Inkle Weaving FAQ's and Answers








© Copyright 2015 by Annie MacHale  (aka ASpinnerWeaver). This document may be printed and used for personal reference. Permission is not granted for copying and distribution. 

I've formatted a copy of this as an 8-page PDF which is easy to download and save or to print and add your own notes. It can be purchased here in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/238666258/inkle-weaving-faqs-and-answers 

Thanks to members of the Inkle Weaving Group on Facebook for helping me to put together this list of common questions. Special thanks to Janean Easley for her contributions. 

The answers here address the traditional type of inkle loom which has pegs to hold the warp and uses string heddles. Other types of band looms with cloth beams are not discussed here. And, although rigid heddles and tablets can be used with an inkle loom, those also are not discussed here. The information herein comes from my own decades of experience of weaving. My answers may differ from those of other inkle weavers. 


There is a glossary at the end of this page to clarify any terms you might not be familiar with.


What kind of loom should I get?
Buy one from a known manufacturer or, if buying from a small maker, be sure that it is tried and true and recommended by someone you trust. There are many inkle looms now being made by at- home woodworkers. Not all of them understand what it takes to make a good inkle loom. Myself and others I know have purchased looms and then regretted it due to poor design and/or poor construction.
Two-sided looms are great only if the second side is removable for ease of warping.
Unless space is a consideration or you plan to travel with your loom a lot, don't be tempted to buy a mini inkle loom. A full-sized one is generally easier to use and you can create a wider range of things on it.
Tension adjusters come mostly in two types. The peg which slides back and forth in a slot tends to be more durable than the paddle type. The latter doesn’t always hold under tension, and in some cases does not allow enough adjustment when using the full warp length on the loom.
In this post, I have shown some of my own looms and discuss what I like about them. Annie's looms.
The brand which I have used most and like the best is the Schacht. You can purchase it online here at
The Woolery.

What should I make heddles out of? 
Use something smooth and strong, never anything fuzzy or stretchy. Wool is not a good choice; Cotton, linen, and hemp are all very good. Linen or hemp will be likely to last longer, but I mostly use cotton and just replace them when they break. I use leftover bits from my warps and weft. Some inkle weavers swear by waxed linen, but I have never used it.

How do I make heddles and how long should they be?   
Watch the video here on this page.
There are two methods of making heddles, a single loop or a doubled loop. I highly recommend the second method. To do this, make the heddle twice as long as needed. When warping you will put one end of the heddle loop on the heddle peg then fold it in half over your warp, slipping the other end of the loop onto the heddle peg. The other method requires that you pass your ball or skein of yarn through the single loop of the heddle; it's awkward and, if using a big ball or cone of yarn, it's not even possible.
Putting heddles on one at a time during warping is, in my opinion, the easiest way, however, some weavers wait until the loom is warped entirely and then go back to put all of them on at once.
Length of heddles is important to get a good shed opening. The opening should be of equal size when you are creating both the up and down sheds. If your heddles are too long, your up shed opening will be small. If your heddles are too short, your down shed opening will be too small. When your heddles are the perfect length you will be able to look at your warp from the side and when your open warps are neither up nor down, but neutral, they will lay in the same plane alongside your heddled threads.
Your loom should come with instructions on how long to make the heddles. Many looms provide two or more pegs at just the right distance apart for tying heddles. Be sure to tie them with a knot which will not loosen later. A common mistake is to use a Granny Knot rather than a Square Knot. You can learn the difference here: Square Knot & Granny Knot.



