As of today, the following information is as accurate as I can make it based on my 16 months of experience with the pin loom. Feel free to comment if you have other experiences or questions. While this post is meant as a trouble-shooting post for beginning weavers, I’m also including extra information so it will all be in one place. The information herein will serve as a glossary until I get a separate one made.
***Remember you can click on a photo to enlarge it. Click the back arrow to return to this post.
ANATOMY OF THE PIN LOOM
Pin looms have a frame and pins. Many pin looms have pins grouped (generally) in threes (three of the corners have different groupings). We call this a “three-pin configuration.” The Loomette’s pins are not arranged this way, but you can still weave with it as you would a three-pin configured loom.
The loom has four corners, three of which are numbered on the Weave-it and Weavette; Zoom Loom numbers all four of its corners. Loomette doesn’t number the corners, but there’s a notch for anchoring the yarn at corner 1.
Frequently when I give instructions, I’ll refer to the edge, or side, of the loom by its two numbered corners: the bottom edge is 1-2, top is 3-4; left side is 1-3; right side is 2-4. Loomette has lettered two of its sides; “A” side is equivalent to the bottom, or 1-2, edge; “B” is the 2-4 side. I try to avoid calling things left or right, even or odd, because those are circumstantial, e.g. if you turn your loom when weaving so the needle is always in your dominant hand, the loom’s left and right will constantly be changing.
Some Weave-its and Loomettes have numbered rows which are useful for knowing where to insert the needle, and also for keeping track of row numbers when following a pattern.
Basic pin loom squares are constructed in what we call 4 Layers.
- Layer 1 (L1) is a warp layer. The threads run vertically from the bottom (1-2 edge) to the top (3-4 edge). L1 has 16 vertical warp strands.
- Layer 2 (L2) is a weft (or woven) layer. L2 has 15 weft strands.
- Layer 3 (L3) is a warp layer. L3 has 15 vertical warp strands, and is the layer usually affected by going Under (U) groups of threads in a pattern stitch. When you add beads to your pattern stitch squares, they will usually go on the L3 strands.
- Layer 4 (L4) is a weft layer–the layer you’ll be weaving with the needle. It has 16 weft strands.
The object of the game is to make the L1 strands come to the surface while the L3 strands get pushed down, till every strand is on the same plane. We do this by weaving the needle over and under the warp strands. L2 is placed Over (O) the L1 strands and Under (U) the L3 strands, so half of the weaving is done for you. L4 weaves Under L1 and Over L3 strands. We win the game if we end up with no layers, just a smooth square.
We generally call loom preparation–putting the three layers in place–“warping” the loom. Technically we’re warping and half weaving, but warping is the term we use.
If it helps while warping and working the final weaving, think of L1 & 4 as the framing rows. L1 has the first and last warp strand; L4 has the first and last weft strand–16 for each of these layers.
Every finished square should have 31 vertical, or warp, strands and 31 horizontal, or weft, strands. Corner 1 (Cr1) has a short yarn tail and a slip knot which you should gently untie immediately after taking the square off the loom. Cr4 has a long tail which you can use to join this square to another one, or weave in before or after taking the square off the loom (see “Working in Ends” video tutorial).
Cr2 is unique-looking. Depending on the joining technique you decide on, it can be important to identify your corners, so it’s good to know what they look like.
One of the hazards of working in ends immediately is that you run the risk of losing track of which corner is which. There are a number of methods you can use to avoid the hazard. I choose not to work in ends till I’m ready to use my squares. Ordinarily I tie a little tag on each square at Cr1 which tells me the date I made the square, the warping method I used (if significant), the name(s) and color(s) of the yarn, and the name of the pattern. I can then cross-reference this information with the pattern instructions and notes in my notebook or blog.
A friend of mine from the Pin Loom Weaving Support Group on Facebook semi-volunteered (with little urging) to allow me to dissect her first efforts on the pin loom. We’ll call her Kay for anonymity’s sake. You can see in the photo there are things wrong, but I couldn’t tell certain things from the photo, so I’m indebted to Kay for mailing me her first-and-second-born squares–in the name of science!
