Scandinavian Tape Looms
Wandering around the Norsk Folke Museum's website, I discovered their collection of three hundred båndgrind, or rigid-heddle looms. I was intrigued to see that some of the rigid heddles had more than one set of holes drilled in them.
The tapes or bands these looms produced would have been used for all the things we currently use hook-and-loop tape, elastic, and zippers for today—to fasten clothing. They also served as decorative embellishments.
My husband, Fred, made me a rigid-heddle modeled after one in the Norsk Folke Museum's collection, but with an extra row of holes.
Laurann Gilbertson, at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, helped me locate several articles (in the original Norwegian) about these looms, but there was little information on how to use them. I did learn, however, that the double-hole tape loom can be traced in Norway as far back as the 1700s. The yarns used in traditional bands were often brightly colored wool for the pattern on a ground of white linen or cotton.
Laurann sent me a photo of an antique double-hole tape loom with a vintage weaving project left unfinished. On one side of the heddle was a partially woven red-and-white band, on the other the unused warp chain. The loom was warped with the red wool yarn (the pattern yarn) in the top line of holes and each lower hole and slot was filled with white linen (the background warp).
With this example as inspiration, I was ready to weave.
I used DMC Baroque crochet cotton, size 10, for the background warp and dk-weight woolen yarn for the pattern warp. The pattern warp should be two-to-three times the thickness of the background warp.
For the weft, you can use either #8 perle cotton or Baroque crochet cotton. Using these yarns, my loom produced a tape about an inch or more wide.
I warped the pattern yarn in the top set of holes and my background yarn in the slots and bottom set of holes.
The holes in my loom are small, so I made a threader by tying a loop of sewing thread through the eye of a needle and used that to pull my pattern threads through the top holes. You could also use a fine crochet hook. The background yarns are warped in the bottom slots and holes.
Once the yarns are threaded through all the holes and slots desired, even out the ends and tie them in a large overhand knot. Then cut the other end of the warp and comb it out gradually, moving the loom forward along the warp. At intervals, even out the tension and tie additional overhand knots every foot or so along the warp to "lock in" that even tension
When the rigid heddle is ten inches from the other end of the warp, make sure all the threads are under equal tension, and tie a final overhand knot. Secure this end of the warp to your belt or a back strap. The rest of the warp can be tied to a stationary object.
Wind your shuttle and commence weaving. Use the rigid-heddle to make the up shed.
When you come to a place in your design where the pattern yarn isn’t used on the surface of the band, push the pattern yarn down to the same side of the background yarn in the hole immediately below it.
Next, open the down shed.
You will alternate the up and down sheds to weave the plain-weave background cloth.
The pattern is created by either allowing the pattern weft to float on the surface of the band, or by pushing it to the back side of the cloth.
I copied the pick-up patterns I wanted to weave onto graph paper and used an inexpensive magnetic board from Knitpicks to keep track of which pattern row I was on.
While I was in my tape-loom weaving frenzy, Fred reproduced an antique box tape loom he had seen in Spinning Wheels and Accessories, to which he added a cloth beam. He added an extra set of holes to that loom's heddle as well and I found it as much fun to weave on as the simple rigid heddle he had made previously.
- "Double Hole Rigid-Heddle Weaving," Part 1 (pictures of historical bands) and Part 2 ( a how-to tutorial)
- Bandvävning, a Swedish website on band weaving.
- Spinning Wheels and Accessories by Pennington and Taylor, a book about historical spinning wheels.
- Gewebte Bänder rund um die Ostsee, a wonderful German website created by Anneliese Blaese. She has a marvelous collection of traditional pick-up pattern band-weaving samples from all of the countries around the Baltic Sea.
- The Yahoo group Band Snoddar has a wealth of pick-up patterns that can be woven on an inkle loom or other band looms in the group's Files folder. The group’s official language is Swedish, but the list also welcomes English speakers.
Grace Hatton raises rare Finnsheep on her farm in Pennsylvania. She began researching Scandanavian tape looms tools as a result of her husband's work restoring antique spinning wheels. She blogs about spinning, weaving, and historical recreations at Antique Spinning Wheels. Her husband sells hand-crafted spinning and weaving accessories in their Etsy shop, Finnsheep.