Tips for Beading on a Loom
There’s an old technique that’s making a big comeback these days–loomwork. Not relegated to hat bands, belts, and wall hangings made of seed beads anymore, today’s loomwork is bold, trend-focused, and incorporates all sorts of beads, including the two-hole variety.
There are many versions of looms you can try. The horizontal kind might be the most familiar–many of us learned on this type as Girl Scouts:
But there are so many other great looms now, too, including the vertical Mirrix loom that makes it really easy to make large-format pieces; the Ricks loom, which leaves you with only two warp threads; and the Jewel Loom, a portable loom that you can put in your notebook when you aren’t using it!
Jennifer Van Benschoten had some great tips about loomwork when she wrote about her Mirrix loom a while back. These points are applicable to any type of loomwork.
1. Why weave beads on a loom? Weaving beads on a loom gives you the same look as when you use square stitch, but the actual weaving goes much faster. Using a loom for weaving beads also makes it easier to adjust the tension in the beadwork, something that many beginners find difficult when working in square stitch.
2. What type of thread is best for bead-weaving on a loom? Thread choice is always personal, depending on what kind of bead loom you’re using and what kind of beading project you’re creating. Claudia and Elena of Mirrix Looms prefer the C-Lon beading thread because it’s strong, comes in a wide range of colors, and holds up without fraying. I prefer to use my favorite Nymo D on a cone or spool (not a bobbin) for many of the same reasons. If you’re creating a piece like an evening bag or something else that needs to hold its shape, you may want to experiment with using Fireline or WildFire beading threads.
3. What’s the difference between warp threads and weft threads? Your warp threads are the threads that you string going up and down on your loom. These are the threads that will nestle between your beads when you begin weaving. The weft threads are what you thread into your needle when you string your beads for weaving. Weft threads get tucked into the beadwork as you go along. The warp threads are what you will finish off after you’ve finished your beading project and have cut your piece off of your loom.
4. How tight should the tension be on my loom? When setting up your loom, you want your warp threads to have an even tension — not too loose, not too tight. The more you weave beads with a loom, the better you’ll be able to judge the tension of the warp threads.
5. What other beading tools should I have to start weaving beads on a loom? Other essential beading tools to have handy would include a good, sharp scissor or thread cutter; a tapestry needle or your favorite beading needle; a pair of chain nose pliers or a thread puller for gently helping your needle through a tight spot; a ruler or tape measure; your favorite bead board, mat, or ceramic dish to hold your beads; and good magnification, if you need it or if you’re working with smaller beads.
6. How many warp threads do I need for my pattern? Because you’ll have one warp thread on either side of each bead in your pattern, you’ll need one warp thread for each bead in each row of your pattern, plus one extra warp thread on the outside. So if you’re making a piece of beadwork that is 15 beads across, you’ll need 16 warp threads on your loom.
7. How do I finish off my warp threads? There are many ways to finish off your warp threads, and this is just one place where you can get very creative with your loomed beadwork! There are a few things you can do to finish off your warp threads:
- When you first start weaving your piece of beadwork, work a “header” and “footer”, using just plain beading thread for an inch or so at the beginning and ends of your loom beading. After you remove your piece from the loom, tie your warp ends into this piece of thread weaving, and either glue it against the back of your piece or cover it with a small scrap of faux leather (like Ultrasuede) and finish the edges with a beaded whip stitch.
- Use your warp threads to make fringe on one or both ends of your piece.
- Weave your warp ends right into your finished loomwork.
Curious to learn more about beading on a loom? Check out our Artist of the Month Julianna Avelar’s new book, Jewel Loom Inspirations. It’s packed with fun and fashionable contemporary jewelry designs that will make you eager to revive this traditional technique. And, if you order by Friday, you’ll receive the electronic version of the book for free! You’ll also want to see Julianna’s Portuguese-Inspired Tile Cuff kit. It contains everything you need (including the loom!) to make this beautiful bracelet with two-hole square beads AND the video of Julianna showing you how to make it, step-by-step.
Jean Cox, Beading editorial director