Kay’s main mistake, in my opinion, was in using a super-non-stretchy, dark-colored yarn for her first square (see TIPS below for beginner yarn recommendations). She likely warped her loom too tightly which made it difficult to tell where to insert the needle in the proper place at the beginning of each row and during the weaving of each row. She had so much difficulty with the last row–16 (R16)–that she missed most of the loops–the weaving on that row is incomplete. When the yarn is tight and dark, and you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s almost impossible to avoid mistakes.
Another feature of Kay’s square is the result of the fact that the L2 strands shift while you’re weaving. Because she didn’t know that each L4 row is woven between two L2 rows (one below, one above), she wasn’t always certain where she should be weaving. And dealing with that non-yielding yarn wasn’t helping!
Here is another example of incomplete weaving on the last row–in this case, a 2″ x 2″ square woven by one of my young students.
Sometimes beginning weavers leave out R16 altogether. It goes against my grain to deliberately make a mistake, but in the name of science I shall make a donation. Hang on a sec . . .
OK, I tried to get as much mileage out of this science donation as possible. I used Vanna’s Choice by Lion yarn which is quite thick and stretchy. I warped the loom tightly, so it was hard to weave at the end, and I cut the weaving tail short, so I almost ran out of yarn. The yarn is dark, so it was hard to see what I was doing (and the photos aren’t easy to see with the dark yarn). It looked like the square was done–if you don’t know you’re supposed to weave one more row above the top L2 strand you could get confused and think you’re finished. Then, I take the yarn off the loom, and it looks like my square has a carrying handle.
If you look at the middle photo, you’ll see the two yarn ends are on the same side of the loom. The weaving isn’t finished till those yarn tails are coming out of opposite corners of the square.
I recommend warping the loom with a longer yarn tail at the beginning, then wrap the pins 5 full times (3 times for the 2″ x 2″ loom) before cutting and weaving. It’s better to have too much than not-quite-enough yarn.
On Kay’s second square she used a mostly white yarn which can also be difficult to see. While not very stretchy, this yarn has some give to it, so it was likely easier for her to weave this square.
Kay told me she has trouble with warping the corners, so here’s a step-by-step photographic tutorial on warping and weaving the loom.
STEP-BY-STEP PIN LOOM WEAVING
TIPS FOR INITIAL SUCCESS
- Use beginner-friendly yarn. Avoid cotton and wool (except when blended with acrylic)–one is not stretchy, the other too stretchy. For beginners I recommend a yarn that’s got some give, but isn’t overly stretchy. I know, you don’t want to waste any of your good stuff on your first square. But it’s only 8 yards, not enough to worry about. Use it. Try an inexpensive acrylic yarn in a light-to-medium-value color. The brands/lines I recommend are Lion Heartland, Caron Simply Soft, Bernat Satin, and I Love This Wool (80/20 acrylic blend) or Yarn Bee (both from Hobby Lobby). These yarns are thin enough to be easy to work with, but thick enough to make a substantial square; not very stretchy but also not absolutely unyielding; available in a wide selection of colors; and, with the exception of the Hobby Lobby brands, available at many locations (Michaels, JoAnn Fabrics, WalMart, and most likely your local fabric store).
- Warp loosely. I have a few videos showing how to warp the loom: Basic Loom Weaving–Part 2, be sure to watch Part 3 for the rest of the warping.
- Wrap the pins 5 times before cutting.
- While weaving, think of going through the outer loops instead of “over” them. Those loops are not warp threads.
- The weaving isn’t finished till you’ve completed 16 rows and your yarn tails are at opposite corners from each other. (Sometimes when using multiple colors your yarn tails may end up in a different spot, but that’s more advanced weaving. For one-color, and most two-or-more-color, weaving yarn tails will end up at opposite corners.
Thanks Susan for this article. I am Kay. HeeHee
So much for anonymity! 🙂
thank you so much for this post! i am sure it will answer many many questions about these wonderful little looms!!!
Thank you! One of these days I’m going to get around to finishing it.