The Mirrix Looms Beginner's Guide
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Portable, affordable and multi-faceted, a Mirrix Loom is the gateway to your creativity. Mirrix Looms can provide something for everyone. Dive into your stash of knitting yarns and create a tapestry masterpiece. Rip up some old shirts and create a rag rug. Gather together those stray beads and make yourself a beautiful bracelet. String up your Mirrix with some copper wire and begin to create a piece of sculpture. Combine clear filament warp and painted pieces of paper to create a stunning collage. Recreate your grandmother's beaded purse. Weave a tapestry purse that will stop strangers in their tracks. Grab fiber from all over your house and make a gorgeous free-form weaving. Always wanted to try inkle weaving? You can do that on a Mirrix too. Your warped loom is your canvas. Play with it, dance with it, make it your own. Anything is possible on a Mirrix.
Mirrix Tapestry & Bead Looms, Ltd. makes portable, metal looms that have a variety of uses (from tapestry and bead weaving to wire weaving) and can be used by beginners and professional artists. They are manufactured in the United States of America out of copper, aluminum, threaded steel rod and equipped with handmade wooden clips. Claudia Chase, President of Mirrix Looms, designed the first Mirrix in 1996 to meet her own portable weaving needs and still runs the business out of her studio in New Hampshire.
What makes a Mirrix Loom different from all other looms?
Mirrix Looms have many functions. There are no other looms like them in the world.
As a tapestry loom: All Mirrix Looms that come with a shedding device can be used as a tapestry loom. This practical device allows you to easily make a shed (for non-weavers, that means the space between the raised and lowered warps). You need high tension for tapestry and the Mirrix Loom provides the greatest tension of any portable tapestry loom. Without such tension it is nearly impossible to weave a tapestry with even selvedges. The Mirrix is the perfect tool for making a perfect tapestry.
You can add a stand and treadle to turn your portable Mirrix Loom into a floor loom. The great thing about this combination of loom, stand and treadle is that it functions just like a floor loom but takes up a fraction of the space and can be easily disassembled for storage or you can just remove the loom itself and take it to a workshop. The stand works with any of our looms and the treadle is meant for use with the shedding device.
As a bead loom: The Mirrix is a pioneer in the world of bead weaving. All of our looms can be used as traditional bead looms, and any loom with a shedding device can all be used for a secondary method for weaving beads. This method is great for wider pieces (beaded tapestries). Once you've got it mastered, it's faster than the more traditional method of bead weaving. All of our looms except the Mini Mirrix can be purchased with a shedding device, but you can also just add one on later.
Mirrix Looms are engineered to last for years and years. They are elegant pieces of machinery that will help you turn your yarn or beads into a masterpiece. They will also work for wire weaving and a combination of tapestry and bead weaving.
We get this question a lot at Mirrix Looms. How do you choose just one? First, ask yourself a few questions. Do you want to weave beads, tapestry, both or something else like paper or wire? Do you want to use the shedding device? How important is being able to take your loom places with you? Do you want to be able to weave large pieces or several small pieces at one time?
If you want to weave small, beaded pieces such as bracelets or necklaces and do not want to use the shedding device, the 5" Mini Mirrix or the 8" Lani Loom (without the shedding device) will work fine for you.
If you want to weave larger bead tapestries or want to weave more than one beaded piece at the same time, the 12" Little Guy, the 16" Big Sister or the 22" Zach Loom all work great. (If you want to weave very big bead pieces the larger looms would be appropriate.)
If you are a tapestry weaver, choose any of the looms that have a shedding device and base your decision simply on how big a piece you plan to weave. If you want to simulate using a floor loom, one of the two bigger looms and the stand and treadle work great!
For the undecided weaver stick with a middle-sized loom like the 16" Big Sister or the 22" Zach Loom. You can use (or not use) the shedding device and can weave almost anything including beads and tapestry on those looms.
A shedding device is typically used for tapestry but can also be used for bead weaving on a Mirrix Loom. It lifts half of the warps, thereby creating a space in which to weave your tapestry yarn (weft) or beads. When you change the position of the handle, opposite sets of warps are raised, securing your beads or weft between the warp threads. The wooden clips hold your shedding device on the loom, but also serve to hold your warping bar in place when warping your loom (and before you install the shedding device). You can learn more about the Mirrix shedding device here.
