With the onset of spring, the days start getting longer. We find ourselves outside, working in the garden, mowing the lawn, or just sitting in the swing enjoying the freshness of the air. And I am a big advocate of just sitting and doing not much of anything, on occasion. Well, almost nothing – I usually am doing a bit of weaving on a bracelet loom.
We all need the down time during the busy days. This is our time to think, dream, rest, and regroup. But I am also one of those people who have difficulty sitting still for very long periods of time. I want to feel productive, even in some small way.
It is on those days I keep a small weaving project at hand. One of my favorite things to do is weaving on a bracelet loom. This loom is a small wooden disc which has slits cut along the sides and a hole drilled in the center.
The Joys (and the Learning Curve) of Weaving on a Bracelet Loom
This loom is designed to make the friendship bracelets young children and teens often make for themselves and friends. But they are also great for making handwoven cording, which can be used for many things.
I enjoy making this cording as it is a simple method of weaving. Once you get familiar with the process, you can almost weave on autopilot. Here are some of the benefits of weaving on a bracelet loom:
- Inexpensive: You can weave several bracelets with just a loom, pair of scissors, and a few skeins of embroidery thread
- Clean Up: You can weave bracelets and cording using yarn left over from larger projects
- Multi-Use: You can make cording for bracelets, but also sturdier cord to use for gift wrapping, shoestrings, or even tying up a bundle of love letters
- Productivity: Even when you are whiling away the hours in a swing, or sitting down after a long day, you can pick up your bracelet loom and keep your hands busy while still visiting with your family or watching a favorite television program. You may be resting, but you will still be productive!
- Portable: These looms can easily fit in a small zip-top bag and tucked in your purse. While waiting at a doctor’s office, in the carpool line, or getting stuck at a train crossing, you can easily pick it up, start weaving, and then place it back in the bag without losing your place
As much as I would love to tell you this project is foolproof, I can’t. There is a bit of a learning curve. Once you have the loom threaded for the first time, there is a learning curve:
- Dexterity: the threads need to be held from the bottom of the loom in one hand, while using the other hand to weave
- Tension: You need to hold tension on the bottom strings up close to the hole, and gently but firmly tug while weaving the top threads. Without this tension the cording becomes loosely woven and begins to look messy and uneven
- Tangles: For longer cords, the unwoven threads hanging down will ‘braid’ and get tangled. You will need to stop more frequently in the beginning to untangle them. As the threads shorten, you can weave longer before stopping to untangle. When the unwoven threads get to be about 6” to 8” long, they no longer tangle as much, or not at all
Weaving on a Bracelet Loom
Weaving on a bracelet loom isn’t difficult or expensive. You simply need a loom and a few other supplies:
The loom itself can be purchased, such as this one on Etsy. You can also make one using sturdy cardboard, a craft knife and a pencil. Or, if you have woodworking tools and skills, they are easily made from a 4” scrap of plyboard.
For my loom, I used a 3” hole saw, which pre-drilled the hole in the center. From there, I used a pencil to mark 8 spaces equidistant around the outer edge. Using a jigsaw, I cut each mark 1/8” wide and 1/4” long. The loom was sanded, including the insides of the slits and center hole, to prevent snagging.
For weaving on a bracelet loom, you only need:
- Yarn or Thread
- Buttons (if making a bracelet)
For most bracelets, embroidery thread is often used. It is recommended that you use the full piece, and not separate threads as you would for embroidery. This makes a sturdier bracelet and is much easier to weave.
As for yarn, this will depend on the size of your loom. A smaller loom, such as mine, has a hole in the middle that will only accommodate yarn no larger than a Size 2 or 3. If you aren’t sure what size your yarn is, look on the paper wrapper. There should be a drawing of a yarn skein, and in the middle of that will be a number.
I also use weaving yarn, which is usually designated as 3/2, 5/2, or 8/2. The smaller the number the larger the diameter. For this type of thread, I use a 5/2, as it fits nicely in the center hole.
If you want or need a larger finished cording and have a larger size yarn, you can either make your loom a bit larger, or cut/drill the center hole bigger. If using a hole saw, you can get a slightly larger drill bit to enlarge the center hole.
The beauty of weaving on a bracelet loom is you can create a loom that fits with the size of project you want to make.
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The Process of Weaving on a Bracelet Loom
Once you have your supplies, cut your yarn 2 to 3 times longer than your desired finished project. If you aren’t completely sure this will be enough, feel free to add a few inches.
For each project, you will need 4 lengths of yarn or thread. Once the yarn is cut, gather it together and fold it in half. Tie a knot at the folded end. This will give you 8 threads. (If you are making a bracelet, tie the knot a little further down and leave a loop at the end. Your button closure will fit in the open loop.)
