Rip Strip Weaving: Using your Loom

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

Now that you’ve built your loom (you can find that post here), it’s time to use it! I touched on options and materials a bit in the first post, but will cover all of that again. I will start here with stringing, then move on to weaving, and will do a third and final post about finishing options.

I will also write additional posts in the future on different things you can do with your loom and make with your woven panels as I make them myself, so be sure to check back for those!

I started this project with the intention of using ripped strips of cotton fabric for the weaving, and that is how I created my rainbow runner below, but the possibilities of what you can weave into your piece really are endless. Consider various fabric substrates, yarns, ribbons, etc.

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

I need to begin by saying that not every aspect of weaving is science. There are some things that can’t be definitively explained. Some things come with a “feel” or by simply doing it once and figuring it out from there. So, please excuse some of the looseness of this post. I will provide all the information I can about this project and will post updates as I use my own loom more.

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STRINGING YOUR LOOM

The first step in using your loom is to run the warp threads. These will run with the length of the rails between the cross members and wrap around the nail posts. As with every aspect of this project, you have many options for stringing the warp threads of your loom, from the material you use to the way you run the threads. I will show you two options in this tutorial.

On my rainbow sample runner, I used one yarn in a continuous string. It was slightly off white with tiny metallic flecks in it. I wanted a strong contrast against the rainbow fabrics and love the way it looks. You can use any sort of yarn, thread, floss, cord, twine, or even fabric strips for your warp threads, and I will show you a few different options later in the post.

To string your loom with one continuous thread as I did in my rainbow runner, you will first begin by making a large loop with a secure knot on one end of your thread (I’m using yarn in this instance). You want to make sure you have enough to string the entire loom, so do not precut any lengths, just work from the skein or whatever amount your string comes as. If it is not long enough to make one continuous piece, you can simply knot an additional piece on and continue.

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Hook your loop over one nail post at either end of either cross member, it does not matter where you begin. You will now run your thread down to the other cross member, around the first nail post and back up to where you began. Loop around the next nail post and continue this until you’ve wrapped around all the nail posts. You will now end at the last nail post on the opposite cross member from where you began. Secure your thread by making another knotted loop and hooking it over the nail post.

If you’d like your warp threads to be farther apart, giving a “looser” look to your finished weave, you can loop your threads around two nail posts, vs. just one, as shown in the bottom right photo above. Just remember that you will only see half the warp threads on each side of your woven piece. So, when you are looping on each nail post, the fabric will be on top of one thread and underneath the other. You can compare how the threads look strung on each nail post in the diagram above to how my finished rainbow runner looks. I strung my threads around each nail post on that piece.

Now here’s the important (and slightly loosey goosey) part, you DO NOT want your strings to be tight. When I started this project and just blindly jumped in, I strung my threads as tight as I could pull them. About five rows into my weaving, I realized the error of my ways. You will be amazed at how much slack is taken up by weaving the fabric strips through the threads, so you need them to be LOOSE when you begin. I’m sure you are asking, “how loose?”. Well, that’s the part I can’t really answer. You do not want them sagging to the table through your center loom opening or falling off the nail posts, but you otherwise want as much slack as you can have without those two things happening. Once I finish stringing my loom again for my next project, I’ll see if I can take a video that may help a bit.

STRINGING VARIATIONS

If you would like to use a variety of different materials or colors for your warp threads, you can do this a couple different ways. First, you can use the same continuous string method that was described above and knot your various threads together at any point you would like to change. Alternatively, you can create separate thread loops, rather than one continuous thread.

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In the diagram above I have one green thread loop and one white thread loop. Each spans between one nail post on the cross members. You can also double the spacing on these as I described above, and even skip a nail post between loops for a more symmetric spacing.

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RIPPING STRIPS

Before I started this project, I had never torn fabric. I had received fabric with torn vs. cut edges, but had never done it myself. I wanted my woven piece to have a bit of a raw feel to it, so the frayed edges of ripped strips were the perfect option. Below I will show you how to tear fabric strips to achieve the look of my rainbow runner, but you can also use cut strips of fabric for your weaving.

