If you are into weaving you are probably familiar with a frame, circle or rigid heddle loom.
But have you tried weaving with an inkle loom before?
Inkle weaving is a versatile way to make braided tapes, strips, and bands.
But a single look is all it takes to realize that inkle weaving is quite different from other types of looms.
In this article, you will learn all you need to know to get started with an inkle loom.
What Is An Inkle Loom?
An inkle loom is a special type of loom that is specialized in making braided tapes.
These tapes are normally extremely durable and can be used for a variety of different purposes such as belts, guitar straps, weaving necklaces, handbag straps, etc.
So if you want to learn how to weave a belt with yarn, inkle weaving is the way to go.
You can even sew several straps together to make something bigger like a bag or scarf.
However, finding an inkle loom for sale in a brick and mortar store can be tricky, since they are not as popular as standard weaving looms for beginners.
While learning how to use an inkle loom you will probably realize that the main differences are how you warp the loom and finish your weave.
But the actual weaving process we all love remains the same; making unique designs by using a variety of weaving patterns.
What you need to get started
Fortunately, beginners don’t need much to get started on their first inkle weaving project.
All you need is a good inkle loom, your favorite weaving yarn, and a weaving shuttle.
Of course, if your weaving skills improve you might decide you want to invest in some additional weaving tools or work with other materials such as weaving beads.
1. Best inkle loom
The best inkle looms are normally made out of hardwood and should have a smooth touch to them. Because your yarn might snap due to wear and tear if it’s not.
An inkle loom can either be two-sided or one-sided. You might think more is better. But the two-sided loom is rather awkward to use. So we normally recommend a one-sided inkle loom.
Due to its big size, some inkle looms made out of dense wood might turn out to be surprisingly heavy. This can make them a little difficult to move. But on the flip side, they are very stable.
We highly recommend buying either a Schacht inkle loom or an Ashford inkle loom. Both the Schacht inkle loom and the one made by Ashford are well known and very durable and can last a long time.
2 Inkle Loom Yarn
Most yarns you can get your hands on can be used for inkle weaving. But keep in mind that you might want to avoid yarns with fray, very thin yarn or stretchy yarn since they might easily snap or break.
Especially when you are used starting out you might accidentally pull a bit too hard on a string here or there.
So as a general rule, start off with pretty thick yarn and then work your way towards thin yarn if that is your goal.
Also, don’t forget what you are trying to make. If the goal of your inkle weaving project is to make a belt, you better use some yarn that is strong enough to hold your pants up.
Read our article on choosing the right weaving yarn here.
3 Weaving Tools
There are a lot of useful weaving tools that can simplify and speed up the whole weaving process.
Some examples include a warping board, yarn winder, beater, fringe twister, etc.
Fortunately, the only tools that you really need to start inkle loom weaving is a good weaving shuttle.
When it comes to the inkle loom, most people prefer to use a belt shuttle over the standard stick shuttle.
Normally high-quality inkle looms include a belt shuttle already so you don’t always need to buy one separate.
Inkle loom instructions
Just like a regular weaving loom, there are 3 basic steps you need to know to start inkle loom weaving. So if you are familiar with weaving on a regular loom, the inkle loom instructions might sound familiar.
You start out by warping the loom, which is the process of stringing yarn across the loom that will function as the skeleton of your weave.
Then the actual weaving begins and depending on how you pass the weft yarn through the warp threads, you can create different patterns.
Finally, you will have to finish and remove the weave from the loom
1 Warping an inkle loom
Unlike a rigid heddle loom, the inkle loom doesn’t have a reed. But it doesn’t quite look like a lap loom either.
What makes warping an inkle loom unique is that you need to make your own heddles out of yarn threads. You only have to do this once and then use them again next time.
Additionally, the inkle loom gives you a lot of freedom to warp the way you want.
Although there are many pegs on this loom that you can use, it’s totally fine to only use a few of them. Depending on the length of your projects.
- Measure and create the heddles by using the first few pegs on the loom. The amount of heddles you will need to make is half the number of warp threads.
- Attach the warp thread to the tension bar and wrap the yarn around the desired amount of pegs. But make sure they go over the first upper peg.
- Once you are back at the tension bar you can warp the second row. This time make sure to go underneath the first upper peg.
- Repeat step 2 and 4 until you have reached the desired amount of warp threads.
- Don’t forget to add a heddle to every other thread. You can do this while warping or after you finished the entire warp.
- To finish warping the inkle loom, simple the warp thread and tie it to the tension bar.
The first time you try to warp an inkle loom might take a little work. But after you get the hang of it and made a set of heddles that you can use over and over again, you will be able to warp an inkle loom very fast.
Since the color of the warp thread can be pretty important in some inkle designs, you use several different yarns to warp.
To do this, simply cut the old yarn thread when it is close to the tension bar and tie with a knot to the new yarn and keep warping as usual.
2 How to weave on an inkle loom
Since you alternatively added heddles to your warp, you will notice that half of the warp threads have a heddle while the other half does not.
This is going to help you weave much faster!
Rather than taking your weft yarn and going over and under every alternating warp threads, you can now quickly separate upper and lower warp threads by shedding.
To do this, pull down all the warp threads softly with your hand between the two top pegs. You will notice that all the unheddled threads will move, while the heddled threads stay in place.
Then move the shuttle through the warp.
Now do the exact opposite by pushing the same thread upwards before passing the shuttle through the yarn again.
If you understand how to separate warp threads by using shedding, weaving becomes a simple process of rinse and repeat.
Each time you pass the shuttle from one side to the other, use the shuttle edge to beat the weft tightly together. This will give you an even pattern and results in a stronger tape.
If the heddles are getting in the way of your shuttle, it is time to loosen the tension bar a little and pull the warp towards you. After you created enough space, reposition the heddles, tighten the tension bar and continue weaving.
If you want to make your designs more beautiful, read our article on inkle loom patterns for beginners.
3 How to Finish Inkle Weaving
If you only have a little bit of warp thread left and shedding becomes difficult, it’s time to finish your weave and remove it from the inkle loom.
To prevent the weave from falling apart you will have to secure both ends.
One fast way to do this is to hemstitch both ends using a sewing or tapestry needle.
Next, you can release the tension by moving the tension peg and cut the warp threads where you didn’t weave yet.
Try not to cut the heddles since you can use those again for your next project.
Alternatively, you could use a sewing machine to secure the ends or just knot the fringes to form tassels.
Interested in weaving?
I love my inkle loom. And over the years I have made many weaves that I’m proud of.
But if you are a beginner or completely new to weaving, I would recommend you to start of with either a frame loom or a rigid heddle loom.