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A FIRST HAND INTRODUCTION INTO THE WORLD OF RAISING FIBER ANIMALS, SPINNING, WEAVING, AND NATURAL DYEING.

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Tutorial: How to Warp a Metal Frame Loom

Kacie Hodges

A brief history.

These looms were created as a way to teach the basics of weaving to my first ever Farm Tour attendees, a home school group of 20+, ranging in age from 2 to 12. At that time I had access to a metal fabrication shop and a pile of scrap materials, so I managed to piece together a handful of metal rectangles that would serve as frame looms, each measuring roughly 6" x 9".

2013 - first farm tour + home school experience, weaving with Radiant Shade

2013 - first farm tour + home school experience, weaving with Radiant Shade

The kids took surprisingly well to both warping the loom and simple weaving techniques, using ripped up bed sheet fabric in various colors. The looms were sturdy enough to withstand being dropped and stepped on (both of which happened) but light enough to allow an independent young artist to work on their project without constant assistance from an adult.

These looms were originally created to teach the next generation about basic fundamentals of weaving, but as time passed and the popularity of this ancient art spread, I have modified them and created a series of 100% naturally dyed and locally sourced Weaving Kits to serve as an approachable way to learn a craft that holds endless creative potential.

Jonas Art Foundation | Creative Arts Guild Weaving at Southeast High School, Dalton GA

Jonas Art Foundation | Creative Arts Guild Weaving at Southeast High School, Dalton GA

If you have arrived at this post because you purchased a kit and would like to know how to warp your recently purchased metal frame loom, thank you so much for supporting my shop! If you already have a frame loom, welcome! Some of these techniques may not work exactly the same with your setup, but are most likely pretty adaptable if you want to follow along. If you are extra thrifty and have a picture frame (without the back) or anything rectangular (scrap wood nailed together), you may also find this tutorial helpful in warping your homemade loom.

Welded Metal Frame Looms in Slate, White, Moss

Welded Metal Frame Looms in Slate, White, Moss

Supplies. You'll need a frame (loom), some pretty sturdy yarn, and a dowel or something similar. In the Weaving Kit you may find a spool with wool thread on it. Unwind yarn from that fancy little spool and you're ready to go. In order to secure the dowel to the frame, you'll need two 8" pieces of yarn.

Step 1 - Attaching the Dowel

Step 1 - Attaching the Dowel

1. Lay the Metal Frame Loom on a flat surface, positioned so that the vertical posts are on top. Position the dowel at the top of the frame (along vertical posts) and secure either ends with string. Wrap the dowel + horizontal post several times and triple knot for good measure. You will want the dowel to be pretty securely tied at either end, as it is going to serve as a foundation for warping in the next step.

Step 2 - Preparing an Impromptu Warping Ball + Triple Knot Location

Step 2 - Preparing an Impromptu Warping Ball + Triple Knot Location

2. Once the dowels are tied securely to the top of the loom, measure roughly 3 wing spans of yarn (your arms spread wide open, three times) and wrap loosely around 3 fingers. You've just made a little impromptu warping ball. (see above photo for reference). Tie the end of your warping ball to the lower horizontal bar, about 1" away from the left edge. Triple knot for good measure.

Step 3 - Warping Around the Dowel ONLY

Step 3 - Warping Around the Dowel ONLY

Listen up folks, this is important.

3. Take your impromptu warping ball and wrap it up and over the dowel but NOT over the top of the metal frame. (see above photo for reference). To repeat, you will go up and over the dowel only, which will force you to squish your impromptu yarn ball in between the wooden dowel and the top of the metal frame.

Step 4- Warping + Tension

Step 4- Warping + Tension

4. Warping Success - [watch this video tutorial first] Once you have rounded the dowel, go back down and wrap the yarn around the bottom of the metal frame. Repeat this process roughly 6 times, or until you run out of string. You will want to have pretty tight tension once your warping is complete. (The video tutorial link above shows a good technique for doing this.)

Step 5 - Spacing

Step 5 - Spacing

5- As you are warping your loom, be mindful that you want to have relatively even spacing between the yarn. I suggest allowing 3/4" in between each string when starting out so as not to overwhelm yourself with the first project. You can adjust this as you are going, or you can wait until the end once you have tied off the warp string.

Step 6- Tie Off

Step 6- Tie Off

6- Once you have made roughly 6 passes from top to bottom, tie off the yarn at the bottom, triple knot for good measure (see above photo) If you don't have enough yarn to make it to the bottom of your loom, unwrap it once and don't worry about the excess yarn (You can use it in the next step). The reason you want to tie off on the bottom is for aesthetics, but it also gives you an even number of strings to work with which makes it easier if you decide to get into pattern work or making shapes in the future.