What yarn should I use for weaving on an inkle loom? 
Warp: Most yarns which are not stretchy can be used as warp. If a yarn is too soft (i.e. single ply wools or some handspun yarns) it may not be strong enough to hold up under tension. You can test it first by attempting to break it by pulling it between your hands. If it breaks, you would be taking a risk by using it for weaving.  With  patience you might be able to use some yarns which have lumps, slubs, boucle loops, eyelashes or which are very fuzzy, but I don't recommend them.
The easiest fiber yarn to use is cotton. Silk, hemp, linen, wool, nylon and other blends can also be used as long as they fit the above criteria. If using wool, be sure that it is not too elastic. Wool yarns intended for weaving are non-elastic as opposed to yarns for knitting or crochet which commonly have some stretch to them. The fuzzier the yarn the more likely it is to stick to the other warps and the heddles during weaving and this can make weaving miserable.
Some common and readily available yarns for the inkle include: crochet cottons, pearle cottons, and cotton rug warp. You can find some recommendations here.
Weft: Your weft can be the same yarn which you used for your warp, or a different one. If you want a band which is flatter overall with skinnier rows, use a finer yarn for weft. If you want a thicker, denser band with wider rows, use a heavier yarn for weft.
If your weft is the same color as the border threads in your warp, it will not show along the selvages where it turns to go into the next row. If you use a different color weft, it will show up as little dots along the selvages and add a bit of a different element to your band's overall design.

How can I figure how many warps to  use?
I've written a blog post about how to estimate that and you can see it hereWhy size matters.
"Inkle Weaving" by Helene Bress has a chart listing some specific yarns with estimated warps per inch for each. If the band's width is important, you should make a sample first.
If you are not sure and are anxious to get started weaving, give yourself some room for error by adding a couple of extra warps in there. If the band is working out to be too wide, it is easier to cut a couple of warps out than it is to add them in.

How do I design a pattern?
After choosing colors, you will want to play around with potential designs, right?
You can do this with paper and colored pencils or markers by using this handy grid paper.  Print out a sheet and experiment with designs. Grid Paper.
Or, this online device is really awesome. You can choose colors and plug them into the grid to get a preview of your design. Inkle Weaving Pattern Generator.
If you need help getting started, you can use some of these designs which I've charted for you here on my blog. Pattern Drafts.
For a great, simple formula to choose colors which go together, read this post from the Fresh Stitches blog.

How long should I make my warp?
The warp length can be varied by winding around various combinations of different pegs on the loom. If you use all of the pegs, winding back and forth between them, you will get the maximum length. Use less pegs for a shorter warp.
The following things should be considered when calculating how long to make your warp:
As a general rule, you might want to allow 8-15 inches for loom waste (the part of the warp you are not able to weave at the ends.)
Some allowance should also added for take up (your warp will get tighter as you weave along. The thicker your warp and weft yarns, the more take up you will have).
If you plan to wash it, add an allowance for shrinkage.
You may also want to add a few inches to save as a sample of the band for future reference.
These last two include so many variables, that I don't feel comfortable making any specific recommendations. If the finished length is important to you, make some preliminary tests to determine what these variables will be.
Desired finished length of item (including fringes or allowance for sewing onto hardware) + loom waste + take up + shrinkage + sample = Warp Length

How do I warp the loom?   
Watch the video here on this page.
The inkle loom allows you to prepare your warp directly on the loom in a continuous loop fashion, so no cutting or measuring of warp ahead of time is necessary. String heddles used on the loom separate the warp into two layers. Warps are put on the loom in two alternate paths with one going through a heddle, then up over the top bar and the next one being "open" or not heddled and it will pass under the top bar.
Before you start, make sure that the tension adjustment on your loom is set to give the maximum adjustment available to you as you weave. (If the loom has a peg in slot at the front, it should be positioned at the end of the slot nearest the front of the loom.) Leaving a tiny bit of adjustment will allow you pull this peg towards you to snug up the warp before starting to weave if necessary. As you weave you will be moving the tensioner away from you. Your warp is a continuous loop which will get smaller as you weave, so constant adjustments will be necessary to keep it from getting too tight.
Using my method, each warp color only has one knot in it.  I tie the beginning end of each color in a half bow knot (or any quick release knot) to the front peg and only when I'm done with that color do I cut it. I then untie the knot from the peg and tie the finishing end to the beginning end making sure not to encircle the warp around that front peg. When a new color is introduced, the ball or skein of the  first color can be pushed aside  (you may want to put a weight on it to hold it) until needed again. When you go back to it, give it a tug to take out any slack and to be sure that you keep your tension consistent. In using this method, the colors will cross over one another at the ends, but this should not cause a problem as there is always some warp which will remain unwoven at the end of the piece (loom waste) and crossovers in this section of the warp will be of no consequence.

