Building The PVC Loom

PVC LOOM CONSTRUCTION

by David Holly

from the preface . . .

Why Build a PVC Loom?

Because, it’s economical, fast, and fun!  The secret is in using large diameter PVC tubes for the frame.  1¼” or 1½” diameter PVC provides a very strong, lightweight, and attractive frame.  All of the materials you need to build a PVC loom frame may be found at your local home center or hardware store.  You will also need to buy a reed and some heddles, which can be found in numerous weaving supply stores and web sites around the country,

Points to Consider:

For thousands of years, even before recorded history, people invented ways to weave cloth using only the materials available to them at the time.  For primitive cultures, this was often a sheep and a bunch of sticks, or even some weeds and a low hanging tree branch.  Primitive weavers had no measuring devices or precision tools to build their looms.  Yet they were able to produce many types of fine useable cloth.

If people can produce useable cloth on log and stick looms, just think of what you can do using modern materials.  We are very fortunate to have cheap building supplies available that are made to precision dimensions.  And, just like our distant ancestors, we can fashion a very usable loom from these “locally found objects.”  They just happen to be found in places like the Home Depot, Sears Hardware, and Lowes.

My reasons for designing the PVC Loom:

Years ago I decided that I wanted to weave.  But when I looked at the price of even the smallest table loom I was shocked.  Today, a new table loom with a 22” weaving width will cost anywhere from $300 to over $900 depending on the accessories and manufacturer.  At the other end of the price spectrum are the large floor looms for weaving wider width fabrics and rugs.  These looms can cost anywhere from $1,200 to over $6,000 new.  Even loom accessories are outrageously priced.  A “kit” to add 4 extra harnesses to one popular floor loom cost over $900 alone.  All that money for something a little more refined than logs and sticks!  I always thought that there was something not quite right about this pricing structure, and I finally figured it out.

Long ago, exactly when I’m not sure, loom manufacturers transformed the handloom into a piece of fine furniture.  (My theory is that this happened shortly after the time when hand weaving ceased to be a vocation and emerged as a craft.)  While there is nothing functionality wrong with furniture quality looms, they have created a true paradigm resulting in very high prices.  Most all handlooms today are made of hardwood and are constructed like fine furniture.  Fine hardwood furniture requires a lot of time.  People with the skills of a cabinetmaker are needed to dimension, join, shape, sand, stain, and finish the wood.  The looms produced are very usable and most are quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, for us, they are also quite expensive.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with such looms.  It is not my intent to bash any of the loom manufacturers out there, especially since they have helped to keep the craft of weaving alive all these years.  People working within a true paradigm, such as this, never even think of questioning the paradigm itself.  Just as no one would expect a bird to think of questioning the air in which it flies.  I just happen to come from outside this paradigm, so I started asking questions.

I think that many people would love to start weaving but can’t afford a loom plus all of the required accessories.  So, I determined that the real question is, “DO I HAVE TO BUY A PIECE OF FURNITURE IF I WANT TO WEAVE?”

Now, the answer is “no!”  I think that the loom is a tool, not something to be put on display.  Pride of ownership can be nice, but in my opinion, it is out of place in a craft such as weaving.  After all, the focus of any craft is not the tools, but the work produced using the tools.

For me personally, the high cost and fancy hardwoods had yet another drawback.  I considered purchasing one popular rug loom a few years ago.  It is made from mahogany and maple and costs over $5,000 brand new.  It’s a beautiful, fully functional weaving machine.  But, I think I would actually worry too much about dents and scratches to use it properly.  Maybe it’s just me, but I hate getting scratches and dents in a beautiful piece of wood, whether it happens to be part of a dinning room table, or a baby grand-sized floor loom.  I’d probably end up just polishing it once a week and showing it off to friends and relatives.  I think that looms should be used, not admired.

The bottom line:

Over the past 12 years I worked on alternative methods of creating an economical loom, and I finally came up with the PVC Loom.  There is nothing you can do on a wooden furniture-quality loom that you can’t do on the PVC Loom.  If it bothers you that the loom is made from PVC pipe, just remember that you never have to show your loom to anyone.  But, you may want to show everyone the beautiful textiles you create using your PVC Loom.

For me, using a tool like the PVC Loom puts the craft of weaving into proper perspective.  Producing cloth on a loom I built, using ordinary inexpensive materials, allows me to create something that (I think) is greater than the sum of its parts.  Using my PVC Loom allows me to focus on the act of weaving, not on the loom itself.  (Look at what some people can do with knitting needles and yarn.  You would be hard pressed to spend more than $20 on even the finest pair of knitting needles.)  And, if I scratch it, who cares?  All the parts for a PVC Loom, including reed and heddles, will probably cost you under $200; much less if you plan to scrounge around at garage and yard sales, or browse equipment on eBay.

