Beading on a loom is an art that can begin with small, inexpensive projects and expand onto expensive looms capable of holding huge beaded tapestries. To begin beading on a loom, you will need to find a basic pattern. These can be found through the internet, at your local bead or craft store, or you can design your own on graph paper. Also, knitting patterns transfer well onto the bead loom. Try scaling down a scarf pattern for a beaded bracelet.
Once you have found a project that is not too complicated, gather the rest of your supplies. You will need a loom, silk thread, 2 sizes of nylon thread, an English beading needle, and beads. You will also need lots of patience. Loom beading is precise work that can be slow to progress. Even the preparations take can take a while. The rewards are worth it though, so don’t give up!
The Beading Loom
Beading looms range wildly in complexity. The simplest loom isn’t a loom at all: it’s a tube of paper used to support the round beadwork of the Peyote style weave. While this does create a beautiful look with one less piece of equipment, it is not the method that we’ll be dealing with today.
For beginners, I recommend a student loom, which can be found in hobby stores for $10-20. Student looms are small, rigid, and can’t be expanded to create wider or longer pieces, but they are also sturdy and the best bargain for deciding if this is an art you will enjoy.
When we get ready to begin our project, you will need to be able to identify a few of the parts on your looms. The â€śwarp pegs are the centered pegs at either end of the loom. On a commercially purchased loom, they are often adjustable in order to control the tension of the warp.
The spacer bars are devices just inside from the warp pegs that hold warp threads equal distances apart. On a commercial loom, there is a set number, and you have to choose your pattern based on the loom’s dimensions. Frequently the spacers are made of stiff springs, and threads lie between the coils.
The warp of a woven piece is that thread that is on the loom when you finish your preparations. The weft is the thread that runs perpendicular to the warp. This is the thread that we actively work with.
You will need three types of thread for working on the loom. Heavy silk thread and finer nylon thread in two sizes, preferably in a color that will compliment or blend into your pattern. The silk thread is used for the two â€śoutsideâ€ť rows of the warp to make a sturdy frame for the beads.
Nylon thread is stronger than cotton thread and is less likely to break or fray as you’re working. It comes in various gauges. For the warp, you will need a large gauge thread (D or F Gauge). For the weft, you will need a fine gauge that will fit through your beads easily. Nymo thread is available in many sizes and lengths through retailers who specialize in beading and bead supplies.
Be sure to purchase enough thread for your project. Each row of weft requires two passes of thread, and each row of warp needs to be several inches longer than the finished piece will be.
English Beading Needle
An English beading needle is long and very slim, with an eye that it very tiny. They come in various sizes and should be chosen based on the size of your beads. Your local bead store can help you choose the best size for your project.
The joy of every beading enthusiast is choosing his or her new beads. The rest of the equipment is just details. Colors and finishes vary as wildly patterns to use them in and are a matter of personal preference. Have fun choosing.
Sizes and shapes, on the other hand, need to be a little more controlled when beading on a loom. Use the size of beads recommended in the instructions included with your loom. This will usually be 10/0 or 11/0 seed beads.
Once you choose your beads, you will need to cull them. On a beadboard or plate carefully go through the beads and remove any that aren’t uniform in size and shape. This is also a great opportunity to be sure that all of your beads have holes big enough for your needle and two passes of thread. Once they’ve been culled, separate the good beads into a separate container. Zipper bags and tackle boxes work well for this. The culled beads can be saved for other projects, but for loom work, it is best to work with uniform beads.
Warping Your Loom
(30 minutes for a small loom)
Alright, you have all of your supplies together, and we’re almost ready to get started. The last stage of preparation is putting the warp on the loom. Count the number of beads in the width of your pattern and add one. This is the number of warp threads you will need. Start warping from the outside and work inward to maintain the tension in the loom.
Begin with the heavy silk thread and tie it to Warp Post (A). Lead the thread over the spacer bars through outside slots that are direct across from each other. Pull the thread down to Warp Post (B) and wrap it all the way around the post twice. This will help maintain even tension. Count down on your spacer bar to the other outside warp. Remember there is one more thread that there will be beads! Draw the thread through the correct slots on the spacers, and back down to Warp Post (A). Wrap the thread around the post several times then tie it off with a square knot topped with an overhand knot. Clip off the thread and you’ve finished the outside warp.
For the inside warp, use the heavier nylon thread that you purchased. Tie the thread to Post (A) and run it up through the spacer beside the first outside warp you threaded. Wrap the thread around Post (B) a few times (for tension, remember?) and then through the spacer bars again, this time beside the warp you laid on the opposite side of the loom. Continue like this until the loom is full. Wrap the thread around the posts 2 or 3 times at each end, and be sure that you are using spacer slots that are direct across from each other. After you’ve laid the last warp thread, tie off the same way you did the last time. Congratulate yourself. The preparations for your weaving are complete!
Beading on Your Loom
The moment you have been waiting for is at hand! Your loom is ready, your beads are culled and sorted by color in a tackle box and you have as much nylon thread as you can reasonably stomach. Thread your beading needle with 3 or 4 feet of fine-gauge thread. Tie one end of the thread to the edge of your outside warp where you intend to start. Get that pattern ready!
You will work in rows beginning at the top or bottom of the pattern. Put one row of beads on the thread and draw your needle, thread, and the beads under all of the warp threads. Pull the thread taught and slide the beads down the thread so they are pressed into the spaces between the warps: one bead per space.
Use your finger to push up on the row of bead so the holes are visible above the warp. Pass the needle back through all of the beads in this row with the thread running above the warp this time. You should now be back on the side of the loom you began on, with all the beads suspended even with the warp. You have completed one row of beading.
Continue running the beads under the warp, pressing up, then running the needle back through the beads one row at a time. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll begin to pick up speed. Be careful not to miss any beads on the second pass with the needle. Missed beads will dangle out of the pattern and snap off, causing the entire weaving to unravel.
When you run out of thread join another piece using a Weaver’s Knot. Try to join in the center of a row, where it will be the least noticeable. The tail of the knot will be woven into the finished product and no one will see it.
When you finish the last row of your pattern tie a knot around the warp snuggly against the last bead. Then weave the tails of that thread, the first thread, and any joined threads into the pattern and snip them of very close to the back of the beads. Those tails will disappear into the work and no one will be able to see them.
To remove your work from the loom cut the warp thread as far from the beads as possible. Weave them into the body of the piece and trim them off in the same way as the tied off weft threads.
As you practice and become more confident in your weaving you can begin to experiment with advanced weaving techniques like increasing and decreasing the width of your weaving to make interesting shapes. You can make buttons and buttonholes.
You can create bags, belts bracelets, and earrings. You can finish your pieces with backings of wood, paper, leather, or fabric, or you can add extravagant lengths of fringe. There are hundreds of things to do, but they all develop out of the basic stitch and rectangular pattern.You can create bags