easier to advance the warp (pull the unwoven warp forward) when you will no longer have room to insert the shuttle as you get closer to the heddle rod and the pick up stick. This project was meant to be sewn into a tote bag once finished, but it can be made into a small floor mat, table runner, pillow cover, or anything you can think of. Be creative…and Happy Weaving!