Weaving noob seeks loom advice
April 10, 2009 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn how to weave a few specific projects and need advice about materials. Problem? I have never woven anything.

I covet these denim rugs and would love to know how they're made. More specifically, what kind of loom or frame is required? What kind of extras are needed? Could I make placemats the same way? Are there books or sites specific to weaving with denim that I could buy or look at?

I spoke to a weaver last night and she was not helpful. Weaving studios are within a few hours' travel but I am unable to get to them right now (with a couple of little kids in tow, it's a headache). Next month, I plan to attend a sheep and wool festival that will almost certainly have weaving vendors. I'd like to know what I'm looking for. In addition, craigslist has turned up a surprising number of looms for sale recently, and I am going through jeans like mad.

I don't want to make tapestries or belts. Nothing small, nothing big, just throw rugs and placemat-sized projects, using denim.

Any help or leads you can provide here are very much appreciated.
posted by MonkeyToes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You can use a simple peg loom or a rigid heddle loom, Ashford has a nice one.
posted by Floydd at 11:06 AM on April 10, 2009

Denim rugs are great! They are weft faced weaves, meaning that the weft (the fiber that goes crosswise, or the denim) is compacted and beaten down as much as possible, presenting more on the surface than the warp (the vertical fiber that's actually tied to the loom). This makes them sturdy and really durable.

You don't need a floor loom - you can try it out with a rigid heddle table loom if you find one big enough (The Ashford rigid heddle comes in an appropriate width). Much more economical. Make sure you get one where the reed (the comb the warp threads run through) is not fixed and can be used as a beater - you'll need it for pushing the denim weft strands down.

You'll want lots and lots of old jeans for the weft, cut into continuous strips - start at the bottom of a leg, cut off the hem completely, and then start cutting in a spiral into strips of your desired width (about 1/2" to 3/4" should do you). This is boring and tedious - get some good movies and do it in batches. Different washes create a cool mottled effect.

For warp, you want cotton butcher's string or linen, something strong. You won't see much of it. Warp your loom very tightly - the idea is for the denim to curve under and over the taut warp strings as much as possible.

You'll probably want to finish the ends with a sewing machine for real sturdiness.

Some more detailed basic instructions here. Adventures in denim rag rug weaving here, here, and here. Also check out Peter Collingswood's books if you want to understand the theory a little more or get further into it - he's pretty much the authority on weft-faced rugs.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:07 AM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Floydd, would these looms work with denim?
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2009

Thank you, peachfuzz! The Ashford looks great and the Collingswood recommendation will be a help.

I'd like to see if more folks will weigh in, so I won't mark you as best answer yet--but this is exactly the sort of advice I was looking for. Thanks!
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2009

If weaving classes or lessons are hard to get to, you'll probably want to pick up the Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving along with your loom. IANA rigid heddle weaver, but am a noob weaver, and I understand it's the canonical RH reference book. I've read a bunch of threads on Ravelry forums about these looms and it appears you can't go wrong with a Schacht, Kromski, or Ashford (although of course lots of people have preferences for one or the other).
posted by clavicle at 12:01 PM on April 10, 2009

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