Recently I visited a weaver’s group on the Big Island in Hawaii. Several of the weavers had recently completed a course on weaving around a cardboard box loom, a la Sarah Swett.
I learned her technique from the article in Spin-Off magazine, Winter 1997. She has long been a great inspiration to me and I loved attending her workshop a few years ago. She wrote the article again for Handwoven magazine, 2007. She also wrote and illustrated a little book about this which she sells on Etsy, How to Weave a Bag on a Box.
Sarah recommends, and I concur, that the chosen box should be sturdy. A corrugated box with folded over edges (that normally form the top) is great. I like the priority mail boxes from the Post Office.
This post will not describe the process of weaving around a box. I hope you will buy Sarah’s book. There are also many people on the web who will tell you how to do this. I am only going to provide a few suggestions and several pictures. Of course, I will also be glad to come to you and given a workshop on this topic.
Tape the folded over box top bits to the inside of the box, both to keep them in place and to provide extra strength.
Make sure the warp is fairly taut as you put it in place. One type of warp you might choose is inexpensive Mays Carpet warp. It comes in interesting colors and is sturdy enough for this job.
After the four sides are warped and the bottom is both warped and woven, but before you start weaving up the sides, consider this trick for strengthening the bottom corners of your bag:
Just as you are about to start weaving up the sides, make sure you are in one shed all the way around the bag. This means you can weave continuously around the bag without ever having the weft travel over/under the same warp twice.
Weave to a corner and around that corner about 6 warps. Then turn and weave back to the corner and back around the corner for 6 warps. For example, if you were weaving from right to left, go around the corner to the left, weave 6 warps, turn and weave back around past the corner to the right 6 warps.
Turn again and weave back around the corner and past for 5 warps. Turn and weave to the right past the corner for 5 warps. Turn again, weave around the corner to the left for 4 warps, turn and past the corner for 4 warps. Turn again, weave around for 3 warps, then 2, and then one. You will have built up a little triangle at the corner.
Now continue weaving down that hill and on to the next box corner on the left and repeat. When you are done you should have a little triangle at each corner. Pack these firmly and they will remain as sturdy little corners for your bag. In this photo the corners are in and I have woven around the box several times on top of them.
Ok, I have other things that require my attention now, but I am leaving you with a gallery of some of the boxes and bags I have made. Some, not all. Really. They are fun and can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make them.