at least 2 large strong tray-style cardboard boxes (plus some extra cardboard for beams and some other parts)
a packet of bamboo skewers
8 small fishing weights (we had none so we used metal washers instead)
4 small bulldog/binder clips
fine strong thread (for example size 10 crochet cotton)
twine or strong yarn (not too slippy or thick)
pvc tape or duct tape
Pack of strong velcro (hook and loop fastener) stickers
a darning needle
a book or other heavy object (to hold the reed in place while you are making it).
A note about materials:
The list above shows the materials we used purely because we had most of them lying around – the only things we actually bought were double-sided tape and velcro. If you don’t have the same materials we’d encourage you to be creative and adapt the design to use whatever you have available. The real joy of this project is in the creation of ‘something from nothing’!
A note about measurements:
We purposely left out measurements from these instructions. We used our materials to guide us, and suggest you do the same.
The parts of a loom
Loom – A device used to hold yarn under tension so that cloth can be woven.
Castle – The vertical part of the loom.
Frame – The supporting part of the loom which holds the castle in place.
Warp – The long yarn threads that are held under tension on the loom (shown in red and yellow).
Weft – The yarn that is passed over and under the warp threads by the weaver to build up cloth. (shown in purple)
Beams – The warp threads are wound onto the warp beam. They then run over the back beam, and through the castle. In front of the castle the weaver adds weft to build up cloth. The cloth then runs over the front beam and is collected on the cloth beam.
Reed (and beater) – The reed controls the width of the warp and keeps the warp threads evenly spaced. The beater is used to move the weft into place. In this loom the reed and beater are combined into one piece.
Heddles – Each warp thread is threaded through a string heddle. When the heddle is raised, it causes the warp thread to be raised.
Shaft – The shafts hold groups of heddles. The shafts can be raised in various combinations so that different groups of warp threads are raised at different times. This loom has 4 shafts that hang in the castle (only 2 shafts are shown in picture).
Shed – The vertical space created between groups of warp threads when one or more shaft is raised.
Shuttle – The shuttle is loaded with weft yarn and passed through the shed by the weaver.
How to build your loom
Trim any tabs and cover up any rough edges by adding some light cardboard to the sections shown above in yellow (use glue or double-sided tape).
Velcro is composed of two strips of fabric, one is made up of hooks (feels rough to the touch) and the other is made up of loops (feels softer to the touch). Turn box upside down. Fix strips of the hooked side velcro to the back and underside, as shown by the red areas above.
The warp and cloth beams
Using a square knot, tie a length of strong yarn near to the end of one skewer. (For instructions on how to tie a square knot see here.)
Use this yarn to lash on a second skewer. Do this by looping it around both, as shown above, until you reach the end. Secure the yarn to the first skewer with a square knot.
Cut a piece of stiff cardboard (if you wish you can glue multiple layers together for added strength). The piece should be the same width as the loom. Add velcro (looped side) to the end sections shown in red. Do this on both sides of the piece of cardboard.
Finally, using pvc tape or duct tape (shown above in blue), tape the first skewer to the cardboard beam. Use plenty of tape and wrap the skewer tightly to the beam in multiple places. Repeat so you have 2 beams.
Cut a box in half
Cut a section out from each half as shown. Slot one half inside the other and secure with double-sided tape or glue.
Place your castle inside the frame – you will need to allow the frame to bend slightly so the castle can fit. Secure it firmly with plenty of double-sided tape and/or glue.
Bar for hanging shafts
Many cardboard boxes have a handle hole in the section marked by the red circle at the top of the castle. If there is none, cut one out. This is where you will place the bar for hanging the shafts.
Insert a skewer through the corrugation, as shown above. Push it all the way through, and trim away any excess.
The lifting mechanism (part 1)
Cut out a piece of cardboard to fit on the side of the castle in the position shown above by the red circle.
Make it at least 2 inches tall, and fold it as shown above.
Cut a second piece about 1 inch tall and glue it where shown above in red. Place it so the bottom edge is slightly lower than the fold line. This will stop the platform bending up too far. Glue the platform in place on the side of the castle. Make a second platform and set aside for later.
The picture above shows a cardboard heddle jig on the left and a string heddle on the right.
The height of the heddles depends on the beam height (shown above). Work out your heddle height as follows:
Heddle height = [beam height – 1½”]*2
( Metric: Heddle height = [beam height – 38mm]*2 )
Use your calculated heddle height to measure the distance between the top and bottom notches. Cut 6 notches in total as shown above.
