Once a year at the end of summer and beginning of fall the MN State Fair happens. And let me tell you, it is a big deal here in Minnesota. When I first moved to Minneapolis I kinda scoffed at the fair, avoided it and generally disdained its existence. This year, I volunteered for the Weavers Guild of Minnesota at the demonstration booth and, you know, it wasn't so bad. I realized that at its core it is still a venue to gather and share ideas, you just had to find it underneath all that fried food on a stick. I demonstrated the inkle loom, answered questions, encouraged little ones to try their hand at weaving and enjoyed myself.
My Inkle loom demo. I am not familiar with the Inkle loom and was a bit dismayed to find out upon arrival that I was to be demonstrating such an unfamiliar piece of equipment, however my co-volunteer, Rosemary, assured me there was nothing to it and she was right.
First, it is a very simple piece of equipment. In general, to weave all you really need is a way to put a group of threads, a warp, under tension and the ability to raise and lower threads in order to interlace your weft. In this case the warp is applied in one continuous loop and tension is created with a sliding knob. String heddles are tied to every other warp thread and shafts are raised and lowered with your hand. In your other hand a wooden device acts as a bobbin. shuttle and beater all in one.
Inkle weaving is ideal for bands no more than 2.5" wide. Before mechanized looms, it was the primary way that ribbons were woven. The term "red tape" derives from this type of weaving as it was a red ribbon woven in this manner that was used to bundle up official documents. Inkle weaving also produces a very strong band as it is a warp faced weave and the structure is tabby, the strongest construction in weaving. For this reason many cultures developed similar band to use as horse or camel reins.
A particularly beautiful sample of Inkle band weaving given to me as a thank you for my contributions on the board for the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.