What is the right tension for my warp?
This answer is a bit subjective and up to the preference of the weaver, however, these are general guidelines: 
The warp should be under moderate tension so that you are able to strum it and have it hold firm.
If too loose, your band may move around the loom as you beat, be a bit sloppy, or have ridges. If too tight, it may be difficult to beat, or your rows may appear elongated.  Always loosen the tension on the warp before advancing it around the loom and then snug it up when you are done.

How do I position the loom for weaving?
Most inkle looms are made for weaving on your lap or a table top. (There are some with longer upright posts which stand tall on the floor, but they are an exception.)
I prefer to use mine in a reclining chair with the loom laid out on my lap and legs; this is great because I can hold the loom in place using my legs and feet.  A second method is to be sitting in a regular chair with the end of the loom propped up on a stool or something slightly higher than my lap. (If the prop is lower, then I have to bend over too much.) I can steady the loom between my thighs and knees.
If you prefer to use your loom on a table top, you will need to clamp it to the table to keep it in one spot. A non-skid shelf or rug liner can be used on a table top to help hold the loom in place and protect the surface.

Once the warp is on, how do I start my weaving?
Before you start weaving, look at a side view of your loom and check for warping errors. Be sure that all of the warps are following in the same two paths (heddled and open).  It is easy to accidentally miss a peg somewhere and you will be able to see it if you look at the warp from the side.
It is advisable to have something handy to insert in your warp at the very beginning before starting to weave to help get that first row in straight. Here are two common methods.
A firm card will give you something to beat up against and can be removed as soon as you get a row or two in place. (The method I use.)
Or you can insert any of the following in your first several rows to help you establish the width of the band and get it going in a straight line:  fabric strips, waste yarn, skinny strips of paper or cardboard, popsicle sticks, or wooden skewers.
After weaving a few rows, check to see that all of your warp threads are packed together and no weft is showing. Is it the band measuring the width you wanted? If not, you may be able to pull the weft a little more to narrow it up, or a little less to allow it to widen. Once you get started and establish that width, be consistent.


How tight should I pull the weft? 
It is important to be consistent in pulling your weft to keep the band's width the same along it's entire length.Normally, in warp-faced weaving the weft should not be allowed to show through. Right from the beginning, you will want to be sure that you are pulling the weft enough to snug the warp threads up against each other with no weft showing. If you pull too tight, the warps will start to bunch up and squish on top of each other. If you pull just right, you will have a nice flat surface to your band.

How hard should I beat?
Working your shuttle, you can tap or rock against each row it to pack it into place. The harder you beat, the more firmly the band becomes as you are making it tighter with more passes of the weft per inch. If you want a firm band, pack it tightly. If you want a softer band or one with more drape, pack loosely.


How do I keep my borders even?
Keeping the borders even is often a big challenge in the beginning until you have developed a feel for it. Even after years of weaving, it will still require attention. Consistency in pulling the weft through with the same amount of force is the first part. Keeping a tension on the weft near your edge as you pull it through is also important to prevent little bumps or loops along the selvage.
Ruth MacGregor describes the technique quite well in this video: Selvedge Control in Narrow Weavings.  You may want to keep a ruler handy and measure at regular intervals. Or use a "band width guide" as demonstrated in this video by Susan Foulkes. Five Ways of Weaving Narrow Bands.
Here is another way of working which is helpful to many. Weaving on the Edge by Jane Patrick.

What if I break a warp?
If you break a warp while weaving, it is possible to add a new one in. Tie the new one in place of the broken one at the far end of your warp where your knots are. Remove the broken one. Pull the new one through, being careful to follow the same path, and thread it through a heddle if needed. Fasten the loose end of the new warp by winding it in a figure 8 around a pin attached to the woven band a few inches forward of the working edge or fell.  After you have woven a few shots and incorporated the new warp into your band, you can remove the pin. Later you can go back, thread the end on a needle and weave it into the band.
The following link is to a helpful video which will give you an idea of how to pin the new warp in. This video is meant for a floor loom, so the far end of the new warp is treated differently than on an inkle. On the inkle loom simply cut the new warp thread long enough to reach from the break to the far end of the warp and tie it to another warp end.  Fixing a Broken Warp Video.

