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Soul Crafts: An Earth Loom in the Garden

By Richard Merrill, October 2011
This article includes much of the text of “Weaving in the Garden” published in the Summer 2010 issue of Living Crafts.

The Garden Loom, the Earth Loom

Garden Loom in morning light

Garden Loom in morning light

A Garden Loom is a variety of Earth Loom, which we developed for community weaving. Other Earth Looms are the original Earth Loom, nine feet tall or so, for big community weavings, and the Story Loom, an Earth Loom that can be used indoors or out. The Story Loom is very much like a Garden Loom with trestle-style feet. The weaving itself is not about fine craft, but about a heartfelt experience, whether in communion with flowers, birds and butterflies in solitary wonder in your garden, or in community with others to honor a person or a place of significance.

An excerpt from Susan Barrett Merrill’s book, ZATI The Art of Weaving a Life:

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere — it is within each of us.”

— Black Elk

“The Earth Loom is a living symbol, planted in the ground, of our intention to weave together the fabric of community. Just as the Journey Loom is a means for the individual to study integration of the self, the Earth Loom helps communities to unite hands and hearts to build and weave together an emblem and an instrument of peace. With many hands on both sides of the loom, we use our differences to create art in which every contribution is vital to the design as a whole. Your Earth Loom may be built by your organization, corporation, school, family, camp, day care, hospital, prison, government agency, nursing home, or in your garden or back yard. Earth Loom weavings can be a meditation, a gift of friendship and an inspiration for action.

Children and adults can weave together. People in wheel chairs can move right up to the loom and weave, with room for two on each side. Earth Looms may be made with indigenous materials by the hands of those who will weave on them. Weaving together is so powerful– it is a literal act of weaving together the community. In this simple and ancient art, we connect with others whose fingers have touched the same threads to create the same fabric with the same purpose. It is a deep-rooted bond in the heart that can change the way we define our neighborhood.”

This description is still the best summary of what the Earth Loom is, and what we can do with it. One of the Earth Looms is a Garden Loom, a medium-sized Earth Loom made to be planted in the garden, like the Garden Loom at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine. If you put feet on the Garden Loom, you can use it indoors or out.

Who Weaves on Earth Looms?

Garden Earth Looms enlivened the wedding of two young teachers at our local Waldorf School. A recent Interfaith Gathering in California included an Earth Loom near the garden of the grounds as a way to weave an interfaith community literally and in meaningful ways.

Garden looms

Garden looms at a wedding and an interfaith celebration

Children at an elementary school in eastern Maine internalized lessons about the environment by writing out – on birch bark – their personal commitments to help and heal the earth, and weaving them into their garden weaving.

Children's environmental weaving

Children's environmental weaving

At a community center in Northern Maine, families wove a celebration of fall, and food to feed the birds over the long winter months. In Maine, both the Brunswick Public Library and the Blue Hill Library recently celebrated literacy with Earth Looms. Brunswick’s main street was the scene for their celebration.

Girl weaving popcorn and cranberries for the birds

Portable Garden Loom

A portable Garden Loom goes to the city

The Earth Loom in all its forms is a center for celebration and community creativity wherever it is found. Earth Looms and Garden Looms have been built across the US, in Canada, Australia, Jamaica, Bermuda, and there are plans for looms in India and Peru. In each location, the loom is built of local materials, often by friends and partners of the weavers, another bond in weaving together community.

Boys weaving on loom in Bermuda

This loom was built of native wood by a Bermudian carpenter, for a program at the island's Kaleidoscope Arts Centre.

A tapestry of spirit

We are all interwoven in a visible and invisible tapestry of energy, light, thought and spirit. The healing of humanity is tied to the healing of the earth as we contribute our unique gifts to each weaving. It is easy to remember the relationship of earth and spirit when weaving in the garden, where every seed, shoot, and leaf is a miracle, and the earth seems informed directly by spirit.

The Garden Loom can be a place of private solace and contemplation in one’s own garden or a magnet for social gatherings in a public setting. Whether placed in the ground or made portable, it always brings a deep and surprising experience to those who weave together.