Step 7 - The "P"

Step 7 - The "P"

7. This is the hardest thing to explain in my opinion, but once you get it, you're golden. Doing this step helps set the foundation for the weaving. It brings the warp strings onto an even plane and sets you up for a nice, even weaving experience. Having said that, this step isn't required, it's just highly suggested.

The image above shows this step a few strings in so that you can see how to make the knot. Start with an 18" piece of yarn and knot it on the furthest left (#1) warp string. Going from the furthest left string (#1) to the string immediately to its right, you will lay the yarn over the #2 string, making a "P", then wrapping it behind #2 and back through the open loop of the P, and pulling relatively tight. The image above shows the same exact process going from the #2 to #3 warp strings. You will repeat this process all the way across the top of the loom until you get to the end, where you will tie a triple knot for good measure.

Follow this low budget video tutorial (above) that will add a bit further explanation. You will want to complete these steps for each warp string all the way across, connecting each warp in a series of loops, as seen in the photo below. (triple knot at the end for good measure)

Warped + Knotted

Warped + Knotted

Now that the warping is complete and foundation row of knots has been tied, you're ready to start weaving.

8. Weaving Magic. At this point the world is your oyster and you can get as creative as you like.

Here are a few very basic weaving videos to get you started, although you will find a large rabbit hole from simply typing "Introduction to Weaving" on YouTube tutorials, using the #weaveweird hashtag on Instagram.... heck even Pinterest has some pretty amazing ideas out there. No shame.

Intro to Tabby Weaving

Plain Weave Tutorial

Rya Knot / Fringe

Soumak Stitch

Step 8  [inspiration]  created using limited edition Autumn Reminisce Weaving Kit

Step 8  [inspiration]  created using limited edition Autumn Reminisce Weaving Kit

Step 9 - Knots

Step 9 - Knots

9- Once you are finished with your woven masterpiece you will want to secure it at the bottom with some basic knots. (triple knot for good measure) Start on one side of the loom and cut the first two strings (three will come undone because one is a loop) and tie the first two together, repeating this process all the way across (see above photo for reference) Make sure to pull the knots snug against the bottom of your weaving, but be conscious not to tie too tight to keep from distorting the shape of your piece.

Step 10 - Releasing the Weaving

Step 10 - Releasing the Weaving

10- Once you have cut and tied the warp strings on the bottom of your piece, you can now cut the top two threads holding the dowel in place. Your masterpiece is free from the loom! The above image illustrates the threads to cut in red. When removing your piece from the loom, make sure NOT to cut any of the threads looped around the dowel, as they are holding your woven piece in place.

Step 11 - Personalize + Hang

Step 11 - Personalize + Hang

Once you have removed your piece from the loom, you can now swap out the dowel for a more personal touch - a branch, knitting needle, animal bone, etc. Tie a string to either side of whatever hanging device you chose (triple knot for good measure) and it's ready to hang.

Holiday 2015 Weavings, hanging from found animal bones.

Holiday 2015 Weavings, hanging from found animal bones.

Disclaimer.

There are as many ways to successfully warp and weave as there are breeds of sheep roaming the Earth. (check it out, you'll be astounded!) Here is my humble offering of one of those many ways in which I've found it to work. Please feel free to add to this discussion in the comments section below; sources of inspiration and demonstration are encouraged.

As always, feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have: 

kacie@fiberfarm.net | 423.280.4004

Sustainble Textile Workshop Offerings

Kacie Hodges

This corner of the website has sat unattended for 11 months, due mainly to the fact that things have been quite busy around this little slice of rural Tennessee paradise.

 2017 has been filled with opportunities to collaborate on various textile workshops + events offered here at the farm and throughout the Southeast. Perhaps it's time for an update.

1.14: Reunion Yarn- Sweater Unraveling 101 at the Farm

Started off the year by hosting my favorite textile recycling wizards Emily + Michael Felix of Reunion Yarn Co. to teach the basics of how to choose and unravel sweaters into usable yarn. The workshop photos were somehow lost when transferring from the camera to the computer, so here's a link to last summer's Sweater Unraveling 101 session I documented in a previous blog post. Side note: Emily was a rockstar and instructed this class while she was 8 months pregnant.

In addition to raising an adorable little poop machine, Emily has been building an online version of this workshop via an online community,  the Unraveling Club ,  that is available on a subscription basis.

The step by step instructions cover everything from sourcing, de-seaming, unraveling, washing, and finishing, enabling you to turn thrift store sweaters into miles of reusable yarn for super cheap if you're willing to put in a little effort.

1. 21:  Greenroom Weavings - Weaving 101 at the Farm

Elise of Greenroom Weavings came up the following Saturday to lead participants through the basics of weaving while enjoying an open fire in the front room of the farmhouse. I love hosting Elise at the farm because she inspires me to learn new techniques and I am constantly inspired by her unique weaving style.

