Sunday, 20 April 2008

Big change

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.


Cally said...

Sorry, Lynne - I just tagged you! If you read this post you'll see the gruesome details.

Sue said...

That's a beautiful blanket!!! I just got a giant loom and aspire to weave blankets some day!!

Lynne said...

Thanks for the kind comment, Sue. You must be twitching to get your new baby up and running. There was a touch of fear and trepidation involved in weaving that first blanket on my (what seemed like) giant loom, especially since it was my precious handspun. However, the most difficult part was in the early stages, learning to throw a shuttle more than a couple of feet! I won't tell how many times I had to reach into the shed to nudge the shuttle past midpoint ...
I'm not so appreciative of you jogging my conscience regarding my sad blog, however ;) One day I'll get organised and get back into it.
Good luck with the loom - I'm sure that after all the love and attention you're giving it it'll reward you well for your efforts.