The Life of the Garden: The Breathing of the Earth

The garden’s life moves in an arc throughout the year, from planting and gestation to summer growth, to harvest, to preparation for rest, to sleep, gathering its power for the coming renewal. Normally we relate to the garden through only part of its life—the new growth, the summer abundance, and the harvest.
What if we could speak to the garden, appreciate it, and commune with it all year long? We would get to know its inner life more intimately, and understand better its year-long breathing cycle: exhaling life energy throughout spring and summer, and inhaling the quiet power of the earth through the fall and winter.
The garden responds to loving acts, just the way our own loved ones do. When someone is tired and feeling a little blue, what a boost it is just to have a hug or a kind word! Our gardens feel the same.

The Shape of the Earth Loom

Since my wife Susan is a weaver and speaks to her inner life through a meditative kind of weaving, she wanted to relate to our garden with a weaving loom. We thought of the Earth Loom, a free-standing loom made of seven logs. Normally it’s nine or ten feet tall; it seemed too large in scale for our garden. All our looms are modeled on our original seven-stick design. From the Journey Loom, sized to fit in your lap, to the celebration-size Earth Loom, each has the same parts, and each part has its role in the design and symbolism of the loom.

The finished loom reminds us of a Shinto sacred gate. We were told by a Buddhist teacher that the vertical and horizontal pieces are like the gate itself, and the angled pieces are like the sloping beams of the temple roof behind. One of our Russian friends told us that the loom shape is also remarkably like a Russian figure called a krusha, an ancient symbol of home.

We give each of the seven pieces a meaning, so that the loom is an emblem of our human experience. The meanings aren’t meant to be absolute, but they provide frequent reminders of the inner qualities of our experience, and how it harmonizes with that of the garden. The wide top cross-beam with the angled ends is represents the Creator or the creative power, whatever that may mean to you. The vertical posts represent two states of experience: being and doing. The angled pieces represent balanced communication: listening and talking. And the two horizontal weaving beams represent feeling (the bottom beam, closer to the earth) and thinking (the upper horizontal weaving beam, the “head” of the loom).

The Birth of the Garden Loom

We decided to make our loom smaller and lighter than the Earth Loom, to be harmonious with the garden and surrounding trees. We bought some cedar and made our first Garden Loom. The cedar smells heavenly and weathers beautifully: it watches over the garden without dominating it. About six feet tall and three feet wide, it looks beautiful in all seasons, and helps us experience the life of the garden throughout the year.

We planted our first loom in the spring. Morning glories went in by the loom so they could climb it throughout the spring and summer, and sunflowers are nearby to give the birds a snack in the fall.

Then we prepared the loom for weaving for the first time. The vertical threads are the warp: we used natural garden jute. We cut a piece about fourteen feet long (it seems long, but it’s right!) and doubled it, bringing the ends together. The doubled warp is about seven feet long. We put the “folded” part over the top beam of the loom, and threaded the long ends through the loop, pulling it tight into a knot known as the lark’s head, snugging it up against the front edge of the top beam.

For a slide show of warping the Garden Loom or Earth Loom, visit

The dangling ends reached well below the bottom beam. We brought them down over the front of the beam and drew them under and behind, then back up to the front. We brought one end on each side of the vertical pair and tied them just like tying shoelaces. Thirty warp threads seemed right for our first weaving, plus one in the center so we always remember our own center as we weave. The simple steps of tying on the warp fell into a pleasant rhythm – we were sorry when the last warp was tied. Tuning in to natural rhythms is always a favorite part of appreciating the rhythms of the garden.

Susan Barrett Merrill at Garden Loom

Susan Barrett Merrill weaving on her garden loom.

Cattail stalks from last year stand by the pond; we cut the long dry leaves and wove them in and out of the warp threads. We found milkweed pods that had lasted the winter, still filled with silky seeds. Our catnip patch was already growing heartily that spring, and needed some thinning. We wove the sturdy stalks into our spring weaving above the dry cattail leaves, mixing last year’s life, now dead and brittle, with the new life of the coming spring.

Throughout the summer we wove in long grasses, stalks and stems, flowers and yarns. In the fall we gently wove maple leaves into an arrangement on a sunny morning, making a stained-glass effect. Our homage to the season was our message to our garden that we remembered and reflected on its preparation for a quiet winter sleep.

In late fall, dried stalks of fall weeds, the ever-present cattail leaves, and vines from the beans we had harvested, became a twig-like support for winter snows. Throughout our snowy winter, our loom brought new life to the garden as the birds visited it often. As the birds perched on the snow-covered beams of the loom, needing the food hidden beneath the snow, it reminded us of the unseen processes beneath the covering of winter—the quiet gathering of strength, the preparation of the soil for the warming rays of the spring sun, and the microscopic life of the soil that is forever unseen but essential for our being.