You only need 7 weaving threads for this size loom. If you use only one color for your cording, you can go ahead and snip one of the lengths just below the knot. However, if you are using multiple colors, you will need to decide which color to snip. In this case, you will have only one thread of that color, which will be more of an accent color, rather than a primary color.
Thread the knot through the center hole. If your knot is small enough, it may fit by gently pushing it through. If it is too large, gather the loose ends of the working threads (the loose threads that are hanging) together and twist them until they will fit through the hole. Be sure your knot is snug against the loom at the bottom.
Take each working thread and place in a slit. You will have one slit that is left empty. This is the weaving slit. Gently gather the loose threads and give a gentle tug to hold them taught in the slits. make sure you are holding securely to the knot to prevent it from pulling through. You want your knot snug against the hole on the bottom of the loom.
Place the empty slit towards you. Beginning on the right, count up three working threads. Remove the third thread from its slit. Lift over the other two threads and place it in the empty slot. Gently pull to tighten the thread. Turn the loom until the now empty slit is facing you. Count three threads, and lift, cross and place the third thread in the empty slot. Gently pull to tighten the thread.
As you are weaving on a bracelet loom, be sure to hold the knot firmly and snugly against the hole on the bottom. As you weave, your cord will start to lengthen. At that point, allow the knot to drop but continue holding the cord snugly against the bottom hole. This keeps tension on the cord for neater weaving.
After weaving ‘one turn’ (a complete rotation of lifting, crossing, and placing threads 7 times), stop and untangle the working threads. As I said before, you will do this more frequently at the beginning of a longer weaving project, fewer times with a shorter project or as the working threads get shorter while weaving a longer project.
Finishing Off Your Cording
Continue weaving in this manner until you have approximately three to five inches of working thread left. Continue to hold on to the cord underneath the loom, and gently lift each thread from its slit. Pull the threads through the center hole.
At this point, you can either tie a tight knot that sits at the end of the cording or attach aglets -those plastic pieces at the end of your shoestrings. (It does help when using aglets to go ahead and tie a secure knot to hold the weaving tight until you are ready to add the aglets.)
If you are making a bracelet, wait to cut your loose weaving threads. Thread one or two of the threads through the holes in a button, then secure from behind with a knot. Be sure to hold fast to the woven end to prevent unraveling or use the tape method mentioned below.
Using Aglets instead of Knots
Aglets can be purchased in different colors and sizes. They are usually called ‘heat shrink’, and the ones available are normally used to enclose bare wiring. However, they can also be used for shoestrings and cording. If you choose to use heat shrink, you will need a source of heat to shrink them to fit tightly. Here is a list of aglets, heat guns, and even supplies if you choose to use the metal-type aglets:
- Heat Shrink – Clear or Colors (a note on colored aglets: these usually come in assorted sizes. You may not need all the sizes, so in most cases, they end up being more expensive. However, if you have other uses for heat shrink, it may be a consideration)
- Heat Gun: I use a heavy-duty heat gun that we already had, similar to this one. You can also get one that is lighter weight and designed for crafters, such as this one. If you choose not to purchase one, you can use a Bic lighter. Just be careful not to burn your fingers or your cording!
- Metal Aglets & Pliers Set: I have never used these, so I am not certain of how well they will work. But if you like the look of metal tips on your shoestrings or cording, then you may be interested in reading more about them.
If you are using aglets, and before you cut the knot off of the finished project, it helps to wrap a piece of tape around the project just above the knot. Cut the knot off, then slip the aglet into place. Using the heat gun, ‘shrink’ the heat shrink in place. Trim as necessary.
Relax and Enjoy with Weaving on a Bracelet Loom
If you ever feel guilty about sitting idle, or get fidgety sitting in a waiting room, weaving on a bracelet loom is a perfect project to keep those hands busy – and be productive at the same time.
And if you need yet additional benefits to weaving on a bracelet loom, here are three more:
- Create a weaving kit for a young child as a birthday or Christmas gift
- Get a loom for you and one for someone else and teach them weaving on a bracelet loom. This means you can spend quality time with a young child, or weave and visit with a good friend!
- Ask several like-minded friends over to visit and create. This is a perfect way to start a social group that revolves around weaving on a bracelet loom or other types of small looms!
Weaving on a bracelet loom is an easy, affordable way to spend a bit of quiet time, still be productive, and get ahead on your list of Christmas gifts. Think of the fun someone will have pulling a set of handwoven shoestrings out of their Christmas stocking, or unwrapping a gift with handmade cording. And that won’t be just any ribbon that will be tossed in the trash. Instead, they can keep the ‘ribbon’ and use it for many other things!