Today I’m posting instructions on how to make (I say “make,” not “build”) a right angle triangle loom, though I’ll try to make sure they are suitable instructions for any loom–regardless of size or shape.

Someone told me it’s much easier to just buy the loom you want than to build it yourself. Obviously. But it’s much CHEAPER to make it yourself. And if it’s a size or shape you only want to play around with, why go to the expense of buying, or the trouble of building, when you can make one? I realize that even this simple procedure will be more than some people want to put themselves through, but for those who want a little guidance, here’s my experience.

Looms I've made in the past month.

Looms I’ve made in the past month.

MATERIALS–a flexible list, meaning I may not have written down every single thing you might use, like painter’s tape or a pencil, so be aware of that.

  • Template or graph paper (At times, I’ve used 1/8″ graph paper, but that runs a little smaller than the Weave-It style looms.)
  • Foam core (I like to paint mine a pale color so it isn’t white–in case I want to use white yarn on it.)
  • Fun foam (EVA) or packing foam or a kneeling pad used by gardeners or a piece of anti-fatigue mat or even a flip flop if it has a fairly smooth surface (and isn’t used–yuck!)
  • Glue stick
  • Pins for the loom (I recommend using at least 1″ pins. I have used sewing pins, 18 gauge wire brads, 23 gauge headless pin nails, and pins from a broken Weave-It.) (For a 2″ x 4″ loom, you need 69 pins; for a 4″ x 4″ right angle triangle, you need 71. I didn’t count the numbers on the smaller looms.)

    Most of the tools and materials you'll need.

    Most of the tools and materials you’ll need. Clockwise from upper left: jeweler’s bench block, butterfly head poking pin, 23 gauge headless pin nails, ruler, Xacto knife, box cutter knife, foam core, template, section of a blue gardener’s kneeling mat, Elmer’s glue stick. Two cutting mats are also shown–a small green one and a larger, light blue one.

TOOLS

  • scissors
  • craft knife (like Xacto, though you can use those cheapy retractable knives if that’s all you have)
  • box cutter type of knife (purchased at hardware store)
  • ruler
  • cutting mat
  • poking device smaller than the diameter of your pins, but close in size to them (a long, thin sewing pin works well for the headless nail gun pins; a clay modeling needle works well for larger size pins)
  • optional: weight for pressing down glued-together pieces. (I used a jeweler’s bench block, but you can use anything heavy.)

PROCEDURE–The steps are numbered, but for some of them the order is not critical, e.g. you can cut your foam core before you create your template.

  1. Draw or copy your template. Decide on outer measurements for loom (5″ x 5″ for the 4″ triangle–I usually add about a 1/2″ edge outside the pins) and an inner measurement for the optional hole (1/4″ from pins). Cut out template.
  2. Collect materials.
    • Separate pins if necessary. Nail gun pins come in little sheets, so the pins have to be separated; this leaves a flaky, catchy residue on the nails which in time will (probably) work off the pins.
      Nail gun pins.

      Nail gun pins.

      Wire brads will have a grayish metal residue on them (from friction within their packaging); you can clean them or test drive your loom with a dark colored yarn.

      3/4" 18 gauge wire brads.

      3/4″ 18 gauge wire brads.

      Short pins (3/4″ or less) are not recommended though I used them on the 2″ x 2″ loom. You will need to cut a hole in the center of the loom if you use short pins to keep from pulling the work off the pins as you weave.

      Definitely cut a hole in the center when using short pins.

      Definitely cut a hole in the center when using short pins.

      Sewing pins are not ideal to work with–they tend to pull out of the loom especially when removing the piece from the loom.

    • Decide on a base foam material. I’ve tried doubling up foam core before, but it doesn’t work as well as craft or packing foam. EVA types of foam tend to grip the pins when they’re poked into it. Hence, the foam core acts as a stiff layer to give the loom its rigid shape, and to hold the pins upright, while the EVA foam keeps them from moving around. After many uses, your foam core holes may “stretch” out a bit, never to regain their shape, but the EVA foam layer will keep the pins in place. The longer the pins, the further into the EVA foam you can poke them and thus have a very usable loom. I’ve also used anti-static plastic packaging foam with good success. Though it doesn’t grip quite as much as EVA foam, anti-static plastic packing foam, like foam core, holds the pins stiffly upright and works very well as a substrate.
      Anti-static packing foam that was used in a shop light box. You may have to gently pry some of the layers apart. Use the smoothest surface for gluing purposes.

      Anti-static packing foam that came out of a shop light box. You may have to gently pry some of the layers apart. Use the smoothest surface for gluing purposes.

      Here it is shown on a 4" x 2" loom before and after the center hole was removed.

      Packing foam is shown here on a 4″ x 2″ loom before and after the center hole was removed.

    • You can, of course, substitute the foam core with a more sturdy material, such as a stick-on bathroom tile, but I wanted my loom to be SIMPLE and easy to make. Foam core is easy to cut and poke through. I have it on hand, but if you don’t, it is readily available (and very inexpensive) at Walmart or any craft store.
  3. Cut foam core and base foam material. Tape the template to these materials as necessary; use easy-to-remove painter’s tape. For the right angle triangle loom, begin with a square; you can cut off the extra later. Cut the outer size first, trim excess if needed, then cut out center hole. Cutting the center hole is a drag and you can skip that step if you want to. I’ve gone back and cut center holes after the loom is all made up, so that’s an option. On the 1″ x 2″ loom, I first made it without a hole and used it a lot without one. Later I cut a hole for no particular reason and I wish I hadn’t since it turns out the loom is easier to use without the hole. I recommend cutting a hole on anything 2″ wide or wider.
    1. Tip: Use spare pieces of foam to prop your ruler as you cut. This helps keep your ruler from flopping and slipping about.