I used 2″ strips throughout my piece for a consistent look, but plan to use a variety of different widths on my next project to achieve a scrappier look. The length of my most of my strips was the width of the fabric, but I also used some fat quarters and smaller pieces. You can use ANY size scraps you like for this project. Later in the post I will show you how to knot your strips together as you weave, but you can also seam your strips together with your sewing machine or hand stitches as you go.

The beauty of ripping fabric, and why some shops choose to do it, is that you will always have a perfectly straight and square edge. If you are beginning with a cut of fabric that already has a torn edge, you can skip the first step, but if you are beginning with a cut of fabric with a cut edge, you will first need to create a torn square edge.

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Depending on how straight or crooked your fabric is cut (you may be amazed at how off some cuts are!), the placement of your first snip will vary. You will start by snipping a small slit on a slevedge edge of your fabric about 1/2″ to 1″ in from the cut edge of your fabric and then simply hold the fabric on both sides of you cut and tear the strip off. If your tear does not run all the way to the other end of your fabric, you are still not square and need to move in farther with your initial snip.

Once you have your first fully torn edge, you can now measure to the width you’d like your strips, snip and tear. The result will be perfectly equal torn strips. It’s like magic! Ok, not really, but it sort of feels like it.

tearing2

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WEAVING

Now it’s time to weave – hooray! Though it’s not necessary, I found using a Dritz Elastic threader as a “needle” made the weaving process much easier. They come in a three pack for about $2 – $4 online. I ordered mine from Amazon, but you can also find them on Craftsy and a variety of other websites. The Wefty needle also serves the same purpose.

needle

When weaving your panel, you will begin at one cross member and weave to the middle of the loom along your rail length. You will then stop and start again at the other cross member and work to where you left off previously in the middle. You do this because it is much easier to squeeze the last rows into the middle of the loom than it would be to fight with the last rows along your cross member.

You will want to begin your weaving a few inches in from one of your rails. It doesn’t matter which side you start on or which direction you weave. Weave your fabric strip above every other warp thread and be sure to watch this carefully, as it’s easy to miss one or make a mistake and not notice it until later. Pull your fabric strip through the warp threads until the end of your strip is where you began weaving and work toward the anchor rod. When you get to your anchor rod, you will treat it just as another warp thread, going the opposite of your last thread. You will see below that my fabric was on top of my last warp thread, so I wove it under the anchor bar.

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Wrap your fabric around the anchor bar and continue weaving to create the first full row. Once you cross over where you began, you can pull a bit from the end of your strip and tuck it under your first full row. Alternatively, you can just leave it as it, it will hold tight once your weave is complete and I will also talk about stitching the ends in place once you are done weaving.

You will now continue in the same manner of weaving, making sure to check your work as you go. Your fabric should always wrap around the anchor rod in the same way as your previous row, so that is one way to double check that you are still on track. When you get to a screw eye, be sure to not wrap your fabric around the post of the screw eye or you will not be able to remove the piece from the loom. Just weave the fabric on either side of the screw eye. It’s alright if you have to squish or stretch a bit to make it work, it will all even out when you remove the piece from the loom.

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

As you’re weaving your strips, you will find they twist and fold and bunch in different ways as they’re pulled through the warp threads. You can try to control this as you feed the strips, such folding the fabric on itself a certain way, or you can simply let it do its own thing!

You will also need to push your rows together toward the cross bar as you work. You can do this every row or every few rows, it’s just something you’ll get a feel for as you go. You can push your rows together as tight or as loose as you wish, depending on the look you are going for.

Also, you do want to pull your strips too tight as you weave. The anchor rod will keep your piece stable and square, but if you pull too tight, you can start to bow the anchor rod. This will make it hard to remove your piece from the loom and possibly cause irregular edges.

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ATTACHING STRIPS

When you are ready to attach your next strip of fabric (or other material), there are a couple ways you can do it. I used a knotting method, which I will show you below, or, as I mentioned above, you can machine or hand stitch materials together. You do not want to weave with too long of a strip at once, because it is just more to pull through the warp threads as you weave. It is best to attach the strips as you work.