Building and using a PVC Loom can give you an added sense of accomplishment.  There is economy and satisfaction to be found in building and using such a machine.  I hope that you find the information presented in this book to be clear, complete, and well written.  Have fun, and happy weaving!

27 Responses to Building The PVC Loom

  1. Kimberly says:

    Will you soon be making the plans for building this loom available? I think this would be the “perfect” shop project for my son and I would love to weave on something like this. Thanks.

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Kimberly,

    I’m in the final stages of the book right now and hope to release it by November. I will keep this blog updated with my progress.

    Cheers!

  3. Kimberly says:

    Thanks Dave. I wish it would be earlier. We are headed to Korea (thanks to the military) in November and would have liked to be able to make this before we leave. Am not sure the materials would be readily available where we will be. Oh well….I will stay tuned and see what we can come up with.
    Thanks again and good luck with book sales.

  4. Kate says:

    I can’t wait! I was searching all over for a loom plan. This is very promising, exactly what I was looking for.

  5. Dave says:

    Hi Kate,

    Glad you found the site. I haven’t even advertised it yet, but I guess it found it’s way into Google. I’m working on finishing the book right now. Check back often for updates.

    Regards,

    Dave

  6. claudia w says:

    This is great! I work in a hardware store and can vouch for the materials being inexpensive to purchase. PVC is so easy to work with as well. I am excited for the book to come out. I will be looking forward to purchasing that.

  7. Pieter Swanepoel says:

    Hi Dave,
    I think this is really cool. Will definitely buy your book when it gets published :)

  8. Interesting article and one which should be more widely known about in my view. Your level of detail is good and the clarity of writing is excellent. I have bookmarked it for you so that others will be able to see what you have to say.

  9. Dave says:

    Thanks, Pieter and Agustin, for your gracious comments. :)

  10. Becca says:

    This sounds perfect, I knew there had to be a more accessible way to start weaving – I’d love to hear about it when the book comes out!

  11. Ron Reach says:

    Hi there, I just purchased your book on Lulu and am very much looking forward to constructing the loom for my wife’s birthday in Febuary. Question – is it possible to spray-paint the PVC pipe with glossy black paint to improve the appearance? Would the paint chip off in time?

  12. Dave says:

    Hi Ron,

    Yes – you can paint the PVC plastic. I found a PVC Paint at one of the home improvement stores. I think it was Krylon and it came in lots of colors. http://www.krylon.com/products/categories/plastic/ You might even want to paint it pure white.

    The special PVC paint, as I understand it, bonds at the molecular level with the PVC plastic becoming one. So, I don’t think this will chip off. Good luck!

  13. Rotimi Morgan says:

    I cant wait to get the book and to build the loom. I built a crude version of this loom myself in wood but this is far superior. Thanks. Please give a list of other items to purchase like reeds, heddles ,fibres, starter books and where to buy them. Thanks and well done.
    Rotimi Morgan.

  14. SLeipsner says:

    I’m opening “Green Sheep Weaving and Textiles Studio” in Historic Old Fort NC which will help support the work that I do in villages around the world. In addition to the service work that I do (which you can read about at http://www.lydiaministry.com), I weave and am a fiber artist. I use recycled, reclaimed, repurposed, and upcycled materials whenever possible. I will soon be offering a variety of workshops from beginning to advanced. I also do volunteer work in Africa, India and the middle-east…working with people who live in the world’s most difficult places–refugee camps, mud villages, and the world’s largest slums. I’ve wanted to be able to train some women in these areas to weave. These are women who do not have a means to support their families, or themselves. However, being able to build a loom “on-location” has been a major drawback, since I usually fund my own projects, or raise funds to do so. I can see that this loom would fit into a couple of pieces of luggage and could then be used to teach women how to build them on-site! Even in the remote areas where I work, pvc pipe is available. And, if pvc is not available, there are substitutes which I could use! I can’t wait to get this book. Please email me when it is available for purchase. I will use hand-tied string heddles…yes, it is a lot of work, but it’s something that can be done anywhere in the world! They will be so much lighter to ship than steel and while tex-solve heddles are wonderful, they are not “free” or near free! Once a small jig is made for tying heddles, they can be done quite quickly. Thank you so much. I hope a floor model plan is available too!

    • Dave says:

      Hi!

      The book is already available. There is a link at the top of the page for lulu.com.

      I’m also working on a floor loom that is made from fabricated steel struts used in building factories. But, that won’t be available for a while.

  15. Have you already setup a fan page on Facebook ?-‘~“

  16. Ester says:

    Hello there!
    I am busy building a ridged heddle (wood) and a tapestry loom (pvc) when I stumbled on your website. It’s wonderful. We are from Africa, in the USA for work at the moment. So I am learning as much as possible about weaving. To make a loom like yours is ideal for a community project in my country! Thanks a lot!

  17. Dave says:

    Hi Ester,

    Let me know if you have any questions. And, if you make your own PVC Loom, please send us some photos!.

