I never know what I’ll find in my e-mail inbox. Today I received the note included below. I’m not entirely sure how I got this set of questions, because not that many people know that I have been a weaver even longer than I’ve been a spinner (but not longer than I’ve been a knitter). I met the woman who sent this inquiry at a writing conference in New York almost exactly two years ago.
My son-in-law in Israel, who is a weaver, wants to buy a non-computerized floor loom and was wondering if you could advise him on how to go about doing this.
* Should he buy a new loom?
* Do you know how and where he might be able to find an old and good looms?
* Do you publish magazines on weaving or can you advise where he can obtain them?
* Where can he find classified ads for looms and weaving supplies?
My responses were quite quick, because my breakfast is cooling and my list of tasks is long. But they may be useful to someone else as well, and I’ve expanded a bit from the request for information on a "noncomputerized floor loom" in my comments below.
New or old loom—doesn’t matter, as long as it works. For a multi-shaft table or floor loom, it’s good to know ahead of time that all the parts are there, that they are all hooked up correctly, and that all the beams are precisely parallel. That’s harder with a used loom, especially from a distance.
Prices for looms can be all over the map. You can get set up with a primitive-style loom for $25 or so (you can even assemble or build a simple and effective loom yourself). Table looms and small floor looms run in the hundreds of dollars, and big floor looms get into the thousands.
The quality of the weaving depends on the weaver, not the sophistication of the equipment. I like all looms that work well (some fancy looms don’t). You can do a lot of superb weaving on so-called primitive looms,
like backstraps and inkles and rigid heddles or with cardweaving, but your
son-in-law is obviously interested in multi-shaft looms. There are lots of reasons that they are wonderful to work with, even though they are more expensive than and not as portable as the simpler looms.
In the more complex styles of looms, a table loom is fine to start with, and useful forever, as long as it’s
sturdy. Four shafts (or harnesses) are plenty to work with, and a four-shaft loom always comes in handy even if a weaver decides to get another loom with more shafts later. I have eight shafts on one of my looms, but there’s so much to do with four shafts that I really don’t need them often. Even though they’re fun. The floor loom he’s looking for would let your son-in-law balance the effort of weaving
between arms and legs, and there’s a rhythm to working on a floor loom that isn’t available with other loom types. I have both table and floor looms (as well as
so-called primitive equipment).
There’s a site for used equipment (and fibers, and books . . . ) called Spinners’, Weavers’, and Knitters’ Housecleaning Pages; it’s a terrific resource. Participants are being asked to contribute a bit to support the site’s maintenance, and contributions are well deserved. The trick would be arranging shipping to Israel. The sellers tend to be individuals who might be challenged by the prospect of arranging for the safe movement of a large, heavy piece of equipment across multiple thousands of miles.
There are undoubtedly looms closer to Israel, but I’m not sure how to find them.
There are lots of other great new looms out there, and a number of fine makers of
looms. Schacht Spindle Company produces a wide array of excellent looms and has been around long enough that the folks there could probably figure out shipping to Israel. Schacht’s offerings should definitely be on anyone’s short list of loom prospects. While you’re checking out the equipment, take time to discover Violet Rose, the blog written by Jane Patrick, a gifted weaver and writer and the former long-time editor of Handwoven magazine (noted below).
I don’t publish magazines on weaving.
Handwoven magazine is the primary resource for weavers and includes superb classified and display ads for equipment and supplies. It’s edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt, who knows an astonishing amount about weaving, especially magically complex weave structures. She serves up a continually fresh array of projects and ideas in Handwoven.
The best publication that I know of for systematic understanding of four-shaft structures and design—for weavers at any level of experience—is Weaver’s Craft; a set of back issues would be a good idea for anyone interested in weaving on table or floor looms. It’s written and published by Jean Scorgie, another former editor of Handwoven magazine and one of the best technical weavers that I’ve ever met . . . who also has one of the finest design abilities I’ve encountered. Jean can present a weave structure that I know really well and I’ll learn new things about it.
But I’ve been so busy with computers and publishing that I haven’t woven in way too long.
I’m no expert on weaving, but I do know that there are some shop options in Europe that might make for easier shipping. The Handweaving Studio in London, and I believe there are a few other places that might be good resources. If I had to buy a new loom sight unseen, it would be a Schacht. I am not currently weaving, but if I chose to get back into it, I’d want one of the “Wolf” series of looms, or maybe the less compact options. It also seems to me (from long ago living in Israel) that there may be a weaving community around. One way to find that would be to look into handwoven tallesim (plural for tallis/prayer shawl) and then find the weavers that way. What an interesting question you got, Deb!