What if I run out of weft? Can I add more?
Yes! You can wind more weft onto your shuttle and begin weaving with it by overlapping the old and the new weft within a row. Tails of weft left sticking out can be trimmed off after you have removed the piece from the loom.

Is it necessary to loosen the tension on your warp before walking away from your loom and letting it sit for a long period? 
While this is common practice with floor looms, it is not necessary with inkle looms. Inkle looms do not hold as much tension as do floor looms in general. However, it may help to preserve the loom over time if you do slacken the warp a bit, especially if you like your warp tight.

Should I wash the finished band?
Some weavers like to wash their bands to give them a more finished appearance and feel but this is not always a necessity.
If you are creating a piece that, because of it's intended use, will need to be washed later (i.e. clothing trim, baby binky holder, dog collar) you should absolutely machine wash and dry your band before creating the finished object. Fasten it inside an old stocking or lingerie bag before running it through your machines. It will probably then need to be pressed flat after washing.
If you suspect that the yarns in your band are not colorfast, you should wash (or at least rinse) the band before sending it out to be used. I use a product called Shout Color-Catcher to keep the colors from bleeding all over each other when washing or rinsing.

How do I finish the ends?
After you have cut your piece off the loom, you can thread the loose end of the weft onto a blunt-tipped needle (also called a tapestry needle) and weave it back through the last row or two of your woven band. This will prevent the band from unraveling and no further action (like machine or hemstitching) is necessary.
In some cases, you will be sewing the end of the band to a buckle or some other hardware which will secure it further.
If not attaching to something,  you can sew a bit of fabric or leather to cover the raw, cut edgesof your band and make a smooth end or you can make fringes on the ends. Fringes can be gathered into groups and braided or twisted. Or you can simply gather them into groups and tie an overhand knot at the fell line. Multiple knots or macrame techniques could also be used.
This book has a myriad of ideas! A Compendium of Finishing Techniques.

What can I make from an inkle band?
I've collected a list which you can find here on my blog. Uses for a woven band.
Also, Jennifer Williams has brilliant and unusual ideas for using inkle bands and has published some of them as tutorials here on her blog. Inkled Pink.

Where do I find the hardware to finish my item?
I find this Etsy shop to have so many useful, clips, rings, buckles, etc. It also has many kits for making pet collars, too! The owner has been a pleasure to do business with.  Sewing Supplies on Etsy.
The Strapworks website has lots of metal and plastic hardware options.
For kits to make guitar, banjo and ukulele straps, visit my Etsy shop. ASpinnerWeaver on Etsy.

What is pickup?
In plain weave, your pattern is determined by how you arrange your colors in the warp. The raising and lowering of the sheds creates a pattern that alternates in two rows. Color and pattern combinations are endless. Examples can be seen in this photo album. Plain Weave.  For some attractive plain weave pattern drafts, look HERE and HERE.
A pickup pattern is, as it suggests, a method which requires you to pick (or sometimes pick and drop) some warp threads out of their normal sequence. They then float over the surface of the woven  band, creating a more complex design. Examples of bands with pickup designs can be seen in this photo album. Pickup Patterns.

Are there other ways of creating patterns on a band besides plain weave and pickup?
Pickup patterns use the warp threads for making more intricate designs, but you can also use the weft to make brocade patterns. Check out Laverne Waddinton's blog for a tutorial here. Supplementary Weft Patterning.
You can paint your warp before putting it on the loom. Melissa Wold McCollum has a nice tutorial on her blog for doing this. Warp Painting.
For adding beads along the borders, check out this article by Ruth MacGregor. Beading on the Edge.

What are some good resources for learning about inkle weaving?
We are lucky to be weaving in a time of much information! Visit this page on my blog where I have collected some of my favorites.  Resources. There are many more out there and I'm sure I've missed some good ones.

