February 9, 2015

How to Weave on a Tri-Loom: One Long Loop

Weaving on a tri-loom is quite easy, but can be difficult to picture if you’re not familiar with it. There are a number of good tutorials out there, including ones with instructions for making your own and other handy information (like this and this), but I thought I’d do my own.

There are also plenty of places to buy them. The large ones (6’, 7’ and 8’ hypotenuse, and even adjustable ones, made for shawls and things) can get pricey, $200 and up, and then there’s stands or easels and shed sticks and extra-long hooks and things to make it easier (The Woolery has a good selection and about average prices). Small ones like Hazel Rose’s (and they have some terrific shapes, including a heart) are less expensive, but are still hand-made by an artisan in very nice woods and not exactly cheap. I got this little one from <a href=https://www.etsy.com/shop/bigfam15?ref=shopsection_shophome_leftnav>Bigfam15 on Etsy, and while the wood is plainer and the joinery not quite perfect, it’s still an excellent little loom for an excellent price. I do recommend that if you’re thinking of getting a tri-loom, you pick up or build a small one first to figure out how it works and see how you like it. It would be a shame to spend a lot of money, or effort on building, a big one, only to find out you don’t like it.

So, how does one weave on this crazy contraption?

The tools: One tri-loom, one crochet hook (US size I9), and that other thing is a small steel knitting needle I curled at the end with a pair of jewelry pliers, basically because the day the loom arrived, I couldn’t find a crochet hook of the right size, and couldn’t wait. It’s been very handy, but a smaller crochet hook would also work.

Optional tools: Yarn needle, weaving needly, long weaving hook, packing fork, shed sticks. The first is useful for tying off the ends and stitching together pieces for any size of tri-loom. The rest are mostly useful for big ones.

The yarn: Most tri-looms are set at about 4 or 5 pegs per inch. The size of the nails or pegs used make finer setts hard. That means using roughly worsted weight yarns. You can use significantly heavier yarn and skip every other peg, but using finer yarn is difficult. (I may at some point get a wild hair up my ass and try it with lacemakers' pins on my bobbin lace pillow, just to see if I can.)

This is just dead cheap Red Heart yarn from the big box store. When the tri-loom arrived, I grabbed some wool yarn I had on hand and just dove in, but I think acrylic is actually better for a beginner. It slides nicely and smoothly, making tensioning easier than wool.

You can pull the yarn straight from the ball or skein as you work, or you can cut pieces to length. The amount you need for one triangle will always be the length of the top row of pegs times the number of pegs down each leg (including the top peg). Then add six inches for a tail at either end, so you can tie them off.

So this little goober is 6" (actually more like 5.7", but rounding up to the nearest inch gives us a little squish room) along the top rail, with 17 nails down the leg, for 102", plus 3" for either ending, making a total of 108, or 3 yards exactly.

First, tie a slip knot in one end. Loop it around the top leftmost peg. (If you’re left-handed you can reverse all this or not. You’re going to be working in both directions anyway.)

Pull it straight across and loop it counter-clockwise around the top rightmost peg, 270°.

Bring it down and make a 90° turn around the next peg down. Pull it back across the loom.

Turn around the second peg from the top, and then up to the second peg from the left, going over the first warp thread. Work your hook over the second warp and under the first, and pull the yarn down and through, then across to the other side of the loom.

There, you hook it on the third peg down, up to the second peg from the right.

You can start to see here how the symmetry builds. Every loop makes one warp thread (along the hypotenuse) and two weft threads. Each set of left and right warp threads will always follow the same over-and-under pattern, because they’ve both been pulled through together.

Thread the hook through the warp threads, over and under the warps, the opposite of the last row. Hook each end of a warp on a peg on a leg, and the top end of the wefts on a peg on the hypotenuse. Keep going.

Try to keep the tension constant to keep the finished project from buckling, although this will take a while to get the hang of. Just keep trying.

As you work, the warps get shorter while the wefts get longer, but the whole loop will always be the same length, the same as the length of the top row of pegs.

