For years I have wanted to learn how to weave on a floor loom. I used to get a catalogue in the mail for John C Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. They have weekend and week long classes on dozens of traditional crafts in a beautiful setting. I would pour over the catalogue reading about weaving classes and other classes I might take one day. The timing has never been right, and for other reasons it has not happened. Fortunately, a different way to learn weaving on a floor loom has come about recently.
When we moved to the Fergus Falls area I met Torri at Tangles to Treasures. She is a very accomplished weaver and fiber artist with multiple looms of all sizes and types in her storefront space. The smallest loom makes a 4″ x 4″ square. The largest loom has a weaving width of 60″, has 10 harnesses and 12 treadles, takes up 7′ by 7′ of floor space and stands about 6.5′ feet tall. In between are looms of all sizes and types, including multiple harness looms that sit on the floor or a table, rigid heddle looms, frame and tapestry looms, looms ideal for making rugs, and inkle looms for making straps.
Two years ago I bought a 15″ wide portable rigid heddle loom that sits on a table or stand, and makes items like scarves and tea towels. It has been a perfect way for me to learn about weaving in an approachable way. I have enjoyed making some nice things for myself and for gifts.
New floor looms cost thousands of dollars. Torri had a used four harness 42″ wide floor loom with a 36″ wide weaving width for sale at a very reasonable price. It sat there for a long time while I was busy learning the basics of weaving on the small loom. This summer I finally thought “I could buy that”. I was not sure whether I was ready to take on this new challenge and invest even more money in equipment. On the other hand, it was the perfect time while I live in a house with space for a floor loom, and I would be able to get lessons from Torri. When I found out that another customer had expressed interest in the used loom, I decided to go for it before it was too late. The original owner was someone I know, and I happened to run into her in Fergus Falls that very day. I went ahead and paid for the loom, but it was the end of summer before I had time to start lessons. Following is a photo of my new loom.
Many concepts and terms I learned for the rigid heddle loom also apply to the floor loom, but there was still a lot to learn and accessories to buy. Torri guided me through my first project while the loom was still in her storefront space. I made a scarf with a twill pattern using yarn I had on hand. Twill is common weaving pattern that a four harness loom can do that a rigid heddle loom cannot do.
Following is a photo of the yarn for my first project. I bought the yarn on the left when I was in Michigan this summer. It is a brand called Araucania, made in Chile, with a fiber content of 70% merino / 20% alpaca / 10% silk. The yarn on the right is 75% merino / 15% silk / 10% cashmere Madeline Tosh Pashmina from my stash.
The first step in the project was measuring out the warp yarn using a “warping board”, a wood frame with pegs sticking out. At one point the yarn is crossed the opposite way for each round which helps keep it in the right order when threading on the loom. You can see the “cross” in the photo below at the top. After measuring out one pass around for each warp yarn, loops of yarn are tied around at several spots so that it stays orderly and cannot turn into a tangled mess when removed from the warping board.
After removing the yarn from the warping board it is made into a “chain” for storing until ready to put on the loom.
There are steps for getting the warp yarn on the loom. It is hard to explain without using weaving jargon and hard to understand if you are not looking at the process in person. Feel free to skip the text and just scroll through the photos. The following photos show the process of getting the warp yarns threaded through the “reed” and then the “heddles”.
The reed is a rectangle with slots to keep the warp yarns lined up the right distance apart. Heddles which are wires with an eye in them that are attached to multiple harnesses, behind the reed. This is all confusing until you actually work with it yourself. Patterns are formed by the order in which the warp yarns are threaded through the heddles and harnesses. The next photo shows some of the warp yarns threaded through heddles and tied on to the back apron bar.
The following photos show all the warp ends threaded through the reed and heddles and then tied on to the back apron bar.
The warp yarns were then wound on to the back beam and the other ends tied on to the front apron bar.
Once the loom was “warped” it was ready to prepare the weft yarn for weaving.
The weft yarn was wound on to bobbins with a gadget called a bobbin winder. The bobbins go on shuttles for efficient weaving.
Finally after hours of preparation it was time to start some actual weaving.
After I finished weaving the weft rows I removed the scarf from the loom, twisted the fringe, and washed it gently.
You can see the twill pattern on the close up photo below, and also on a pair of denim jeans.
The scarf matches the early fall colors.
My husband and I are currently on a road trip to Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia to visit cousins and do some sight seeing. We stopped to see the campus of John C Campbell Folk School while we were in North Carolina. It is a beautiful, peaceful place. Now I really want to go back and take a class!