  18. Otiliaq says:

    Do you have a video of the loom in use? I’d like to see how the shaft selectors operate. Perhaps something could be posted on YouTube? Thanks for providing an alternative to high price looms for those of us just looking for functionality, not furniture!

  19. Dave says:

    Hi Otiliaq,

    I’ve had other people request a video too. So, I’m working on one! : )

  20. Taylor Jones says:

    Dave, I am a weaver right now. I have 3 looms at present and both my wife and I weave. I live in a RV Resort park in Arizona and we do have an art show at least once a year. I am building a PVC loom from your book which I just recently purchased. If I am happy with my construction, I intend to show the PVC loom at our annual show, and also in operation. Now, I am sure this is not a new question, but have you given thought to making 6 sliders and making them able to lift two harnesses at a time, so as to do weaving like overshot or a patterned quill more easily. I can see that a conversion to a floor application would also be possible. I am very good with wood and the idea of using a cog wheel for tension is not something I would find difficult [I have made wooden clocks so gears are something I am familiar with]. From the book I see where that is also not a new idea.
    And one more question. I see nowhere in the book just how you removed to markings on the PCV pipe. And as an additional note, the materials so far have cost me $228.00 [I already have a reed]. I am impressed with your book and the instruction therein. I have had much experience with building and following instructions, but I can see where this knowledge is not necessary and that is good. If I show my PVC loom I will be sure to tell where the idea came from and where to find there own copy. I will also offer my help.
    I did also try your web forum, but can not seem to get on even though I did register.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Taylor,

      Thanks for the feedback! I have had people ask about adding 4 more shafts to create an 8-shaft loom. But, you are the first to ask about 6 sliders. That would be easy to do. Just space out the holes to add 2 more slider bars. I guess you would want number 5 to move shafts 1 and 3, and then number 6 to move 2 and 4? That would help for a number of weaving drafts.

      I was hoping that this would create a platform with which people could experiment. I will probably come out with a second edition that includes some of these additions, but that won’t be for a couple of years.

      In my day job I’m a software developer. So, I’m used to writing instructions for complex operations in an easy-to-understand manner. I’m glad you liked the book! Please send me some photos when you can.

      Regards,

      Dave

    • Dave says:

      Oh – I forgot to add that I have been getting so many SPAM accounts registering that I changed the registration method. I need to approve accounts manually. I’ll check for yours and approve it.

      • Dave says:

        And, one more thing . . .

        To clean PVC pipe and remove the markings, use the PVC Pipe Cleaner that is described in the book during the gluing process.

        I tried to use this, and it will work. But, if you have markings that are very large, or have a lot of ink, this tends to smear the ink and stain the surrounding PVC a dull gray color. All I can suggest is to try it on a scrap piece of pipe and see how it works for you.

        Another option is to use Krylon Fusion spray paint. It is specially formulated to be used on plastics just like PVC. http://www.krylon.com/products/fusion_for_plastic/

        I would recommend using this paint on all parts except the front and back beams. I’m not sure how a painted surface would hold up with warp threads rubbing on them constantly.

        Anyway, I decided not to use paint or to clean up my PVC Pipe frames simply to show people that I’m using regular hardware store PVC Pipe. But, I know that several people are either painting or thinking of painting their PVC Looms.

  21. Taylor Jones says:

    Thanks Dave, I have completed the loom. I just need the teslov heddles and they are on order. I expect no problem as I have installed them before. I will not paint my creation, the fact that this is PVC is obvious. The loom looks fine just as it is. When I have it loaded and have some sort of weaving in place I will send some photos.
    I only hope that seeing this loom will inspire some of my fellow RVers to try weaving. The complaint has always been the cost, and this by people who think nothing of spending $300 for a new driver or some other golf club. I have two people going on rigid heddle right now.
    The only problem I had was using the clamps. I have several of the same type of clamps pictured but none would work as the eye screw suggested was too small. I will either need a larger eye screw, or maybe another set of clamps.
    This project has been fun!!

  22. Dave says:

    I had one other user who had problems with the clamps. I guess the eye hooks I specify only work with the blue Irwin clamps shown in the book. I’ve seen them at Home Depot and Lowes.

    The clamp bar is supposed to rest on the rim of the bottom elbow joint and the clamp part reaches around the frame tube to grab the larger 1 1/2″ roller. So far, I’ve done this on 2 of my own looms with no problems.

    And, the money issue is one of the big factors that I think keeps people from the craft. I bought a Mountain Table Loom about 10 years ago. 8-shaft model that doesn’t fold. It cost $550 back then. They stopped making them recently, but the last price I saw for the identical loom was over $900! It’s crazy, but understandable when you consider what’s involved with creating looms that are the quality of finely crafted hardwood furniture. I don’t want furniture – I just want to weave.

    :)