Garden loom covered in snow

Our Garden Loom after a lush snowfall

And throughout the year, the sunlight and shadows on the loom keep us ever mindful that our very existence comes from those rays that flood the garden in summer and cast the long shadows of winter. The sun is the center, the life, and the hope of the garden.

Our loom gave us a new appreciation of the life of the garden. Here in northern Maine, we were so used to thinking of it as a late-spring arrival with a brief summer fling followed by a short fall and the early onset of a long winter. Now we saw that the winter rest of receiving slowly-prepared nutrients in the soil gives the garden the power to herald its own coming in the spring, to give generously throughout the summer and fall in flowers, ripening fruits, and a plentiful harvest, and to tell us of the seasons of our lives as the darkness seems endless. In the words of Gordon Bok’s song Turning Toward The Morning:

“It’s a shame that we don’t know what the little flowers know.

They can’t face the cold November, they can’t take the wind and snow.

They put their glories all behind them, bow their heads and let it go,

But you know they’ll be there shinin’ in the morning.”

Building Your Loom

We love to build our looms out of cedar. Here in Maine where we live, white cedar is a native renewable resource. Responsibly-harvested red cedar is not so easy to find, but is a wonderful wood to work with. Both are naturally rot-resistant, and will last for years in the ground. Cedar weathers to a beautiful silvery gray. Please note that these plans are provided for personal use, not commercial use.

Tools you will need:

Tools for building a Garden Loom

Tools for building a Garden Loom

Table saw or hand-held circular saw for ripping pieces to narrower width
Hand saw for mortise cuts (or use circular saw)
Carpenter’s square for squaring corners and marking cuts
A plane for smoothing edges and corners
A chisel about 1” wide for cutting out mortises
An electric or hand drill (I use a brace-type drill, shown)
A 7/16” drill bit at least 6 inches long (I use a sharp spade bit)
An adjustable wrench for tightening nuts
Sandpaper for finishing

Material List

The Garden Loom parts will be made out of the stock below, cut based on the Cut List, and assembled with the hardware listed.

Lumber Stock Qty
4 x 4 x 10 ft ( used to make part A) 2
2 x 6 x 4 ft (used to make part B) 1
2 x 4 x 8 ft ( used to make parts C & D) 2


Hardware Qty
Bolts: 3/8 x 3-1/2” 5
Bolts: 3/8 x 5-1/2” 2
Nuts and washers, 3/8” 7 each

Cut List

A: 4 x 4 ripped to 2-3/4” square, and cut to 9’-6” long
B: 2 x 6 x 46” long, ends angled 25 or 30 degrees
C: 2 x 4 x 42” long (two of these) ripped to 2-3/4” wide
D: 2 x 4 x 31” long (two of these) ripped to 2-3/4” wide


The Garden Loom is made from standard-size lumber stock cut down a little to make it more graceful. What woods to use? Construction lumber is made of spruce or hemlock, which do not weather well; that is why we prefer to use cedar. We can get it locally, and it lasts for years outdoors and in the ground. If you can find sustainably harvested western red cedar, it’s a wonderful wood to work with — straight and stable, with a lovely aroma. You may also use fir, which weathers reasonably well.

You may work with the standard sizes if you don’t have the ability to rip the pieces (cut narrower), but the narrower pieces will look more graceful. If you use the standard sizes, you will need to make the mortises (spaces cut into the wood) wider to fit. Mortises should be 1/4” wider than the piece that will fit in the mortise, to allow for shrinkage and expansion due to weather.


Be sure to use galvanized hardware so it will stand up to the weather. Plain steel bolts will rust quickly out of doors, and stainless steel is expensive!
The Cut List above gives you the lengths and sizes of the wood parts.

Let’s start building

Leave the top beam at its full width, and cut the ends at angles of 25 degrees (30 degrees is OK).

Garden Earth Loom Plan

Get measurements for the hole locations from the plan. Measure carefully, and remember you will be drilling holes as you assemble the loom, not beforehand.

Rip the 4 x 4 pieces to 2-3/4” square. Cut them to 9-1/2 feet long. Plane the sides smooth, and bevel or round the corners with the plane. You may cut the tops of these pieces in a pyramid. [Illus_detail1.jpg] It’s a clean way to finish the tops, and it’s functional, as it helps the posts shed rain.

To read the dimensions, enlarge the image at left by clicking on it, then clicking on the image you see.

