Having a mother who is a professional weaver (Daryl Lancaster), makes it hard to avoid the textile world.
A couple of years ago, I sat in on an inkle-loom class my mom taught at Peter’s Valley. I was getting bored, as thirteen-year-olds do, so I decided to play around with a narrow warp...
...suddenly I had shoelaces!
An inkle loom. There are several to choose from. Shown in the picture to the right are the Schacht Inkle Loom and the Ashford Inklette.
The shoelaces shown in this article were woven with rayon mill-end yarns that were equivalent to an 8/2 cotton in grist. You could also use 10/2 perle cotton or 20/2 silk; the finer the yarn, the more design options you'll have.
Here are some guidelines for picking yarn to weave shoelaces:
- Use yarns that are smooth, even, and skinny.
- Use the same size of yarn throughout the warp. If you are using a skinny yarn, do not put a thick yarn in with it.
- Use multi-ply yarns, to withstand the tension and abrasion of the rigid-heddle weaving and everyday wear as shoelaces.
- Yarns that are thick, lumpy, or uneven do not work well for shoelaces.
Take out a handy-dandy sheet of graph paper. You will need two lines to plan this project. Below are a few examples of plans for shoelaces. See how on the graph there are two rows of boxes, one up, one down. The boxes on the top row represent the warp threads in the heddles and the boxes on the bottom represent the non-heddle threads.
Note: Keep the pattern small because you are making a shoelace. The woven band should be no bigger than one centimeter (about half an inch).
Making the Heddles
To make heddles, you’ll need a nice sturdy yarn like Maysville Carpet Warp.
Start by wrapping the yarn around the pictured pegs as many times as needed. One time around is one heddle. For shoelaces, you’ll probably need only twenty heddles.
When you have wrapped the desired amount of heddles, cut them off and lay them down. Take each heddle, fold it in half, and end them with an overhand knot. Try and make them all exactly the same length, as this will make your sheds open evenly.
Warping the Loom
Before you start warping, make sure the tensioning device is three-quarters of the way tightened because you will need to be able to tighten and loosen it. The warp will shrink as it is woven, due to take-up.
How you warp the loom depends on which loom you use.
On a Schacht inkle loom, the longest possible length will give you a pair of shoelaces that are long enough to have a decent bow on a seven-holed pair of Converse sneakers.
On the Ashford Inklette, a smaller loom, you can only make one shoelace at a time.
Now that you know how you are going to warp the loom, let’s begin.
Warping the Heddle Threads
- Make a simple and temporary knot on the front peg, preferably a slip knot.
- Once you have secured it, take the yarn and pass it over the top peg and through the loom pegs for the desired length. Then place something heavy on the yarn to keep it taut.
- Now for the heddles. Take the heddle knot, and put it between your fingers. Place it over the warp in front of the top peg.
- Then, fold it over the peg and slip it onto the peg underneath the top one.
Warping the Non-heddle Threads
The second step is to continue warping, but this time do not add a heddle and go under the first peg.
Continue alternating heddle threads and non-heddle threads until your entire pattern is warped.
Note: When adding a new color, anchor the previous color and attach the new one as shown in Step 1. You can switch back and forth between yarns and add and subtract yarns.
When the warping is finished, connect all the ends. First, take one of the colors and cut it from the cone leaving a long tail. Now undo the same color’s original knot and tie the two together. Repeat with every other color.
Once you’re done, make sure no threads are wrapped around the front peg. Then loosen the tension and tightly pull the whole warp towards you until all the knots are on the edge of the front peg facing away from the loom.
Weaving the Shoelaces
Inkle woven bands are warp-faced, which means you will see the weft only at the selvedges. Use the same yarn for the weft as you did for the side threads. This makes the sides of the laces look nice and clean.
- To start weaving, lift the threads that do not have heddles on them. This will create your "up" shed. Send the shuttle across from the right.
- Push the non-heddle threads down. This creates the "down" shed. When sending the shuttle back across, use the shuttle as a beater and beat the previous yarn into place.
Continue until your weaving reaches the heddles. At this point, you need to advance the warp.
Advancing the Warp
Release the tensioning device, and pull the warp forward as shown below. When you pull it forward enough, tighten up the tensioning device and continue weaving.
When the knots are right next to the top peg, continue weaving until you can no longer make a reasonable shed. Then, without cutting the heddles, cut off the warp leaving an inch extra on each end. If you’re weaving on the Schacht, you will have two shoelaces and you will have to cut it in half, on the Inklette, you will have to re-warp and weave the second shoelace.
To end off your shoelaces, take a piece of tape. It can either be masking tape, packaging tape, scotch tape or duct tape.
Cut a one inch piece for each end of each shoelace. Using a cutting mat with an inch-sized grid helps.
Wrap it around the end of the shoelace, with half of it being on the woven part of the shoelace. After you’re done wrapping, cut off the fringe on the end.
Congratulations! You have a brand spankin’ new pair of shoelaces!
Brianna Lancaster is a fifteen-year-old high school student. She loves to think outside the box which sometimes gets her into trouble in the studio. She belongs to the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild and loves to dabble in everything from weaving, drawing, even designing the occasional duct-tape dress.