So! Eighteen months after purchasing the big, mysterious, countermarch loom (now nicknamed Big-A in contrast to my small loom Little-J) – I have a warp on and am weaving!
I started sleying the reed before I went on holiday at the beginning of July, and then when I got home in the middle of the month I threaded the heddles and wound on. Since then I have been slowly weaving in a basic hopsack pattern in order to learn about my loom and to get the feel of throwing the shuttle before getting too complicated with the treadling.
For this test warp, I used the yarn that came with the loom (the seller threw in a bag of brightly coloured handspun wool with no stretch – perfect for weaving). It’s a chunky yarn, heavier than worsted weight, which I offset with some skeins of Briggs and Little Heritage in black to create some colour separation. The weft is also black B&L as you can see in the photo below. The intended outcome of this is a blanket which will be created by cutting the weave in half and joining it in the middle for about 54 inches of width. I expect that lengthwise it will work out the same to create a square lap blanket. To be honest, I didn’t work the project out in too much detail because just getting a warp on was the goal, and I was improvising with the yarn on hand.
Now that I have this loom in operation – I am starting to assess it. Countermarch looms are known for being quiet – which is definitely the case with this one (jack looms have a clack and rattle to them). These looms are also known for being overwhelming or difficult to tie up – which I didn’t really find at all. Time-consuming yes, but I have read so much about these looms in the last year that when I climbed underneath to tie up the treadles, I had a good sense of what I needed to do. On the “negative” side – the homemade brake is not holding so well – the belt that the former owner rigged it with broke, so I grabbed another old leather belt that I had on hand – but it is not cinching the warp beam tightly enough to hold it. As a quick fix, I filled a milk jug with water to create enough weight to hold the warp beam back. I can live with that for now – but if I keep this loom into the future, I will probably purchase a proper brake band kit for it.
There is no question that 45 inches is probably all the loom I can handle – as I can barely reach from one side of Big-A to the other. I’ve got 27 inches on right now which I can manage with no problem. I expect that my comfortable maximum weaving width is somewhere around 35 inches. And because it requires a minimum of 2 yards (if not 2 and a half) to warp, this is definitely not a loom for small samples. On the other hand, there is a lot of control in the overhead beater, which makes for a more even and appropriate weave structure overall. We’ll see what it’s like with 8/2 cotton on it – something I plan to do in short order to get a feel for how different weights and fibres weave on this loom. At the moment, I only have a 10-dent reed – so I’ll have to invest in others if I am going to play with different weights in the future. I will also need to purchase some additional heddles at some juncture.
Throughout the restoration and set up of this loom, I have spent a lot of time kicking myself for the purchase of something so complicated as a new weaver. It seemed to me that I spent *so* much money and time setting it up – wouldn’t it have been better had I just bought something new, with less headaches? Maybe. On the other hand, I have learned far more about loom technology than I would have otherwise. As well, this loom will end up costing me less than a fifth of what new one would cost. So far I am into this loom for about $875: $500 for the initial purchase plus $100 to have it moved, $250 in heddles and texsolv cord and $25 for the restoration wax. More heddles and a brake kit will total an additional $400. Rounding up, this loom will cost $1300 when the restoration is fully done (and I didn’t have to spend that $ all at once). A new loom of identical width/type/shaft #s and similar quality starts at $4700 US (almost $6000 cdn plus taxes!) That’s money that I just don’t have.
So yeah. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself now that I have Big-A up and running and am actually making a *thing* on it. I look forward to many more such experiments in the near future.