Ee’s Just a *Wittle* Loom!

September 18, 2008

or, Take the Spear’s Weaving Challenge


Ha!  You were expecting me to come home with another great honking floor loom after this post, weren’t you?

No impulse buys.  Actually I was pretty methodical, as is my wont.  I’d looked at rigid heddle looms before I had the Bergman; last winter I started thinking about them again because I had this fantasy about how fun it would be to show up at my granny’s house with a warped loom a box of pretty yarns, since she’s not likely to travel to my place for a weaving vacation–possible for about $20 and a little ebay vigilance.

I adore rölakan, but it had never occurred to me I might actually find the motivation for some experiments in that direction myself until I considered a separate 2 shaft loom.  I took Betty Davenport’s book out of the library to make sure I wouldn’t be wasting my time using a rigid heddle loom for tapestry.  Her mat with the Brooks Boquet sent me back to the articles about manipulated lace weaves in some of my old (really old) magazines.  My initial reaction to them had been, “Huh.  That’s a labor-intensive way to get ugly lace.”  Through rigid heddle colored glasses they began to look really interesting.

A lot of cheap rigid heddle looms find their way onto ebay.  Of the four brands that look passably functional, Spears seemed the least toylike.  I think I spent more like $30 than $20, but it was still a great deal, if for nothing more than the fact that it came in it’s pristine 1956 box.

With all the trimmings.

And had never been used!


I could try. . .

I could try. . .

I got it in June when I still busy with the merino scarf warp, so I didn’t do anything with it.  While I was nursing my treadlefoot, I decided to take this as a challenge:

3 hours!  Never!

First I hunted out some of that Yarn Relatives Give Me–mystery handspun I thought might be silk.  I did burn tests, but I still couldn’t tell much more than that it wasn’t synthetic, which was good enough for me.  I tried it to see if it would go through the heddle eyes, and it did, so I wound a warp the fastest way I could think of.

This actually worked!  I felt pretty clever to think of it.  I guess it says something about my warping reel that I would rather use an ironing board for a short warp.

56″ warp wound: 23 minutes


And here I am ready to beam:

Warp through slots, attached to back beam and beamed on: 30 more minutes

Heddle Eyes threaded: 20 more minutes

Tied on and ready to weave: 30 more minutes

Total: 1 hour 43 minutes

This is where I had to stop counting.  I could have spent eternity trying to weave this warp, which I’m now pretty sure was just a shiny, malevolent cotton.  It beamed through the 9-10 epi heddle all right, but when I started trying to weave it I could see that the journey had turned it to sticky lint.  There was not even the suggestion of a shed.  Furthermore the slubs would not go through the heddle eyes without catching and pulling.  Yes, they fit, but I would have to tug on each individual thread when I advanced the warp.

After watching this whole process on a Sunday afternoon, Der Mann was full of horrified sympathy when I told him I would have to discard the warp.  His reaction surprised me, because after the kinds of re-do’s and problems I’m used to on my countermarche, 3 hours (if you count the time I spent moving stuff, stash diving, burning things, and taking breaks) and a little crap yarn wasted was no big deal.  I just thought of it as cheap tuition for an important lesson: namely, that the yarn doesn’t just have to go through the heddle eyes, it has to glide through the heddle eyes.  I guess this is the kind of thing that makes weavers look patient to the point of insanity to non-weavers.  (Which is how knitters look to me.)

A few days later I re-warped the rigid heddle loom with wool and started weaving a scarf.  I also took the navy merino of the regular loom last weekend.  Very gingerly treadling got me to the end of the warp without aggravating my back.  After considering Jane’s comment, I think part of the problem may have been the placement of my tabby treadles, which is something I can change for my next project.  One scarf is already in the mail to my cousin!  I’ve got a lot of fringe to tie on the others.


16 Responses to “Ee’s Just a *Wittle* Loom!”

  1. Taueret Says:

    what a sweet little loom. Have fun with it.

  2. Anne Says:

    Hello, I have exactly the same model Spears, which I found in a flea market, although the box is not nearly in such good nick. I would love to see something you have woven on it. As yet I am still to try it.