When you are close to the end of the strip you are weaving with, leave about 5″ – 7″ loose. Lay a new strip on top of the end of this strip, lining up the ends as shown below. Fold both ends over about an inch and cut a small slit through both pieces.

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

You now want to place your new strip, right sides together, on top of the strip in the loom, lining up the cut slits as shown in the photo below. The scissors are just to show the slit in both pieces. Next, take the loose end of the new strip and run it through the cut slits from the bottom. This new strip should be going first through the slit in the strip that is woven into the loom. Pull the piece through until it tightens into a knot. You can now continue weaving.

knotting2

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FINISHING THE WEAVE

As mentioned previously, you will start weaving from one cross member of your loom into the middle. You will then start again at the other cross member and work to the middle where you left off.

The photo below shows what your panel will look like when you meet in the middle. Continue weaving until you close the gap and overlap your ends a few inches as shown on the right.

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

Once you are finished weaving, you can hand stitch these loose ends to surrounding fabric or you can do this after you remove the piece from the loom.

You’re now ready to remove your panel from the loom! You will first remove two screws at the end of the anchor rods on one cross member using a screwdriver and then slide the anchor rods out. They may feel tight and you can use pliers or vice grips to start pulling the anchor rods loose. Twisting them a bit can also help. Once the rods begin to move, they will slide out easier. Next, you will lift the woven panel carefully off one set of nail posts, and then the other. Be gentle as you do this to not tear your warp threads.

Now that your panel is off the loom, admire your work and give yourself a hand!A couple more little things and you’re done.

If you wove your warp threads as one continuous piece, your initial looped ends at the beginning and end of your thread will need to be secured. When you first remove the piece from the loom, use a safety pin to hold the ends in place, otherwise the warp thread end can get sucked down into your weave. To secure them permanently, use a needle and thread to secure the loop onto a lower portion of the thread. Start by knotting your thread onto the loop then run your needle through the warp thread one row below and knot to secure.

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

Also, If you did not stitch your final loose fabric tails down before removing the panel, you can do so now. You can also do this with the fabric ends where you began weaving at either cross member, if you wish.

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Now that your piece is woven and off the loom, you can call it complete as is or you can add various finishing touches, such as cuffs or tassles, or use the woven panel on something else, such as a bag or pillow. Since this post is already quite lengthy, I will address that in a separate one.

If you have any questions about this tutorial, please contact me anytime, just be as specific as possible so I can best assist you.

I so hope you enjoy this process as much as I have! Please use the hashtag #ripstripweaving so I can see what you are making!

Here’s a shot of the materials I’ll be using for my next project. I plan to use a variety of threads for the warp threads and add a mix of yarns and other materials into the weave along with the fabric strips. I’m pretty excited about it and I’ll share more soon here and on Instagram!

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Rip Strip Weaving: Building Your Loom

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I’ve had a deep love and sense of nostalgia for rag rugs for as long as I can remember. My grandmother had them all over her little house, and when I think of my childhood, the scrappy multicolored stripes are always right there. And I’m sure I am not alone in this feeling!

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this, but I guess it was just time! Let me preface this post by saying there is nothing new or innovative about what I am making here or how I am doing it. Weaving, in an endless number of forms, has been around forever. This tutorial is simply one way that made sense to me and is perfect for using fabric scraps, which I clearly have plenty of!

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I’m calling it Rip Strip Weaving because I used torn strips of cotton fabric, but the possibilities of what you can create with this loom are endless. I used 2″ strips, but plan to make my next one using a variety of widths and materials to get a very scrappy look. You can use strips of any lighter weight material for this project – cotton, knit, denim, rayon, sheer fabrics, you name it. You can also weave with yarn, twine or ribbon and in beads or any other decorations you like. I will be using a mix of all those things on my next runner. I finished the above runner with denim cuffs, but will be adding fringe tassels on the next.

I used yarn for warp threads, but you can also use any type of cord, twine, ribbon, even thin strips of fabric. I kept my warp threads pretty close together for this project, but will talk about adjusting that later in the post.

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The following tutorial will show you how to make a loom in any size, and then I will do another post later this week on how to use it. I will try to be as thorough as possible, but as always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me anytime.

