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!


MountainspunFarm said...

hi franco! You remind me of me!!! lol...
always trying something new, figuring it out along the way. I have a suggestion for your future frame loom pieces... insert screw eyes on verticle sides on at top, middle and base of each within the weaving area (level with opening in frame)... then take a metal pencil rod, or a very firm guage wire and insert it into the eyehooks on each side (make sure they are straight) Bend an inch of wire over topso it rests on frame top and stays put. OK? Great! then warp your loom as usual...placing last warp thread very close to the wire/rod verticles... as you begin weft make sure you WEAVE INTO the wire/rod edge WITH your last warp thread (like they are one and the same. This will keep your piece from getting "the girdle effect" (pulling in) as you weave. when all done weaving pull the rods out of eyehooks to reveal perfect uniform selvages on both sides. How's that for yankee smarts! lol...

Franco Rios said...

Thanks for the tip.

I've seen twined weft rug looms with that selvedge rod thingie and I was thinking of making a loom with that.

The craft frame is something I bought for a few dollars at a thrift store and it has been very handy.

Thanks again!
Have a good day!

SpinningDownUnder said...

Way to go Franco! Have you thought of putting in a twined selvedge as the Navaho do? It helps keep the straight edge and makes a firmer longer lasting selvedge to the item, and wouldn't it be great if you could combine it with Mountainspunfarm's idea!
cheers, Caroline

Franco Rios said...

I will consider it. It turned out to be rather easy to make the little frame loom.
Have a good day!

spinlily said...

Now I understand continuous warp and the concept of the frame! Thanks for the good explanation.

How do you keep the tension even when warping?

Franco Rios said...

I warped the end beams (chopsticks) off the loom, then hung the sticks on the frame. After spreading out the warp, it kind of self adjusted since the warp could kind of slide into balance with the warp next to it.
Have a good day!