Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A primitive chopstick loom

(* you can double click on the pictures to get a larger view, then "back" to return to the blog)

Lately I've been working on a rigid heddle loom, making dishtowel/placemats with cotton yarn. My towels come out with fringed edges which is okay. But I've been wanting to make some washcloths. I did not want to have fringe on the washcloths. And the rigid heddle loom has a lot of waste yarn in the process, so I thought I would try some tapestry style weaving.

At first I tried using a sheet of cardboard as loom, with chopsticks to help with the weaving and using a plastic needle to weave. Very tedious and the cardstock kept bending. So I thought I should put together a frame loom and experiment.

Using a craft frame, I set up this basic loom with string heddles. The working size is about 8" X 6". I used chop sticks for the beams and for other loom parts.

It's similar to a Navajo style loom using a continuous warp.

The setup is loosely based on Marla Mallet's Simple Frame Loom
as shown on her website

I couldn't take pictures while weaving since I needed both hands to weave. I wove much of it using little shuttles made out of corrugated cardboard until the space became too small for that. Then I removed the string heddles. I drilled a hole in the end of one chopstick and sanded one end into a flat point, sort of like a chisel. I used that to weave some more. But then that space became too small. I was using a steel comb with wide spaced teeth as a beater to beat the weft into place.

I switched to a plastic craft needle and kept working my way through the piece, beating with the comb.

Then I pulled the piece off the frame loom, replaced the chopstick beam with a piece of wire from a coat hanger and kept weaving on the ends with the needle, trying to fill the end. When I got as much weft into the piece as I could at each end, I called it finished.

Here is the finished piece. I put it through the washer and a dryer cycle with some light colored towels. The piece shrank a little bit, finished size is 7" x 5". There are a lot of errors like missed picks, floats, a warp string broke, and other stuff.

But the basic goal was to see if I could get have a piece with no fringe on the ends. And I achieved that. It only took a few hours to create this piece, and I can see that I will be able to make pieces in the washcloth size that I wanted. And there is no loom waste at cut off time.

(added on 4/30/09 7:05am pst)
The point is that fancy equipment isn't necessary to test an idea. The test doesn't have to come out perfectly. I have used continuous warp before but I never wove right up to the end of the piece. I cut the last time I used continuous warp and made fringe. I have used string heddles before with success. Don't be afraid to try things.

Have a good day!