A Question of Shafts

Handwoven MagazineAsk Madelyn


Hi Madelyn!


I have an opportunity to purchase a used 12-shaft LeClerc loom. I purchased an 8-shaft LeClerc only two years ago after almost twenty years of weaving on my reliable 4-shaft loom. I am really enjoying playing with more pattern options on eight shafts and wonder if it is worth the added expense and hassle of trying to sell my loom to replace it.  I have tried looking up 12-shaft patterns online just to see how they differ, but there aren't many there. Thoughts?




Hi Elizabeth!


This is, of course going to depend on a number of factors. First, more shafts mean fancier twills, more blocks, or more layers. 


A 4-shaft loom, for example, allows you to weave plain weave, basket weave, 2/2, 3/1, and 1/3 twills, block weaves (overshot, crackle, Atwater-Bronson lace, huck summer and winter), and two layers of plain weave. When you move up to eight shafts, you can weave twills that have varied float ratios, giving them more design complexity (3-3-1-1 twills, for example). You can weave many block weaves that you can't even do on four shafts (turned twill, beiderwand, block doubleweave, other tied unit weaves) plus you can get six blocks of Atwater-Bronson lace and summer and winter. You can weave two layers of twill (doublewidth twill blankets), and four layers of plain weave. 


So what do you get with twelve shafts? You get more blocks, you can produce twills that are even more complex, and more layers (or two layers of more structures). 


Your not being able to find many patterns for twelve shafts is probably because there aren't all that many 12-shaft looms out there. It's not that hard to create your own drafts, though. You need to understand how block weaves work (I can think of a video that might help) and learn how to extend twill concepts to twelve shafts (point, advancing, M and W, networked, etc.) When you do, you can adapt the yarns and design ideas in any 8-shaft draft for a draft on twelve.


The real question is: Do you like block weaves a lot? Are you intrigued with the thought of understanding enough about weave structures to create your own drafts?


If the answer is yes, get the loom (especially since you already have and like one by the same maker). If the answer is a really, really enthusiastic yes, however, you should maybe consider sixteen, twenty, or twenty-four shafts to get even more of all of the above.  If, on the other hand, you are really enjoying what you can do on eight shafts, you might put these decisions off for a while. You won't be getting THAT much that you can't do now.



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