how to build an awesome frame loom for $15 (no fancy tools required!)

super fancy loom

 

For some reason, whenever things get really bad I get the urge to make stuff with yarn. I learned how to crochet afghans and knit lace socks and make little amigurumi animals after some of the worst times of my life. That huge ridiculous wall hanging I wrote about a while ago saved me from total emotional collapse this summer. I don’t really care for hand knit sweaters or socks or afghans but I make them anyway because making shit is the only way I know how to deal with emotions. I mean, apart from drinking heavily, but I can’t really handle hangovers anymore.

So, naturally, after the presidential election, I had an unshakable compulsion to learn how to weave. For whatever reason, weaving struck me as an especially anti-capitalistic medium. Maybe because of all the lady-owned weaving shops on Etsy?  First, though, I had to get a loom, and since looms are kind of surprisingly expensive, I figured I would try to make one with whatever I had laying around the house.

This is the first one I made:

Literally just four pieces of wood nailed together with string wrapped around it and little notches in the top and bottom to keep the string aligned. It was totally serviceable, but warping it was a huge pain and it was super difficult to weave once you got near the top because the warp threads wrapped all the way around the top and bottom pieces. Then I thought I’d convert it to a peg loom by nailing a bunch of nails in the top and bottom. This is how far I got before I gave up:

Hammers are hard! Seriously, this was the worst. I started poking around Etsy a little to check out notched looms, and I found this one, which is amazing but omg so expensive. After zooming in on a bunch of pictures, I realized that, just like the mud cloth pillows,

it’s so freaking DIY-able!

It’s also REALLY freaking cold in Chicago right now, so I was determined to build this without having to leave the house–luckily I buy random wood pieces whenever I go to the hardware store “just in case,” which totally goes against the Konmari lifestyle I fantasize about having but is super useful for random projects.

Here’s what you need:

Supplies:

  • (1) 1″x2″  “select” whitewood/pine board (6 feet long) (the “select” boards are only like a dollar more and are much smoother and straighter and free of knots than the regular boards)
  • (3) 3/8″ hardwood square dowels (3 feet long each)
  • (1) 3/4″ hardwood square dowel (3 feet long)
  • (2) 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ lag bolts with washers (if you can find skinnier lag bolts that’s probably better, but I didn’t have any)
  • (2) wing nuts that will screw onto your lag bolts
  • (6) #7 1″ wood screws
  • (4)#8  1 1/4″ wood screws
  • some 220 grit sandpaper
  • wood glue (optional-ish)
  • pick up a paint stirrer or two to use once you start weaving

Tools

  • hacksaw (here’s a tiny cheap one that isn’t neon yellow)
  • drill (here’s a really great one that isn’t neon yellow, orange, or green. seriously, what’s up with all the obnoxiously colored power tools? ESPECIALLY Ryobi and their obsession with chartreuse.)
  • screwdriver
  • 2 clamps
  • ruler

Step 1

Decide how big you want your loom to be. I only had one 3-foot 3/4″ dowel for the top and bottom, so that meant mine could be 18″ wide. You can totally go bigger or smaller if you want, thought! I’ll be giving instructions for my 18″x20″ loom, but everything is extremely adaptable.

Step 2

Cut the 3/4″ dowel and one of the 3/8″ dowels exactly in half, then put the two pieces of the 3/8″ dowel away for a little bit. On one side of the 3/4″ dowel, take your ruler and make marks every 1/4 inch starting 1 1/2 inches from the end, and ending 1 1/2 inches from the other end. 

(I didn’t do this, but it’s probably a good idea to clamp the two dowels together and mark on both at the same time so the top and bottom notches will line up. Also it’s not necessary to mark the notches on two sides of the wood like I did.)

Once you’ve marked your notches out, draw a line halfway down the side of the dowels. This is how far down your notches will go.

Step 3

Start sawing! This part is pretty tedious but also very satisfying. You can keep the dowels clamped together to make it go faster, but you’ll need either a great saw blade or a little more muscle to get through both. Saw halfway through the dowels to the line you marked.

Step 4

Fold a piece of sandpaper in half and smooth out the inside of the notches.

