Help picking a loom
December 5, 2012 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Need help buying or building a real loom. Ideas?

A friend wants a "real" loom. I'm not exactly sure what that means but she's crafty and studied fashion design and textiles. So, some of us want to get her something like this for Christmas. All we're finding are these 12" or 16" things for $100 or ones that cost $700 and aren't much bigger. So, what do we do? We're happy to build one if we find a kit or plans that make sense. One of the people involved is quite crafty with woodworking. So, Mefites I appeal to your ingenuity - help us fulfill her wish in a way that costs less than $200.
posted by Raichle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Weaver here. There are tons of different kinds of looms. Some are more expensive than others. A quick rundown:

Multi-shaft loom: these are looms that sit on the table (if small, like 24" or below) or on the floor (if larger, like 24" or above.) These have lots of parts which include shafts, heddles, reeds, beaters, treadles, beams, etc, and are very expensive new (like hundreds to thousands of dollars) and usually start around $300 for used ones on Craigslist, or weaving community websites. If no one in your group knows much about looms, I would not buy one off of Craigslist, because missing or damaged parts (which can be hard to identify) can render the loom unusable, or make it very expensive to fix.

Rigid heddle loom: these are the little guys (usually weaving width up to 20") that go on a table and have the piece in the middle with the slots and the holes. They exist in your price range - I think the Cricket is pretty popular with adult weavers, and priced around $150? It similar in pattern complexity to a two-shaft loom, which is basically the minimum complexity. There are still many many ways to create interesting cloth on a rigid heddle though, tons of ways! However it will be difficult to use finer yarn for warp on these looms, so if your friend wants to weave with stuff thinner than knitting yarn this won't work as well.

Build your own: wood is expensive these days! Probably the materials cost alone to build even a small rigid heddle would drive you out of your price range.

Other looming options: an inkle loom can be had for less than $100, and can be used to make narrow bands (4" max width usually) that are warp-faced. Can be combined with cards for "tablet weaving." Backstrap looms are basically bundles of sticks, but effective.

So! Having presented all these options, IF your friend is not already well-versed in weaving in particular, I would probably go for the rigid heddle loom, with maybe a book on Sheila Hicks, or Anni Albers, both textile artists whose work is very inspirational to many weavers and who could provide a lot of ideas for two-shaft weaving. The addition of "pick-up sticks" can send this into the zone of true excitement.

HOWEVER: if a "real" loom means a 4+ shaft loom, I would go for the inkle loom + a set of tablets for card weaving instead, plus a book by Peter Collingwood called "Techniques of Tablet Weaving." I say this because inkle and card weaving are both warp-faced, which puts them different category from multi-shaft weaving, such that even if your friend one day becomes the fanciest weaver on the block with a 24-harness dobby AVL, she will still be able to find a use for her inkle loom and cards.
posted by ProtoStar at 7:31 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is hard to answer without having some idea of what she wants to make with it. Is she thinking carpets/rugs? Scarves? Blankets?

Does she have room for a floor loom? You won't get one of those for $200 unless you're very lucky in the used market.

How complicated does she want to be with colour patterns? If she doesn't want to do twills that are any more complicated than houndstooth, then she could get away with a Rigid Heddle Loom, which can easily be found for <$200 new. I've played with Ashford, Beka, and Schacht, and liked them all.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:32 PM on December 5, 2012

You could probably build a serious floor loom out of hardwood for about $200 if you purchased rough sawn lumber from a mill, weren't all that worried about appearance and sized it all yourself with a joiner and planer. That said, you're looking at a lot of work and before you start building what is, literally, a machine, you'd want all that lumber to equilibrate for a couple months so that it's not taking on or loosing any more water lest it seize up with every change in the seasons.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:05 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a lot good advice about a first loom in this thread.
posted by janell at 9:53 PM on December 5, 2012

See if you can find a fiber crafts guild of some sort in your area, attend a meeting and explain your circumstance to the people there. If you get lucky, someone will have a loom they've outgrown and replaced, just taking up space and gathering dust. The guild my wife's a member of periodically finds homes for deceased members' craft stuff. Last year I was repeatedly offered a nice loom even though the full extent of my involvement with weaving is that I think it's really neat, because nobody else needed it and the guild wasn't sure what to do with it.
posted by jon1270 at 2:49 AM on December 6, 2012

If it helps, I think she wants to weave tapestries and has some experience.
posted by Raichle at 9:49 AM on December 6, 2012

Oh, tapestries! That does help. What she wants is called either a tapestry loom or a frame loom. I was going to direct you to this guy's plans for building one out of copper pipe, but hey, it looks like he sells the actual looms for $200 plus shipping.
posted by clavicle at 7:45 PM on December 6, 2012

« Older Help me eat in peace with others   |   Tracking project progress Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.