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Selecting a Loom

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Loom Selection for Beginners

Novice weavers have many choices before them when it comes to selecting a loom.
Comfort, size, type of weaving, and affordability are important factors to consider. Experienced weavers may want more harnesses in order to weave more complicated patterns or a wider width to weave larger fabric.

You need to be comfortable with your first loom. If the loom is large and complicated you might feel overwhelmed and too confused to begin weaving. If you can first take a weaving class or work with another weaver, then operating a loom can be less mystifying. Choose your first loom to fit the type of projects you want to weave. Start simple so your weaving experience is pleasant and fun.

Size and weight of a loom always needs to be considered before making a purchase. Do you have room for a large floor loom in your home, or would a smaller Rigid Heddle or Table Loom be more suitable? Do you want a loom that can fold up and be easily transportable? Will the loom fit through your doorway! Do you have a place to keep a crated loom dry until you can remove it from the shipping crate and assemble it inside?

Do you want to weave delicate, intricate patterns on table runners or heavy, durable rugs? Elaborate patterns may require 8 harnesses and rugs need a heavy sturdy loom that will withstand strong beating action. How wide your loom should be depends on what you want to weave - placemats or shawls, wall hangings or rugs? What type of fiber or yarn do you plan to use - Handspun wool or commercial yarn? Many weavers have more than one loom because they weave a variety of fabrics.

How much does it cost? Inkle looms and Rigid Heddle Looms range in price from $160.00 to $400.00. Table looms vary between $600.00 - $1,200.00. Floor looms start around $1,000.00 and go on up. There are endless weaving accessories, but some are crucial in order to weave. Stick or boat shuttles, bobbins, a warping board, loom bench and threading hooks are as important as the loom. Some looms offer the option of 4 shafts now, 4 later. That means you can order your loom with only 4 shafts on it originally, but later on you can purchase and install 4 more shafts when you are ready to do more fancy weaving.

 

Types of Looms

Rigid Heddle Looms

Inkle Looms
Inkle Looms are great for weaving belts, straps, and bands. You can weave pieces up to 4 1/2 inches in width. Inkle looms are compact, easy to warp and quickly produce finished belts.

Table Looms
Table Looms offer the weaver the option of 4 or 8 shaft weaving patterns. Hand levers mounted on the top of the loom change the shed and make the raised shafts visible. Weaving widths on table looms range from 16 to 32. Table looms can sit on a table or attach to a floor stand. Table looms are ideal for weaving lighter weight fabric with complex patterns while using a small portable loom.

Tapestry Looms

Tapestry Looms can be portable looms that hold a continuous warp under tension. The loom is angled upright for weaving and benefits from the support of a stand. Weaving widths range from 18 to 29. Tapestry looms are designed for weaving intricate details that can produce images or geometric patterns.

Floor Looms
Floor looms are the most efficient looms. Since your feet control raising and lowering the shafts, your hands are free to throw the shuttle at a faster pace. When choosing a floor loom, consider the space it will occupy, the width of fabric that you want to weave, the number of shafts and the type of lifting mechanism the loom has.

The width of floor looms ranges from 18 to 72 or larger. Some looms can be folded when not in use, such as Schacht's Wolf Looms . This makes them easier to store or to transport to a workshop. The weight of floor looms is variable. If you plan to weave rugs you need a heavy loom to withstand the beating action. When selecting a loom take into consideration which loom width is the most comfortable for you weave on. It is more difficult to throw the shuttle across the width of a very wide loom if you are a small person.

Most floor looms have the option of 4 or 8 shafts. More complex weaving patterns utilize 8 shafts. Some looms offer 4 Now-4 Later, which means you can purchase the loom with 4 shafts and add 4 more at a later date. This is a wonderful option for beginning weavers, which gives them the potential expansion when their skills are more refined. Determining if you prefer patterns or texture and color can guide you to the number of shafts that you should purchase. If patterns intrugue you, then 8 harnesses will give you more freedom of design. If the texture and color in weaving apeal the most to you, 4 harness may be quite satisfactory.

The three types of lifting mechanisms are jack, counterbalance, or countermarche. Jack looms have separate lifts for each shaft which operate independently. You can raise any shaft you choose while the other shafts remain in place. Jack loom operation allows for greater freedom in your design.
Counterbalance looms hang the shafts over rollers opposing each other. When shafts 1 & 3 go up, 2 & 4 go down. Any two shafts can be raised or lowered, but they must work in pairs. The treadling action on a counterbalance loom is easier due to the rollers.
In countermarche, looms each shaft has counter-weights opposite the treadles . You can raise or lower any shaft that you want, just like the jack loom, which offers greater design possibilities. In addition, since the shafts have counteraction, the ease of operation is similar to the counterbalance loom. Countermarche looms combine the best elements of the jack and counterbalance loom.

Whether you are choosing a loom for the first time, or are upgrading to the loom of your dreams, research your choice before you purchase. Go to the manufacturer's website, speak to shop owners, and visit with other weavers. If you have the opportunity, weave on the loom you want or on one that is similar, before you buy it. Ask questions, and you'll discover that most weavers love to talk about their looms and weaving.


THREE SISTERS WEAVING

Phylleri Ball

206 Aspen Meadows Road
Nederland, CO  80466

570-651-5261

steamvalleyfiber@gmail.com

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News Update

Kidding season began in late January. We have 3 kids born so far with two more does due this spring. See our livestock listings for Nubian goats for sale.

I will be teaching Fiber Arts classes at Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center in Nederland this summer. Visit Wild Bear at http://www.wildbear.org to sign up for workshops.
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