Eventually, your weft threads will start to “bubble”, to curve towards the center in the middle. This is totally normal, and will allow you a little slack.

Just nudge them into place with the end of a hook. A thin one will not disarrange the other threads as much. This, by the way, is what the packing fork is for, but it’s not a lot of use on such a small triangle.

You can also use the thin hook to straighten out other threads, to improve the spacing, so they don’t bunch or gap.

As you get closer to the end, the drag makes the loops pull tighter and tighter. For the last three or four loops, before you go on to the next, loosen the loop around the peg just a smidge with the small hook.

Eventually, you get down to the last row. You have only one peg left at top and bottom, and if you pull a loop through, the warp will float. So what you do instead, if you’ll pulling straight from the ball or skein, is measure out a tail from the top peg to the bottom peg, and add three inches. Cut.

This is what the skinny hook is invaluable for, because a hook sized for worsted yarn will be hard to get through this narrow space.

Instead of working the hook from the bottom to the top and then pulling back down, work the hook from the top down, then use it to draw the end all the way through.

Once the end it through, pop each loop off its peg to pull the piece off. Each one is already locked in, each edge is a selvedge, so don’t worry, it won’t unravel. You’ll be left with one tail at the beginning and the other at the end. Take each tail, run it around and through the loop it’s on, and tie a square knot. Snip the ends off close.

Ta-da! It’s a finished piece of weaving. Once you get the hang of it, it will only take a few minutes to complete.

Failure modes:

Floats. A float is when a thread goes over or under more warps than it’s supposed to. You want to catch these early, because the only way to fix it is to take the loops off the pegs and undo every row back to where the float is. Undoing is easy enough, just pull it out. If you’ve already taken the piece off the loom, though, you’re stuck with it. Consider it a happy accident that lends flavor and spontaneity to your triangle. Only you and another weaver is likely to notice it.

Peg error.

A: Sometimes you may miss a peg. You’ll probably notice it on the very next row, when you go to put the next loop around it. Just pop it off the peg it’s on and move it to where it should be, then adjust the tension a bit.

B: Sometimes you may put a single loop around two pegs. Same solution.

If you remove the weaving from the loom without fixing these errors, you’ll just get a loop that a but oversized. When you stitch them together, it’ll become invisible. Or you can just pull on threads a bit to distribute the slack. Don’t stress.

On the symbolism:

The kind of weaving done of a tri-loom, or on the quad-looms (square or diamond) that are similarly built, is often called continuous loop weaving. Unless you cut the thread and knot in a new one (because it broke, or you’re making a plaid {large tri-looms are great for plaids, small ones not so much}, or whatever), the entire piece is one long length of yarn, where more conventionally-woven pieces are at least two. (You can have a continuous warp, but then even if you use only a single long length for weft, it’s still separate from the warp.) This makes it a powerful symbol for a single intention, a single meaning. A traditional weaving is made up of many pieces, which is powerful in different ways, and assemblage of disparate elements. A tri-loom weaving is one single thing, and many of them can be assembled together, each similar piece reinforcing every other, each different type of piece joining and adding a new intention.

Continuous warp weavings have <I>only</i> selvedges, the self-edges that leave no loose ends to unravel, and so is self-contained, the only free threads to secure being the beginning and end, which are simply tied back into the web, the knot completing the containment of the intent. If you cut it, it falls apart, no longer a piece of cloth. A continuous loop weaving is whole and indivisible, complete unto itself.

Another name for the work done on tri-looms and quad-looms is bias weaving. Traditional weaving is done on the square, with edges and threads at right angles to each other. Bias weaving puts the thread at 45&#176; angles to two of the selvedges: it exists on a slant, like the sidewise vision of magic. The bias makes it stretchier and more malleable, as a witch’s awareness and world must be.

Any crafting is good for spellcraft, but any spell is stronger for working with the symbolism of the craft.

Hmmm. Would it be useful to anyone for me to do a video of this?