Dedicated weaving tools have their place in the studio. They were created to make your weaving easier, better, and faster.
Those weaving tools? You don’t NEED them.
Yes, they can help you.
I have plenty of weaving tools that help make my life in the studio easier. You can check out my WEAVING SUPPLIES page for some of them!
Here’s the thing: I didn’t always have these tools. When you are first starting out in your weaving studio there is nothing wrong with prioritizing certain tools and materials. In fact, I recommend using whatever you can to just get started!
I would say your main priority should be yarn!
Everything else can be improvised – at least in the beginning.
There are a lot of things you might have around the house that you can use in place of more specific tools. Let’s take a look at some inexpensive (or free!) weaving tool alternatives.
When weaving you will need to compress your weft. Traditionally, you would use a tapestry beater to do this. These can be great for many reasons: they’re made for the task which means they are usually spaced perfectly. They can also be weighted which is especially great for really tight weaves.
Tapestry beaters, though, can be a lot more expensive than some of their alternatives. They also aren’t something that you can just find at any craft store.
So what can you use instead of a tapestry beater if you don’t have one?
Hair comb – Any style will work. You can use wide tooth, or fine tooth combs depending on the EPI you are using. Long combs with both types can be useful for all situations.
Fork – Yes! Just the regular eating utensil. You can use metal or plastic – whatever you have.
Tapestry needle – You probably already have one of these if you are weaving. You can tap down your weft with the needle if you need to.
Your fingers – Work with what you already have.
Historical Fact: In Japan there is a type of tapestry called Tsume tsuzure ori that literally translates to “nail weaving” where the weavers use their nails to pluck the warp threads to pass the weft through. Some weavers even file ridges into their nails to help beat them down. This is used to create incredibly intricate imagery on the fabric. ¹
If you aren’t new to the blog then you already know that I LOVE a simple frame loom. HERE are the reasons why.
One of those reasons is because they’re cheap! You may even be lucky to have a suitable frame just sitting around waiting to be warped! Look for a loom that is flat on the surface and has square edges. You will want to avoid ornate frames because they will make warping a challenge.
Is there another option, though?
Perhaps one that is EVEN cheaper and EVEN more accessible?
Make a loom out of cardboard!
Using a picture frame is very simple – but cardboard is probably the simplest loom you can make that will get you started faster. If you are just looking for something that will get you going then cardboard may be the right answer.
One thing to note: cardboard looms won’t last forever because the slits will start to wear down and the loom could get bent. It’s not perfect – but it doesn’t have to be. When the loom is done just make sure to recycle or compost it!
How To Make The SIMPLEST Cardboard Loom
It doesn’t get much easier than this weaving tool alternative! This loom can be used by anyone (adults, kids, beginners, and advanced weavers) and works the same way as most other frame looms. You can even use a shed stick (next section) just like you can on a frame loom.
What You Will Need:
- Cardboard (cut to whatever size you want)
- X-acto Knife
- Self-Healing Cutting Mat
Using your ruler and pencil – mark out your EPI in equal intervals. Leave about an inch on each end of the cardboard free so the weaving isn’t flush against the edge.
Cut notches in the cardboard with your x-acto knife that are about a quarter of an inch.
It doesn’t have to be perfect – but try to keep the about the same length.
Start warping your loom by wedging your yarn into the first slit at the top of the cardboard. There is no need to tie a knot because the friction of the cardboard against the yarn will keep it in place.
Take the warp yarn and bring it down to the opposite slit on the bottom of the loom. Wrap the yarn around the slit – NOT THE LOOM. There will only be warp on one side of the loom. (see back picture below)
Do this all the way across the loom.
Once you are all the way across the loom you can end your warp the same way you started. It will just hang out the back of the loom.
Make sure your warp is tight – if it’s not then pull the warp one by one until the slack is gone.
When you are finished you can pop the warps off the slits from the back and tie it off or use whatever finishing technique you want!
Using a shed stick can save you a lot of time when you are weaving. It allows you to have an opening going in one direction so that you don’t have to do the signature “over, under, repeat” weaving motion.
Need more clarification on “shed” and other terms? Check out the weaving term post HERE.
A traditional shed stick is usually rounded on the edges which cuts down on the friction that the warp experiences when you open the shed. If you don’t have a shed stick, then you can always use a ruler!
Look for a ruler that is wood for the best results and least chance of degrading the warp yarns. Plastic rulers aren’t strong enough, and metal rulers are too sharp on their edges.
When looking for a shed stick alternative make sure that it extends past the weaving, but still fits inside the frame. This will make it easier to flip up when you open the shed. You can also use a smaller ruler if you only need to open small amounts of the shed at one time. Find whatever works best for you!
Also, aim for a ruler that isn’t too tall. The taller it is, the less time you will be able to use it since it will take up more warp when flipping it up. The shed doesn’t have to be large to be beneficial. If it creates a space for your weft to pass through then you are good!
You could also use a popsicle stick or anything you have laying around that is similar. Weaving can be an experiment! I once used a wood gelato spoon (one of the flat ones) to open up the shed in a small area of a weaving I was making.
Hey, it worked!
Need a weaving shuttle? Wrap your yarn around some cardboard or use butterfly bobbins!
No yarn? Make your own t-shirt yarn!
When it comes to getting started – the most important thing is to just get started. If that means forgoing the expensive tools for the alternative weaving tools at the beginning then do what you have to! Upgrade later if you want – or stick with what you know, because if it ain’t broke…
Tell me about your favorite weaving tools and weaving tool alternatives in the comments! Have you found something unconventional that works for you?
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