Vertical post and mortise methodsCarefully measure and cut the mortises. Lay the vertial pieces side by side to measure, then cut them individually. The mortises should be 1/4” wider than the cross pieces to give a little play while assembling, and to allow for the cross pieces swelling when they’re wet.

To cut the mortises, carefully saw across the vertical piece to a 3/4” depth at both ends of the mortise, then chip out the wood between the cuts with your chisel. (see the illustration below) Turn the chisel upside down as shown, so the tip doesn’t bit too deeply. The bottom of the mortise shouldn’t have any big bumps or ridges on it.

Another way to cut a mortise is to use a power saw. Set the blade depth to 3/4”. Cut the two cross cuts for each mortise, then make several cross-cuts between those cuts about 1/4” apart. Chip out the standing pieces with your chisel, and smooth the bottom of the mortise.

NOTE: Don’t mortise the angled pieces yet. You’ll mark them and mortise them as we assemble the loom.

Rip all the 2 x 4 pieces to 2-3/4” wide. Plane the cut edges, and bevel or round the corners. Sand everything smooth, especially the cross beams (C), which will be used for weaving.

Assembling the loom

How it goes together

Drill the holes as you assemble the loom. It’s easiest to lay the parts down on a large flat part of your yard, or a driveway with scraps under them to level and protect them, or lay them on sawhorses, to lift them off the ground for drilling and tightening the bolts.

Lay the vertical pieces parallel with 30-1/4” between them. Lay the cross pieces on them, checking to see they fit the mortises cut out for them. Match them to the illustration. This will be your loom assembly.

Now remove the top beam (the one that’s wider, with angled ends) and mark the places for the three holes. Drill them with the 7/16” spade bit. Lay the top beam back in its mortices, carefully centered. Make certain the top beam and vertical beams form 90-degree angles, so the loom will be square.

Cutting angle mortise

Cutting the angled mortises

Mark the two angled pieces to show their intersection, scribing angled lines along the sides. Remove the two angled pieces and mortise them as shown, with your marks as reference. This is probably the trickiest part of making the loom. The two pieces are identical; when they’re finished, fit them together, so their mortises match. They should look like a wide upside-down V. Mark the center of their intersection, and drill a hole through both pieces.

Place a 3-1/2” bolt through the hole in both pieces, lay them back down on the loom assembly, and align the bolt with the center hole in the top beam. Check where the ends of the angled pieces cross the cross-beam. Center everything carefully, and drill all the way through center of the intersection where the angled piece, the cross beam, and the vertical beam meet. Drill through all three pieces. Do this for both sides.

Thread the long bolts through these holes.

Now center the bottom cross beam and drill two holes through it and the vertical posts.

Thread bolts through the remaining holes. Place a washer on each bolt at the back, then thread a nut onto each bolt. Position everything and begin tightening the nuts. Tighten them finger tight at first to make sure everything is in position, then tighten them firmly with the wrench until the washer just begins to bite into the wood.

Planting the Loom

Dig two holes in your garden, 33 inches from center to center, and at least 30 inches deep. Carry your loom (it’s not very heavy if you made it from cedar) and stand it in the holes. If it stands too high, you can cut a little off the legs to lower it. The bottom beam should be about 18” to 24” above the ground.

When you’re satisfied with the height, hold the loom so it looks vertical. Fill in the holes around the feet of the loom, and tamp the soil firmly.

You’re ready to warp and weave!

Warping the Garden Loom

A slide show of these photos in sequence is available on the Weaving a Life website support pages. Click on “Warping the Larger Looms”

Steps 1, 2 and 3
Lay a folded warp over the top weaving beam from front to back. Pull the ends through the loop.

This will make a “lark’s head” knot. Tighten the knot up to the bottom of the top beam. Pull the ends down, separating them and keeping them parallel.

Bring them under the front of the bottom beam. Bring the ends up behind the bottom beam. Bring the ends around the outsides of the warp. Tie the ends in a half hitch tightly around the warp.

Lift the knot a little to tighten the warp. Bring the knot down again to finish tightening it, and tie a bow knot, just like tying your shoelaces.

The warp should be tight and a little “springy.” If it’s loose, just undo the bow and tighten it again.

Weaving on Your Garden Loom

Remember to use natural jute garden twine for warp, or strong cotton cord. The commonly available green jute will stain your loom. Weave in straw from your mulch, grasses, dried flowers, cornsilk, cattail leaves, or any garden materials. Save sunflower crowns and string cranberries, then weave them in for winter bird feeding.

