A simple frame loom is a FANTASTIC piece of equipment to have in your studio. They are versatile, portable, and easy to store.
They happen to also be a great way to learn how to weave. In fact, when I was learning how to weave we used a loom made from 18”x 24” canvas stretcher bars. No lie, I still use this exact same frame all the time in my studio. This is also the method I teach in my classes and workshops because it’s great for beginners, but has enough potential to still be perfect for professionals.
You might say I’m a fan.
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What is a simple frame loom?
Any loom made from a frame that doesn’t use notches, nails, or any other method to hold and space your warp.
What are your other options?
There are a lot of commercial frame looms out there that you can purchase. Different companies call them different things. Tapestry looms or lap looms can even look different depending on who makes them. Generally, they have dedicated notches for the warp and a device to make weaving simpler (more on that below). The looms vary widely in their price, size, and extra options.
So why would you choose one over the other? Let’s take a look.
Pros of a Simple Loom
You can use any frame you already have to weave on and you don’t need to do anything special to it. Head down to a thrift store and buy some old picture frames. Take the glass out and voila! Frame loom! Using picture frames as your loom can be a great EXTRA portable option since they are small and lightweight. They can easily fit in your bag to take with you on vacation or just to your backyard.
If you’re looking for something of a more specific size, you can’t go wrong with taking canvas stretcher bars and creating your frame from them. (THESE are the ones I use)
The stretcher bars are bought piece by piece which can allow for more unique sizes. For example – try making a 6”x24” frame if you want a loom that is long and skinny. It would be hard to find a pre-made frame that size. They are really inexpensive because they’re meant to be covered up by canvas for painting. If you like this option but you want something more attractive you can always decorate your simple frame loom to your liking later on.
Simple looms are incredibly versatile since you are not confined to any specific warp sett. The nature of the simple frame is that it doesn’t have any notches or pins to set your warp. The same frame can be used for a 5 EPI, 8 EPI, and 14 EPI weaving! Having options means you can not only change everything up between weavings, but also within the same weaving! (Learn about EPI HERE)
There’s a weaving technique called crammed and spaced where you purposefully have more than one EPI within the same weaving. Using a simple loom helps give you the flexibility to experiment with techniques like this.
If you don’t want to be stuck using the same warp sett for all of your weavings this can be a better option than owning multiple frame looms.
Not that that is a bad option. It depends on how much room you have in your studio.
Choosing to use a plain frame (or a decorative one!) gives you the option to not only use the frame as a tool, but also as a way to display the weaving. This isn’t something that I do all the time – but admittedly it’s really great option to have.
I have a stockpile of frames that I use for this reason…
or maybe I just like buying picture frames.
I’m always picking them up from clearance sections and while on sale. One thing to keep in mind when you use picture frames – you will have an excess of glass to deal with. Let me know in the comments if you have an idea what to do with a bunch of glass…
There are a few ways to set up a weaving so that it can stay on the frame (2 selvedge warping is a good one!) If you don’t like one option for warping your frame – then just try another!
Here’s a pro within a pro: if you use your frame as the display method, when you’re finished weaving – it’s pretty much done! You don’t have to do anything to the warp to finish it up and since it will stay under tension forever- you have to do very little (if anything) to the weft tails.
Cons of a Simple Loom
Well… nothing is perfect.
Anytime you are setting up a weaving you will probably have to do a little bit of math. This goes for simple looms, commercial looms, floor looms, and basically any loom you can imagine. You can’t escape the math completely.
The amount of math you have to do, though, depends on a few things.
If you are ordering a specific yarn for your warp then you may have to figure out exactly how much to purchase regardless of the type of loom you use. This goes for general convenience and integrity of the color. It is very annoying to be halfway through setting up your loom when you run out of yarn. Then you have to order it and wait for it to ship. All the while – you could have been weaving.
If your yarn is dyed than it is important to try to buy all of your yarn at one time to avoid any differences in dye lots. I’ve made this mistake before. I bought the exact same color – but when it came in it was a little bit lighter.
You live, you learn.
A simple frame loom requires figuring out your total warp ends. (Click on that link for how to plan your weaving!) This is a simple equation, but an equation none-the-less. It is determined by the EPI that you choose, the size of the weaving, and your warping method.
A commercial loom, on the other hand, will have a specific EPI that it is set for. In that case you would only need to know the width of the weaving you want to create.
Don’t worry – it’s not like this ↓
Due to the fact that there are no nails or notches in your frame, the warp is a lot more likely to move. Anytime your warp moves, there is a chance that you could alter your EPI. Suddenly you may have 5 EPI on one side of your weaving and 7 EPI on the other. That’s a problem unless you planned it that way.
During the first inch or so, you can still fix your warp spacing. After that? It’s mostly set. Using a simple frame loom requires a bit more patience to create and maintain even spacing – but it is totally doable! If you don’t want to deal with that though, then a commercial loom is less finicky.
There are some tricks to help maintain even spacing on your simple loom that I will cover in a different post.
No Heddle Bar
First, what the H*** is a heddle bar?
A heddle bar is a tool that you can use to create an opening (shed) in your weaving. Usually, the bar would raise every other warp so that you can eliminate the need to do the “over, under” motion. It allows for faster and simpler weaving.
The creation of the shed allows you to use a shuttle, butterfly, or a bobbin instead of just a long piece of yarn.
This is a big advantage in the commercial loom column if you don’t like weaving your tails back in. With the ability to use one of these tools you won’t have to change out your yarn as much. Every time you change your yarn you create a new tail you will have to deal with when you are done. This advantage is most notable if you are using a lot of one color. If you are weaving imagery and using a lot of different colors anyway, it might not be as big a deal.
While it is possible to make a heddle bar if you really want one for your simple frame loom, that takes extra time and effort. Most commercial frame looms have a heddle bar already included.
With all of that – there’s no reason you can’t have more than one kind of loom.
More looms = more fun!
So why do I stick with a simple frame loom? The pros just outweigh the cons to me. The biggest one that I don’t want to give up?
The ability to improvise.
When it comes down to it. I’m not a planner.
Do you have a favorite kind of frame loom? Let me know!
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