Monday, August 31, 2015

On the Hunt

For a loom. This is going to be a long, word-heavy post, so beware.

I want to be able to weave twill. Without having to fiddle around with two heddles, having a very limited upper limit for the sett (which is kind of something I don't appreciate too much about the rigid heddle loom: with my Nilec, I can add as many heddles as I want, limited only by the physical inability to put more heddles into the harness), and also the much smaller shed created by the use of two heddles.

2-shaft weaving
Beloved Nilec, I am not hoping to replace you, per se...
In hindsight (although also, to be honest, in retrospect), I probably should have waited around for a 4-shaft loom to pop up in the used loom market instead of hastily calling dibs on the 2-shaft Nilec. Which is not to say I don't love the Nilec, because I do, and I enjoy weaving on it, but it does have its drawbacks:

  • It only has 15" of weaving width. Not including shrinkage, of course. Which means around 12" or so of finished fabric?
  • 2 shafts. While there are plenty of combinations I can do using just 2 shafts, and while I have not yet exhausted them by any means (in fact I haven't really gotten started on them with the Nilec, having only woven champagne on it! I have warped on a sampler though, for a bunch of different 2-shaft drafts), I'm really hankering after twill.
  • The beater doesn't line up straight. When pushed back against the castle, the left side touches the wood, but the right side doesn't. I haven't noticed any detrimental effect this might have had on weaving, but it bothers me. I'm thinking of taking everything apart once and putting it back together.
  • I also have some trouble moving the lever from left to right - there's resistance on the right side preventing smooth transitions. Not all the time, but I haven't quite figured out the magic trick to make it go smoothly.
  • It's a lot louder and squeakier than I thought it would be. This was my own fault for neglecting to read reviews on the Dorothy (or any other Leclerc loom, really). It's not actually an issue, but something to keep in mind.
Despite all the above though, the Nilec does fill one of the spheres of my weaving needs: it's a great little sampler loom, as well as being quick and easy to use. It's also light, and it's small enough to fit on both of the tables I have set up for weaving. No worrying about tie-ups, and if I make a mistake threading, at least there's only so many threads I have to undo to get to the error, given that the entire loom is only 15" across! (I'm speaking from experience.)

And so this time, I think I've narrowed down some of my criteria:
  • It has to fold up. Or be otherwise compact.
  • 4 or more shafts. 8 would be optimal, I think, but I would definitely consider a 12 or 16 (although it would probably violate the first condition: space).
  • Anywhere between 20-36", although I'm starting to think 36" might be too big to fit anywhere. 24-30" is most likely what I'm looking for.
  • Floor loom if possible, but I will of course consider table looms.
  • Consider texsolv or string heddles: quieter.
  • Under 100 lbs. Preferably under 60 lbs.
I've seen two Harrisville 22/4s for sale that fit the bill. A 24" Dorset popped up in my feed, but by the time I got to it, it had already disappeared.

And then I dug up the research I had been doing on building my own loom. The most favourable contender was Travis Meinolf's 4-shaft counterbalance collapsible floor loom. It looks very promising, and I had even made some calculations as to how much everything would cost from Home Depot. Under $100 if I use the cheapest wood (and assuming I can get all the cuts for free), but no more than $350 even if I get maple. It fits all my criteria.

Then I did some more research and happened upon this free pdf on how to build a 2 harness table loom. The photo is misleading, but it does list out all the parts you need. But here's the goldmine right here: Weaving with Small Appliances. While it doesn't lay out step by step how to build a table loom, it describes all of the parts and the mechanisms I need to know in order to build one (in theory). The University of Arizona actually has a bunch of resources on looms, including loom plans with teeny tiny diagrams, so I would recommend a visit. The only thing that would make the potential future 24" 8-shaft table loom (of the Small Appliances) better is if it could collapse as well, with warp in place. I can probably figure something out. Maybe just use wingnuts to secure the castle, so I can loosen them and push the castle down for storage.

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