Susan is a spinner—she makes her own weavings primarily out of her own hand-spun yarns. She keeps out small portions of unspun wool to weave into the Garden Loom.  Roving (combed fibers shaped into thick strands for spinning), or yarns of wool or cotton can be woven in with flowers and other materials. Choose harmonious colors and cooperate with your garden to create a woven sculpture. Natural yarns will weather on the loom, giving the weaving an overall patina.

Train spring climbing flowers into a living weaving. Imagine morning glories twining back and forth among climbing cherry tomatoes and scarlet runner beans: a feast for the eyes and the palate! Some folks shun the pesky woodbine, but it will love climbing into your loom, and will give you a spectacular fall display when its palmate leaves turn brilliant red.

Weave in seasonal plants and materials for a season-by-season conversation with your garden. The Garden Loom is at home in any growing zone. Plant for your zone from the charts below. These are by no means exhaustive. Some important plants may have been left out, and others may not be quite right for your garden or your zone. USDA zones are approximate guides. Local conditions may vary widely from the suggested zone characteristics. Experiment for yourself, and find a new area of creativity!

We prefer non-hybridized plants that can be grown from their own seed, giving us a penchant for heirloom varieties from local seed saving projects.

For growing zones from the USDA, find their map at Another wonderful resource is Dave’s Garden (, a very informative website with an encyclopedic plant guide found at Dave’s claims the largest online plant database in the world, with information and photos for 169,062 plants at last count.

A few of our favorite plants for different seasons and conditions are given below. If young children will be visiting your garden, be sure to use only edible or non-poisonous plants!

One heirloom seed project is run by a Maine high school: the Medomak Valley Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School.

Summer climbing flowers and plants:

Z4-11 Clematis (Clematis Ranunculaceae) varieties for different zones.

Z4-11 Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

Z4-8 Morning Glory (Convolvulaceae Ipomoea purpurea) Try the variety President Tyler from Medomak Valley Heirloom Seed Project in Waldoboro, Maine

Z5-11 Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)

Z8-11 White Moonflower (Convolvulaceae Ipomoea) a special morning glory that blooms at night.

Z3-9 Climbing cherry tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum)

Z3-9 The currant tomato, (Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium)

Z3-9 Green beans (Try heirloom varieties such as Marvel of Venice or Garden of Eden, from Johnny’s Seeds in Maine, or from your local heirloom seed source)

Z3-9 Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus)

Z3-9 Peas (shelling peas — Pisum sativum or sugar snap peas Pisum sativum macrocarpon)

Z5-8 Hibiscus: (Malvaceae Hibiscus syriacus)

Z8-11 Climbing Lily: (Liliaceae Gloriosa superba) beautiful climbing flowers. NOTE: NOT for children’s garden. All parts of plant are poisonous.

Summer plants to grow around the loom:

Z3-9 Echinacea – hummingbirds love them!

Z3-9 Chives – edible lavender flowers, light scent

Z3-9 Joe Pye Weed (Asteraceae Eutrochium) – tall (8ft), large clusters of flowers loved by bees, hummingbirds. Prune in summer for flowering at lower height.

Z4-8 Nasturtiums (Tropaeolaceae Tropaeolum) – plant in spring, Z9-11 plant in winter: Nasturtium have delicious edible flowers, bright color. Leaves are elegant and peppery, good addition to salads

Z4-10 Wildflower mix – plant in spring for summer bloom. Find a “songbird mix” and attract a spring symphony.

Z5-10 Poppy (Papaver somniferum) – bright flowers, hardy to early frost

Z5-10 Stokes Aster  (Stokesia laevis) small star-like flowers

Z4-10 Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Fall Plants

Z3-9 Daylily (Hemerocallidaceae Hemerocallis) full sun to partial shade

Z3-9 Late-Flowering Boneset (Asteraceae serotinum) attractive to bees, butterflies and birds

Z9-11 Fall Squill (Liliaceae Scilla numidica) Lily family, all parts of plant poisonous

Z6-9 Wishbone Flower (Scrophulariaceae Torenia fournieri) related to snapdragons and foxglove full sun to shade

Z9-11 Nasturtiums (plant midsummer to late summer)

Spring Flowers

Z4-9 Wildflower mix. Plant in late fall for early bloom.