Warp Coil (Sometimes just called a "spring")
The 8" (with shedding device), 12", 16", 22", 28", 32" and 38" looms all come with 8, 12, 14 and 18 dent warp coils. These numbers correspond to have many dents (spaces) are in an inch when the warp coil is on the loom. These springs are attached to the top bar (in the warp coil tray) and space your warp threads. You can also purchase a bottom spring kit to have springs on the bottom of your loom as well as the top. This is helpful for larger bead weavings as well as small scale tapestry. Our dedicated bead looms come without a shedding device, but with a bottom spring kit.
How to know what warp coil to use for a project:
For bead weaving: Place the beads you plan on weaving on a needle and measure an inch. Then, count how many beads are in that inch. The number of beads minus one is the warp coil that will be used. For example, if you are using Delicas you would find 19 Delicas are in one inch, so you would use the 18 dent coil. There is some leeway in this, and depending on the beads you are using, it might not work out perfectly (numerically), just close. Using a smaller (lower number) coil is better than using a larger (higher number) coil.
For tapestry: This is something you have to experiment with as a tapestry weaver. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent. (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.) The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warp threads are not showing. Things to consider to make sure this does not happen: 1) Warp Sett (the spacing of the warps determined by the warp coil you are using); 2) Thickness of both your warp and weft. One way to determine your weft size is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, your weft is probably too thick. If your weft threads are much thinner than the space, your weft is probably too thin.
The warping bar is held in place between the two wooden clips while warping your loom. Once the loom is warped, you remove the bar from the clips because the warp will then hold the bar in place. When you want to advance your weaving (move it to the back of the loom to give you more space to weave on the front), you do this by moving the warping bar, which moves the entire weaving.
The flat wrench helps you to tighten and loosen the wing-nuts on your loom.
The Allan wrench loosens and tightens the bars on your shedding device.
The spring bar is placed in your warp coil (spring) after you've warped your loom to prevent your warp from coming out of the warp coil when you advance your weaving.
Mirrix Looms were designed as tapestry and/or bead looms. But they can be used for many other types of weaving such as: wire weaving, paper weaving, inkle weaving. Basically, you can require anything on a Mirrix that requires high tension.
One of the great things about a Mirrix Loom is that, although you may want some of our accesories to enhance your weaving experience, you don't need any to begin weaving! All you need is your loom, warp and whatever you're weaving on it! (Plus whatever other basics you need like a nice pair of scissors, a beater or fork, a nice bead mat, etc.)
If you're using the shedding device, you'll also need heddles (which connect the shedding device to your warp threads) which can be purchased, but you can also make them yourself!
Tapestry is a type of fiber weaving. It is weft-faced (ie: the warp does not show at all), the wefts are generally discontinuous (they do not go from selvedge (edge) to selvedge (edge) and it is generally pictorial (like painting a picture with fiber).
Learn more at the website of the American Tapestry Alliance.
Weaving beads is much faster than off-loom stitches and the wider your piece, the faster it is. The equivalent off-loom stitch would be square stitch which is the most time-consuming off-loom stitch there is. It's difficult for beginners to get correct tension when weaving off-loom stitches, but on the loom, the loom automatically provides the right kind of tension so that is never an issue.
Weaving beads is easy and fun!
Putting Heddles on a Loom
One Mirrix Pre-Made Mirrix Heddle
How to Make Heddles:
A heddle attaches your shedding device to your warp threads. Used only when weaving tapestry and bead weaving WITH the shedding device, heddles can be either ordered pre-made or you can make them yourself!
Click here to buy our Mirrix Texlov pre-made heddles.
You will need to make as many individual heddles as there will be warps in your weaving. These heddles (as well as the Mirrix heddles you can buy) will be reusable. The thinner and stronger the string you use, the better. For bead weavers, cotton quilting or beading thread works great. For tapestry weavers, cotton crochet thread, linen warp or single-ply cotton warp works well.
