Hand Loom Weaving! Part I
Step 1 – As with any craft, step 1 is choose your yarn. I’m not advanced in the arts of knitting or crochet, but with weaving, the yarn is a little more important for one reason – how resilient it is. Yarns that have no give in them, that don’t stretch, are horrible to work with. For this reason, it takes a lot to make me with Red Heart yarns when I’m weaving. As pretty as the colors are, it has next to no give, so you have to set your loom VERY loosely in order to weave it, and generally it’s still very tight and hard to work with by the end of the last row.
Since this weaving method is especially good for baby blankets, I prefer to work with Bernat baby yarns. If you’re going for regular yarns, the Simply Soft brand is pretty good. If you’re working with a new yarn, you’ll often have to work with a couple of squares before you figure out how tight or loose to set your loom.
For this project, I’m making a baby blanket from Bernat Softee Baby in Antique White (which I think is a very pale yellow, but hey, I’m abnormal).
Step 2 – Get your tools together. First off, these are your main tools. Your loom (4” hand loom) and your needle (4”-ish … tapestry needle?).
For beginners, I definitely recommend digging up one of these, especially since the pegs are set in groupings of three and the rows are numbered (especially helpful when you’re doing a pattern, which I don’t suggest beginners do). My other loom is wood and isn’t grouped, but I’ve been doing this since I was about eight years old. Mum’s is wood, inherited from the old lady who taught her when she was around eight, and grouped like mine but not numbered, I believe.
The brand of mine is Weave-It! It seems, from what I remember from shopping around years ago on E-bay, primarily, that this brand is the one that is set the way I like. I also have a tiny, two inch loom as well, which I’ll show another time. (This one is a 4” loom.) There’s a more modern seller that makes triangles and such too but they’re so expensive, and I’d need a new main loom too, since the sizes don’t jive with mine (which is circa 1940s, if you’re interested).
You also need your yarn and a pair of scissors. That’s all. This is a highly portable craft, at least in this stage.
Step 3 – Tie off your starter. Technically you don’t need to tie it – the wooden looms all have a notch where you can set your yarn – but it makes life a lot easier, honestly.
Step 4 – Set your first layer. Go around sets of two pegs.
Step 5 – Make certain your bottom layer is loose enough. Use your thumb to press down on the yarn. The bottom row being loose enough is the key, I’ve found, to make it easy on you.
Step 6 – Turn loom and do your second layer, again by twos. Remember loosely. I don’t go back and loosen this row, only because it’s difficult. Your yarn will be key in how loose is too loose.
Step 7 – Turn your loom and do your third layer. If you look (yes, I wish I’d chosen a dark yarn to show you this part, my bad), the bottom-most and top-most layers are offset.
Step 8 – Wrap your yarn about 4 ½ or 5 times around your loom. This will give you enough yarn to weave as well as a respectable tail. (I like long tails – I use them to sew with in later steps you’ll see in Part II.)
Step 9 – Weave your first row. First and last rows are generally the hardest to do.
Step 10 – Keep weaving! Straight up weaving, no pattern, is pretty zen once you get the hand of it. Biggest problem you’re going to come across is how your rows travel a bit as you go, and you have to use the needle to nudge them over. As a beginner, you’ll have to keep an eye out to make certain no strings overlap or such. With a pattern, you have to count initially to keep the pattern, but it becomes second nature after a while.
Also, I use my finger to press the threads up and down. You can also see about how I hold the loom in my hand. I generally brace it against the counter or my leg.
(I wish I could video this somehow, but I can’t video and hold the thing at the same time.)
Step 11 – Tie off the end. When you’re done with the last row, turn the corner, go under, and knot your yarn. I double knot for security.
Look, a finished square!
Step 12 – (Optional) Push your weave so it’s more even. I dunno that anyone else does this. But I’m a little perfectionist, and patterns are especially prone to not being quite even, so I take a moment before I unloom it to make things a little more even.
See, much prettier now.
Step 13 – Unloom your square! I turn it over and press it out pretty gently, going not quite two times around. If you just yank it off, you risk stretching out the loops on the edges, which makes sewing in the later stages harder.
Look, a square! (Now you can see my pattern – a regular weave will just be a straight up woven square.)
For your viewing pleasure, the back of the square.
Step 14 – Stack your squares. I stack mine in piles of ten. When I get to ten, I wrap the long tail around them and set them aside. This makes them easy to keep up with and easy to count, especially since when you sew them for a baby blanket (which is 100 squares), you’ll be doing it in rows of ten.
And voila! You’re weaving your squares! Do this 100 times, and you’ll have a baby blanket.
As entertainment, I timed myself in doing this entire process, from setting my loom to setting the square aside. It takes anywhere between 10-15 minutes, barring interruptions. I think I average around twelve minutes, when I’m not interrupted or distracted. This means this stage of a baby blanket project will take between 16 hours and 25 hours to do. (Which means mum’s afghans, which are much larger, take significantly longer.) I’m pretty fast, though if you have to ball the yarn (I don’t, except when forced to. I think that the last blanket I did got cursed at quite a bit since, of course, I was in a hurry and of course the entire middle of every skein I used was a tangled mess and I had to ball it all up.This is barring the next stage, which is sewing.
One skein of 5 ounces of this particular yarn got me 45 squares. Given I threw away two or three squares initially when I effed up the pattern, and I could have shortened the tails to get another square, you could probably eke out 48 squares. You’ll get more or less depending on yarn type. Less resilient yarns will take more yarn, given how much more loosely you’ll have to loom it. At some point, I’ll grab a skein of Red Heart and show you how much more difficult it is to work with, maybe.
And how to do a normal square, and maybe I’ll even experiment with plaids (instead of with a variegated yarn). I know one of my books I bought a few years ago tells how to do one, but I think with a few hours of experimentation I could figure it out on my own.