Z4-10 Poppy — plant in late fall for early spring blooming

Z8-11 Trumpet Vine Clytostoma callistegioides perennial, spring bloomer

Nesting Materials on the Stem

To give your local bird population abundant materials for nesting, try planting herbs and “weeds” that provide natural fibrous nesting materials such as:

Eastern US: Pokeweed (Poke Milkweed) (Asclepias exaltata)

West and Southwest: Indian Milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa), a California native, or Desert Milkweed (Asclepias erosa) a native of both California and Nevada.

Provide Nesting Materials

It’s such a thrill to set out nesting materials, then watch birds alight nearby, cock their heads, hop a little, then dart down and tease out some fibers from your offering. You helped provide a cozy home! Some recommended materials:

Wisps of  wool from sheep, llama, alpaca, angora rabbits and mohair goats

The birds will love to use your own hair in their nests

Down from cattail flowers (Typha latifolia)

Milkweed silk saved from previous fall

Dried grasses, yarns (short lengths), Spanish moss, dog hair (really!), feathers, needles from long-leaf pine, cord, string, thread (short lengths), narrow fabric scraps (recommended by A Home for Wild Birds ––
–– NOTE: Cut your yarn, string and fabric strips to shorter lengths. Birds Forever –– –– recommends not longer than 8”.

Winter bird food

Plant flowers and non-woody shrubs near your loom to fill birds’ larders all winter long. Since these plants may produce seeds you don’t want sprouting among your beautifully tended flowers, you may want to keep them a little distance from the “show” garden.

Sunflowers: Any kind will do, but saving a few black sunflower seeds from your birdfood supply to plant near your loom will give you a natural feeder. You can also cut them in the fall a foot or more below the flower and weave the stems in to create a sunflower feast.

Soak hulled seeds in water to soften them, then use a needle and thread to string them like popcorn. Weave your sunflower seed garland into a winter weaving, and watch the birds come to appreciate your work.

Safflower seed: Plant in fall one year ahead for bird feeding the following winter. The University of California at Davis website ( saff3plant.htm) says “a [safflower] plant sown in November may reach six feet tall (1.9 m) and have over 50 viable flower heads the next season.”

Winged Sumac aka Shining or Dwarf Sumac: (Rhus Copallina) Plant sumac near the garden, and leave the fruited heads in place on the plant. It will give birds the sheltered perches they prefer, and the heads last into the winter, even after leaves are gone.

Staghorn Sumac or common sumac (Rhus typhina) Leaves turn brilliant red in fall, fruits stand in a vertical cluster instead of hanging as in Winged Sumac. This is also the source of “Indian lemonade,” an indigenous drink made from the ripe red fruits, with a tart taste.


Plant any of the following to attract hummingbirds. These are all at home in Zones 4-9, and may well extend beyond.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Larkspur (Consolida ajacis)

Calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)

Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana)

Lion’s Ear (Leonotis nepetifolia) annual

Wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri)


Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)


Monarch, swallowtail, mourning cloak butterfli

Left to right: Monarch, Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak

Butterflies can be a mixed blessing, as many of their larvae will eat your precious garden produce. However, most of the colorful butterflies we love to see vie with blossoms for beauty, and are welcome in any garden. Monarchs, those famous (now endangered) migrators, tiger swallowtails, mourning cloak—these grace any gardenscape with color and motion.

luna moth on branch

Luna moth

You may even see the spectacular luna moth if you have hickory, walnut, sweet-gum, persimmon, or birch trees. The larvae of the Luna moth will not decimate trees! We should welcome them, because according to the University of Michigan animal diversity website,, wild silk moths, of which the Luna moth is one, have declined in numbers since the 1960s due to habitat destruction and increased use of bright vapor lights that disrupt mating (one more strike against light pollution).

A good reference for plants that will attract butterflies and birds is Floridata,, a comprehensive list of Florida plants, many of which grow throughout the US. Floridata suggests, among others, dill, cosmos, sunflowers, parsley, zinnias, Echinacea, black-eyed susan, and goldenrod to invite those butterflies.


Songbirds love to eat the seeds and fruits of plants and shrubs. By thoughtful planting, you can provide hearty meals for our feathered neighbors. You and the birds may be “Blackberrying” at the same time. Plant these around the loom, and make sure some are near a window. Children love to watch birds feeding on nature’s plant banquet.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Strawberry (Fragaria X ananassa)

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Your Garden Loom is a beautiful garden sculpture; it harmonizes with other cedar garden furniture, trellises and gates. It can give you great pleasure throughout the year as it brings you closer to the amazing events happening almost unseen every minute in your garden, and brings the feeling of the seasons deeper into your life.