Are there any inkle weaving groups, guilds or societies? 
Oh, yeah! Below are a few that I belong to. These are all set up so that you have to join them to post and read others posts.
Inkle Loom Weavers on Ravelry
Inkle Weaving Group on Facebook
Dutch Inkle Weavers on Facebook
The Braid Society
Braids and Bands Group on Yahoo


Inkle weaving terminology:   
Inkle - A linen band or drawstring (an old English word, also spelled inckle, incle, ynkle, ynckle, ynkell, ynchull)
Warp- The threads you put on your loom when setting it up to weave. They run in a continuous loop around the loom.
Weft- The thread (normally wound around a shuttle) which you pass back and forth during weaving.
Warp-faced- A woven fabric or band in which only the warp (not the weft) shows as part of the design. Inkle looms are made to create warp-faced bands.
Heddle- (Also may be called leash). Inkle looms typically use string loops as heddles. These serve to separate the warp threads into two layers by anchoring the upper set, allowing you to move only the lower set to create a shed opening to pass your weft through.
Heddled threads- Those warps which pass through the heddles (alternates with open threads)
Open threads- Those warps which do not pass through heddles (alternates with heddled threads)
Shed- The opening between the two layers of warp threads where you pass the weft through.
Up-Shed- The shed opening created by lifting the open threads upward.
Down-Shed- The shed opening created by pushing the open threads downward.
Pick or row- A line of  weaving created by one pass of the weft.
Beat- To tap, press or rock your shuttle up against the last row helping to pack it in and form a straight row. This is done when you insert the shuttle into the shed, before passing the weft through to the other side.
Bars, pegs or rods (these are all common terms for the same thing) They are commonly dowel rods which protrude from the frame and are what the warp threads are wound around.
Tensioner or tension bar - That part of the loom which moves to allow you to adjust the warp tension. It may be one of the pegs which moves back and forth in a slot, or it may be a paddle or block which pivots on a metal bolt.
Heddle bar  - The one bar to which the string heddles are affixed.
Starting bar - The one in the front of the loom where you begin warping.
Top bar - The one (usually positioned just above the heddle bar) which all heddled threads pass over after they go through the heddles. Open or unheddled threads pass underneath this bar.
Back bar - The one where all warps meet and continue into the same path after either alternately going through a heddle and over the top bar, or going unheddled and under the heddle bar.
 If you have a loom with a paddle adjustment as the Ashford looms do, it is here in place of the bar.
Shuttle- (Also sometimes called a stick shuttle or belt shuttle.) Tool used to hold the weft thread and pass it from one side to the other during weaving. Usually made of a flat piece of wood with notches in both ends. Also used to beat.
Selvages- Right and left edges of the band.
Fell or fell line - The exact point where warp turns into woven fabric, the edge of the last row woven and the place that you will pass your next weft.
Take up - The percentage of the overall warp  length which, during the weaving process, contracts. Because of take up, the length of the warp after weaving is shorter than before weaving. The heavier the threads used, the greater the take up.
Loom waste - You will not be able to weave the entire length of your warp. This is the amount of warp left unwoven at the end of your band. It can be used for making into fringes, or cut off and discarded or saved for other uses. (I use some of these to make new heddles.)
Plain weave- The result of the natural process of weaving in which the threads are alternately lifted and lowered. Designs are created according to the order of the warp threads on the loom. Woven surface of the band will be flat.
Pickup- A patterning technique which requires picking or dropping individual threads (or possibly a few threads together) out of their normal sequence. The pattern formed by this action will be more complex than plain weave. The resulting band will have some threads which appear raised.

5 comments:

  1. I need to weave a 10' band. Can this be done on an inkle loom?

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    1. Hi, Sommar. That length is too long for a typical inkle loom, but there are some which could handle it. If you don't own a larger capacity inkle loom, you might consider using a backstrap loom as they are easy to assemble on your own.

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  2. Do you know the maximum length band that can be made on a Standard Inkle Loom (table model) by Ashford?

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    1. Judith, sorry I don't have one of those. The manufacturer's website says that the maximum warp length is 110". Allow some for take-up and some for loom waste. My estimate is that you could get a finished piece around 7 ft. or a bit longer depending on the yarn you use.

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  3. can you please explain to me how I warp me loom if I want to weave letters using 2 colors. im a beginner and I cant find any detailed information anywhere. thank you. my email address is metamed@vodamail.co.za

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