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For the Love of the Loom
September 11, 2019
by Liz Gipson
I am a loom lover. I love all looms—frame, inkle, backstrap, tapestry, pin, table, and floor looms in all their various forms (dobby, jack, countermarche, counterbalance, Jacquard, etc.). I am curious about all woven cloth and I celebrate weaving in all its forms. It is no secret that I love the rigid heddle loom best and specialize in know-how for this one particular loom. For me, the rigid heddle loom hits the sweet spot between a frame loom and a floor loom—a powerful, portable, affordable, tidy package. It is my loom of choice.
Looms are designed for a particular task and some perform certain functions better than others. But no loom is better than another—the power lies with the weaver. No matter what tools we choose to accompany us on our yarn journey, we are all weavers. It is a sad fact that many of my rigid heddle weaving compatriots get shade from other weavers about their loom choice. As someone who wants there to be more weavers in this world, I think it is counterproductive to not embrace them all.
When Jane Patrick, Schacht’s Creative Director, asked me if there was anything I’d like to do at the Schacht Anniversary Jubilee, I jumped at the chance to show off the rigid heddle loom. Jane has long championed this loom’s might. I challenged Suzie Liles of the Eugene Textile Center, a production weaver extraordinaire, to a loom duel—Flip vs. Wolf Pup. This was an opportunity to highlight each loom’s strengths. Rigid heddle looms are easy and fast to warp, while floor looms have features that make the weaving process speedy. Speed, in most cases, is not really the point of this pastime, but your loom choice can dictate which stage of the process takes the most time.
I designed a small scarf using a 3-shaft lace pattern that Suzie and I would both weave using two of the Schacht Anniversary Jubilee yarns. Once the duel started, our timekeeper marked our times when we were done warping, when we were halfway through weaving, and when the scarf was finished. Final times were as follows, in hours:minutes:seconds.
Warping—rigid heddle 00:08:13; floor loom 00:18:25
Halfway—rigid heddle 00:45:38; floor loom 00:49:16
Finished—rigid heddle 01:15:19; floor loom 01:09:16
Suzie was able to show off her back-to-front warping skills and how gracefully you can throw a shuttle and beat your fabric on a floor loom. I got to dazzle onlookers with the cleverness of direct-warping a rigid heddle loom (although truthfully, I still use my warping board the majority of the time), and many were surprised at the ease of using the pick-up stick to create lace patterns, or as I like to call them, “floats on purpose.”
While Suzie won the race—but only by a few minutes!—weaving was the victor. If you would like to give the pattern a try and see what your time is, download it here.
Liz Gipson is the host of Yarnworker.com, a source for rigid-heddle weaving know-how. The Fall Weave-Along is underway at the Yarnworker School, an online, community-funded school for rigid-heddle weavers. The loom duel scarf structure is one of three options that will be demonstrated to transform a variegated yarn into a scarf. Join us!
For the original Barry’s Jubilee Weaving Pattern, click here.