I will be showing the construction of the loom using basic hand tools (plus an electric drill) for those who have little or no woodworking experience. If you have experience or other power tools, you will easily see where you can take short cuts and make the construction process a little easier and faster.

Don’t be intimated by this project! This post will be long and include a lot of photos simply to make sure I make it as easy as possible, but the construction really is quite simple. Though some of the information may not make sense until you are in the process of creating the loom, please read through the entire tutorial before beginning. This is necessary to help understand all the materials and tools needed and some things to consider when determining the size of your loom. And as I mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime if you have questions before you begin or as you are working.

Now, let’s get started!

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MATERIALS & TOOLS

I will first cover the tools and materials I used and then talk more about amounts/sizes needed during the construction steps, as this will differ depending on the size you are making your loom.

The frame of the loom is made with 1″x3″ Poplar and you should be able to find this at most any home improvement store. I chose Poplar because it is popular in construction due to its low price, ease of use, and resistance to warping. This means your loom will keep it’s shape. Though it is called 1×3, note that the actual measurement of the wood piece is smaller. It’s just one of those weird construction things!

rip strip weaving | lillyella stitchery

You will also need 1.25″ screws, wood glue (helpful, but not required), 3/16″ steel round bar rods, #212 eye screws, 1.5″ smooth finish nails and 7/8″ rubber bumpers for feet (also optional).

You will also need the following tools: Hammer, electric drill and drill bits, hand saw, metal saw, tape measure and a square (I used a small speed square). Clamps are helpful, but not necessary.

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PREP & PLANNING

The first step is to determine what size you would like your finished woven piece to be. I designed mine to be a table runner measuring 12″ wide by 36″ long. The loom I created can also make shorter pieces by adding a cross bar, so I could make 18″ x 12″ placemats, or any size in between. I can also use the woven panels to create things like pillows, bag panels etc, so keep this in mind when deciding what you would like to make or what size you would like your loom. One thing I want to note about size is that when I made my first runner, the 12″ width stayed true to size when I took it off the loom, but the 36″ length shrunk up about 2″. This will be affected by how you wrap your warp threads and possibly how large your piece is. Since I’ve only used this one size loom one time, I can’t really speak more on the shrink factor. Just keep this in mind when determining the size of your loom. It may be hard to end with an exact size.

You can create any size piece, large or small, using this method. You would have a pretty clunky loom if you just wanted to make coasters or something tiny, but it would still work. You could also create a good size floor rug with this method, as long as you have the open space to use the loom. The finished loom will measure about 5″ wider and higher than the size of your woven piece.

rip strip weaving diagram | lillyella stitchery

The above diagram shows the different parts of the loom and how I will be referring to them throughout the tutorial. If the woven piece you would like to make is not symmetric, your larger dimension will be used for the rails and the smaller will be the cross members. The rails will hold the anchor rods and the cross members will hold the nail posts. Your warp threads will run between the two cross members on the nail posts and you will be weaving back and forth between the rails.

The anchor rods and nail posts will be placed 1/2″ in from the center opening on the rails and cross members, so the center opening of your loom will measure 1″ smaller in width and length than the finished size of your woven piece. For example, my woven runner measures 12″ x 36 and the center opening of my loom measures 11″ x 35″.

The amount of all the materials you need will be determined by the size of the woven piece you are making. There will be a little math involved, so I recommend drawing out a little diagram of your loom as you to go to help figure out sizes and to use for reference when building.

For the wood frame, you will need two lengths of 1″x3″ Poplar that are the same as the smaller dimension of your finished woven piece (for the spacers), two lengths that are  6-8″ longer than this same dimension (for the cross members), and two lengths that are 6-8″ longer than your larger measurement (for the rails). For example, for my 12″x36″ runner, I started with two lengths of wood that measured approximately 12″, two that measured 20″, and two that measured 44″. This was a total of about 13′ of wood. You do not need to worry about having perfectly square ends on your wood lengths. The tutorial will show you how to build the frame with slight overlaps and use the edges of cross pieces to trim flush. This is the easiest method for those with no woodworking experience or fancy tools. If you have power tools or a guide available to cut square edges, you will be able to skip that step and cut your pieces to the exact size.

