Spiraling Notions

Buyer's Guide

To the New Loom Buyer, Part I

I have been thinking a bit lately about my looms.

Yes... looms, as in multiples. sigh.

I thought about some things I would do differently based on what I have learned in my endeavors in weaving and also a number of other handcrafts, such as knitting, spinning and needlepoint. What they all ultimately led me to is more stuff. What I would like to offer is suggestions for anyone beginning this journey to consider before making purchases. These are large purchases and a number of factors need to be considered - not just space and cost. You need to know yourself and be realistic about your expectations from weaving. For example, my first floor loom was 48 inches and needed to be housed in a different location which created problems getting to and from said location to actually weave. It had not occurred to me in the moment...

First thing is first... Have you woven anything before?

If the answer is yes - you need to decide on a loom.
If the answer is no - you probably should get lessons or a rigid heddle.

If you have never woven on a loom before the best thing to get you started, hands down, lessons from a weaver. This is not always easy. Many of us start this journey alone and find others as we move along. My suggestions? First go online and find a weaving guild in your area. What I mean by area is the half of the state your in… This was discouraging to me, I won't lie about that. I had a very hard time finding people in my area. This is not the only resource though, as I now know! Next, visit Weavolution.com. This is a website dedicated to weaving and weavers. You may be able to find someone locally to help you learn. The forums are great. The website is not the best but they are improving it all the time and it is a great resource. Another option is Ravelry.com which is geared towards knitting and crochet but has a rabid spinning and weaving faction - fighting to get more representation. There are any number of groups and forums dedicated to weaving. This will also help you find something in your area. Third, try a community college or art council in your area. I never see these places advertised but they are all over the place. There may be textile classes hidden in the fashion section of their arts program. Lastly, Get a copy of handwoven magazine from a local yarn shop or from Interweave.com. The back of the magazine has locations for yarn, classes and looms.

The reason this is so important is that these classes may offer you a choice of looms. This way you will be able to get first hand experience with many kinds of weaving. This means you do not have to experiment after buying a loom and learning you don’t like it after the expense. Looms are basically furniture and unless you have unlimited funds and space it will be an issue you need to consider.

If everything above fails, I'm sorry. I really am because I understand how it feels. I did not know about these resources until after I had been weaving for two years. I was on my own for most of it and I hated that. BUT all is not lost. The right thing for you is a rigid heddle loom. You will probably get rid of it after you work on it a while because it has its limitations but it is by no means a poor tool. These looms have a number of benefits not the least of which is their small size and ease of solo use. They are inexpensive and easy to learn on the fly. I would recommend one to anyone who is interested in learning and on the fence about weaving. If you hate the rigid heddle or think that its too complicated to use then weaving is probably not for you. Weaving on other looms is more complicated than using a rigid heddle so it is a great starting point. You will learn a lot about basic weaving and if you actually like it.

Give yourself time to learn.

This is important and I cannot stress it enough. If you are starting with the rigid heddle make sure you have resources dedicated to rigid heddle weaving specifically. Most resources are talking about multi-shaft looms, such as a 4 shaft floor loom. This might confuse you since they do not work the same. There are two authors who I feel are excellent sources: Jane Patrick and Betty Davenport. These women have thoroughly dissected rigid heddle weaving and show what you can do with it as a tool. Spend some time with them and when you feel comfortable you can move on, if you choose. If you are new to weaving entirely you may need a video to go over the basics, Jane & Betty are not teaching beginning weaving but exploring the rigid heddle. You can check out my review section to read my comments on the videos and books I've used.

If you have the luxury of classes - enjoy them - ask questions and weave everything you are able to. Ask to try other looms for various projects and find out about studio time where you can work on a project of your choosing if its an option. Do as much as you can before you settle on anything for your home. This way you know if the weaving bug bit you or not! If it did - Welcome. It's wonderful.


NO GUILT

Do not feel bad if you want to move on from rigid heddle weaving or 4 shaft weaving. Once you have had lessons or worked on a rigid heddle you will probably want a floor loom or table loom. Most people do. There are plenty of people who work exclusively with a rigid heddle or other small looms and do amazing things, but generally people migrate to floor and table looms after they develop taste for weaving. There is no shame in moving on and you are not abandoning anything. There are 5,000 + years of weaving history… you have barely scratched the surface at this stage.

As far as other looms go Its really a question of shafts. Shafts, if you don't know, are what allow you to raise the threads to pass the weft through. A 4 shaft loom allow you to do things with your weaves you simply cannot do easily on a 2 shaft loom. Then there is 8, which also allows you to do more. There are 12, 16 and even 32 shaft looms. After 16 they generally become computer driven since you do not have enough limbs to make all the treadles work for you.


Once you have move from the rigid heddle the price and size increases exponentially.

Here is another important bit. You have to realize that once you decide on another loom they are larger and more expensive. My process started with small looms, bracelet and bead weaving. From there I decided on a rigid heddle loom simply because of cost. I did not know if I wanted to weave... it seemed like the most economic of the options to see if I wanted to start.

Once I realized I could never do anything but weave for the rest of my life - I knew I needed more loom. I decided on a table loom. It is a wonderful loom... but I found it cumbersome and slow going. I also could not use a regular boat shuttle because it would not travel through the shed properly. It just did not feel like I wanted it too and took a very long time for me to weave. Almost as long as on the rigid heddle. At that point I decided on a floor loom, the one mentioned above. It was a much nicer experience weaving but again it had its problems as well. It was larger than my space would allow and getting to weave on it became intermittent. It was also used and had parts I could not replace easily. In the end I found a machine shop to help fabricate new ones. I will go into the detail of used vs. new in the next post.

But the long and short of it is -this is the part where you need to be honest with yourself. I knew I wanted to weave, this was it, I’d found it. Question was how can I get what I want without spending a lot. Simply put - you can’t. It all comes down to being honest with yourself and what you know of your habits. I always start with the smallest cheapest items and move towards the larger more expensive. In the end I have not saved a dime and have to find new homes for things... If this is you then spend more time thinking about what you want before you buy.

My personal recommendation would be to buy as much loom as you can for your budget and as much as your space will allow. I do not know what anyone else recommends but for me I think it would certainly have reduced costs a lot. I have a total of 5 looms and each one has its own very specific pros and cons.

1. Find a loom that has readily available parts
2. Find a loom that allows as many after market options as possible, such as adding harnesses or a new batten.
3. Find a loom that looks good and suits your home. This is furniture that you cannot put away when your done.
4. Find a loom that is physically comfortable for you to use, that means deciding on a chair or bench (which is not always the best seating option)
5. Find a loom that fits your space well, the area around the loom needs to be clear for warping and maneuvering.

Notice price wasn't on the list. If these items are considered it won't matter. Because if you do not factor them into the purchase you will buy another loom. And possibly another loom. There is no loom that can do everything but there are looms that can do a number of things well. I will not recommend a certain make or model. That is far to subjective. I will just stress that these factors are more important that first glance. I will go into detail on each on in the next post.

Thanks for reading.
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