Nail two finishing nails into a piece of wood three and one-eighth inches apart. You will use this little tool to tie your warps. Cut ten inch lengths of your heddle material, one for each heddle you will make. Tie them around the nails, using an overhand knot to secure the ends. In order to get that knot to sit right next to the nail, slip a needle into the knot before it is pulled tight and push the knot toward the nail. Then tighten it. Trim off the ends of the heddles to within a quarter of an inch of the knot.
Alternatively, you can cut a piece of cardboard three and one-eighth inches apart and use that to tie your heddles around.
Putting on Heddles (Refer to our warping instructions for full instructions)
All parts for Mirrix Looms are precision engineered and cannot be purchased in a hardware store. It is not possible to build your own Mirrix Loom because so many of the parts are precision engineered either in our manufacturing facility or by other manufacturing facilities requiring the use of expensive milling machines and laser cutters.
The bottom spring kit is an add-on accessory that attaches to the bottom bar of your loom. This warp coil helps organize your warps at the bottom of the loom, just as your warps are organized at the top. It is great for wide bead weavings as well as small-scale tapestry. If you are using the bottom spring kit, warping is exactly the same except you place your warps in the bottom spring exactly how you do so on the top springs. Following are some pictures of looms with bottom spring kits to give you an idea of how the kit looks on a warped loom.
Instructions for Installing The Extra Warping Bar Kit
When installing the second warping bar on your Mirrix Bead Loom you need to do the following:
Place the wooden rectangular clips about one inch below the top beam of your loom and one of the warping bars inside those clips Remember that you need to press those clips in slightly in order to hold the bar. You need to leave enough space in order to insert your warp in between the top beam and the warping bar. If your warp comes on one of the larger tubes, check to see how much space you will need by inserting the tube between the top beam and the warping bar. Adjust the space as necessary.
Your second warp bar will be placed about one inch above the top of the bottom beam of your loom by hanging it, like a swing, from the top warping bar. (Again, measure this space the same way you did the top space.) Keeping in mind this distance, measure out two pieces of texslov cord that will span this distance with four additional inches to allow for wrapping around both bars.
Attach the two texslov cords to either side of the top warping bar by wrapping it around the bar and pulling it through one of the holes so that it is snug around the bar.
Attach these two texslov cords to either side of the bottom bar by inserting a peg in two of the holes after you’ve looped the texslov cord around the warping bar. Do not insert the pegs in holes that are directly above the bar because once there is pressure on the warping bar, the pegs will pop out. Stick the pegs in the second holes on either side above the warping bar.
Measure out two lengths of texslov cord that will wrap from the top bar to the bottom bar, but from the back of the loom, adding four inches to each.. This will keep both warping bars firmly in place while warping your loom. These back texslov cords will be removed once you are done warping your loom..
Attach these back texslov cords using the same method you used to attach the front cords.
Warping your loom:
Warping your loom is just as simple using two bars as it is using one. You will be placing the warp on the back of the loom, to be rotated to the front later.
Tie the end of your warp to the left side of your top warping bar. Bring the warp up to the top beam, down the back of the loom to the bottom beam, and up the front of the loom to the bottom warping bar. Once you reach this bottom bar, wrap your warp around it and head back down the loom and around the bottom beam, up the back of the loom to the top beam, and down the front of the loom until you reach the top warping bar. Wrap around the top warping bar and then head back in the other direction. Repeat this until you have the desired amount of warp on your loom.
Release the tension slightly and tie off your warp on either of the warping bars (releasing the tension allows you to get that end warp tied as tightly as the other warps). You can tie your end to either the top or bottom warping bar, giving you an even number of warps if you tie on the bottom and an odd number of warps if you tie on the top bar.
Release the tension so that the warps are slightly baggy.
Remove the back texslov cords (the long ones!).
Rotate your warping bars so that they are now behind the loom and your warp is in front of the loom.. What was the top bar in front is now the bottom bar in back. The bottom bar is now the top bar. Your warp will cover the entire front of your loom and extend to the back of the loom for an inch or two in each direction.
What do I do if, when weaving tapestry with thicker warp on one of the larger looms, my spring won't stay in place when I advance the warp?
Tie the spring to the loom on either side (and in the middle if necessary) to hold the spring in place while you advance the warp.
When using the bottom spring kit, when can you remove the spring?