 

4.22: Hemp Textile Workshop - Fibershed + Mike Lewis

A fabulous weekend spent in Kentucky, immersed in hemp textile education + processing, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Fibershed and Mike Lewis.

Friday night started off with dinner + presentations at Berea College, which happens to have quite a rich history of weaving and textiles.

On Saturday, we migrated to Livingston, where we taught various processing steps required to turn hemp into usable fiber. I had the honor of teaching alongside the talented weaver, Leslie Terzian, who I have been admiring since she worked on the Grow Your Jeans project a couple years ago. We set up looms, brakes, hackles, and spinning wheels in the gymnasium of the local school and allowed attendees to float from station to station at their leisure.

 

5.26-27: Hemp in the Holler - Healing Ground Farm

Trekked back up to beautiful Kentucky to teach spinning / weaving at Mike + Melinda's farm during their annual Hemp in the Holler event. Nestled in the hills beside a field of hemp sprouts, we set up camp for the weekend surrounded by good people and great food.

My only wish was to have spent more time with Elishewa of Artisan Hemp, who was simultaneously teaching her unique process of paper-making utilizing the plant fiber. If you are interested in learning more about Elishewa's work, this video is a great place to start.

 

6.11: Dream Catcher + Prayer Flag Workshops - Bonnaroo

The lovely folks Simone and Robert over at the Southeast Tennessee RC&D have been an incredible source of awesome things the past couple years. They helped me out with a grant to cover the cost of fencing and irrigation at the farm last summer, which was a perfectly timed blessing. This year they decided to graciously pass my name along to the folks who are in charge of organizing Planet Roo and the Sustainable Workshops at Bonnaroo.

Thanks to Simone and Robert, we had the opportunity to teach two workshops at a large music festival that just happens to be less than an hour from the farm. Working alongside my textile soul sister Brenna over at Radiant Shade, we led folks in creating over 100 dream catchers and prayer flags from kits I previously assembled using recycled + naturally dyed fabric from the scrap bin. Afterwards we took advantage of the live music surrounding us for a few hours before moseying back to the farm at the end of the night.

 

7.9: Hemp Textile Workshop - 6 Boots Farm

An afternoon gathering of folks interested in learning a bit more about growing hemp for fiber in Tennessee, graciously hosted by Will + Christie Tarleton of Six Boots Farm .

Will led a well-rounded discussion covering the planting + growing techniques, harvesting, end use, and current legislation. Afterward we set up brakes and hackles for folks to experience hands-on processing of freshly harvested hemp that had been grown right down the road.

I brought spinning + weaving supplies and natural dye samples to provide idea of what this plant could look like in textile form. Paige brought hemp dogs and basically organized the troops to make this event a success, per usual.

8.12 : Weaving 101 Workshop at the Farm

A laid-back day with two amazing ladies teaching the basics of weaving and basically agreeing to form some sort of skill share in the foreseeable future. The best part of workshops is the opportunity to meet incredible people that you wouldn't normally get to meet in the day to day journey.

8.19: Weaving + Waterfall Hike - Foster Falls

A new twist on Weaving 101. I met this fabulous group at the Foster Falls pavilion where we warped our looms and began the trek to the overlook. Using the view of the waterfall as a backdrop, I set out the prepped fiber bundles and let folks choose their naturally dyed colorways. Once we reached the bottom of the canyon, we took a side trail that lead to this giant, moss covered boulder in the middle of Fiery Gizzard Creek. There I led instruction on several basic techniques, letting Mother Nature take the lead for aesthetic inspiration.

At the end of the day a few of us took a dip in the pool at the bottom of the falls, and made the 7 mile caravan back to the farm for a quick tour and introduction to the animals. The weather could not have been more accommodating nor the company of the amazing ladies who participated in this unique experience.

This event marks the beginning of a series of Weaving + Waterfall Hikes - stay tuned as the leaves start to change and more dates/locations are announced.

Natural Dye Recipe: Osage Orange

Kacie Hodges

Side Note: Although Natural Dyes found their way into my routine over a decade ago, I am just now beginning to feel confident in my ability to produce certain colors from locally foraged material. My goal is to provide a glimpse into the processes I use, although you will find that there are many different ways to approach this particular topic of interest. A majority of my dye work takes place outside, over an open fire. I tend to gravitate towards materials that are not as heat sensitive, and therefore are a bit more forgiving when it comes to long exposure over a flame.

I have found that Alpaca and Cotton (and other cellulose fibers) do not take natural dyes as readily as wool, thus I gravitate towards material that will help give them an extra boost instead of the ones that look good upon first inspection, but tend to wash out over time. It has been a long journey of figuring out the most suitable materials for my particular processes, so I would like to share a few things I have learned along the way in an attempt to encourage fellow dyers and provide some information on this particular topic of interest.

