Building a Frame Loom

Recently a group of art teachers invited me to lead a workshop on weaving with recycled materials.  In the past, I have taught a “Weaving for Recyclers” workshop on a rigid heddle loom  using materials such as plastic bags, t- shirts and old sheets as weft.  For these teachers, purchasing looms for class use was out of the question because of the cost factor.  So instead, I decided in this workshop to include instructions on building a frame loom using materials that would cost no more than $15. The loom described here measures 24″ X 30″ and has a shedding device made from a dowel and  string heddles.  The recommended warping process on this loom will allow you to have a continuous warp so you can weave nearly twice the length of the frame — that is nearly 60″.

These are the materials that are needed to build this frame loom:stretcher-frame-etc1

Canvas stretcher frame:  2 24″ sides and 2 30″ sides

2 wooden slats measuring 2″ wide X 24″ long and 1/4 thick

wooden dowel measuring 7/16″ in diameter and 48″ long

6″ long taper file

2 – 1 1/2″ C-clamps

Rubber cork and X-acto knife for cutting

6″ hook and pile Velcro TM

hardware-for-frame-loom2 rubber-wedge

Once the canvas stretcher frame is assembled, mark the top and bottom sides (these are the 24″ wide sides) every 1/4″ with a pencil.  Then use an X-acto knife or small hack saw to cut into each of these marks.  Now use the taper file to file a groove into each of these cuts.  The depth of the groove depends on how thick the yarn you plan to use will be.

Before warping this loom, you need to attach tension sticks.  These will keep the warp under correct tension while weaving, and can be removed once the warp tightens during the weaving process.  Attach about 1 1/2″ of Velcro TM to

the ends of each of the flat wooden slats and also to the outside ends of the front of the top and bottom pieces of the frame loom — these are the 24″ lengths.  Velcro TM can be attached by stapling, or just pressing down if it has a sticky back . Place the tension sticks so that they are attached to the front of the top and bottom pieces of the loom.tension-sticks-and-wedgeNote in the above photograph, that about a 1/2″ piece of the rubber cork has been placed on the inside of the frame loom near the bottom corner.  This will be used as a “wedge” to hold the dowel in place as it is used as a warp end rod for anchoring the warp ends during the warping process.  (This wedge can be removed once you start weaving.) The dowel or the warp end bar should be cut to fit just inside the width of the frame loom minus about 1/2″ to allow for the wedge.  Now you are ready to start the warping process.  For the workshop for art teachers, I have used Peaches and Cream 100% worsted weight cotton yarn.  This yarn is economical for classroom use, readily available, and comes in a variety of colors.  The warping process for the frame loom is the same as the instructions given for warping the tapestry loom at Schacht Spindle Company’s website.

Here is the loom with completed warping:warp-without-heddles And a detail of the warp end rod:


Before you start weaving, you will need to create a shedding device.  That is a means of raising alternate threads in order to form  a “shed” .  The shed is the opening between layers of  your yarn ends through which you will carry your weft yarn which is wound onto a shuttle.  Go to Schacht Spindle Company’s website again to see how to use your dowel with strong cotton cord such as “kitchen cotton” or “cotton carpet warp” to make string heddles.  The dowel I used in this example is the remainder of the original 48″ dowel from which the warp end rod was cut. It extends just a few inches on each side beyond the width of the frame loom.  In this example, I have used the continuous heddle method of making string heddles. Additionally, I have clamped the C-clamps on either side of the frame loom close to the top edge of the loom.  The dowel is then tied to the clamps to prevent it from sliding down the warp ends.  Also note that I have used a wooden pick up stick (a  wooden slat similar to the tension sticks will work as well.) to separate the non-heddled ends of yarn from those held by the string heddles.shedding-deviceIn order to maintain the even spacing between warp threads and to establish the sequence of thread order, I used a simple twining process around each warp end. Basically this wraps around each warp thread or end to keep it securely in place. There are two rows of warp twining in my example.   Again Schacht Spindle Company’s website has a good description of the twining technique.

twining1 warp-with-heddles

Now you are ready to weave.  You will need to wind some yarn or recycled material such as strips of plastic bags, or strips from an old t-shirt or sheets and wind it around a shuttle.  In my next post, I will show you how to start weaving a project on your new frame loom!


2 Responses

  1. Well, you’ve certainly got me thinking about fiber in another way…my mother-in-law was a weaver….wish I’d been a fiberholic when she was still living…she used to do scarves and bathmats out of old socks…I think I still have one…

    I’ll try to come up with some money so I can take your class…Thanks for the useful information.

  2. These are very good instructions. I have an 18 by 24 picture frame strung up very much along this order – but without the heddles. I also have a Beka rigid heddle loom but have not yet taken the huge task of restringing the warp on it… going through all those little holes on the rigid heddle it comes with…

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