Learning to Weave on a Large Loom
I had been weaving on a rigid heddle loom for a while before I got my floor loom. The opportunity to buy one came up, and I was determined to make it work for me. It was a Glimåkra vertical countermarch loom with a weaving width of 160 cm (63″) and I had to rearrange all the furniture in my home to accommodate it. I love every minute I spend at the loom, but what is it actually like to learn to weave on something so large? What have I discovered along the way?
Before we begin, let me just say that large is relative. My experience is with a floor loom that has a deep, wide, and sturdy frame, a hanging beater, texsolv heddles, and back-hinge treadles. I am not a big person and the loom itself is wider than I am tall. Your mileage may vary.
I can’t dress the loom alone
There are some ingenious ways to keep a warp chain under tension while you warp a loom so that you can dress it by yourself. While this is helpful for winding the warp on the loom, I’ve found that I can’t always handle other parts of the warping process alone. For example, it isn’t safe for me to lift the beater on and off the frame of the loom without help. I also require assistance to insert the reed into the beater, especially if I’m trying to dress the loom and must manage the warp and lease sticks at the same time. This means I can’t just dress the loom on a whim—I must coordinate with somebody else so that they are available to help me.
Everything costs more
The wider the loom, the wider and more costly everything else is, too! For example, reeds are priced at “dents per unit length” (either dents per decimetre or dents per inch depending on where you are in the world). For the same density of dents, a wider reed costs more than a narrower reed. As a workaround, you can use a narrower reed in a wide beater, but if you want the wider options, it will cost you a little extra every time you need something new.
Full width requires extra equipment
The weaving width on my loom is 160 cm, which is the same as my entire arm span. To weave at this width while sitting on a loom bench, I would need to install a fly beater and invest in some fly shuttles. Sure, it is a worthwhile investment if you intend to weave plenty of wide cloth, but there are other ways to achieve wide cloth on a narrower warp without the expense of extra equipment. (Are you looking forward to Felicia’s double weave class?)
No short warps
Project length, take-up, shrinkage, loom waste—these are the things we consider when figuring out how long our warp needs to be. What I learned the hard way was that looms tend to have a minimum warp length, too. For a rigid heddle, this is next to nothing, but for a floor loom with a large loom depth, that minimum can actually be longer than the calculated length for the project. In my case, I had put on a short warp for weaving a small gamp and there was nothing to stop the warp ends from sliding around and off the back apron rod as I tried to thread the heddles. To dress the loom comfortably, I found the warp needed to also be long enough to wind around the back beam a full rotation. It is a false economy to use short warps on a floor loom, but with a deep loom, it really isn’t even an option.
Using a wide and deep loom while learning to weave is certainly a commitment! My loom is sturdy and a pleasure to use, but I must invest more time and money into each project than I would otherwise have to on a smaller loom. While that is a commitment I make willingly, once again, your mileage may vary.
When Felicia wrote about buying a loom, she talked about the decision-making process: knowing your desires and knowing your limits. While the physical footprint of the loom is an obvious consideration when looking at buying a large loom, I hope these tidbits provide just a bit more context when contemplating your next loom. At the very least, I hope it helps to ease your FOMO!
Are you interested in weaving on a large loom? Maybe you already weave on a large loom? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks—come share them over in the forums.