Little Big Loom

May 15, 2008

or, How it Happened, Part III


Toward the end of my class, it struck me: I would soon be loomless!  Just when I had discovered weaving yarn on eBay!

I did a lot of research and checked around the internet, where I found a nice page of advice for new weavers that offered several good reasons for starting out with a floor loom rather than a table loom.  When I started checking prices, it seemed that a decent 8-shaft table loom was so expensive, I might as well look for a floor loom: they were both so far out of my price range.  And as long as I was looking for a mythical loom, why not look for the kind I wanted?

I wanted a countermarche.

The decision-making process went something like this:  Van Gogh.  Andrew Carnegie.  Wood.  Sweden.  My perversity.  Tension.

First, I had somehow got these images in my head, and others like them:


I didn’t have any rosy ideas about 19th century textile production.  These particular weavers were miserable folk!  But I did like the way they looked at their looms.  I liked to think of a time when handweaving was still a viable form of industry, as when . . .


. . . Andrew Carnegie was a boy.  Barely.  He was born at the end of that era.  My favorite 19th century philanthropist emigrated when he was 13; his father was an agitator against the mills that were already destroying his livelihood as a handweaver.  I saw their narrow house in Dunfermline, Scotland.  Next door is a “Carnegie Museum” chock full of the awards he was so fond of receiving for his generosity–the man was a monumental egotist!–and not much else.  It was fascinating: I could see the course of his life in the contrast between the cramped little room where his father worked, and the praise-hungry steel magnate’s museum.  The huge drive that propelled him from one to the other.  It was like the story of the transition to the modern era in miniature.

What really got me, though, was the hole in the ceiling.  Mrs. Carnegie would sit in the upstairs room winding bobbins, which she tossed to her husband through a hole in the floor.  The weaving room was empty, no loom or anything else, but the hole in the ceiling was still there.  It was so easy to imagine the rest.

Neither Van Gogh’s miserable dagloners nor William Carnegie probably used countermarch looms.  Counterbalance and draw looms?  But this brings me to the third facet of my decision-making process.  Their looms were huge.  I was greedy for wood.

Wood!  I wanted a loom with as much wood as possible, preferably a tree’s worth or two.  Big.  Stable, unlike our living situation and finances.  Too big for our rental!  Too big for any house we were ever likely to own!  In fact, what I really wanted was a loom I could convert into a house if necessary.  This was impossible, so I decided to go for the same kind of loom as the biggest looms currently available, which are countermarches.

Incidentally, I’m a Svenskaphile.  I love the cohesive aesthetic I found in Sweden.  A Swedish-style loom sounded just dandy, and when I started understanding the countermarche system a little better, I thought it might suit me in other ways as well.  It is more time-consuming to tie up countermarche treadles (perversity), and it produces a cloth that is more uniform on both faces (tension).

The tension thing–with the shafts pulling the warp both up and down, so that none of the threads get stretched out any more than the others–said “better cloth” to me.  Now, I doubt it.  But I am a  sucker for the idea of consistency and quality, and of having to go to more trouble to produce better results.  Plus I really liked the way the words “wider sheds” kept coming up.  “Yeah, those big sheds!  Bring ’em on!”  (Please take note for purposes of future irony.) 

Does anyone remember checking the housecleaning pages and guild ads during their own loom search?  All those beautiful, well-kept (too big) looms on the other side of the country?  Or in some cases, in another country?  I found an old Cranbrook used by nuns in the midwest, and a gorgeous hand-made Glimåkra look-alike (“pick-up only!”) on an island.  The fact that everything cost three times as much as I could afford did a lot to temper my disappointment.

The nearest I came was a Louet, but I just couldn’t do it.  Somebody else bought it before I could change my mind and beggar us.

I set my sights back on a table loom.  No luck.  Weavers don’t get rid of their 8-shaft table looms!  Again, I adjusted my expectations.  I was about to bid on a 4-shaft Woolhouse Tools table loom in Canada, when my husband said, “Hey, come look at this.”  He’d come across a strange ad on Craig’s list for a make of loom I had never heard of.

The more I looked at the blurry pictures the more I knew I WANTED THIS LOOM.  It was just so bizarre.  It folded, back and front, and when it was folded, it looked like nothing so much as an old parlour organ.  Wood a-plenty, but not a big loom.  Not like anything I had ever seen.


To be continued. . .

5 Responses to “Little Big Loom”

  1. Jane Says:

    OK — I’m now breathlessly awaiting the next installment of “A Loom for Trapunto.”

    For 1/2 a lifetime (or so it seemed) I poured over loom ads in newspapers and the backs of magazines. Then came the Internet, and my loom lust tripled. They were all out of my reach. As you said, they were either across the country, or too high dollar for this little church mouse.

    However comma I’m a whizbang at wishcraft. I can wish things up like nobody’s business. And that is how I’ve come to now live with my 45″, 8 shaft, LeClerc floor loom; my 8 shaft Ashford table loom (it had only been used for 2 projects prior to its finding its way to me); and, my presssshhhhhhhushh — 8 shaft Baby Wolf. There was also a very old 4 shaft Dorothy table loom story in there too, but she’s found a new home and is on her way to Oregon.

    Am so looking forward to hearing all about (what I am certain is) your beautiful loom!

    Weave like an Egyptian,

  2. Alison Says:

    Hey Trapunto, don’t lose hope! I have two great looms that I bought used, and a third used one is on its way. The hours of searching, bidding, etc. pay off at the moment you can exclaim, “I got it!” Best of luck with your search!

  3. Marlene Toerien Says:

    I so know the feeling of looking for the perfect loom, I live in South Africa, wanting to weave 8 shaft threadings and patterns if I import new looms it will cost me double the sale price to get it here + x the exchange rate of either the $ or euro on the day of payment, at the moment I have two varpapu floorlooms and two table looms and am dreaming about a mighty wolf, I need someone who has one here in South Africa, to stop weaving and will let me have it very cheaply, and I also need to make space for it, so I am not wishing very hard.

  4. trapunto Says:

    I feel for you, Marlene. I found my lovely loom, then moved to a place where I barely have space to use it. I’m sure your loom will come to you one day. I have admired Varpapu table looms, they are very rare in the US; I didn’t even know they made floor looms.

  5. Ingrid Hansen Says:

    Hey Marlene Torien,
    Have you still got 2 Vaapapu floor looms,and would
    you consider selling me one? I also live in South

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