Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Hacked Martha Triangle Looms

I call this the Hacked Martha Loom because of what it is constructed with:  the Martha Stewart Knitting and Weaving Loom Kit.  Here is a link to the product:
This kit is kind of like lego bricks for fiber work.  I like it because it is modular.  I can assemble it into various shapes, install pegs, and start weaving (remember, I do more than triangles) with no carpentry.  The frame pieces are pretty sturdy and fit together pretty well, however the pegs are rather frustrating because some are more difficult to insert than others and they don't all insert to an even depth.  Perhaps some sandpaper would even things out.  I have not tried.  If you decide to get one of these kits, don't pay full price!  There are lots of discounts and sales on the web, and the big box craft stores who publish coupons for 40% off one regular price item will allow you to use the coupon to buy this item.

The Martha Stewart kit was never designed or intended for what I do with it.  I wish it had been, but it wasn't.  The kit is made up of a whole bunch of straight "frame" pieces that have pre-drilled holes and connectors on the ends and a variety of corner connectors.  By assembling these pieces, you can create a number of shapes, insert pegs into the holes and do frame knitting or primitive under and over weaving.  B-o-r-i-n-g!  If only all the corner pieces were not 90 degree angles!

Here is where the hacking comes in.  The kit is great for creating the two short legs of a triangle loom and the 90 degree angle corner, but out of the box it does not provide a good way to make the long side of the triangle.  I have come up with two ways to somewhat overcome this shortcoming, neither of them perfect.  I would love it if anyone has any improvements for these!

The Hacked-off Martha Loom

Of all the pieces supplied in the loom kit, my nominee for the most useless are the little "U" shaped corners (intended so you can create a long, narrow knitting loom, I think).  They look like this:
The dumb little U shaped piece with some diagonals marked
You will note that in the photo I have drawn some diagonal lines on the corners of the piece.  That is because I took a hack saw and cut through it along those lines to get three pieces:
The two end connectors and the throw-away piece from in-between.
As I mentioned in the caption above, what we want from cutting this apart are the two end connectors.  I can't see a use for the piece from the middle.  The cut ends of the connector pieces will be rough.  I recommend sanding them smooth.  Now they can be installed at the ends of the two short legs of our triangle.
The two short triangle legs with the customized ends butted up against a longer piece of frame to create a triangle.
With these two customized ends, the two legs of the triangle can butt up against a third piece of frame to create a triangular shape.  The problem is how to secure the long leg to the other two legs.  It would certainly be possible to glue the joints, or to drill some holes and screw them together, but that defeats the modularity of the kit.  My current, unsatisfactory solution is to use masking tape or duct tape to secure the corners.  This is a bit of a challenge because you can't cover up the pre-drilled holes.  Well, you can cover some of them, but not enough to make the corners really firm, however the loom is usable.  Don't leave the tape on the corners for a long time, or the adhesive will make the frame pieces sticky.
Taped corners

Back side of taped corners

The Coat Hanger Martha Loom

This solution starts with the same right angle and two short legs as the one above.  You can use the customized sawn-off connectors as above, or you can just leave the ends of the legs au naturelle.
You will also need some coat hanger wire and a pliers or other tool you can use to straighten wire, bend it and cut it to a specific length.

I used  a pants hanger with one of those cardboard rolls that are easy to remove.
As usual when trying to use a hanger for something other than hanging clothes, the first challenge is to straighten the wire.  You will need a 90 degree angle in one end with about 1/2 inch  bent down.
The coathanger wire installed.
Insert the 1/2 inch bent piece in the end hole of one of the legs and measure across to the corresponding hole on the opposite leg.  (Determine this by counting the pegs from the corner.  Due to the way the connectors work, the sides are not equal lengths!)   You will need this wire to stretch between the legs and be held in place by the bent wire being lodged in the appropriate holes in the two short legs of the triangle (see above).  Therefore, you need to measure your length carefully and make another 90 degree bend and cut the wire so about 1/2 inch of the wire will be available to insert into the hole in the leg and the wire will be reasonably taut..  If you have done this well, the loom will be pretty stable.

Using this loom is a bit different from using a loom with pegs on the long edge.
Starting to weave on the Coathanger Martha
It can't have escaped your notice that there is nothing on the coathanger to hold your yarn in place.  This is a big drawback until you notice that you can loop around the coathanger!  
Several rows woven.  Note the way the loops go over the wire  then back under it.

Completed triangle.  Note how long edge of weaving tends to curve.

The trouble with the wire edge is that the larger the triangle, the more it will tend to curve in.  If you are really careful not to have a lot of tension, the effect will not be as pronounced.  This technique is best when making a small loom.

Completed triangle, removed from the loom but the coathanger wire  is still passing through the loops on the wide side.
When you have finished weaving. you will need to release your completed triangle.  To do this, ;ift the loops on the short legs over the top of the pegs, as you would normally do.  Lift the bent coathanger out of the holes and carefully slide the loops off as if you were taking a curtain off a curtain rod.  Take care that the bent ends of the wire don't catch in the loops and pull them.
Completed triangle.  Note that there is still a slight curve, although felting, fulling, blocking and/or sewing the triangle to other triangles may force it into a better shape.

