Loomwork is a beading technique used to produce beaded pieces on a frame similar to fabric or tapestry. Beads are woven, line-by-line, into colorful and interesting designs by following a pattern. This technique allows the artist to quickly create complex patterns by hand.
Looms create long, straight pieces of beaded material, which can be made into jewelry such as belts, bracelets, and necklaces. Loomed sections can also be added onto clothing or larger pieces as embellishments. Elaborate projects can be constructed by assembling or joining the loomed bead sections pieces.
The loom is threaded with a series of parallel threads-these are called warp threads. The needle is threaded with beading thread which is called the weft. These are the same terms used in fabric weaving. The warp and weft threads provide a grid-like framework which holds the beads in place. Beads are added one line at a time.
Once the pattern is completed, the warp threads are released from the loom and tied off the secure the beads. Fringe can easily be added to a loomed project by using the remaining warp thread to add small beads.
Free patterns for loomwork bead projects are readily available at local craft or bead shops, online, or in books and magazines. Often a cross-stitch or knitting design can be used since these are based on a simple grid. Original designs are easy to create by superimposing a grid on found or drawn artwork.
Seed beads and pony beads are the most commonly used, and produce a uniform look. However, you can use beads of different sizes to create a textured and unique look. There is no limit the creativity that can be used when working bead projects on the loom.
Bead looms can be quite simple an inexpensive or rather elaborate, but the basic function is the same. Most bead looms are made of metal or wood and have a spring or comb to attach and evenly space the warp threads. Looms can be as small as a couple of inches and made of a simple metal frame, or as large as a few feet. More sophisticated loom deigns include a roller bar which allows the fabrication of very long pieces of loomed beadwork. Tabletop looms are the most common, but floor looms also exist. Bead looms can be purchased for as little as $10 to over $100.