How cool is this loom?

Here is the loom I mentioned in my last post…

A pedal powered mechanical loom

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A family that shares

I’ve mentioned before that my mum is a yarn-crafter, but the great thing about my family is that even where our hobbies don’t overlap, we still have an appreciation of others’ interests. Point in case being that, on a recent trip to Japan, my brother took care to photograph a traditional loom he came across at an exhibition.

As if pictures of the landscape weren’t amazing enough I got to loom-geek for a few minutes!

Weaving, from start to finish

So how do you get from yarn to a nice piece of cloth? Well…

First, you’re going to choose a pattern and/or some yarn.

Second, you’re going to “dress the loom” (also called “warping the loom” and “loading the loom”) where you prepare the loom for use with the right length of warp, correctly threaded. For many shaft looms, you tie shafts to levers at this point too.

Also, you load your shuttle/s with yarn.

Third, you weave! Following the pattern for which shafts should be up or down when, and which colour weft is used when, beating the weft into place as you go.

Now fifth, you need to “finish”. So, once you’re done creating a length of cloth, you’ll use stitching to prevent the start and finishing edges from fraying and you might twist tassels etc if it’s a scarf.

Sixth, you wash it in a little soap and “hot” water, while agitating it, to get oils and other chemicals out of it and to help the warp and weft relax into each other. Once it’s dry, you might even steam press it, depending on the cloth.

The final stage is to use it for whatever it was intended… sew it into clothes, bags, cushions, towels, curtains, or just throw it around your neck/shoulders and leave the house.

How a loom helps us weave

Here is a picture of a loom:

a matchbox loom

Yes, it’s a matchbox.

This was the very first type of loom I ever used, because when you work with seed-beads everything is on a small scale.

But what is the matchbox doing?

 

Well, it’s holding the warp threads in place and under tension, so that the person in the picture (that’s not my hand) can use a needle to pass the weft thread over and under the warp threads.

This kind of loom is basically a frame for holding the warp.

Of course, most looms do a lot more than this; importantly they allow you to sandwich the weft between two sets of warp threads, rather than manually feeding the weft over and under each one. This makes weaving faster.

The loom achieves this by lifting one group of warp threads to make a gap for you to pass the weft through.

In this image, you can see that the shuttle holding the weft thread is actually sitting in the gap between two sets of warp threads (that gap is called a shed). When that gap closes, the weft thread ends up under the top group of weft and over the bottom group, giving you the over, under structure.

rigid heddle loom with a shuttle in the shed

Another thing the loom does to help out, is to press the weft into place – this is called beating – which keeps the weft tidy and determining how closely the weft threads are packed into the warp.

How the loom achieves all this I’ll cover in another post, but before we finish, take a look at the image above and how the woven cloth wraps around the front of the loom. This is one more helpful thing, because that cloth beam, as it’s sometimes called, stores the cloth and keeps it out of harm’s way while you continue weaving.

Looms, looms, looms!

A post or two from now, I’m going to start talking about looms. There are all kinds of looms out there, but I want to focus on what I’ve found useful as a new weaver, which means I will focus on rigid heddle looms and shaft/harness looms.

As I don’t want to leave the other types of loom weaving out entirely, I thought I’d do a pictorial list. I’m sure I’ll have missed some, but these are the main types I’ve come across.

First up is a frame loom, though this is a small version of what is used for tapestry and sometimes rag rugs.

image of a frame loom

Then there is the pin loom, which makes squares with bobbly edges.

Image of a pin loom

The rigid heddle is the loom I use.

A knitters loom by Ashford

This is a backstrap loom. Makes the most sense when you see it in use!

image of a person using a backstrap loom

This is an inkle loom for making bands.

image of an inkle loom

Here is a tablet loom. Tablets are quite an old way to weave.

tablet weaving loom

Peg looms are a very old type of loom.

Image of a peg loom

A table loom, so called because it sits on a table.

image of a table loom

Floor loom – well, that’s just self explanatory!

image of a Julia Floor Loom

How I chose my loom

So, how did I end up weaving? And how did I choose a loom?

The short answer to both questions is that I saw a review of a “knitter’s loom” and thought I’m a knitter, this must be something I can use.

At the time I was looking for a faster way to knit scarfs and the review suggested this knitter’s loom could do that. It also folded for easy and compact storage in a bag, so it wasn’t going to eat up space in my craft room. I was pretty much sold on it right then!

It wasn’t until I went looking for a price that I realised there were a bunch of other loom types to consider (the knitter’s loom is an Ashford product and they make a few other types too). I paused. I researched. I came back to the Ashford knitter’s loom.

I chose it for the reasons I’d liked it orginally – fast to set up, easy to store away, simple to use and a good size for scarfs – but along the way I learnt about frame looms, table looms, floor looms and many other variations.

So, I was lured in by Ashford’s clever bit of marketing (the knitter’s loom isn’t specially for knitters – it’s just a rigid heddle loom), but it seems like the right choice for me.

A knitters loom by Ashford