Lay a length of strong thread so the midpoint is in the first notch. Tie a square knot (see instructions here) at each of the other notches. Be sure to keep tension on the thread between each knot, this will help ensure all your heddles are the same size. Slide the top loop of each heddle onto one skewer and the bottom loop onto another. One becomes the top bar of a shaft, the other becomes the bottom bar of the shaft. Repeat until you have the desired number of heddles on your shaft, then continue on a new set of skewers. Continue until you have completed heddles for all 4 shafts. We suggest 40 heddles per shaft, but feel free to choose fewer or more.
On the top bar of your shaft move all heddles to the middle of the shaft. As shown above, use glue and some thick strong yarn/twine to make a stopper near the end of the bar. Make another stopper on the other side. Repeat for all 4 shafts. Leave some space at the outer edge so there will be room for the hanging cord. Repeat for all 4 shafts.
Take a length of strong yarn/twine and tie the ends together to form a loop, as shown above. Fold the loop in half and tie an overhand knot at the midpoint to form a smaller double loop.
Using lark’s head knots (as shown above) attach the long looped ends to the top bar of your shaft, just outside the stoppers. The stoppers will prevent the cord from slipping toward the middle of the shafts.
Hang a weight from each side of the bottom bar. (If using washers then add a folded piece of cardboard to stop the washers swinging and knocking into the other shafts.) Move half of the heddles to each side of the shaft. Hold the shaft by the top loop so that it hangs freely. Adjust the position of the weights until the shaft hangs level, without dipping to one side. (Be sure that you don’t move the weight too far from the edge of the bar, as they may then restrict the movement of heddles.) When you are happy with the positioning you can glue the weights in place.
Hanging the shafts
Tie a length of strong yarn/twine through the top loop of the shaft. Run the yarn along the path shown in red so it runs over the top bar of the castle, across the top of the castle and tie it to a binder clip on the top platform. Tie it so that the weights of the shaft barely touch the bottom of the loom. Repeat for all 4 shafts. You should place the 4 shafts as close together as possible, but not touching each other.
When you have hung all 4 shafts, tape 3 skewers (shown above in brown) to the top of the castle to separate the hanging cords as shown above in brown. Trim them down to size if necessary.
The lifting mechanism (part 2)
Now the second (lower) platform needs to be fixed to the castle. To choose the position, try lifting your shafts and observing the heddles. To lift a shaft unclip the binder clip from the top platform and pull it downwards. When a shaft is raised the heddle eyes should be at a height just slightly lower than the top bars of the lowered shafts. (If you wish you can wait until you have a warp on the loom to complete this step, then you can be absolutely sure of the correct positioning).
On the edge of a table lay a row of skewers side by side. Continue the row until it is about an inch shorter than the length of one skewer, ensuring that you have an odd number of skewers. Place a heavy weight, such as a large book, directly on top of the skewers to hold them firmly in place. (Please note that the picture above is not to scale – you will have a longer row of skewers!)
Push every second skewer to create a gap. (Those you push in will not be part of the finished reed, they are just used to create even sized gaps).
Place another skewer on top of the row as shown. Thread a darning needle with some strong yarn and use it to wrap this skewer to those underneath. Wrap very tightly and be sure to fill the space between skewers too. Add glue every inch or so as you progress.
To complete your reed repeat the glueing and wrapping process with a second skewer on the other end of the row of skewers. Make sure you remove the skewers that were used to create the gaps.
Cut out a piece of cardboard in the shape shown above (approximately 10 inches wide, or 25cm) to create a shuttle. Use tape to wrap it, covering any raw cardboard edges.
You have now completed your loom – congratulations!
In order to start weaving, you now need to prepare a warp and put it on the loom. There are many different ways to do this and many different resources you can consult.
An excellent book is:
Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler
Here are some web-based resources for learning to weave:
Facebook group 4-shaft weaving – we absolutely love this group!
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We’d love to see your version of our loom – if you build one, please contact us and send pictures! We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have. If you are sharing your project online, we just ask that you include a link to our instructions.
Please do not reproduce or copy these instructions without permission, but feel free to share a link to our page!
– Add a few layers of cardboard between the bottom of the box and the beam attachment points – this will allow more warp/cloth to be wound.
– For an 8-shaft loom just add 4 more shafts on the other side.
– Make the shafts “spring-loaded” by using elastic bands instead of springs.