For the anchor rods, you will need two lengths of 3/16″ steel round bar measuring approximately 3″ longer than the larger dimension of your woven piece.

The number of screws, screw eyes, nails and bumpers needed will vary. I used 16 screws on my loom. You will need two for each corner, four total to hold the anchor rods and additional screws to attach the spacers. I used two on each 12″ length of my spacers. If your piece is larger, you will want to use a few more. You will need to place screw eyes on either end of both anchor rods and then approximately every 8″ – 9″ along the length of the rods. I used ten total on my loom. The number of nails needed will be determined by the smaller dimension of your woven piece and how far apart you want your warp threads (I will talk about this a bit more later). I placed my nails 3/8″ apart and used 31 nails on each cross member of my loom to create my 12″ runner, just for reference.

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FRAME CONSTRUCTION

As I mentioned above, these steps are shown using basic hand tools and not having the ability to cut your pieces with square ends. We are allowing for overhang on each piece so that you can use the cross piece to cut the edges flush. If you have square ends on your wood cuts, you can line them up flush and skip the step of trimming.

You will begin by laying one cross member piece lengthwise. This piece should measure at least 5″ longer than your shorter woven piece dimension. This allows for the width of the rail pieces plus at least 1/2″ overhang on either edge. I exaggerated the overhang in my photos so you could see it easily. I have about a 2″ overhang on all my pieces.

rip strip weaving loom tutorial | lillyella stitchery

Next you will lay one rail length perpendicular on top using your square to make sure it is squared up. Draw a pencil line along both the left and right edges of the rail piece onto the cross member below. You can now use a clamp, if you have them, to keep this piece in place.

Next you will place the second rail piece on top of the cross member at the appropriate distance. As I mentioned before, this opening should measure 1″ smaller than the dimension of your finished woven piece. My runner was 12″ and the space between my rail pieces is 11″. Once again use your square and draw lines to mark the placement. Once in place, hold with another clamp.

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The next step is to secure the rails to the cross member with screws. Using an electric drill, predrill two holes through the rail into the cross member in the orientation show above. Predrilling holes is beneficial for two reasons. First, it helps prevent possible splits in the wood, but more importantly, it helps prevent your pieces from shifting their position when the screw catches. If you have never predrilled holes before, you want to use a bit that is slighty smaller in diameter than your screw, so that your screw will still hold tight and not be loose in the hole. If you are purchasing drill bits specifically for this project, any associate at the store would be happy to help you. You will be predrilling for the 1.25″ screws and then also later for the finish nails. With that information, they can give you the bits you need.

If using wood glue, you can unclamp your pieces and spread it on the cross member between your drawn lines. Dap a few dots around and spread it evenly with your finger or a paper towel.

Lay your rails back in place on the cross member, once again using your square and double checking your opening measurement, then screw the pieces together using the 1.25″ screws through the predrilled holes.

You will now repeat these steps to add the second cross member on the opposite end of your rails. Placement will be determined by once again measuring the center opening. It should measure 1″ shorter than the larger dimension of your finished woven piece. For example, I wanted my runner to measure 36″, so the opening between my cross members was 35″.

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Once both cross members are secure, you can now trim your overhanging edges flush using your hand saw. If your cuts are a little rough or your wood splinters at all, you can just smooth it with some sandpaper.

The next step is to add the spacers. These are additional cuts of poplar that will sit on top of the cross members between the rails.

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The spacers will first need to be cut to size. You will use the same 1″x3″ poplar for the spacers. Begin by drawing a straight line near one end of a cut of poplar using your square to ensure it will be straight. If you already have a cut a poplar with a square cut end, you can skip this step.

Next, you will measure the space between your rails and cut your spacer piece to the same size. Repeat this for the second cross member. Be sure to measure each opening. Though they should be the same, it is best to double check!

Once your spacers are cut, you will lay them in place and once again predrill holes. I used two screws on my 11″ width. If your piece is significantly longer, you will want to use more. Be sure to keep your holes close to the outer edge of your frame so that they will not be in the way when adding your nail posts.

