An "inkle" is a braided linen tape. These
braided tapes look like the bands woven on inkle looms. Hence the name
of the loom - as best anyone knows. Of course, a woven band is not a
braided band. Words slip and slither. In use in England for 300 years,
fixed heddle continuous warp looms are most likely prehistoric. Simple
enough to be discovered and forgotten innumerable times.
Four inches weaving width is the limit for most inkle
looms. Looms that can work wider - as some of the two sided models can
- are uncomfortable to weave on and a nuisance to warp. But bands four
inches and under may be belts, handbag straps, trim for clothing, guitar
straps. Or be sewn together for scarves, bags, skirts. Length varies
from two feet to eight feet. Most inkle looms can be strung several
ways, ending up with different lengths of strip.
The set-up is quick and easy. Warp is wound directly on to the loom.
You can start weaving as soon as your warp is ready. Instead of tying
to the back beam, winding on, threading through heddles, sleying through
a reed, tying on in front - as you do with most looms - you weave immediately.
Inkle looms are as versatile in pattern possibilities and nearly as
portable as Navajo backstrap looms. Backstraps allow a greater range
of width and length. But when the doorbell rings or the baby wakes up
you just walk away from an inkle loom. You must carefully unharness
yourself from a backstrap.
Avoid yarns that fray or break easily. Avoid yarns that are very soft
or very stretchy. But anything from sewing thread to heavy rug yarn
works on an inkle loom. The thicker the yarn the faster the warping
and the faster the weaving. The thinner the yarn, the more delicate
the weave. Beginners are best off starting fairly thick.
Consider use in choosing yarn: belts have to hold your pants up, skirt
trim usually shouldn't be stiffer than the skirt (and should be as colorfast
Maysville 8/4 Carpet Warp, or our Dragon Tale 4/2 Cotton, or 3/2 Perle
Cotton are good for a first warp. Anything fairly heavy, firmly spun
and colorful will work fine: it needn't all be the same weight, but
it's probably easier to start with a warp that varies only in color.
You also need string to tie heddles and a shuttle. A belt shuttle is
best, but any small flat one will do . Use a strong thin cotton or linen
for heddles - carpet warp works well.
And you need a loom. Well-made hardwood works better and lasts
longer, but soft-wood will do. A smooth finish is essential or
you'll snag yarns. The dowels should be well set. Two sided looms
are usually flimsy and awkward to use - one sided looms with projecting
dowels are best. The loom should have a base, so it stands on
its own. Light or heavy is a matter of taste - heavy is more stable,
light is easier to move. The tension bar should tighten and loosen
easily, without chewing up the loom; and be very snug when it's
tightened all the way. Price is no gauge of quality. But be willing
to pay for a good one - it should last forever and always be a
pleasure to use. It's not too hard to make one yourself: copy
a good design, be careful making the tension bar, get pegs in
square (drill press or very good hands).
Here's a simple project to run through basic techniques. Modify
it however you wish. It makes a one to one and a half inch wide
belt if you use Maysville 8/4 Warp, narrower with a thinner yarn,
wider with a heavier. Looms vary greatly in design; these instructions
use a loom like the one pictured. If your loom is very different
- read the instructions through and adjust them as necessary.
If your tension bar is in back, tie on the front dowel, for instance.
It's easier to do than to read about. Also realize that the warping
and weaving techniques given here not the only possible ones -
do what works best for you. This is just a starting place.
First tie your heddles - 18 is a good number to start with. Wrap
18 loops around the indicated pegs four pegs to get the right
length, cut across, then tie around three, with a square knot.
Set heddles aside. You can use the same heddles over and over.
Set the tension bar in the middle of its range.
Tie an end of yarn to the bar (use a half-bow knot, so it unties
easily). Loop the yarn around the pegs as shown on right. You
can wrap the warp any way you like around the pegs to get the
length you want, as long as you do not interfere with the working
of the heddles (this will be clearer later) but this very simple
arrangement is good for a first project.
Keep going with the yarn for a second pass, but
this time go over the top peg in the middle upright, instead of
under it. Take one heddle, lay it over the yarn you just wound
(second pass, not the first), pull down and loop both heddle ends
over the lower peg.