Remove the spring from the bottom spring kit when you need to advance your weaving. You need to leave it in place to weave your first rows. The point of the bottom spring kit is to make weaving the first row easier when weaving wide bead pieces or very fine tapestry.
How can I travel with a loom that has a (fiber) tapestry on it?
Just make sure your spring bar is in your warp coil (it should be anyway but it is really important that your warp threads stay in the warp coil). We also suggest putting rubber bands around the spring just to make sure everything stays in place. After you do that, simply reduce the tension on your loom, squish the loom and weaving down and pack! When you get to your destination put the tension back on and it should be good as new. Remove shedding device from clips and fold clips flat. If you don't do that, your clips may break in transit.
How should you prepare your beaded tapestry for hanging?
One example of what you can do is to turn your thread ends over to the back of the tapestry. Attach sticky velcro and sew it down. Attach the other piece of velcro to a piece of wood. Hang.
Can you use a second shedding device on the loom?
Yes. You need to add a second set of wooden clips which will come with the second shedding device. To add the wooden clips, separate the two sections of your loom and remove the bushings that are in the bottom of the copper side bars. The bushings can easily be removed with pliers. Slip on the new wooden clips and replace the bushings.
How long a piece can I weave on a Mirrix?
The general rule is 1 1/2 times the length of the loom you own. (Note: Your weaving width is slightly smaller than the width of each loom.)
Are Mirrix Looms allowed as carry-on on commercial airplanes?
Some people have brought their looms on airplanes but to be safe please contact your airline with this question.
My shedding device (with the wooden clips) is squeaking when I use it. What do I do to stop this?
Put a drop of WD-40 or olive oil on your finger and touch the top of shedding device. Then, turn it back and forth a few times until the squeaking stops.
What is the difference between a "warp coil" and a "spring"?
Nothing. We use these words interchangeably to mean the spring at the top of your loom or at the bottom if you have a bottom spring kit.
How do you know when your loom is warped correctly?
There are several ways to know if you loom is warped correctly and several things to check:
1) Turn your loom sideways and make sure that the thread does not cross inside and goes all the way around the loom. (The warp can NEVER cross inside because that would prevent you from being able to advance the warp.)
2) Release the tension slightly on the loom. You should be able to lift up on the warping bar.
3) If you are warping for bead weaving without the shedding device or tapestry weaving with the shedding device, make sure there is one string in every dent. If you are warping for bead weaving with the shedding device make sure there are two strings in every dent.
What size loom can I use if I want to weave both beads and tapestry?
The 12" loom is the smallest bead and tapestry loom we make. Any larger loom can also be used for beads or tapestry. The 5" and 8" looms are dedicated bead looms.
What is a shedding device?
The 8" Lani Loom and larger looms are all available with shedding devices. (Although they do not need to be used.) This device can be used for both bead and tapestry weaving and helps make weaving faster and easier. Use heddles to attach the device to your warps and simply change its position up or down to raise or lower warps.
You warp your loom differently if you are using the shedding device when you weave beads, so make sure you choose the correct set of warping instructions to the left.
Why do I do when I have loose selvedge threads?
If you have loose selvedge threads (meaning the warp threads on the sides of your piece are looser than the rest) it may be because when tying off your warp you did not put enough tension on that final thread when you tied it to the warping bar. If you have a hard time tying a tight knot when you're finished warping, it is helpful to loosen your tension slightly before you tie it. When your warp is under a lot of tension it can be very difficult to tie a knot and have that selvedge thread have the same tension as the rest of your warp.
What happened if one shed isn't working?
If you have put your shedding device on the loom and it seems one shed is better than the other (meaning, when you make one shed it seems to work well and when you make the other shed it doesn't seem to work as well) you probably have a crossed heddle. Check to make sure all your heddles were put on correctly and that no heddle is catching on anything.
How do I clean the copper on my Mirrix Loom?
We've experimented with this and find that a great non-toxic solution is mixing lemon juice and table salt and rubbing it on the copper. Read about our experiment here.
What do you do if you can't get enough tension on your loom just using your hands to turn the wing nuts?
The flat wrench that was included with your loom is designed to fit around that wing nut and give you the leverage you need to get the maximum tension possible on the Mirrix Loom.