Loom is a jekyll theme that weaves HTML emails

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Documentation

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Loom is a jekyll theme that weaves HTML emails from markdown and SCSS. It also builds an archive ready for sharing on the web or over your favorite punk-to-punk protocol. Here’s the repo.

We’ll assume you have some experience with terminal, markdown, HTML and SCSS, but if you don’t, maybe this will be a good opportunity to dig in! Feel free to reach out via an issue on the repo if you’d like some help.

To begin

Pour yourself a cool glass of water and put on some music. Maybe something like Echoes by Jogging House. That’s nice.

Ok:
Open a terminal and install bundler, if you haven’t already:

gem install bundler

Clone the Loom repo, change to the loom directory, and run:

bundle install

That will install jekyll and its dependencies. Now install juice, which will handle inlining styles in our emails:

npm install juice -g

Open up _config.yml in a text editor and change the placeholders to suit you. Finally, build the site and get it running on a local server:

bundle exec jekyll serve

You can see and touch the site at http://localhost:4000.

To weave an email

Write the content of the email as a post. When it’s all ready to go, run:

./scripts/email.sh

The email HTML will be copied to your clipboard. To build the site for sharing on the web, make sure you set baseurl in _config-web.yml to wherever you’ll be hosting the site, and run:

./scripts/publish.sh

You’ll find the rendered files in the _site directory.

Structure

Loom is organized like any old jekyll site, with a few additions:

email.html is the template that generates an HTML email from your latest post. Be sure to add the unsubscribe tag from your newsletter service to the link near the end of the file. The surrounding raw tags prevent liquid from trying to metabolize the unsubscribe tag.

resources/css/email.scss.liquid is the stylesheet that gets included and inlined in email.html when the site is built. Note that the stylesheet will look for webfont files wherever baseurl points to in _config-web.yml. You can always point it somewhere else. This stylesheet shares some typographic styles with the rest of the site by way of @mixins, but you can easily decouple the two by removing the @mixins and writing brand new styles for the email.

latest.md generates a page that always redirects to the latest post. It’s a handy link to include in welcome emails, profiles, engravings in stone, or anywhere else that’s a chore to update.

scripts is a directory containing two bash scripts (spells, really) that occasion the actual weaving:

scripts/email.sh builds the site with the ‘email’ environment value, inlines the styles, and copies the email HTML to your clipboard.

scripts/publish.sh builds the site with the ‘production’ environment value and the additional _config-web.yml file (which allows you to set a base URL, and excludes email.html and email.scss.liquid from the built site), and if you have SSH access to your webserver (and have added the user, IP and path to the script), it will shuttle the built site over to the server via rsync. Careful with rsync, it is perfectly capable of destroying what is most dear to you, and when it does, it will show not the slightest glimmer of recognition. Otherwise a friendly companion.

Colophon

Loom is made by C.S. Mills, who has been publishing his own newsletter since early 02019. The type around here is set in DejaVu Sans Mono, which is based on Bitstream Vera Sans Mono designed by Jim Lyles.

License

All this is offered under the terms of GPLv3 or later.