Loom knitting, also known as frame knitting, has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. I decided to make it my third project for National Craft Month, because although it is “knitting”, it’s nothing like the knitting I’ve done in the past. I know how to knit with all kinds of needles, and with a knitting machine, but I’ve never tried it on a loom.
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There are many sizes and styles of knitting looms, made for different weights of yarn and different lengths or circumferences of knitting. They can be rectangular, circular or oval. Gauge is determined by the size of the loom pegs and how far apart they are spaced.
Leisure Arts kindly provided their Ultimate Oval Loom Knitting set, which contained small and large looms, along with a stitching tool and how-to book. I dutifully read the instructions all the way through first, because I knew there would be a test—in the form of this blog post—at the end.
I started with the small loom and with no intention of actually making anything, just to get the hang of things. This is called “swatching”, and it’s something you always do in needle-knitting, right?*
The Beginner’s Guide to Oval Loom Knitting, which came with the set, includes seven projects that teach the basics of loom knitting as you learn the e-wrap cast on, e-wrap knit stitch, knit stitch, purl stitch, twisted garter stitch, binding off, and other techniques. If you happen to have an electronic device handy while you knit, you can even watch Leisure Arts videos that demonstrate the techniques used in each project.
I grabbed some purple Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice that I had on hand and, with the book open on my lap, I cast on stitches using the e-wrap method. Another series of e-wraps, working counterclockwise around the loom, served as the first part of the first round. I then grabbed the little tool thingie and used it to lift each cast-on loop over the top loop on each peg to complete the first round.
Although I was a bit awkward because I had to figure out how to hold things, it was pretty easy and went relatively fast. The worsted weight yarn I used was the correct weight for this stitch/loom/yarn combination. I got this.
Using the e-wrap method throughout creates a soft. relatively loose twisted stockinette stitch fabric. In other words, each of the stitches has a little twist at the base of the stitch, where its feet cross each other, as shown in the red-outlined stitches. It looks and feels fine, but I wanted to make a fabric that looks like standard stockinette stitch, with rows of straight V’s, as shown in the green-highlighted stitches.
The Knit Stitch
Changing to grey yarn, I followed the book’s instructions for the knit stitch. This involves holding the working yarn on the outside of the peg above the existing loops, and using the tool to left the bottom loop over the working yarn and off the peg. In the beginning I was terrible at managing to hold the loom, control the tool, and maintain a loose enough tension in the working yarn to allow the loops to pass over each other easily. In other words, typical novice crafter problems.
It became easier as I practiced, but the tension was still pretty tight. A lighter-weight yarn would have been a good idea here. My stockinette stitch looked okay, but it was fairly compressed, row-wise, and uneven in spots. It’s a small sample, but my gauge is about 15 stitches and 32 rounds = 4″.
Not being satisfied with the tension I was achieving with the knit stitch, I did some research and found that I could wrap the yarn differently to create a looser stitch. By taking the yarn in a U-path—holding it behind the peg, bringing it forward, around, and back—I made the path of the working yarn longer than with the previous method. This U-wrap method was incorporated into the next section.
The Purl Stitch
Still working on my swatch, I practiced the purl stitch. Purling on the loom is a bit tricky. You hold the working yarn below the loop on the peg, use the loom tool to draw the working yarn up through the loop; then pull the entire thing off the peg and replace the new loop onto the peg. It’s more fiddly than the knit stitch. The book and video say to pull the loop off the peg using your fingers. With practice I was able to do the whole procedure with the loom tool in hand, without really having to use my fingertips much.
Just as with regular knitting, k1, p1 rib is created by working knit and purl stitches alternately around, so I practiced that for a few rounds, then bound off.
Enough already. I’m ready to make something!
I chose to go with my own design rather than one of the projects in the book. With the larger loom and the same yarn, I cast on 70 stitches and worked k1, p1 rib for a round.
Almost immediately I ran into a problem. When I’m needle-knitting, I can see the stitches and read my fabric, so I don’t get confused about whether I’m on a knit or a purl. In loom knitting, the stitches are somewhat hidden by the loom itself. You have to peer over the pegs to look at the wrong side of the fabric to determine which type of stitch comes next. Permanent marker to the rescue! I simply marked every other peg, which helped me keep track of which stitch went on which peg.**
After a few rounds of ribbing, I switched to knitting in the round, adding stripes as the mood took me.
The stitches on the loom are stretched width-wise. When they come off the loom you have to tug the fabric gently to set the stitches vertically. This causes the stitches to draw together in width and stretch in length. For this reason, I couldn’t quite tell how long my hat was getting, or whether it would even fit. (Maybe I should have followed one of the perfectly good patterns in the book.)
It took me quite a while to discover that placing the loom on a table or other surface makes it easier to hold. Most of the time I had the loom in my lap, and found it uncomfortable to handle that way. Putting it on a flat surface made a world of difference. Eventually I developed a kind of rhythm and got faster at the knitting. Even so, I could have needle-knit three hats in the time it took me to knit this one. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. At this point, I’d been needle-knitting for 40 years, and only loom knitting for about ten hours.
When I decided I had knit enough length, I gathered the live stitches with the working yarn and pulled it them together to create a slouchy-top hat.
It’s not perfect. The cast-on looks sloppy, there are errors in the ribbing where I should have purled when I knit and vice versa, and some uneven rounds and stitches where I didn’t keep an even tension.
It looks like hat! It fits like a hat!
My first needle-knit hat certainly never looked this good!
- Loom knitting is easy to learn, even if you’ve never knit before.
- You may find it faster than needle-knitting, although if you are a fairly fast needle-knitter, this may not be true.
- It’s especially good for those who have trouble holding knitting needles, or who just haven’t quite figured out how to manage two needles and tension the yarn at the same time.
- As with needle knitting, it is possible to drop stitches (see photo) and to have uneven tension. I did both!
- Getting gauge to match a pattern and creating exact sizing may be more difficult with a loom than with needle-knitting. The loom sizes are more constraining than individual knitting needles.
Would I try loom knitting again?
Probably, because I still have more stitch patterns to learn. Leisure Arts also provided me with the Loom Knit Stitch Dictionary. A stitch dictionary. Squee! I’m a sucker for a stitch dictionary, so there is some serious loom swatching in my future.
Plus, take a look at some of the projects you can make with the patterns in The Beginner’s Guide to Oval Loom Knitting. Next time, I’ll probably follow a pattern!
How about you? Have you tried loom knitting? Are you a fan?
*Just nod and agree. We both know you are fibbing, but it makes us feel better to think that we always do a good swatch before starting a project.
**Note to loom manufacturers: Alternating colored pegs might be a helpful improvement to your product.