July 9, 2020

How to make a simple frame loom

A sturdy wooden frame and a bunch of nails is basically everything you need to make your own simple frame loom for tapestry weaving. In this article, we will teach you a simple method to turn a secondhand wooden frame into a new crafting tool with just a few basic supplies and about one or two hours of time.

Supplies you will need:

1 Sturdy wooden frame, for example from an old picture frame or photo canvas

2 Cardboard piece, for example from an old box or other packaging

3 Wooden stick, either square or a natural branch

4 Hammer

5 Pliers

6 Nails, short and with a larger head

7 Sturdy cotton yarn, like butcher's twine or thin crocheting yarn

8 Scissors

9 Ruler and pencil

Some things to look out for when you source your frame. The warp on the loom, which are the strings that will form the base for your weaving, have to be fixed quite tightly and therefore there will be a lot of tension on your frame. Many cheaply made picture frames are too weak to withstand this kind of pressure. Look for a thick, solid wood frame with stable corners and a minimum thickness of two centimeters each way. Parts of wooden shelves, canvas frames and some well made vintage picture frames are best - or if you have a drill and some wood, you can always make your own frame to measure.

Your weaving will be a little bit smaller than the inside of you frame by about five centimeters in each direction. You are free to chose whether to warp it vertically or horizontally. For a beginner I would suggest fixing the nails on the short side of the frame, so that the warp runs along the long side of it. This way, each row that you weave is shorter and there is less risk of deforming your weaving. In this example however, I will do the opposite, as I am aiming to create a loom for making plant baskets, which require for the warp to run along the short side.

Step 1: Prepare your frame

Like anything sourced secondhand, make sure to clean your frame before you start working on it. If you have a picture frame, remove the glass and backing and move all fixing clips out of the way. If you have a canvas frame, remove the fabric by pulling out the staples or, if glued, cutting it away with a knife. Especially when working with staples, make sure to remove them completely or bend them back down into the wood, so that your frame won't scratch up your table or floor in the future.

After cleaning the frame, decide which two sides you want to attach your nails to. Like mentioned before, I would suggest the two short sides for a beginner. Before getting started with the nails, it is useful to mark their placement to keep everything even. The marks should start a few centimeters inside of the perpendicular edge of the frame and line up top to bottom to make sure the warp is straight.

Mark out two lines along the frame in the middle of the outer side. They should be about half a centimeter to a centimeter apart. Then mark out the placement of the nails on those lines, by measuring in half centimeter increments. Offset the marks, so that there is always one on the front and the next one on the back. This is so that the heads of the nails won't obstruct you from threading the warp later.

Repeat this process on the opposite side of the frame. Make sure that your marks line up on the top and bottom edges, to keep everything perpendicular to the frame.

Step 2: Add you nails

Since the nails are so short, I like to use some pliers to hold them in place while hammering them into the wood. This way you can also spare your fingers. Add all the nails to the frame going from one side to the other along the marks. Use a soft mat, rug or in this case, ironing mat to dampen the sounds and spare your neighbours. Once one side is done, simply turn around the frame and repeat. Now the mat is even more important to save your floor from scratches from the nails. Once you have finished the other side, you are basically done and have a working frame loom!

Step 3: Warp your loom!

To start your warp, tie a know at one end of the frame on the first nail. Go down to the other side and wrap the yarn around the first and second nail. This way the thread will be spaced out nicely on the front of the loom. Continue in this fashion, always wrapping around two nails and going up and down the loom. If the spacing between the individual threads is not even at this point, it doesn't matter, as we will fix that later.

When you are done warping, tie a knot at the end of the frame. Next, the warp needs to be tightened. For this I like to work from both sides to the middle, so that the outmost threads are nice and tight and prevent deformation of the weaving. Simply pull on the threads one by one, working your way to the middle. Tie the excess off in a knot and then space out all the tigthened threads evenly, like in the right picture.

Add in your wooden stick, by weaving over and under the threads. This is so that you can weave fast, following the stick in one direction and only have to do the over and under on the way back. Of course you can also insert the stick in a different way for making other kinds of patterns, or leave it out, if you are doing a more freehand tapestry with lots of different patterns and sections. Lastly, add a stripe of cardboard to the bottom of the warp to stop the weaving from slipping down along the frame. And now you are ready to start weaving!

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial and are excited about creating your own weaving loom. If you have any questions, please send us an e-mail or fill out the contact form. You can always DM us on Instagram @wastelesswonders as well - and on that note, please tag us, if you try this, as we would love to see the results! If you are completely new to weaving, don't worry! Some basic weaving instructions and tutorials will follow soon here on the blog and over on our Instagram.

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