How To Make A Bead Loom

time using the lingers to manipulate the bead into place. A needle wasn't needed in either loose warp method. In some instances where double wefts were used the weaver would introduce a full or half twist into the weft thread between each warp. These methods were very time-consuming but created a firm, dense weave.

Potawatomi Beaded
Alternate setup for loose warp weaving.

Examples of heddle weaving using yarn and pony beads have been dated to 1740. The heddle was used extensively by several Woodland tribes in the Great Lakes and Mideast areas. While we tend to think of heddle weaving in terms of looms, Native Americans used no special loom at all, instead employing the heddle in conjunction with either of the tight warp methods.

In setting up a loom with a heddle, alternate warp threads are strung either through the holes or through the slits. The heddle moves up and down, spearating the warp threads and forming a "shed." A bead-strung weft thread is passed through this shed. When the heddle is reversed, the weft thread is locked in place.

How Make Bead Loom
This hand carved heddle, possibly Winnebago, Potawatomi, or Mesquakie, is from the late nineteenth century and measures .)'/■"x 4'/.". From the collection Benson L. Lanford.
How Make Native American Bead Loom


These looms, an "Apache" loom and a homemade version Priscilla Bead Work Book.

The Apache Bead Loom

The History of Beads by Helen Sherr Dubin shows an advertisement for the "Apache" bead loom circa 1910. As the Apache people were not known to do I his type of bead weaving, it is likely that the maker of these looms was more interested in a snappy name than truth in advertising.

Small and wooden, the Apache loom resembles the small wire loom available in many bead weaving kits sold today and it is

, appeared in the 1912 publication of the same basic type as the modern Miyuki looms from Japan.

The "Apache" loom sold for the princely sum of sixty cents. Or for two dollars you could get the loom, five bunches of beads, thread, twenty-five needles, and twenty-four patterns for "Indian Beading." This sounds like a bargain until you realize that two dollars was about a day's wage for the average worker in 1910.

The Apache loom ad suggests that a housewife can make pin money using the loom, and that it is good training for the mechanical or artistic development of small children. It is interesting to note that this and several other sources from the period refer to loom weaving as "Indian" beading.

The Priscilla Bead Work Hook, published in 1912 and edited by Hell Robinson also shows an "Apache" loom along with a loom of her design. Her loom was made from available materials and very closely resembles the loom detailed in the next section of this book.

Also pictured in the Priscilla book are several French Woven Chain necklaces and the instructions for weaving them on the Apache loom. These necklaces are also referred to as Sautoir Chains by Sophie T. La Croix in Old and New Designs in Beadwork book number 20. Both the Priscilla book and the LaCroix book have been included in the Lacis Publication reprint called Bead Work (see bibliography).

I was lucky enough to borrow an original Apache loom from Jeanne Boardman Bard of Newport, Oregon whose shop includes a

"Den of Antiquity." She also loaned me an original copy of the lJriscill,i Bead Work Book. I used the Apache loom to make the French Woven Chain necklace pictured on page 21, following the instructions in the article, which are reprinted on the following pages.

I wove the necklace using size A Nymo and Miyuki steel hex beads electroplated in 22k rose gold. The red accent beads are antique French cut metal beads.

I had some difficulty using this loom because it was designed for people with very small hands. Cutting all the warp threads to length and then trying to arrange individual threads across the spacing bars was frustrating. It was difficult to get all the warps in place and to maintain even tension. The working area on the loom is so short that the work has to be rolled over the take-up roll frequently, and this means loosening the warps and then trying to get them back straight and tight.

All in all, I find ¡1 much easier to use a "regular" loom with the techniques described in the next chapter.

French Woven Chains

The materials required in making these woven chains are a loom of the simplest type with a revolving spool at one end, beads, thread, a fine needle, and the pattern. A waist-length chain of about twelve beads in width requires usually seven bunches. The small French cut-steel beads make the daintiest chains, though small glass beads are also adaptable.

To set up your loom, cut strands of fine, strong silk about fifty inches long and of a color harmonizing with the beads or matching the outer rows; allow always one more strand than the number of beads in the width of design. Knot the warp threads together at one end and fasten around the brass nail in the revolving spool, wind about ten inches of the thread to be used later for medallion and fringe, and insert the brass peg in a hole on the end of the spool. Arrange the threads in the grooves on the first bridge, carry them over the length of the loom and through corresponding grooves on the second bridge, remove a peg at the bottom of the loom, draw the threads together through the hole and replace the Peg.

To weave the chain, thread a length of fine sewing silk into a No. 12 needle. Hold the end of the thread in the left hand and the needle in the right and let the thread run under. Begin with the row of beads that comes next to the medallion, picking up the colors according to the pattern, press a single bead up into each space with the forefinger of the left hand, thread the needle back through each bead from right to left over the warp threads so that each bead is made secure in its groove. Having brought the thread out to the left, tie it to the end, which should be several inches long and which is later threaded into the needle, and run back and forth, through the beads. This is the only knot in the necklace, as ends are always secured by running through the beads already woven. Pass the needle from left to right under the warp and continue with the next row. For the strings between motifs, loosen the warp threads by removing the peg, divide the threads into pairs if the stringing is to be done that way, or use a single thread if preferred, and "string" enough beads to form strands of good spacing length between the motifs, usually from one and a half to twice the length of the motif. Alternate motifs and strings to within ten inches of the end of the warp threads.

To make the medallion, remove chain from the loom and rearrange with exact centre on the brass nail of the spool, taking care not to get the necklace twisted, wind the chain on the spool, bringing the two sides of the chain parallel a few inches above the lower bridge. A space is thus

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