Learn Bead Loom Weaving Basics
When you weave beads on a loom, you stitch horizontal rows of beads onto a framework of vertical threads (or cords) called warps. Loom beading is faster than off-loom beading because it enables you to stitch multiple beads in a single pass of needle and thread. The look of loom beading is similar to the results achieved using the off-loom bead weaving stitch called square stitch.
This beadwork tutorial covers the technique for weaving beads on bead loom while creating a stylish band bracelet with crystal beads. Bead looms are traditionally used with different types of seed beadsincluding Japanese cylinder beads, but using it with crystal beads will help you learn the basic loom weaving and finishing techniques, but in much less time.
Choosing a Beading Loom
There are a lot of different types of bead looms available, from inexpensive craft store looms that are suitable for simple necklace or bracelet bands to large custom looms that can be used to make wall hangings. Regardless of the type of loom you have, the basics of loom beading are the same.
While loom beading is typically quicker than off-loom beadwork, loom beading does require you to set up your loom before you start stitching by attaching the warp threads.
When you complete your beadwork, you typically need to “finish it off” by finding a way to conceal the multiple warp threads that protrude from your beadwork at both ends. This is similar to weaving in the working thread and tail thread in off-loom stitching but on a larger scale.
Crystal Loom Bracelet Materials
This bracelet is a great introduction to using a bead loom since it uses larger crystal beads in an easy-to-remember pattern. That way you can concentrate on the looming technique instead of the selection and placement of beads.
This loom bracelet uses the following materials:
- A bead loom
- C-Lon bead cord for the warp threads
- Size D Nymo beading thread
- Beading scissors
- Thread conditioner such as Thread Heaven
- A size 10 or size 12 beading needle
- Two 15-inch strands of 4mm crystal beads in two coordinating colors
Setting Up the Warp Threads on Your Loom
The first step to using your loom is to warp your loom. The exact way you warp the loom will vary depending on the type of loom you have. One method is to warp the loom using the no-wind method. The no-wind method is a simpler way to warp a loom when you don’t need to wind the loomed beadwork to make it longer. The Mirrix loom used for this project is warped following the instructions at the Mirrix Loom website.
When you have a larger loom like the one pictured, you can warp your loom for more than one project at a time. This loom is ready to make two bracelets.
Attach the Weft Thread
The second type of thread (or cord) used in loom beading is the weft. For this project, the weft thread is size D Nymo thread. The thread you choose will be based on a number of factors including the size, type and color of your beads, the width of your project and personal preferences.
If you use Nymo or other nylon thread, you will need to stretch and condition the thread. If you are using fishing line thread like FireLine, the thread is pre-conditioned.
Prepare a length of thread and thread your needle. The length of weft thread you use depends on your comfort level and the method of finishing off you plan to use.
For this bracelet, the selvage method will be used to finish the bracelet. The selvage method uses a long length of thread at the beginning and end of the loom project to weave an additional length without beads that are used to attach ribbon clamps or similar findings.
Using the selvage method requires that you begin with an extra long thread tail — in this case, about 30 inches. To use the selvage method, pull and prepare your usual stitching length plus an additional amount of for the beginning selvage. When using larger beads like these crystals, you may also be able to add an extra arm’s length of thread for the ending selvage too. That is because they fill more space and require fewer beads be stitched per area of beadwork.
With the weft thread, tie an overhand knot over the first warp If you are right-handed, the first warp is on the left. If you are left-handed, the first warp is on the right. To use the selvage finishing technique, make the knot about 30 inches up from the end of the weft thread (to create the thread tail). We’ll use the thread tail later and use it to make a selvage.
Add the First Row of Beads
Move your overhand knot to about two inches away from the warp separator. Use your needle to pick up the first color of beads. This bracelet has four beads per row.
You can choose to press the beads up against the warp thread while on the needle as shown and then gently hold them in place while you pull the thread through. This can cause wear on the thread though and is not recommended for larger pieces.
An alternative is to pass the weft thread underneath all of the warp threads and out the other side of the loom. Slide the beads down to the overhand knot on the first warp. Use your fingers to bring the beads up between the warp threads, with one bead between each pair of warps. Gently press the entire group of beads, and the weft, up against the warps. Pass the needle through each bead, on top of the warps. Bring the needle out on the other side, and pull the thread gently taut. The first row of beads should are now locked in place.
Lock the First Row of Beads in Place
To hold the beads in place, pass the needle through each bead making sure the needle and thread stay on top of the warps. Bring the needle out on the other side, and pull the thread gently taut.
The first pass of the thread is on the back side of the warp and the second pass is on the front side of the warp thread. After the two passes, the beads are firmly locked in place and you are ready to start the next row.
Start the Second Row of Beads
To position the thread to loom the second row of beads, pick up the beads on your needle and align them between the warp threads. Pull the thread through.
When you get more comfortable with looming and to decrease the wear on the thread, it is better to pass your thread beneath all of the warp threads and bring it out on the other side of the loom. Pick up the beads for the next row.
Push the beads up beneath the warps, just like you did for the first row of beads.
Locking the Second Row of Beads in Place
Pass the needle back through all of the beads once again, being careful to keep the weft thread on top of the warp cords.
This completes the second row.
Add Rows Until Your Bracelet is the Correct Length
Use the same technique to stitch each consecutive row of beads. Alternate colors as desired for your bracelet. During weaving, if you have about eight to ten inches of weft thread remaining, it is time to stop and begin a new weft thread.
Continue beading, and stop when you have your desired length of beadwork – between six and seven inches for a bracelet.
Finishing Your Loom Bracelet
When the beadwork has reached the desired length, you are ready to finish it off.
This bracelet uses the selvage technique with ribbon clamp ends. If you use beading thread (not cord) for your warps, you can use the weaving-in method to finish the wrap threads instead.
Crystal Bead Bracelet
Once the ribbon clamps are attached, you just need to add a clasp and extender chain to wear your new loom bracelet.