Build A Warp Weighted Loom

Instructions for building a warp weighted loom from 2 x 4 lumber and dowel sticks. Basic carpentry skills and some knowledge of hand weaving are required.

Warp-weighted looms are almost as ancient as weaving and are still in daily use in some parts of the world. Unlike more complicated looms, a warp-weighted loom can be easily disassembled and carried around, so is ideal for use by nomadic people. Many tribal rugs are woven on such looms as well as hand-woven linens made by many Scandinavian people.

A warp-weighted loom is usually set up vertically, leaning against a wall. They can be used horizontally also, but most weavers find the vertical arrangement more comfortable. The top beam can be any width, but three to five feet should please most weavers. Because the vertical frame of this type of loom can be moved freely, different widths of beam can be used and different projects can be in work at once. To change the warp to a different project you only need to lift down the beam and roll the entire project up around it then put up the new beam.

The following instructions for making a warp-weighted loom presuppose some basic knowledge of weaving and familiarity with simple carpentry skills.

MATERIALS NEEDED

Two 8-foot 2" x 4"s, do not get pressure-treated wood but do look for good-quality, straight pieces of lumber.

1 large dowel stick, 1 1/2" in diameter for the top beam (3 to 5 feet wide)

1 1 1/4" dowel stick for the permanent shed (same width as the beam)

3 7/8" dowels for movable sheds (same width as the beam)

1 extra 2" x 4" to cut beam supports from

several 1/2" dowels sticks for making shed pegs

fabric to make weight bags

1 8-foot 1" x 6" board (or longer if your beam is wider than 4 feet)

Some 2 1/2" wood screws

Sand paper

Wood glue

Wood putty

Two or Three yards of cotton fabric

TOOLS

Electric drill

Jig saw

Tape measure

Electric drill and a 9/16" and 1/2" wood bits

METHOD

Making a weighted loom is relatively simple, requiring only basic carpentry skills. More ambitious craftsmen can produce a more elaborate loom but it will not produce a nicer length of cloth. For your first project, you would be better off keeping it simple.

MAKING THE VERTICAL SUPPORTS Lightly sand the 2" x 4"s to remove splinters and rough spots and lay them out side by side to mark for drilling. You will be making holes on the 4" side of each 2" x 4" to hold the shed pegs. The first pair of holes goes 18 1/2" up from the bottom, centered, the next pair of holes 14" above the first and four more pairs 7" apart. Drill about half way through the board.

Next you will need to cut the beam support brackets. Cut two 12"- lengths from the extra 2" x 4" and sand them lightly. You will be making two S-shaped figures to support the beam and cutting them out with the jig saw. Each leg of the "S" will be 6" long and half the width of the board. The upper part that will stand away from the vertical support can be almost a right angle and the lower part can be gently curved back to the vertical support.

Cut these shapes and sand them lightly. Measure down 15" from the top of the vertical support and make a pencil mark. Center the support bracket in the vertical support with its base at the 15" mark, put a bead of wood glue on the back of the support bracket and fasten it to the 2" x 4" with two long wood screws. The vertical side supports are now finished.



THE TOP BEAM The top beam is made from the 1 1/2" dowel stick. Measure 4" from each end and make a mark. Divide the beam dowel into four segments, the length of the space between the two end marks and draw lines for placement guides. Set the beam dowel aside.

Cut the 1" x 6" board into two lengths the size of the space between your marks on the beam dowel. Divide the boards into two equal lengths and rip them apart. Sand all edges smooth. One of these flanges will be where the weaving is attached and will need to be drilled. Mark the length of the board with equally-spaced dots, starting 1/2" in from each end, put a series of dots about 2" apart. Using the electric drill and a 1/4" wood drill bit, drill through all the dots.

Put a bead of wood glue on one of the placement pencil marks on the beam dowel. Place a flange on this glue bead and fasten it to the beam with wood screws, counter-sink the heads and fill with putty. Repeat for the four remaining flanges and set aside to dry. Your top beam is now finished.

SHED STICKS AND PEGS You will need 10 pegs about 6" long to support the shed sticks. Cut these from the 1/2" dowel sticks and sand the cut edges smooth. Cut the 7/8" dowel sticks to the same width as the beam and sand the cut edges smooth. You will need to make two more pegs, 8" long, cut from 7/8" in dowel. Drill a 1/2" hole about 1" deep in one end of each of the 8" dowels. Insert a 11/2" piece of 1/2" dowel into each hole, secure with wood glue. This will allow you to insert these pegs in the vertical side support holes. Measure in 2" from the opposite end of the 8" dowels and drill a 1/2" hole about 1/2 way through the top of the dowel. Cut two more pieces of 1/2" dowel, 4" long, and insert them in the holes, secure with wood glue and set aside to dry.

You have now finished with the wood-working segment of loom construction. Let all the glue joints dry overnight and go over all parts with sand paper to smooth any rough edges. You can apply a coat of paint or an oil finish if you wish.

WEIGHT BAGS Make two or three dozen fabric bags large enough to hold a 12-ounce can of soda. You will use full soda cans to weight your warp. When it is time to warp the loom, you will need to have a supply of soda cans. You can use unopened soda cans or collect empty cans and fill them with sand.

SETTING UP THE LOOM

A warp-weighted loom requires a clear wall space as wide as the beam. Prop the two vertical side supports against the wall and place the beam in the beam support brackets. Insert pegs in the bottom holes and rest the stationery shed stick on these pegs. At a comfortable height for you to weave, insert the longer pegs with the vertical peg pointing up. Lay a shed stick across these pegs against the vertical supports. Once the loom is warped and the heddles are tied, you will change sheds by lifting the shed stick over the vertical peg and setting it down, thus opening the shed.

You are now ready to warp the loom and begin weaving. A good reference book complete with illustrations on finished warp-weighted looms is The Warp-

Weighted Loom by Marta Hoffmann (ISBN#82-00-08094-3), available from weaving and spinning suppliers by mail-order. This book does not give building instructions but does have many illustrations and describes the use of the warp-weighted loom in Scandinavian countries.

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