Story Loom Plans

Weaving a Life is giving away a free download of plans for the Story Loom — the indoor-outdoor loom with trestle feet. For a chance to win these plans, a $45 value, including full-size templates and other information not in this article, please leave a comment on this post by Sunday, November 20.  We’ll announce the winner by Monday, November 21st.


Garden Loom poster

Our own 11 x 17 poster of the many of the above plantings for the Garden Loom, with color-coded planting zones, is available at

Happy Garden Weaving and Earth Looming!

If you cannot or prefer not to build your own, you may purchase a Garden Loom or Story Loom from Weaving a Life.

Garden Loom:

Story Loom:

Richard Merrill, Weaving a Life

Richard Merrill lives with his wife, Susan Barrett Merrill, in the coastal Maine village of Brooksville. A graphic designer, songwriter, and puppeteer, Richard is the author of many articles on Weaving a Life subjects for Voices (the journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapy), Handwoven Magazine, and Living Crafts.

Contact us:

Email Richard Merrill, author of this article

Email Susan Barrett Merrill, founder of Weaving a Life


We have a winner!


Nancee Jo Luciani Submitted on 2011/11/20 at 4:22 pmSerendipity. That’s what finding this blog was.
A conversation recently about fiber arts spurred a renewed interest for me in weaving.
I renewed my mom’s garden this summer and it is a wonderful zen place for me to create. I paint and carve birds and decoys alongside my two parrots during the warm months. Being disabled, I spend much of my time enjoying the gardens and patio and creative space I have.
I’m always adding “just a few things” that speak to me. And this blog about the Garden Loom/Earth Loom did just that. I can already imagine it standing sentinel and becoming alive, giving me a place to create something new and different.
In addition, I work with a Folklife Center and this is an absolutely marvelous project for their fiber arts focus in 2012. An interactive inter-generational activity that everyone can enjoy being a part of and watching it grow.
Thanks for sharing! You truly have inspired me!!



Posted by Richard Merrill on Oct 24, 2011 05:04 AM | 139 Comments

139 Responses to “Soul Crafts: An Earth Loom in the Garden”

  1. Kathy O in GA says:

    Wow, thank you for the great tutorial…it has been a very long time since I did any weaving…what a wonderful way to get back into the craft.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I am so impressed with your article and
    loom. What a beautiful idea.
    Please count me in for a chance to win.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Cate deCossy says:

    Oh thank you! I have been SOOOOO wanting to build one of these for our school garden! We have a beautiful biodynamic garden at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. Our gardening teacher is enthusiastic about my building a Garden Loom for the school. I think it will really add a beautiful connection to the garden and the seasons here for the children. I am so glad to have this article!

  4. Nancy Kielar says:

    I have seen this in a photo but not the how to. I think the boys and I will make this a spring project.


  5. Barbara says:

    I can’t wait to try this in the spring! Now that snow has blanketed us in here in Saskatchewan, we can dream of projects for the next year. Thank you!

  6. Quadira says:

    Oh, this looks SO cool! I love the idea of a garden or earth loom!

    It reminds me of when I was an adolescent and learned somewhere how to make a loom by winding string or other warp material between two parallel branches of a tree, then weaving in leaves and grasses and flowers and such. That weaving was then a part of nature, until it fell apart.

    Thanks for sharing your plans!

  7. Deb says:

    I have wanted to do one of these for a while. Just moved, so maybe now I can! Having the plans would be an extra bonus.
    Thanks for the opportunity.

  8. Marilyn says:

    What a beautiful idea. Will be a great project for our local Community Centre. And our Australian garden will soon be b-looming. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Kari says:

    Very cool idea. I would love to make one of htese and I know my kids would too.

  10. loura says:

    Oh, my daughters and I are going crazy over this idea! WOW!!!

  11. Lois Tschaepe says:

    Thank you so much for the great tutorial! I’m always looking for ways to improve our natural playscape, and this loom is a “must have”!

  12. Ann says:

    A beautiful addition to any garden. I want to make one. It is winter in W.v. but come spring I want to create one for my flower garden. Thank you so much for the information.

  13. Rose says:

    How LOVELY! Please count me in!

  14. Cheryl Torres says:

    What an awesome way to bring the neighboorhood kids together as one!

