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 weaving on an inkle loom 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?
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.
— Maria Chiara (@chiaramucchi) 23 August 2017
Choosing Your Inkle Loom Supplies And Materials
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to Use an Inkle Loom
Just like a regular weaving loom, there are 3 basic steps you need to know to start inkle loom weaving.
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.
To make sure this weaving process isn’t more tedious and slow than necessary, a process called shedding is used to make it easier to pass the yarn.
Finally, you will have to finish and remove the weave from the loom
How to Warp an Inkle Loom
Unlike a rigid heddle loom, the inkle loom doesn’t use a reed. So warping an inkle loom is relatively simple and fast to warp once you have tried it a few times.
Before warping though, you will need to make the heddles that will be used for shedding later on.
You can use the first few pegs of the loom to measure the length of the yarn that is necessary. The amount of heddles you need is half of the number of warp threads.
Once all your heddles are done, you can warp the loom. You can warp your inkle loom in several ways. You can determine the length of your projects by the number of pegs you wind the yarn around.
So if you are planning to do a smaller project, you can choose to only use 4 or 5 pegs.
Every alternating circle around the pegs you need to change the way you warp around the first peg.
If during your first pass you went over the first top peg, you want to go under the first top peg the second pass directly go to the second peg.
You want to alternate using the first and the second pegs every pass. So the first, third and fifth passes will go over one top peg, while the second and fourth pass will go over the other top peg etc.
Every time you go wind the warp thread over the top peg closest to you, add a heddle as well. Adding the heddles as you go is easier than adding them in the end.
You can repeat this process as much as you want, depending on how wide you want your tapes to be. But a warp with 36 threads and 18 heddles is normally a good number to start loom weaving for beginners.
Since the warp thread is an important part of the design of an inkle weave, use more than one yarn thread to warp the entire loom. To change the color simply cut the old thread close to the tension bar and tie the old and new yarn together with a simple knot.
To finish the warping process, cut the thread you are currently using to warp the loom and tie that end to the beginning end of the warp thread.
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.
Inkle Loom Patterns for Beginners
The most difficult part of any weaving project is to make an aesthetically pleasing design.
Nothing is more rewarding than coming up with a new idea pattern yourself and see it slowly take shape while you are weaving.
But this might be a little bit of a tall order for complete beginners.
If you are just starting out, it might be best to start by learning some free inkle loom weaving patterns you can find online.
Here are a few resources with a variety of different weaving patterns you can start with.
- Pattern Generator: here you can design your own inkle loom patterns from scratch on this page.
- E-Books: you can some free books about inkle weaving online. This is a pretty old book by Atwater but it includes quite a few patterns at the back.
- Websites: there aren’t a lot of websites with a wide range of weaving patterns. Although this particular website it in German, you don’t need to read German to understand a weaving pattern. Just click the links until you find a pattern you like.
- Youtube: good tutorials on pick-up inkle weaving are a little difficult to find. But with some digging, you can definitely find a few such as this one.
- Pinterest: if you need some inspiration, this is the place to go. You can find many boards with beautiful designs, instructions, and specific inkle loom weaving patterns for beginners.
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.