A New Cardboard Loom


Many of my crafting decisions over the last year have been motivated by either a lack of space or a lack of time.  Nowhere is this more true than in my flirtation with weaving, where a dearth of proper training, enough space to store a loom that inhabits more than two dimensions, or time to finish weaving something larger than a place mat have conspired to make it one of the least realistic crafting choices in my current situation.

Unfortunately I remain undeterred.

The first compromise was the loom.  Both due to impatience and a shortage of funds to risk on highly improbable ventures, I decided that the path of least resistance was to make a loom myself.  Without much wood working experience, tools, or – the real show-stopper – wood, I contented myself with cardboard.  After all, you can cut it with scissors and attach it with tape.  Oh, and it’s free!


The first loom was made from a tiny box in which we received a baby spoon and construction took all of ten minutes.  I was so delighted by both the instantaneous nature of making a loom and the glorious amount of trial and error required to turn small strings of yarn into cloth that at first I ignored the tiny loom’s many shortcomings.

After tying off my first woven piece with the tiny loom, I knew there must be a better way to finish the ends than trying to deal with short and stubby yarn tails.  I started dreaming of a larger cardboard loom where the warp would be spaced farther apart and the weft (from the actual weaving) would be compressed against a solid surface, such as a knitting needle, to prevent the ends from being rounded.  Since this new cardboard loom would be both longer and wider, a tapestry needle (from my knitting kit) would no longer suffice to thread the yarn between the warp threads and the scale-up would also require longer pieces of yarn wound around a shuttle.


And then the perfect cardboard box arrived as the packaging for a baby book gifted to Adi for her first birthday.  Cutting out the sides of the box to make weaving easier even provided the perfect size cardboard pieces to make a shuttle or two.  Fifteen minutes later (there was some taping to do this time) I had a new cardboard loom and shuttle all ready to use and five minutes after that it was warped and weaving had commenced.



The first finished piece from my new loom is now a doll cape for Adi.  It uses alpaca yarn for the warp and muted colors of naturally dyed cotton for the weft.  I’m still not completely happy with the way the ends turned out; probably longer ends for the warp that could be tied and braided afterwards would be better.  One end is finished by encasing the warp tails in stitches and the other end with longer warp tails is finished by tying the tails together and then sewing them down as a fringe for the top of the cape.



While this new loom is far from perfect, it has already taught me a lot about what parts of weaving I most enjoy and what parts I still find frustrating.  There is no chance of finding room for a larger loom in our apartment any time soon, but I have started dreaming of dusting off one of my mother’s looms long forgotten in their barn.  She made all sorts of beautiful woven pieces back before I was born, including the most lovely cotton baby blanket for her first grandbaby.  I’m not sure I’m prepared to plan ahead quite that far, but the thought of finally weaving my own cloth for a dress is a good start!



A Tiny Cardboard Loom


It was only a matter of time before I went from buying fabric to making it myself, even if the first results are rather lumpy and the approximate size of a bookmark.

I blame it on Fibershed and a growing community interested in sourcing local materials for a handmade wardrobe.  While the birthplace of Fibershed is my old home of California, the same principles of organizing a web of regional fiber producers and consumers can be applied anywhere.  For drool-worthy examples, see the challenge from this is moonlight of #1year1outfit in which participants create an outfit sourced from their fibershed over the course of a year.  That may sound like a long time in which to create a single outfit, but as demonstrated again and again, local fiber resources are not always easy to find, especially not in the form that we are  used to working with.  Interesting challenges ensue, such as what to use for thread and fabric when most of what is available is raw fiber or yarn.  In addition to time spent researching local resources, many participants were forced to learn new skills such as spinning, weaving, felting, and dyeing in order to process the fiber available to them.  Is it any wonder then that a single outfit could take a full year to research, design, prepare materials for, and produce?


The fibershed model of crafting a handmade wardrobe resonates with me deeply.  It is more than just wearing me-made clothes, more than choosing organic cotton, more than using natural dyes.  It is working with my environment and my community to clothe myself.

Going forward, I intend to buy only locally produced fiber and textiles.  Now that I’ve had a chance to settle into my new home by finding the farmer’s market, public library, and neighborhood parks, it is time to start planning for the future.  The future of how I will keep myself cool in hot and humid summers and warm in often brutal winters.  How I will dress my daughter and perhaps start making clothes for my husband as well.  How to make curtains, blankets, quilts, pillows, mattresses, and maybe even shoes.  This is not an easy task.

The first step is learning about my local fibershed and what resources are available.   This is where I am now.  In the mean time, I have fabric, thread, yarn, and other notions purchased over the last four years to work through.  As excited as I am about using local fiber, I can’t ignore the stash I have already amassed.  Not only does it take up considerable space in my small apartment (four moving boxes worth of space, to be precise), it required considerable natural resources to produce.  The least I can do is use it up before consuming even more.

In preparation for taking full advantage of my fibershed, I will also work on improving and diversifying my skills.


So I made a tiny loom.

The loom is cut out of a small cardboard box that once held a baby spoon.  The sides are cut away to provide room to thread (the weft) yarn back and forth with my shuttle (a large, blunt needle I use for sewing in the ends of my knitting).  The ends have many small, evenly-spaced cuts on which to thread the other direction of yarn (the warp).  This tiny loom is perfect for using up very short bits of yarn left over from my natural dye experiments.


My first woven piece is the size of a bookmark.  It uses six different colors of naturally dyed yarn, including both the warp (alpaca) and weft (cotton).  It was an absolute joy to make.  I worked from my childhood memory of using a small wooden child’s loom, but beautifully illustrated instructions can be found here by Sugarhouse Workshop.


What’s next? Making a second, slightly larger cardboard loom.  There are only so many bookmarks one family can use…


Additional Weaving Resources: