Making the Tablet Loom

Written by Alice Rotsztain for Portland Textile Club. Thanks to our sponsors for Plarn Lab: Scrap PDX and Make+Think+Code@PNCA.

This tutorial will show you how to make the Tablet Loom, a custom cardboard loom for plarn.

image of cardboard tablet loom.
The Tablet Loom, made with help from Make+Think+Code@ PNCA for Plarn Lab.

Cutting the Loom Pieces

You have two options for cutting the pieces: laser cutting or hand cutting.

1. Laser Cut Version

Download this illustrator cut file, and submit it to a laser-cutting lab or service for precision-cut pieces (just like the photo above).

  • You’ll need the following:

    • a vector graphic editor (Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape) to edit the file for your specific laser-cutter bed size and to delete the instructions layer.
      • This file was designed for a Trotec Speedy 300 laser cutter with a bed size of 17″ x 29″ (Make+Think+Code@PNCA’s machine).
      • Each laser-cutting lab/service has their own policies and machines; contact the manager or customer service (online services) for guidance.
  • Options for laser-cutting services:

  • Tips for cutting success:

    • Open the cut file in your vector editing software and review all the instructions first (a layer named “information”).
      • These instructions include important settings, the dimensions, and materials.
      • Use this information when first speaking with the person helping you with services; this will help them better assist you.
    • It will be wise to copy one of the small pieces and create a mini “test file” to laser cut before you cut the larger file.
      • If there are any issues you’ll know before wasting material.

2. Hand Cut Version

Download this PDF template (TabletLoomHandCutTemplate), print, and follow the instructions to cut your pieces with an X-Acto knife.

  • You’ll also need the following:
    • ruler
    • glue stick or Nori paste to secure the paper template to cardboard
    • a box cutter or X-Acto knife to cut cardboard
    • scissors for cutting paper template
    • a sharp point for making holes
    • a pen for marking cut lines
    • 1 large box (a moving box or a large carton)
image of tools
Tools needed for hand-cut loom pieces.

Reuse and Customizing Your Cuts

An important design feature of the looms are the modular teeth.

  • The parts are removable for the sake of future recycling.
  • For reuse and flexibility:
    • Cardboard will wear down over time, and the teeth are where you’ll have the most wear.
    • You can design new loom teeth for different projects without needing to remake a new loom.
    • This keeps costs down for laser cutting and less work for hand cutting.

Wood Option for Laser Cuts

For Plarn Lab, our design challenge was to make everything out of trash. For added durability, you can laser cut the designs from thin sheets of wood.

  • Change the cut settings for the new material; get help from your lab.
  • This will be stronger but will add weight.
  • You only need one pair of teeth (wood is stronger); remove the extra pair from each set of loom teeth.
  • Grain direction isn’t as crucial; reorganize the file for the best fit.
  • Test out the brad fasteners.
  • You can design closer-spaced teeth to make a denser weave.
    • The teeth spacing are set to accomodate the limitations of cardboard (the width of the corrugated flutes).
    • Originally, I designed tighter teeth, but this compromised the strength.
  • You can also only laser cut the teeth in wood and hand cut the tablet in cardboard.
    • The parts most prone to wear can benefit in strength and the loom is lighter.
    • You’ll also save on laser fees/materials (the tablet is the biggest piece).

Assembly of the Tablet Loom

Once you have all your pieces cut, the rest comes together pretty quickly.

You’ll need the following supplies:

  • four no. 4 (1″) brass brads (like these)
  • masking tape
  • a ruler (not shown)
image of the loom teeth
Assembling the loom teeth. Showing cardboard grain direction.
  1. Organize your loom teeth pieces so that the corrugated cardboard grain is as follows:
    • The bottom piece should have the grain running up and down.
    • The top piece should have the grain running left to right.
    • This order provides the maximum strength to support your teeth against the pull from the warp threads.
  2. Insert brass brads through the holes in each set of loom teeth.
  3. Line the top set of teeth parallel to your bottom set. Insert the brads through your teeth and through the cut-out bar on your tablet.
    • Use a ruler to make sure everything is even.
    • Secure by opening the brads with the legs pointing up and down; tape the legs down with masking tape to secure and avoid snagging.
image showing brass brads securing the loom teeth
Secure the brass brads, tape and then check with ruler.

Setting Up Your Loom

Warping

To warp your loom, take a plarn length and secure it to the first tooth at the bottom of your loom. If using looped plarn, hook through the end of your loop. You can also wind around the tooth a few times and secure it in the back using a piece of masking tape; or tie a slip knot to the tooth directly.

image showing how to warp a loom.
(Top and Bottom L) Ways to secure plarn to the first loom tooth. (Bottom R) Warping the loom.

You’ll next wrap the plarn up and down through each of the loom teeth, making sure to use even tension so that there isn’t any slack, but not pulling too tight. The goal is even and taught. Watch this video for the finer details.

 

 

 

 

Once you get to the last tooth, secure your warp to the loom in the same way you did at the beginning.

Load the Needle

Take another length of plarn to begin your weaving (weft threads). Insert one end through the notch at the end of your weaving needle to secure. Then, wrap the excess length around the weaving needle, moving in the opposite direction towards the point. Wrap enough so that there’s slack for you to comfortably weave with, without so much that it will tangle.

image showing how to load the weaving needle.
Two ways to start your needle notch and (bottom) a fully loaded needle with plarn wrapped towards the point end.

Using the Shed Stick

Not sure what a shed stick does? Read this or play this video below:

 

 

 

  • If you are using the shed stick, weave the stick up and down through each of your warp threads in an alternating fashion.
  • Turn your shed stick in the “up position” so that it is standing on its side.
  • While in the up position, double check that the amount of plarn loaded on your needle isn’t too bulky to pass through your shed.
image showing how a shed stick works.
The shed stick in down and up position. (R) The needle passing through the shed (stick in up position).

If all is good, you’re ready to weave!

If not, try unwrapping some plarn off your needle until it passes through the shed easily. Note this amount, and keep your future plarn lengths this long. For weaving, I like to use plarn skiens that are no more than a chain of 3-5 loops.

You’re Ready to Weave

If you need a tutorial on basic weaving, watch this video.

 

 

Just note that since you’re weaving plarn, not wool or cotton, a fork won’t work for beating down your fibers (plarn is too bulky). I use the tip of my weaving needle or another piece of scrap cardboard.

Reloading Your Plarn

When you run out of plarn on your length, it’s time to attach more. For looped plarn, chain the new length to the end of your existing length.

image of how to chain on looped plarn.
Chaining on looped plarn when your needle runs out.

If it’s continuous-cut or spun plarn, tuck in the end in your weaving and start loading a new length. See how to tuck in the end of a thread in this video.

 

If none of this last paragraph made sense, read Getting Started with Plarn in Textiles.

Happy Plarn Weaving!

Check out more tutorials: Getting Started with Plarn in Textiles, Making the Box Loom, and Making a Spindle, Cord Makers and More.

Loom Inspiration

The Tablet Loom was inspired by the following looms:

Cardboard looms have been around for a long time and made many different ways:

The tapestry frame loom and the mini hand looms of the Navajo:

 

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