You don’t need expensive equipment to weave. A flat piece of cardboard or a cardboard box can easily turn into a loom that you can weave mug rugs, placemats or intricate tapestries on. This is a great project for kids or for teaching beginners to weave.
To make a simple loom from a cardboard box, find a good sturdy box. (A shoebox might not be strong enough.)
With a sharp knife, cut the flaps off the top of the box. Then using a ruler mark off the
“sett” for the loom at the top edges of the box. If you are going to be using thicker yarns, you can mark use a sett of 4 epi (ends per inch). Make a mark each 1/4 inch along 2 For narrower setts you could use 5 or 6
With a sharp knife cut a 1/4″ – 1/2″ slit at each of the markings.
Use a sturdy cotton or linen yarn for the warp (the lengthwise threads of the woven piece). Secure the end of the warp thread to your cardboard loom with a piece of tape.
Begin to wrap the warp thread around the loom, placing a thread in each slit at the top of the box edge. Continue to wrap the warp around the box.
Tighten any loose threads to an even tension. Then secure the other end of the warp with another piece of tape.
Your warp of your cardboard loom is now threaded and you are ready to begin to weave.
How to weave on your Cardboard Loom
A Header is woven at the beginning of a project. This can be woven of any type of scrap yarn as usually the header is removed once the project is finished. Try to use a similar weight of yarn as what will be used in the actual piece. The Header helps to align the warp into place, allows you to check for threading errors and gives a good edge for beating the weft into place.
Beating the Weft
On a larger floor or table loom, you will have a reed and beater that will beat the weft into place. With Tapestry looms, the weft is usually beaten with a hand held beater. For this small cardboard box loom you can use a fork.
After each row of weft or pick, use the tines of the fork to beat or gently press the weft into place evenly across the loom.
Weaving the Weft with Tabby
Use a knitting needle or a small stick to pick up the warp threads. In Tabby or Plain weave, every other warp thread is picked up, so the weft travels over and under each thread.
Rest the knitting needle on the edge of the box to hold the raised threads in place, while you draw the weft thread through the open shed.
For the next row, pick up the alternate warp threads with the knitting needle and weave the weft thread across.
On cardboard looms, or simple frame looms, the warp threads are hand manipulated. On larger looms with more harnesses, this task is more automated. The warp yarns are threaded through individual heddles in the harnesses. By raising a harness or shaft, this raises all the heddles that are on the shaft.
For example, on a 4-shaft table or floor loom, the warp yarn is threaded through the 4 shafts or harnesses. For this simple Tabby weave, the first warp thread goes through the first heddle of the first harness.
The 2nd warp thread goes through the first heddle of the second shaft.
The 3rd warp thread goes through the first heddle of the 3rd shaft.
The 4th warp thread goes through the first heddle of the 4th shaft. In a Draft Plan, the threading would look like this:
Weaving Weft in Twill
Another type of common pattern in weaving is Twill. The weft threads go over 2 and under 2 warp threads. On the following row, the next 2 threads are picked up and the following 2 warp threads are lowered. This results in a diagonal design running either to the right or left depending on the direction that you are weaving.
If you number the warp threads: 1,2,3,4 (repeat)
Pick up threads 1 and 2, skip over threads 3 and 4, pick up 1 and 2, skip 3, 4 (repeat).
Pass the weft yarn through the open shed.
On the 2nd row, move over 1 warp thread from the previous row, and pick up the next 2 threads and lower the following 2.
Skip warp thread 1
Pick up warp threads 2 and 3
Skip threads 4 and 1
Pick up threads 2 and 3
Skip threads 4 and 1Repeat to the end, and pass the weft thread through the open shed.
Skip warp threads 1 and 2
Pick up threads 3 and 4
Repeat to the end of the row and pass the weft thread through the open shed.
Pick up warp thread 1
Skip threads 2 and 3
Pick up threads 4 and 1
Skip threads 2 and 3
Pick up threads 4 and 1
Repeat this sequence to the end of the row and pass the weft thread through the open shed.
Twill is a very versatile weave structure, and you will find many variations in twill design. By changing the direction of the pickup, the diagonals will change to the right or to the left. Twills are also woven by varying the number of warp threads that are picked up or lowered.
Weaving Clasped Weft
In addition to using twill, tabby or other types of weave structures, an easy way to add interest to your weaving is to use different colored weft yarns. Clasped weft is a technique that uses 2 different colored weft threads in the same row of weaving.
Although this technique is being shown on a cardboard loom, the clasped weft technique can be done on larger looms as well, using 2 shuttles.
Clasp Weft Technique
Advancing the Warp
Are you getting near the end of the box and don’t have room to weave anymore? You don’t have to quit yet, as you still have lots of warp left, wrapped around the box.
Slide a knitting needle or other stick under the warp threads at the beginning of your woven piece.
- Lift up gently on the needle and remove the warp threads from the notches of the box.
- Gently pull on the warp threads and slide the project forward on the loom, leaving the top end of the warp threads in the other notches.
- Adjust the tension on the warp threads if necessary, securing them with tape.
- You are now ready to continue weaving.
Weave a Circle
Although I haven’t done so in this sample project that I wove, you could keep weaving all around the box, creating a complete circle.
Once you have woven the length of project that you wish to have, cut the warp off the loom, leaving a 2 – 3 inch length of warp at each end for the fringe.
Group 2 or 3 warp ends together and secure with an overhand knot.
Here are some other ideas for weaving with cardboard looms.
2nd Grade Cardboard Loom
These kids in Grade 2 made looms from a flat piece of cardboard and wove some very colorful pieces.
7th Graders wove circular tapestries on paper plates.
Simple Loom Weaving
A lesson plan for weaving on a cardboard loom and learning about the Hispanic and Navajo traditions of weaving in New Mexico.
Childs Elementary School
An inspiring gallery of woven works done by students using different colors and textures of yarns.
Grade 7 and 8 students of Page Middle School wove some pouches on their cardboard looms.
5th Grade Art
5th graders are studying about the arts and crafts of various cultures. They have woven medicine bags on cardboard looms, made ceramic whistles and Aboriginal dot paintings.
How to weave tapestry on a child’s Spears weaving loom.
Double Hole Rigid Heddle
Add beads to your weaving project.
Beginner Weaving Books
Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom
The small, portable rigid heddle loom can be used to easily produce loose, drape-friendly fabric as well as dense, sturdy material.
UK: Weaving Made Easy
Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving
Wonderful projects and plain-weave variations, this user-friendly guide covers choosing, setting up, and weaving on a rigid heddle loom.
UK: Hands on Rigid Heddle
The Woven Bag: 30+ Projects from Small Looms (Writers Digest Guides)
Each bag is created using small looms, such as potholder looms, frame looms and knotted mesh looms.
UK: The Woven Bag