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Weaving on a Cardboard Loom

Article by:

Diane Gilleland, contributor

Weaving like this can be the basis for so many projects: place mats, coasters, bags, hats—use your imagination.Photo: All photos by Diane Gilleland

Weaving is such a meditative, relaxing craft—and at the end of it, you have fabric! You don't need a lot of expensive equipment to take up weaving. Here's how to build a simple loom on a piece of cardboard.

I like to re-use cardboard shipping envelopes for my simple looms. They're very sturdy, yet easy to cut with a pair of strong scissors. You can also use a sheet of cardboard, but I don't recommend corrugated for this project.

A sturdy cardboard shipping envelope makes a great loom.

Begin by deciding how wide you want your weaving to be. Are you making a bookmark? Then you only need a few inches of width. If you're making something larger, like a sunglasses case, you'll want to weave wider. Mark your preferred width onto your cardboard.

Mark 1/4-inch increments along both sides of the cardboard.

Next, measure and mark every 1/4 inch along the edge of your cardboard, working between the two width marks you made in the previous step.

Draw a line 1/2 inch from the edge of the cardboard. This will serve as a cutting guide.

Cut into the cardboard at each 1/4-inch mark.

Use a pair of strong scissors to cut a series of slits in the edge of the envelope, 1/4 inch apart. Use that guideline you drew in the previous step to help you keep all these slits about the same depth. (But don't worry about being too precise, as you can see in this photo.)

Repeat these steps on the opposite edge of the cardboard.

Wedge the yarn into the first slit, leaving about a 3-inch tail.

Time to string your loom! I like to use worsted or sport-weight yarn. Leave it attached to the skein while you're stringing, and cut it off when you're done. Begin by wedging the end of the yarn into the first slit in the cardboard. Leave about a 3-inch tail hanging, as you see here.

Stretch the yarn over the cardboard and wedge it into the first slit on the other side.

Next, draw the yarn across the surface of the cardboard, and then wedge it into the first slit on the opposite side.

Wrap the yarn around the back of the first slit, and through the second.

On the back side of the cardboard, wrap the yarn around and wedge it into the second slit, as shown.

Stretch the yarn over the cardboard again and wedge it into the second slit on the opposite side.

On the front side, draw the yarn over the cardboard and then wedge it into the second slit on the opposite side.

Continue until the loom is strung. You can string it with one color or more.

Continue like this, stringing the yarn back and forth over the cardboard, using those slits you cut to anchor it. Your yarn should be strung snugly over the front of the loom, but not so tightly that it bends the cardboard.

This is the back of the loom. If you decide to change colors while stringing, be sure to leave a 3-inch tail of each color yarn hanging at the back.

Here's a shot of the back of the loom. You can see that I've used two colors in stringing my loom. You can do this if you like, or not. (If you weave loosely, you'll be able to see the color change in your weaving. If you weave tightly, you won't.) If you do change colors while stringing, just leave a 3-inch tail of each color of yarn hanging at the back of the loom, like you did when you started stringing.

By the way, in weaving terms, these vertical, parallel strings are called warp yarn.

Begin weaving by threading a long strand of yarn on a tapestry needle and passing it over and under the warp threads.

Ready to weave? Here we go. Cut about 48 inches of yarn. You can weave with sport, worsted, bulky, or novelty yarns—each one produces different effects. Thread one end on a tapestry needle. Pass the needle over and under the warp yarns, pulling the strand through as you go.

Leave a 6-inch tail of yarn at the end of the first row of weaving.

Here's the first row of weaving. I've left about a 6-inch tail of yarn at the end of the row. We'll deal with it later.

The second row of weaving should be opposite to the first one.

Weave your needle under and over the warp yarns again to create your second row of weaving. Make sure that your weaving in this new row is opposite to the weaving you did in the first row.

See what I mean? The second row should pass under the warp where the first row passed over it. And vice versa.

The second row of weaving should be snugly placed under the first.

Pull the strand through to finish the second row of weaving. And then, keep repeating those steps to continue weaving. here are a couple fine points to keep in mind as you go:

Be careful not to pull your edges too tight—your weaving will grow narrower as it progresses.

Watch your edges very carefully as you weave. If you pull them too tight, as shown here, you'll end up pulling your weaving out of shape.

Keep the edges a little loose so they stay nice and straight.

If you leave your ends just a little loose, as shown here, you'll end up with nice, straight edges.

As you weave, you'll also want to keep pushing your work up toward the top. A salad fork is an excellent tool for this!

To change colors while weaving, just leave a 6-inch tail of each color hanging at the edge.

If you want to change colors while you weave, just leave a tail of the old color, and then start a new color, leaving a tail of this as well. We'll deal with those tails in a moment.

Keep loose ends out of your way by taping them to the cardboard.

As you weave, those loose ends might get in your way. You can always twist them loosely together and tape them down to the cardboard with painter's tape.

To finish the edges, thread each loose end on a needle and pass it under the edge of the weaving.

When you're done weaving, then it's time to weave in those loose ends. One at a time, thread each one on your needle and pass it under the edge of your weaving.

Then, cut the remainder of the loose end close to your work.

Remove the weaving from the loom by bending the cardboard tabs and pulling off the loops.

Once all the loose ends along the sides of your weaving are tidied up, you can remove your weaving from the loom. Carefully pull the warp threads off the cardboard. You may have to bend the tabs in order to do this, as shown.

Cut each loop of warp yarn and tie the ends in a double knot.

To finish off the top and bottom edges of your weaving, it's best to have loops of yarn at each end that are at least 1 inch long. The loops at the top of your weaving will likely be shorter than this because you've been pushing your work upward as you wove. No problem—just take each loop in your fingers and pull it firmly. The warp will slide through the weaving and the loop will lengthen.

Next, cut each loop, and tie the two ends into a double knot.

Once you've knotted all the loops, you have a secure edge. Do the same thing on the opposite end of your weaving. This edge can act as a fringe, or you can sew this edge to the inside of your work, like a selvage.

That's the process! Now, go enjoy some weaving time.