Over the centuries, weavers have developed specialised looms for various projects. Triangular looms make shawls; multiple-heddle looms make complex, intricate designs in the cloth. And inkle looms create long, narrow strips of cloth useful for such items as bracelets, belts, guitar straps, bookmarks and ties. Because of the small size and simplicity of inkle looms, weavers can easily make their own.
Select the wood desired for the loom. Choose a hardwood like oak or beech to ensure the loom can withstand the stresses caused by the weaving.
Sizes and Styles of Looms
Select the size and style of loom desired. The final lengths of straps created depend on loom size, number of pegs installed and method of winding warp on the pegs. Small, portable inkle looms can produce strips up to 2 inches wide and 72 inches long. Larger table inkle looms create strips up to 4 x 137 inches. For strips up to 6 inches wide and 16 feet long, choose a floor-standing inkle loom. The floor-standing looms can also be used as warping boards for other types of looms, giving the weaver multiple benefits for their cost. If unsure of any weaving term or loom part, review Glimakra’s glossary of weaving terms through the link below before making the loom.
Making the Loom
Assemble the pattern and tools necessary to make the inkle loom. Saw wood into sections as directed by pattern. Saw dowels to the correct size for warping pegs. Sand the pieces with block and sandpaper to smooth all edges—inkle looms are small enough to not require the use of a large sander. Cut notches into the base with a jigsaw or chisel and hammer. Drill holes for the pegs. If desired, attach end caps to outside portion of holes for a smooth appearance. For patterns using a slot to adjust warp tension, cut the slot with a router. Drill starter holes and attach all pieces with wood screws. Insert tension peg into slot and add wing nut or turning knob to tension peg for easy adjustments.
Apply desired stain or paint to loom. If desired, decorate outer side of loom with small patterns or designs. Add a polyurethane finish to protect wood from mishaps during weaving.
Choose Type of Heddle
Decide which type of heddle to use with your inkle loom. Unlike other looms, the heddles on inkle looms hold alternate threads stationary while the weaver manipulates the free threads to create weaving’s traditional over-and-under effect. If using permanent heddles, the weaver must cut and thread each warp yarn separately. If using temporary heddles, the weaver can thread the warp yarn continuously from yarn balls. Make heddles for the loom from cotton or synthetic string. Measure the appropriate length of permanent heddles and tie them to the heddle peg. To make temporary heddles, wrap string snugly around 2 pegs and tie with a square knot. Try to make all the heddles the same size. Place warp threads around pegs. Fold heddle in half, place it over every other warp thread, and slip both loops onto heddle peg. If a temporary heddle falls off or becomes lost, simply make a replacement.
Purchase or make shuttles for the inkle loom. Select a shuttle only a couple of inches longer than the warp’s width. Wind shuttle with only as much weft yarn as necessary—inkle looms have small sheds and the weaver must also use the shuttle as the warp beater.