It may be possible to use a different material for the long leg of the triangle to improve this technique, possibly a dowel, metal rod or piece of wood.  I hope others will have ideas.  

Instructions for a Book Triangle Loom

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to build a triangle loom is to make it out of a book.  Really!  Here is what you will need:


  • A hard-bound book that you really, really never want to open or read again.  It should be at least 1/2 inch thick and as large as possible.
  • Brads (small nails) 3/4 inch to 1 inch long.  Try to get brads that don't have a lot of rough metal edges, if possible.  At least 100 of these.
  • Duct tape or packaging tape
  • Graph paper (1/4 inch grid or smaller, make sure the grids are squares, not rectangles)
  • Hammer (smaller is better)
  • Ruler
  • Pen, pencil or marker
The Process

  1. Using your duct or packing tape, tape the book closed.  Go across the front cover, over the pages, across the back cover and over the spine.  Cut the tape and position another strip of tape next to the first one so the book will be totally taped closed and cannot be opened.  You can tape in one direction or both directions.  Cover the entire surface of the covers of the book with tape, getting it as smooth and neat as possible.
  2. Trim the graph paper so it will fit on the surface of your book and tape it  carefully onto one of the covers of the book. making sure that the grid on the graph paper aligns with the edges of the book.  You can either attach the paper so it will remain on the book permanently, or you can remove it after you have used it to position your nails.
  3. Make sure you understand the theory of nail placement on a triangle loom.  
  4. Draw the triangle shape on your graph paper.  Use the graph paper to align your right triangle corner.  Your other two corners will be 45 degree angles. ( A diagonal across the grid of the graph paper will be a 45 degree angle.)  Remember that your two short legs must be the same length.  See photo 1 below.
  5. Graph paper comes in all sorts of different grid sizes.  Using the grid, position the nails on the two short legs of the triangle to be 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart, then follow the grid across to the long leg of the triangle and mark the corresponding nail position on the long leg.  Count the marks you have made to be sure you have the same number of nails on each side.  Do not count the nails at the corners.

  6. Hammer nails into all the marked locations, including the two 45 degree corners of the triangle.  Do not hammer a nail into the 90 degree angle corner.  Try to hammer the nails as straight as you can and get the depth of the nails even.  You will want to have about 1/2 inch of each nail sticking out of the book.  See photo 2 below.
Note:  Here is a link to a video showing construction of a square loom using a book as the base.  Same technique, different shape.
Photo 1:  Book covered with duct tape, graph paper taped on top.

    Photo 2: Book loom with all nails driven (graph paper removed).
That's it.  You are ready to start weaving!!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Triangle Loom Theory

You need to understand the geometry of triangle weaving:  the triangle in question has one 90 degree angle corner and the two adjacent legs of the triangle are the same length.  This is very important.  You need to be able to secure all three corners so the triangle is nice and secure.  You will need to have the same number of warp thread connectors on each side (not counting the connectors at the corners).  In most cases, you will use small nails as your connectors.    So far, so good, the challenge, as you will see if you decide to construct a loom, is getting the spacing even.  Unless you are a math-geek, that statement will sound really stupid to you.  What's the problem?  You just get a ruler and measure out spacing because you want your threads evenly spaced.  True enough, except that there are two legs of the triangle that are the same length, but the other one is a lot longer and you have to get the same number of nails on each one.  So, yes, you can measure the lengths of the sides and then do some math to figure out the relative spacing so you can get that same number of nails on each leg of the triangle.  That's great.  Now try to find a ruler that will measure that evenly.  Save yourself a headache, and just don't go there.  There IS a better way, thanks to the magic of geometry.  The secret is this:  If you use a t-square or graph paper, working from either the long leg of the triangle or the sides, you can mark a location on the opposite side.

There two diagrams below illustrate the two possible ways to measure nail placement, starting from either one of the short legs or from the long leg.  Yes, it does matter where you start.  Because of math, if you have the same nunber of nails on each side of the triangle, the placement of nails on the short legs of the triangle will always be closer together than the placement of nails on the long leg.

It is probably time to discuss how far apart to place nails on a triangle loom.  Even though it looks incredibly coarse, a 1/2 inch spacing has the advantage of giving you plenty of room to maneuver your fingers and/or crochet hook as you weave.  On no account should you position nails any closer together than 1/4 inches.  If the nails on the long leg of the triangle are 1/2 inch apart, the nails on the two shorter legs will be closer together than that.  Conversely, if the nails on the short legs of the triangle are spaced 1/2 inch apart, the nails on the longer leg will be spaced more widely.  I recommend starting with wider nail spacing, at least when making your first loom.  If you really hate the spacing after you have made a few projects, you can always add more nails in between the ones you start with.
Diagram 1 - Using graph paper to position nails on a triangle loom, working from the short legs.
Diagram 2 - Using graph paper to position nails on a triangle loom  working from long side.