      Use scraps to prop up your ruler for safer cutting.

      Use scraps to prop up your ruler for safer cutting.

    2. Tip for cutting foam: make many progressively deepening passes with the knife. Don’t waste expensive blades on the base foam. If you have one, use an Xacto blade on foam core–especially when cutting the center hole. Though you can cut the center hole out even after the loom is finished, I’ve found that it’s much easier to cut while the loom is in two pieces. Make sure your two pieces are close in size. My foam core triangle was a little too large, but it was easier to trim (carefully) with the Xacto knife.

      Use the Xacto knife for foam core and getting into tight corners.

      Use the Xacto knife for foam core and getting into tight corners.

    3. If you choose to paint your foam core, do so sometime during this step. I use watercolor paints and the following method: wet both sides of the foam core with water (this will keep it from curling as the painted side dries and helps the paint flow smoothly). Apply paint to only one side–I recommend a pale color and a flat, even coat. I place the wet piece of foam core between two cooling racks to keep it flat while it dries. Here in the Utah desert, if you put it outside, it dries in no time while you prepare other materials.

      Paint and let dry. (Be sure to clean your brush!)

      Paint and let dry. (You can also use acrylic paint, but you might not want to put it between cooling racks while it dries. Keep acrylic paint off the foam edges as it will take forever to dry–just wipe off any that ends up there. You may need to paint both sides of the frame to keep it from curling.)(Be sure to clean your brush!)

    4. Apply glue stick to back of foam core and top of foam base. Press the two pieces together. If desired, place a weight on top while the glue sets (about 15 minutes).

      A jeweler's bench block is a nice weight, but anything will do. It may be necessary to put a largish flat object between the block and the loom to more evenly distribute the weight.

      A jeweler’s bench block is a nice weight, but anything will do. It may be necessary to put a largish flat object between the block and the loom to more evenly distribute the weight.

    5. When glue is set, tape template to loom and poke pilot holes with a pin or needle slightly smaller in diameter than your loom pins.

      Secure template to loom and poke shallow pilot holes.

      Secure template to loom and poke pilot holes just deep enough to penetrate the lower foam layer–this will make it easier to insert the pins/nails.

    6. Remove the template and number your corners. You may also want to number your rows–I recommend doing both. I found the numbered rows particularly necessary the first time I used the triangle loom. I almost NEVER remember to do this before sticking the pins in, but it’s easier without the pins in the way.
    7. Add pins. Take your time! It may help to have the loom at eye level as you do this. On a square or rectangular loom, I start at corner 1 and move counterclockwise around the loom; on the triangle loom I moved from corner 1 to corner 2, then skipped to corner 3 down to corner 1, and filled in the hypotenuse last. But you can do this in any order you’d like to. Don’t worry if the pins are uneven in height, but do try to keep them straight. Above all: DO NOT pull them back out and reposition them. (That’s a recipe for loose pins and a ruined loom.)

      Here's a good look at what appears to be a Halloween fence in the making. (You can see that though I remembered to number the corners, I forgot to number the rows ahead of pin adding.) You can also see the debris left on the nail gun pins after separating them from each other.

      Here’s a good look at what appears to be a Halloween fence in the making. (You can see that though I remembered to number the corners, I forgot to number the rows.) You can also see the debris left on the nail gun pins after separating them from each other.

    8. After placing pins, to fix unevenness, turn the loom upside down and place something flat on it (like a quilter’s ruler). Put something of equal height on either side of it so you don’t push down too far (I used three nut cups stacked inside one another). Press down firmly. This is actually very difficult; pushing in one pin is easy, but 70 pins at once is challenging. Make sure your pins are pushed in most of the way because if too much is sticking out, you run the risk of having the loom shift at this point and having all your pins shoved off to one side.
      The set up before pressing down on the ruler to meet the tops of the snack cups.

      The set up before pressing down on the ruler to meet the tops of the snack cups.

      Three snack size cups (like you get from restaurant take-out) are a perfect height for the thicker packing foam or gardener's kneeling pad combined with the 1 1/4" pins.

      Three snack size cups (like you get from restaurant take-out) are a perfect height for the thicker packing foam or gardener’s kneeling pad when combined with the 1 1/4″ pins.

      Your loom is now ready to use!

      The loom is ready. Now, to learn how to weave with it!

      The loom is ready. Now, to learn how to weave with it!

       

      23 March 2017 UPDATE: I’m adding these photos just to show how easy it can be to make your own loom.

      Quick loom with 20 pins per side

      OK, now I’ve made the loom more sturdy. It really is as easy as this–cardboard, glue, pins and fun foam; well, scissors or a cutting knife are also necessary. I didn’t mean to spend so much effort on a loom on which I was just testing a theory. I didn’t measure anything, just counted out the pins and stuck them in. So, here’s evidence that just about anyone can make one of these. (A reminder: both the stiff layer [cardboard] and the soft layer [fun foam] are necessary to hold the pins securely in place.)

      The cardboard pin loom is sturdier with an additional layer of fun foam.

      It isn’t always necessary to add an extra layer to the underside of the loom. I added additional cardboard because the pins poked through the thin layer of foam. Usually I use a garden kneeling mat for the foam layer, so no additional stuff is required on the bottom.

      Companion videos:

      How to make (not build) your own loom
      How to weave on a triangle loom

4 Thoughts on “Adventures in Pin Loom Making — And So Can You!

  1. Karen Bochinski on 4 July 2016 at 4:46 PM said:

    Thanks Sue. I have a friend of mine who is very handy with making looms. I would like some made 3″X7″ for the campers up at the foster camp I go to in the summer make coin wallets again.

  2. Charline on 25 August 2016 at 2:37 PM said:

    Sue, you are SO wonderful to share SO much with us! Thank you for all you do!

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