How to make a homemade Navajo weaving loom

Written by b.t. alo
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How to make a homemade Navajo weaving loom
The Navajo loom requires few materials. (Wikimedia Commons)

Navajo Indians weave exquisite blankets and rugs on a type of loom that sits upright suspended in a frame, with the weaver working at its base. Making a Navajo-style loom is fairly simple, and can utilise old picture frames, broken brooms, even growing trees. According to Eric Broudy in "The Book of Looms," the Navajo traditionally used whatever materials they could find for their looms, and so can you.

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Things you need

  • Wooden picture frame 100 by 75 cm (40 by 30 inches)
  • 4 wooden poles, 87.5 cm by 5 cm (35 inches by 2 inch) diameter
  • 6 mm (1/4 inch) twine, 1.8 m (6 foot)
  • 4 pipe straps, 5 cm (2 inch)
  • 2 wood slabs, 50 by 12.5 by 5 cm (20 by 5 by 2 inch)
  • 4 angle brackets
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Hammer
  • Ruler
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Utility knife
  • Strong yarn

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  1. 1

    Screw the four angle brackets in the corners of the picture frame with the drill -- this is simply to add support to the picture frame.

  2. 2

    Screw in the four pipe straps 5 cm (2 inches) from the top and 12.5 cm (5 inches) from the bottom of each side of the picture frame -- these will hold in place two of the wooden poles.

  3. 3

    Nail the two wooden slabs on either side of the picture frame as supports -- this enables the picture frame to stand upright on its own. Make sure the slabs are centred so that there is equal distribution of weight.

  4. 4

    Sand the four wooden poles well, then insert two of them into the pipe straps on the loom frame, which should be standing upright.

  5. 5

    Cut the twine in half, so that there are two lengths, 90 cm (3 feet) each.

  6. 6

    Place the two remaining poles around 50 cm (20 inches) apart, and string them together using the strong yarn -- these are the two poles that will hold the weaving, and the yarn is the warp (base threads of the weaving). Navajo warp is strung on in a figure eight, so rather than just making the warp go around the two sides of the loom poles, it goes over and under. Space each warp thread 6 mm (1/4 inch) apart, and fill up three-quarters of the length of the poles.

  7. 7

    Tie one piece of the twine to one side of the loom frame from the attached top pole. Hold the strung loom poles from the top pole, and loop the twine over the pole at the ends and middle of the loom, so it is suspended from the pole that is attached to the frame.

  8. 8

    Tie the other piece of twine to the bottom pole, and run it through the bottom loom pole in the same way.

  9. 9

    Tighten each twine, so that the loom poles are stretched tightly between the two poles attached to the frame.

Tips and warnings

  • Looms can be made in many different sizes by adjusting the size of the original frame -- a smaller weaving is also possible on a larger frame by adjusting the distance between the two loom poles holding the warp threads appropriately.

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