The first loom I owned was a $70 find in a secondhand clothing store about 4 years ago. It was a 4 shaft 40" jack loom; it's rustic character indicating it may have been homemade. All it needed to become fully functional was some new tie-up cords and I was able to teach myself to weave on it without too much trouble. However, when I realised I wanted to weave forever, ie. it wasn't going to be just a passing fad, I coveted a bigger and better loom.
Enter an 8 shaft 40" Mecchia (made in New Zealand) jack loom courtesy of a local weaver who had downsized her home and didn't have space for it. I love this loom. It's easy to use, and is rarely without a warp on it. The only downside is that it's only 40" wide. I want to make throws from my handspun but only having a 40" reed means the finished item ends up at about 36" and that's too narrow for me - I like them at least 40" finished. After making two double width throws I vowed never to do another again (they're so painfully slow) and placed a wider loom on the long-term wishlist. Not having the finances for anything more upmarket, I figured a simple 54" 8 shaft countermarche would be adequate. While there had been a few for sale out of my local area, the logistics of travelling to look at them before buying, then having to arrange shipping, reassembly, and so on, meant I was prepared to sit tight until something suitable came up in the local area.
Enter the 60" 8 shaft Mecchia with dobby, sectional beam, tension box, three box flying shuttle and standard beater, plus numerous other accessories! This loom was advertised on a national fibre craft mailing list and it was local. I didn't know the owner, who turned out to be a wonderful woman in her eighties who was well-known and respected amongst older weavers, but she hadn't woven for some time. My immediate thoughts when I read the advertisement was that 60" width, flying shuttle, etc. was overkill in terms of what I needed, but as I'd only ever seen photos of a flying shuttle I was curious to see the real thing. I phoned the owner, asking if I could visit to just look, explaining that I wasn't interested in buying. In typically generous weaver spirit she was more than happy for me to simply look. You know how the story ends of course - after not much more than 5 minutes at her house I decided I had to have it, and it now takes pride of place in my 'studio' downstairs.
Initially I was on a huge learning curve as I'd never used a loom this large, let alone one with a dobby or sectional beam, so I spent a couple of weeks tweaking things and playing with sample warps to get know the loom before I felt confident enough to put a real warp on.
It was with some fear and trepidation that I decided my first project would be a 'patchwork' throw, using homegrown wool I'd spun and dyed several months earlier, and a draft from Thick 'n Thin - The Best of Weavers. Remarkably the whole project went without a hitch, and I'm really pleased with the result. (It looks a bit rumpled in the photos because it's just come out of the washing machine after fulling.) Finished dimensions are 44" x 72" - just the right size for a nana-nap on the couch or some added warmth in bed on a cold winter's night.
I've yet to try the flying shuttle set up, but that's going to have to wait a while as I want to make another patchwork throw, again using handspun and dyed wool, for a local exhibition in 2 months. Once that's out of the way and I've honed my floor diving skills (retrieving dropped shuttles!) I'll embark on my next adventure.