The sandpaper will get worn out after a few notches, so just keep folding it over in different spots. Don’t smooth out the edges of the notches too much, since you want them to be slightly grippy once there’s warp string in them. Also take this time to lightly sand the edges of all of the pieces of wood since they can be kind of sharp, and sand any rough spots on the dowels if you feel like it.

Step 5

This is where you attach the 3/8″ dowels for support. It’s totally possible that you might not need them, but I got super worried that the tension of the warp string might snap the notched dowels in half. All you need to do is tape over the notches to protect them from glue, spread a thin line of glue down the length, stick the big and little dowels together, and clamp in place. (I only did this for the top piece of my loom because I had a 5/8″ dowel instead of 3/8″ so I had to add little scraps of plywood and blah blah blah. Hopefully the bottom piece of my loom doesn’t break!)

If you don’t have wood glue, you can skip this I guess, and just screw it in place really well later. (Also, apologies for that mildly NSFW picture of the glue bead.)

Step 6

Cut the 1″ x 2″ into two 20″ pieces (or however tall you want your loom to be.) Lay out all four pieces of the loom in place and start drilling some pilot holes for the screws. (This will be easier if you clamp everything in place first. Use a speed square or a huge book or something with a right angle to make sure the angles aren’t all weird.

Then screw the dowels down, and make sure to use the 1″ screws on the smaller dowel, and obviously the 1 1/4″ screws on the larger one.

This is where I inexplicably stopped taking pictures of the build, so I’m going to uses Sketchup drawings instead.

Definitely be sure to use the right sized screws. I didn’t at first and disaster struck right after I got done warping the loom and the whole bottom piece popped right off!  I was able to reattach it without screwing up the warp but it wasn’t easy.

Step 7

At this point you should have a totally functional loom. If you made it the same size as mine, you’re probably going to want to add a stand because the size makes it pretty awkward to hold in your lap while you’re sitting on the couch rewatching Frasier all the way through for the fortieth time.

Take the two extra 3/8″ dowels and cut two lengths of 13″ and one 18″ piece (assuming the bottom of your loom is exactly 18″ across–you might want to measure just to make sure.) Lay the stand down in a U shape at the bottom of the loom and make sure it fits.

Then clamp the stand pieces to the edge of the table so they don’t move, and drill some pilot holes and screw everything together at the bottom (where the black dot is.)

To attach it at the top, drill a larger hole (the same size as your lag bolt) all the way through the stand and frame where the black dot is. This is where having a drill press would be incredibly useful, but just do your absolute best to hold your drill super level. The holes I made definitely aren’t perfect, but it works okay anyway!

Shove the lag bolts through the holes, pop on some washers, and screw on the wing nuts. Then you’re done!

So exciting, right? Here’s a picture of mine all warped and ready to go.

In case the 11 billion weaving tutorials on the internet didn’t satisfy you and you’re looking for just one more, preferably by someone who has only been weaving for a month, hold onto your hats because next week I’m going to do a semi-coherent tutorial all about weaving a graphic wall hanging, like these guys:

I mean, I’ve made three entire weavings at this point, so I am pretty much an expert.

Oh, and have an amazing Christmas/Chanukah/Festivus/Communist Appreciation Day if I don’t post again before then!!!

P.S. Does anybody prefer the SketchUp diagrams over photos? They seem like they might be more helpful but also less interesting?

You may also like

4 comments

  1. Just made this today and it looks awesome! Can I ask what type of string you use for your loom? The kind I bought can hardly be squeezed in through the slots (I do have a tool to widen them if that is what’s needed). Thanks again for the great step by step tutorial.

    1. Woo I’m so glad my directions made sense to at least one person!! I’m currently using this warp yarn, but I think I’m going to order some tussah silk yarn next week because it is fancy AF. I like to double warp my loom and the cotton yarn fits perfectly snugly through my notches even doubled up, so you probably won’t have to widen anything.

      PS could you send me a picture of your loom? I love seeing stuff people made!

  2. I live this and I am going to make it today. My first loom has the nails so I totally feel your pain there. Thank you so much for your work on this post!

Leave a Reply