After predrilling, you can apply wood more glue and then screw in place, or just screw in place if not using glue. Once both spacers are in place, your frame is complete! Give yourself a hand!

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NAIL POSTS & ANCHOR RODS

Now that your frame is complete, it is time to add your anchor rods and nail posts. The first step is to draw guidelines to help with placement. Using a long straight edge, draw a light, thin line 1/2″ from your opening on all four sides of the frame. You will then place your nail posts.

You may some old finish nails laying around, like I did, but if you are purchasing ones to use for this project, you will want 1.5″ length. I placed my nail posts 3/8″ apart, and honestly, I don’t really know how I decided this. I just thought about how tight I would like my weave based on the size of my finished piece. There’s no good way for me to explain how to figure this out, but you can look at my runner to help you decide. The nail posts determine the space between your warp threads, which is the white yarn that runs the length of my runner. You can see my weave is fairly tight, and I love the look of it. I believe it creates a piece that isn’t too hard to create, but is solid enough to be used for a variety of things, such as using the woven panel on a pillow or bag. I would NOT recommend going smaller, or you will really fight with it when weaving. If you are making something large, such as a rug, you could easily space your nail posts at 1/2″ or wider.

With the nail post placement on my loom, I can also create a wider, more open looking weave, by not wrapping my warp threads on each post, but on every other, so you do have some flexibility with any measurement you choose.

You will begin by marking the placement of each nail post on one cross member. You will want to start in the middle of your cross member and work out to the line you drew 1/2″ into each rail. When you get to this line, it is ok if your last nail post is a little closer or farther away from your line than your measurement. You want to be at least 1/4″ away from this line or it will be too hard to weave.

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The above photos show a couple things. It is important that you predrill each nail hole. Be sure to not make them too large, you want the nails very tight. But, if you do not predrill, your wood will split. I set my first few this way so that you could see the importance of predrilling.

Once your holes are drilled, you will set your nails using a hammer. You will want about 3/4″ to 1″ of nail above the wood. This measurement isn’t too important, you just want to make sure your nails are secure into the cross member spacer and will not pull out. There will be a lot of tension on them from your warp threads.

Repeat these steps to place your nail posts on the other cross member. The next step is to place your anchor rods. These keep your woven piece square and prevent it from pulling in on the sides as you get to the middle of the piece.

Your anchor rods will run along the line you drew 1/2″ in from the center opening on each rail. They will be held in place by the screw eyes. You will place one screw eye about 1″ past your nail posts toward the outer edge of your frame on each corner. You will then place another screw eye approximately every 8″ to 10″ along the length of your rails. Based on this length, figure out the measurement needed to place them evenly. For example, the space between nail posts along my rail was about 36″ so I placed one screw eye every 9″. You can see this in the full loom diagram at the beginning of the post.

You will place these by first predrilling holes, and then screwing them into the rail. A pair of pliers is helpful to screw them tightly into place.

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Your 3/16″ steel round bar will slide through these screw eyes to create your anchor rod. To hold it in place, you will place a screw just past each outermost screw eye on the four corners. You will need to remove the anchor rods when you are finished weaving your piece and are ready to take it off the loom, so the screw allows you to do this.

Your round bar will need to be cut to size. First place your end screws on one cross member (predrill then screw into place, leaving enough screw exposed so the head sits just above the screw eye), then slide your steel round bar through the eye holes and mark the length you need to cut your round bar where you will place the holding screws on the other cross member. A sharpie works good for this. Slide your round bar out and cut it to size using a metal hack saw.

Slide your round bar back through the eye holes and place the second set of holding screws at the other end. Your loom is now complete! The final optional step is to install the rubber bumper feet onto the bottom at each corner of the frame to help prevent scratching on any surface you use your loom on, such as if you lay it on a floor or table.

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Now that your loom is ready, it’s time to use it! I’ll be posting later this week all about that, but if you have any questions about this before building your loom, please feel free to contact me here or on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtag #ripstripweaving so I can see what you’re making! I am so excited to watch you all do this!

~ nicole

RIP STRIP WEAVING, PART TWO: USING YOUR LOOM