Up until this last week I had convinced myself that I was no longer interested in weaving. I warped my big loom with a blanket near the end of the summer, but the loom wasn’t really co-operating (I still use that loom sans brake with weight-tensioning instead) and rather than spend the time to figure it out, I let the project languish. And because that loom was warped and I wasn’t weaving on it, I somehow decided that I didn’t want to weave at all.
Flash forward to last week when I drew for the prize I had offered in my monthly mailing – a hand woven tea towel. I had wound the warp chain for this back in October, but it sat on the loom without action after that – until I was confronted with the draw and the fact I had a winner to weave that tea towel for. It took me a few days to warp the loom, and less than one day to weave off the three towels you see above. In that time I realized that I do enjoy the weaving process from start to finish, but I really don’t enjoy my bigger loom. I don’t enjoy weaving on it or setting it up, and the lack of brake is really more of a drag than I want it to be.
Now, I could spend more time fixing that loom than I already have (you may remember that I restored it over several months when I first moved to Gabriola after purchasing it for very little in Vancouver). During that time I learned a lot about looms in general, and countermarch looms in particular – so in that way it was a great learning experience for someone new to weaving. Sadly, no matter how much I’ve done, there’s always something new showing up to aggravate me. The frame is slightly warped so the beater doesn’t hang straight. A brake kit would cost me a couple hundred more dollars. The treadle tie-up is from another age and more fiddly than it needs to be (and is a constant source of frustration). And, ultimately I want a loom that can handle wide widths for blankets and coverlets (of up to 60 inches) and this one will never be that.
So, while happily weaving these tea towels (so pleased with how they turned out), I turned this over in my mind and realized that it’s probably time to cut my losses on my first loom. I’ll fiddle with it enough to weave off the blanket I have on there – and then start to figure out how to get rid of it. It’s not easy to sell a big loom, so it will definitely go for less than what I put into it – though I really do think of it as a master class in loom repair and maintenance and so it’s not a loss no matter what happens. The thing I worry most about is that no one wants it, even for free, and I end up having to take it apart and store it or even destroy it. Whoever takes it would have to be willing to do more work to get it really functional and I’m not sure there’s a lot of those folks around these days (I walked into this project blind, thinking I had purchased a functional loom and then finding out too late I had not and trying to salvage it.)
In any event, I will weave off the blanket and then find a way to store this loom until it finds a new home and in the meantime I’ve got the word out in weaving circles about what I’m looking for. 60-inch, 8 shaft looms aren’t the most common thing out there (that would be 45-inch, 4 shaft looms), but they aren’t terribly uncommon so there’s a good chance I will source something suitable in the next month and at a reasonable price ($1500 or less).
In the meantime I’ve started warping my small Julia loom again – with a bath mat this time – in order to keep myself going now that I’ve rediscovered my enjoyment in this textile form.
One thing I noted when doing the tea towels is that my skills have improved quite a lot over the last year, even with the big break these last few months. I picked up a couple of techniques that *always* work to produce even tension, and I’ve gotten a lot more patient with warping so I actually fix mistakes at that stage rather than weaving them into the final fabric. These plain weave towels had little draw-in on the loom and my beat was even throughout. I’ve learned not to over-beat my cloth, and I throw and catch my shuttle properly most of the time. Weaving is really something that takes a lot of repetition to get good at, so getting projects on and off the loom is the only way forward.
Now that I’m unblocked, and because I am not sewing clothes for myself at the moment, I expect the deepest winter will find me weaving in my studio, and perhaps setting up a new-to-me loom. There are worse ways to spend the colder months for sure.