  15. Carlie H says:

    This would be so great to do for my granddaughters in my garden…thanks for the tutorial.

  16. What a wonderful structure to add to my yard. How spiritually enriching to work on it.

  17. I would love to have this loom in my garden. The photograph of the loom being used to provide birds with food and fiber for their nests is so precious.

  18. Lynn D says:

    Have planted natives and wish we had Luna moths out here in California, but we do have Monarch’s and Swallowtails.
    Will send this link to son’s last school that has a native garden and maybe they will want to build this.
    thank you

    Lynn D

  19. You’ve started off so many trains of thought, thanks! I garden and I used to weave, what a marvelous way of bringing together!

  20. Linda Ojala says:

    Kia Ora I’m inspired by your garden loom, and plan to build one at the kindy I am at in Waihi Beach, New Zealand… We’ll have to plant different seeds around, and our birds are Tui’s (and ducks at the moment)… but I’m sure it will translate.

    with Aroha Linda

  21. Rachel says:

    I adore this project and would love a chance to win the plans. I am a beginner weaver that is very intrigued by the idea of weaving with truly natural materials. My mind is analyzing all parts of my garden for where the garden loom would best fit. What a great thing to do with kids. Thank you for the lovely idea!

  22. Kelley says:

    There should be one of these in every yard, school and public place.

  23. Rayna says:

    Very cool idea, I may have to bug the DH into making me one of these this year :)

  24. Tamara says:

    What a lovely idea for winter treats and bedding for birds. And it sounds like a relatively simple project for a first wood working project . . . except for the ripping. Maybe I can find some saplings for a version on the “native” side of my garden. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Elvira Kubat says:

    I saw that loom once in the magazine and loved it right away.
    Would be great to win the instructions and build the loom.

  26. Sonja McKay says:

    This is a magical experience that belongs in every backyard and public greenspace in America. Thanks!

  27. Lori says:

    We would love to build one of these lovely looms in our Children’s Garden at the farm!

  28. Priscilla says:

    What a beautiful gift to the garden fairies and all those who visit!

  29. Serendipity. That’s what finding this blog was.
    A conversation recently about fiber arts spurred a renewed interest for me in weaving.
    I renewed my mom’s garden this summer and it is a wonderful zen place for me to create. I paint and carve birds and decoys alongside my two parrots during the warm months. Being disabled, I spend much of my time enjoying the gardens and patio and creative space I have.
    I’m always adding “just a few things” that speak to me. And this blog about the Garden Loom/Earth Loom did just that. I can already imagine it standing sentinel and becoming alive, giving me a place to create something new and different.
    In addition, I work with a Folklife Center and this is an absolutely marvelous project for their fiber arts focus in 2012. An interactive inter-generational activity that everyone can enjoy being a part of and watching it grow.
    Thanks for sharing! You truly have inspired me!!

  30. JennyB says:

    Sounds like an amazing project for my child’s Kindergarten play yard…

  31. Phyllis Gibson says:

    This appeals to me on lots of levels; it’s cool & practical, but whimsical and spiritual, too! My landscape is a work in progress and this would be a highlight!!

  32. Catherine A. says:

    This is such a nice idea and I would love to integreate it in my garden.
    Thank you

  33. andrea says:

    How beautiful! I’d love one in my garden!

  34. Zoe says:

    I know I am past the deadline for comments, but I just looked at this email after crazy weekend of trade shows and I just had to respond. I have been away from weaving for 2 years (how did this happen) and to read this article was so amazing. It really made me reflect on my sadly empty loom downstairs but also on tthe lovely natural space I have avialable to me (on our little island property, not so far away) but also of our time at our local folk music festival where in the past they have set up an Earth Loom for the festival participants. Late as the hour may be I feel a real calling to the loom. For those who have not woven, it is a beautiful, transcendant experience and to weave in a place of nature and with loved ones (for me, my children) is such a wonderment. Thank you so much for your article, it is well past time that I returned to my loom, and maybe this time it should be an earth loom.

  35. Charlotte says:

    Wow, my fellow Master Gardeners would love one of these in each of the public gardens they take care of!

  36. Jane LaFazio says:

    fabulous idea……….love the whole concept.

  37. I savor, result in I discovered exactly what I used to be having a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  38. This is truly beautiful weaving in motion for the soul. Thankyou for sharing.

  39. Chanel says:

    this article and all the detail’s of you and your wife’s weavings and suggestions, made my heart happy, thank you for sharing.

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