Continue looping yarn around until all eighteen heddles
are used. Alternate one under the peg, no heddle, one over the peg,
heddled; one under; one over, and so on. Put your heddles on as you
go - it's harder to add them later and the tension will not be good.
To change warp colors, tie off the color you are done with. Untie the
half -bow from tension bar (starting end); cut other end free (finishing
end) and tie with a square knot. New color ties on as before - half
-bow around the tension bar and continue warping. You might want your
first project one color for simplicity's sake. Or you could change color
every time around. Your choice. The colors of the warp make the design.
Your last warp thread should take a heddle. You'll have 36 threads in
all; 18 in heddles, 18 not in heddles, alternating. Un-tie the last
half-bow knot on the tension bar, cut the last warp thread and tie ends
together (square knot). If your warp is all one color, you'll cross
the whole width of the belt with this last knot. (The heddles and the
tension keep the warp from crossing while you're weaving) . If you changed
colors, you'll have shorter crosses where the ends of yarn are knotted.
There should be no knots on the tension bar when you're finished, because
the warp must be free to be pulled, as a unit, around the pegs.
Reset the tension bar as tight as you comfortably can. Pull down
the warp threads with your hand as shown . All unheddled threads
are below the fixed heddled ones. Now push those same threads
up. And the unheddled threads are above the heddled ones. The
spaces or angle are called "sheds".
You weave by passing the weft (back-and-forth) yarn through with
the movable warp threads down, pushing movable threads up, passing
the weft yarn across again, pushing cords down, through, up, through,
Wrap your shuttle with yarn. Make a shed by pushing movable cords
up or down - it doesn't matter which. Pass shuttle through from
one side. Let the first end of weft yarn hang out, six inches
or so. Make the opposite shed and pass the shuttle back through.
With the same shed open, pass the loose first weft end through
the other way. Reverse shed: pass shuttle through, pass weft end
through. Soon the weft end disappears, woven in backwards, and
your belt starts evenly, with no loose ends. When the weft end
is used up, continue weaving. Up and down with the sheds, back
and forth with the shuttle. Don't leave loops of weft, and don't
pull it too tight. Even weaving comes only with practice.
Use the shuttle edge to beat the weft yarns tight. You'll be
pulling the loom towards you each time you beat. It's easiest if the front
end is snug against you - you can beat harder without having the loom
After six or eight inches of weaving, you'll find the shuttle bumping
into the heddles. Loosen the tension bar and pull the whole warp towards
you. Tighten the tension bar, straighten up any heddles dragged forward;
and go on weaving.
When you have 8 or 10" of weft yarn left, leave the tail hanging
and refill your shuttle. Continue weaving with the old end and the new
one together, for several picks or till the tail runs out. Beat these
passes or picks well, so they are not thicker than the others.
The color of weft yarn is seen only at the edges. If the outside warp
threads and the weft are the same color, the weft vanishes entirely. This
is called a warp-faced weave.
You'll notice that the tension bar is pulled farther in as you go. You
can understand why if you imagine the warp humping over and under the
Continue to weave, pulling the warp towards you when you need to. You
will be able to go up to about 8 -12 inches from where you started. Leave
six inches or so of weft yarn dangling at the finish. Thread this end
back through the weaving with a crochet hook - essentially the same thing
you did when you started. Or tie it tightly to one of the warp ends.
Cut the warp threads halfway between the woven
ends. Two cuts - one for the top threads (heddled) , one for the
bottom (unheddled). Save the heddles; they're good until they
Mastering color changes, hiding weft ends, weaving evenly and tightly,
designing and executing pleasing patterns - all come with time and practice.
You can copy or modify designs taken from weaving books when your imagination
has a dry spell. Very intricate patterns may be made with fine warp, especially
if you learn hand picking (using the two sheds as a base pattern, but
going over or under selected warp threads by hand on some passes).You
can get as fancy as you wish. Once you've got the knack, it's yours to
do with as best pleases you.
Do whatever you wish with the fringe at either
end of your belt. Tie together in twos, then clip off close.
Knot them in bunches and make tassels. Use them to tie on to
a buckle or a ring. Anything which secures them against the
weft to prevent unraveling. It's your belt now.