 

Osage Wood harvested, delivered, and cut by the best looking lumberjack I know over at Tennessee Valley Firewood Co.

Osage Wood harvested, delivered, and cut by the best looking lumberjack I know over at Tennessee Valley Firewood Co.

Osage Orange

I was never a huge fan of the color yellow until I discovered Osage Orange. It should be noted that you may obtain gorgeous hues from flowers such as Queen Anne's Lace, Marigolds, Coreopsis, and Black Eyed Susan, but I have found that Osage works better for my approach especially when considering larger quantities of fabric/fiber.

Sawdust is the best size to work with, although you can obtain dye from the fallen branches and smaller logs once they have had time to soak in water for several days / weeks.  The process described below was done using small wood chips, though I have since updated my Osage Orange Natural Dye Supply kits to sawdust to increase the potency of the dye vat..

Osage Orange is very high in natural tannins and is known as a substantive dye; therefore it does not require a mordant. (A mordant is a fixative that allows dye molecules to bind to fiber) Although a mordant isn't required, you can alter the hue by experimenting with different treatments before, during, or after the dyeing process. Because of this, Osage Orange can range in color from vibrant yellow to olive green.

To extract the color from the wood, I usually heat a huge pot of Osage over my dye pit. For this particular example, I downsized to a normal sized cooking pot since most folks don't have a witch kitchen setup in their backyard. Both an indoor stove or an outdoor fire pit will work just fine.

Put wood chips / sawdust in a metal pot (stainless is preferable) and slowly raise the temperature to 180 -ish degrees. Some recipes I have read will tell you not to let the water boil, but I have left a pot unattended and come back to find it boiling out of control, and the dye worked just fine. Boil if you see fit, or don't, the main thing here is time.

The longer you soak, the more color that will be extracted. 24 hours at minimum in my opinion.

Once the wood chips / sawdust has completed the soaking process, strain the water so that particles are not left in the dye bath. (A metal strainer covered with cheese cloth or a ripped up t-shirt work well for the smaller sawdust particles.)

You can save your sawdust / wood chips for later use. After straining, I dry the material on an old screen door and store it in an opened cardboard boxin the garage.

For this recipe I used several types of fiber in order to show how differently each one takes the dye. To keep things simple, none of the fabric / fiber has had a mordant treatment. All samples were washed in warm water before being put in the dye vat.

Once the samples had been thoroughly soaked, I added them to the dye vat and heated it to a low simmer for several hours. I allowed the vat to heat and cool several times over the course of 24 hours. Exact replication of a heating method is not crucial. I find that when dyeing over an extended period of time, I have to turn the stove off to run errands or sleep, so naturally the vat will heat and cool with the ebb and flow of everyday life. For this particular recipe the dye was in the vat for roughly 1 day, though I usually allow my vats to sit longer. (3-5 days are ideal) Have I mentioned yet that Patience is a key ingredient?

Took me awhile to figure that one out, but it's definately necessary.

After a good soak it's time to reveal the magic.

For best results, hang all freshly dyed goods in the shade and allow them to fully dry before washing them with a mild soap.  (I use Dr. Bronner's for fabric (hemp, cotton, linen) and Unicorn Fibre Rinse for all yarn and raw fiber (alpaca, wool, cashmere).  From my experience, allowing the samples to fully dry before rinsing them seems to lock in the color.

The samples above have been washed and dried. As you can see, Wool steals the show, per usual. The Hemp fabric is actually a lovely color yellow, though it looks pale in comparison to the others.

Depending on how much you have dyed, you may be able to re-use your dye vat several more times before it is fully exhausted.

Lorlelei is floor testing some of the nicest fabric I have ever worked with - a hemp/silk blend from Enviro Textiles. This particular mustard hue was derived using Osage + a tiny bit of iron.

This top looks like it has been dipped in liquid gold. It is an incredible feeling to turn rough materials into the most luxurious products with a little bit of hard work and patience.

Top Created by Rachel Maker

Top Created by Rachel Maker

Osage has the capability of using varying canvases to achieve a wide range of hues. At some point I would love to explore the depth of colors produced from each type of natural fiber, but for now I mainly focus on Alpaca, Wool, Cotton, and Hemp.

In hopes of spreading the love, I am offering8 oz. packages of Osage Orange Natural Dye Supply sawdust chips (while supplies last) in the shop.

If weaving is more your thing, I have listed several Fiber Bundle packs filled with various Osage-dyed materials, along with metal Frame Loom Weaving Kits that are perfect for spontaneous creative experimentation.

As the Holidays approach I will be filling the shop with oodles of textile creations including handwoven scarves, rust dyed linens, felted vessels, sprinkled with several colorways of Fiber Bundles along the way. Please keep in touch and holler at me with any custom order requests, I do love a good collaboration.