I’ve been asked for a how-to make a scrap loom for triangular shawls, so here goes:
4 lengths of scrap wood, 4′ or thereabouts, 2 x 6′ lengths of bamboo or similar, a box of panel pins or carpet tacks, something to “tie” joints with, ruler, pencil, and a long needle with a large eye – the bigger the better.
1…Acquire 4 x 4′ lengths of tough, thin wood; I used moulding which was probably originally for picture frames, or possibly handmade kitchens. It is real wood, with a visible lengthwise grain. And it came to me virtually free, thanks to the Dorset Scrapstore, though with a bit of patience I could have sourced something suitable at the Tip, or even bought something; it wouldn’t break the bank. You need 4 lengths of about 4′ x at least 1″, with at least one flat side though two would work better.
2… Leaving about 2″ clear at either end for the “joints” make a little mark at 0.5cm (¼”) intervals down two of them. Then knock panel pins or tacks in, staggered either side of these little marks so as not to cause the wood to split, and leaving most of the head sticking out. These will be the pegs that you fix your yarn to.
3… Form the four pieces of wood into a square, crossing at the corners, with the two blank pieces sitting underneath at the top & bottom and the two pegged pieces on top on either side. Then fix them to each other; I used old sewing machine drive belts as giant elastic bands, as I have lots of those, but I could have lashed them together with string for a more permanent and probably stronger joint.
4… Find two cross-pieces; mine needed to be about 6′ long, and I located two suitable lengths of bamboo in the garage. I lashed them firmly together to form an “X” shape with a piece of old shirt, then poked the ends into the sewing machine drive belts at each corner; had I tied these joints, I would have had to tie these in too. This gave a surprisingly strong & rigid structure, light and easily portable.
5… Warp up. This basically means tying lengths of yarn straight across the loom from a peg on one side to its opposite peg on the other side, leaving a 6″ (15cm) tail trailing on either side; this will form your fringe. Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom, using your yarn in bands of colour; this will give you a kind of plaid effect. I used slipknots to secure them, which you can just pull out when you slip the yarn off the peg to weave it. If one yarn doesn’t look thick enough, use two strands together.
6… Tie a piece of your strongest yarn diagonally across the loom; if you are right-handed, from top right to bottom left. I doubled mine for extra stability & tension, and made it as tight as I could without pulling anything apart. It still sagged eventually, but not too badly.
7… Weave! Untie the lefthand (if righthanded) knot of the topmost strand, thread it into your needle, loop it around the diagonal into a knot and pull it gently until secure, then weave it down the other strands, one over, one under. Thus your warp thread becomes your weft as you go. Do the same with the next thread down, going under where the last one went over, and vice versa. Don’t panic when you find you’ve made a mistake; weaving two thread together for a bit won’t show in the final shawl as long as you’ve used a variety of textures & colours. You will need to flick the strands with the needle to “beat” them straight-ish as you finish each one; don’t pull them straight too hard as this will distort the diagonal thread, although this will happen anyway to some extent.
I started with the bottom of the loom on the floor, squatting to do the last foot or so of each strand, then moved it up onto a chair as I went along, then up onto something higher (the budgies’ cage, in fact) towards the end, for comfort’s sake. As I went, I tied a knot at the bottom whenever I’d done four threads; this forms one side of your fringe.
When you reach the bottom corner, tie in the diagonal as well, and the shawl will come free of that side of the loom. Work your way back up the other side, freeing then tying four warps threads at a time, then tie in the top end of the diagonal too. Voilà! You have a shawl!
But there are a couple of finishing touches; you need to wash & rinse it, which I do by placing it inside a cot duvet cover so that the fringes don’t tangle too badly, then stuffing it into my machine on a normal “wool/gentle” cycle. Dry it on the line, hanging carefully using lots of pegs, and if possible, place light weights at intervals down the edges to pull the shawl into a regular triangular shape. Fingercomb the fringe, then cut it to one manageable length, by eye; I wouldn’t use a measure as I like a handmade look, but you might prefer to for peace of mind.
The loom can be collapsed by untying the corner joints, and stored until you need it again. You will, you know – this is addictive!