Different types of looms can be found around the world, from the complex Jacquard to the more humble back-strap. Each type of loom has its own style and limitations, but the basic function of weaving remains as it has for centuries: one thread goes over and one goes under to make a grid system. The grid system uses two perpendicular sets of threads; the vertical threads are called the warp, and the horizontal threads are called the weft.
You can create a simple frame loom with minimal tools, many of which you may already have at home. Los Angeles–based artist Christy Matson taught us to make a frame loom by using a picture frame with the back removed. This method makes a weaving the same size as the frame that you’ve chosen. When you select the warp threads, make sure they are sturdy. When looking at raw weft material, be creative—yarn of different weights or wool roving will create different effects on the finished piece. The combination of yarns you choose will create your design.
What you’ll need:
- 1 small to medium-sized picture frame with the back and glass removed
- Thick wool yarn for warp material
- A variety of yarn for weft material
- Wooden ruler
- Dinner fork or comb
How to weave on a frame loom:
1. Warp the loom by tying a knot at the bottom edge on the left-hand side of the picture frame with your wool warp yarn. Loop the yarn continuously between the top and bottom of the picture frame, moving from left to right. About eight threads per inch is a good spacing to aim for.
2. Cut about a yard of weft yarn; fold it in half. Place the center of the yarn at the bottom left-hand side of the warp with one side above and one side below the first warp yarn. Twist the yarn once to enclose the first warp. Keeping the yarn taut, enclose the second warp yarn by repeating the single twist. Repeat until you have created a row. Finish with an overhand knot. The warps should be evenly spaced and not touching. Do the same thing at the top edge.
3. Insert the ruler (your "shed stick") to the warp yarn. Pass it over and under groups of two warp yarns.
4. Turn the ruler on its side to create an opening. Insert a weft yarn into the opening on either the left or right side of the ruler.
5. Rotate the ruler so that it is flat and push one weft yarn to the top of the weaving, the other to the bottom. Use your fingers, a dinner fork, or a comb to pack the thread down. Remove the ruler and reinsert it with the opposite pairs of warp yarns on top and bottom of the stick and continue weaving.
6. When you can no longer insert the ruler into the warp yarns, pass the weft yarn through the warp with your fingers or thread it onto a large needle to finish the weaving.
7. To remove the weaving from the frame, cut along the outer top and bottom edges of the frame. The knotted edge will prevent your weaving from unraveling.
Excerpted from A Wilder Life by Celestine Maddy and Abbye Churchill (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Krysta Jabczenski and Claire Cottrell.