  3. humblebumble Says:

    ooh, i have a couple of those little spears looms, different models like, but they are nice aren’t they?

    i really should get round to riggin up some rigid heddle looms now that i’ve inherited about 10 rigid heddles and rakes of shed sticks

  4. So glad you found a way to weave without aggravating your back. And also that you have discovered something that will help in future warps. As for tapestry, all that matters is that the loom is strong enough to hold the very tight warp tension tapestry weaving requires without the loom bowing.

  5. Suzan Says:

    What a fun loom – I rather fancy the scarf that model is wearing! So, it’s smmooothh warps for you from now on?

  6. Trapunto Says:

    Hi Anne, thanks for stopping by! I’ll definitely post pictures of my wool scarf when it’s finished.

    Hello, humblebumble! I noticed they come in a couple of other different heddle and beam-slot sizes when I was shopping; I should have been using the medium sized one for this warp, if anything.

    I confess I really like threading cool, crisp yarns, Suzan. Stay where you put them. Easy to see. Easy to pull off the cross. I have had other bad experiences with fuzz. But I’m also kind of stubborn, and I have a huge cone of rayon flake I really love, so we’ll see!

  7. Trapunto Says:

    Oh, and thanks for the tapestry tip Peg. I think I’ll just have to try and see if the wing nuts can do the job.

  8. Jane Says:

    I yike da loom. 🙂

  9. Me wikes it too! What a sweet thing.

    Me warp a rigid heddle loom of that size in 3 hours? Ha! You did amazingly well!

    How can normally goody-goody cotton go so bad?!

    I’ve been having trouble with velcro-ing yarn as well, albeit a wool/silk blend — and will probably post something bemoaning my woes at some point. I’ve been dreaming of a next warp in smooth cotton — just to enjoy producing easy, clean sheds for a change.

  10. trapunto Says:

    Thank you!

    Nothing I like better than a good moan, Elizabeth! We can all be schadenfruender. Taueret was also plagued recently. Is it on one of your table looms?

  11. Schadenfreunder? Mischievous friend? I couldn’t find freunder in the dictionary. Hmmm — take up weaving and learn German. (Because of you, I may have to learn Swedish!)

    My velcro problem is from the Dutch Master box loom I’m borrowing.

  12. Schadenfreunder — or “misery loves company”?

  13. trapunto Says:

    Weird. I extrapolated a whole etymology based on my misreading of the word: ShadenfreuNd, not Schadenfreude. I always thought a schandenfreund was a “Too bad! friend,” since the German exclamation “Schade!” to mean “Too bad!” or “That’s a shame!” Hence, a schadenfreund would be someone avid to commiserate–likes to be able to say “What a shame.” As you can see, I don’t actually know German; one year in college did just about nothing.

  14. Have you ever tried warping a rigid heddle loom using the direct warping method? While it won’t solve the rubbing of the cotton if the sett is too close, it might speed up the warping process abit. “The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving” by Rowena Hart illustrates the method pretty clearly.

  15. Lara Says:

    I’ve just started using my mother’s old spears loom (same as the one pictured above). She was a big weaver in the seventies so she knows how to set it up to begin the weaving process. However we’ve run into a big problem with the heddle. It is not separating the warp! It’s very frustrating. It seems as though the warp keeps getting stuck on the eyelets. The heddle is a metal one, rather than plastic. Any suggestions on how I could fix this problem!? Thanks in advance for any advice.

    • trapunto Says:

      Hi Lara, I’m thinking the problem may be your yarn. With those metal-eyelet rigid heddles, there is just enough resistance getting the yarn past the “bump” of the eye, just enough variation in the width of the slots, and just enough light burring on the old metal, that they are kind of finicky. Especially with puffy or springy yarn. I found that some yarns would clear the eyes easily when I tested them individually, under tension; but then when all the strands were moving together as a complete warp, it wasn’t possible to keep every thread under enough tension at the same time.

      My only solution to sticky warps on the Spears was to start over with a thinner warp yarn. The good news is it worked very well with skinnier yarns. Wish I had a better solution to share. You could try size. I have heard of people using hair spray or spray n’ starch as sizing on unruly warps (though there’s a chance a spray-on product would make a mess of the loom).

      Good luck!

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