Category Archives: Tapestry Weaving

DIY Navajo Loom

After following instructions from Navajo Techniques for Today’s Weaver by Joanne Mattera (1975), I assembled a small Navajo-styled loom. The frame, about 2′ x 3′, was $2 at a junk shop. I think it was meant to be for rug twining because the nails are spaced 1″ apart. I’ve never used it, so it was nice to give it a job. A few of the nails came in handy as I used to them to secure dowels or create tension by wrapping the twine and tying it. Making a loom like this is similar to creating a backstrap loom. It looks fairly simple. There are some sticks, some yarn, etc., but when you look at each piece individually, you realize they each have a very specific job to do, and so you need to put your brain to work to understand how one area is connected to another.

The neat thing about a Navajo loom is that you don’t have fringes when you’re finished. This appealed to me. However, to get that tidy edging, you need to first warp the loom, then twine the top and bottom threads for spacing and securing, and then transfer the warp off the warping dowels and bind onto a second dowel. I failed with both the twining and the binding, My warp threads are too close to each other plus they’re lifting off the second dowel on the edges. My motto: live and learn.

Well, I didn’t spend a penny but I now have a little setup that can be used and improved.

If you’re interested, there are plenty of examples out on the Internet with plans on building more solid Navajo looms:

DIY Navajo Loom


Mini Tapestry, Again

The Lightning Weaver, yet again, stood in as a tapestry loom as I tried to weave the second sampler from Nancy Harvey’s book, yet again. Because the set is 12 dpi, I need to find the perfect weft size/type to make this loom actually work well. So far, I’ve chosen knitting yarns and embroidery floss and most are too “spongy” to pack down well. I think the yellowish-brown in this sampler is probably the closest to a good tapestry wool that I have, and I don’t have much of it. I’d love to be able to buy a sampler kit of a variety of rug weaving colors to have on hand.

What I learned this time: I can weave all the way to the top and the bottom if I don’t mind it being packed loosely and if I have a lot of patience; I have lots of trouble where two colors join if they’re increasing or decreasing (note the warp threads showing); and circles are difficult. Because this circle started leaning toward being hexagonal, I said, “Go for it, circle! Be what you want to be!” So, there’s a hexagon in the center where a moon or sun was supposed to be.

I’m done with sampling for awhile. I’m considering weaving a thin band to make a cuff bracelet. I’ve also got a sturdy frame at home that will work, I think, as a Navajo-styled rug loom if I can wrap my brain around how to warp it. So far, I’m learning all of this from the great books of the 1970s and 1980s. Nancy Harvey’s tapestry books are really good, and now I’m studying Navajo Techniques for Today’s Weaver, by Joanne Mattera (1975).

Mini Tapestry Sampler

Mini Tapestry

This time I used the Lightning Weaver with an crochet thread for a warp. I hemstitched the ends, and now that I’m done I realize I could have moved each end closer to the hooks to give more weaving room. The weft is embroidery floss, probably too thin, but that’s okay. It’s bright and lively. Off the loom, this teeny rug measures 3.5″ x 3.5″ not including fringe. It took about four hours!

Things I learned from this project: my weft was too fine for the warp and lead to having to beat each row too much; color changes make for fun, interesting weaving; my left selvedges are far tidier than my right (but I’ve always known that).

Mini Tapestry

Mini Tapestry

Mini Tapestry

Mini Tapestry Samplers

Some experiments work out, and I post them here. Others are pretty cringeworthy, and photos are never shared. Here’s a case where I could have skipped this post, but something is telling me to share. Why? I’m suddenly crazy about tapestry weaving, and even my amateur attempts make me happy.

I checked out Nancy Harvey’s book, Patterns for Tapestry Weaving and wove both samplers. The first was done using the ever-awesome Lightning Weaver. It’s small but mighty.

The second was on the Authentic Knitting Board plus extenders. Best left for projects without curves, so I’ve learned.

Anyway, I spent the weekend weaving two samplers that technically should have been double or triple the size. My neck hurts from hunching over, and I didn’t get enough fresh air or sleep. Great fun, I say!