Choosing the Perfect Loom

Want to buy a loom but not sure how to pick what’s best for you? Deb Essen provides some tips for choosing looms in the September/October 2017 issue of Handwoven. A big consideration is budget, which Deb describes in this excerpt.
—Christina

I’m often asked, “What’s the best loom to buy?” My answer? “It depends.” I know this makes everyone crazy, but choosing the best loom for you depends on many factors.

Weavers tend to fall into two categories: technical weavers who love to play with weave structures and color/texture weavers who love to play with color and different yarns more than with weave structures. As Madelyn van der Hoogt says, “Color/texture weavers collect yarn. Technical weavers collect yarn and looms.” Personally, I’m a technical weaver. I own two floor looms (a big four-shaft jack loom and a twelve-shaft countermarch with drawloom attachment) and two rigid-heddle looms. I’d like an eight-shaft loom, but I don’t have studio space. I’m trying to convince my husband that the weaving studio should swap space with our large family room—but that’s another story. Everyone you ask has a favorite loom—usually it’s the one they own. The key is to find out why that loom is their favorite. Before you go shopping, though, answer these questions.

Perfect Loom

Table looms, true to their name, fit easily on a table. They tend to be narrower than other multishaft looms, but they’re perfect for travel, for weavers who need to save space, and for weavers who have limited mobility in their legs.

What’s your budget?

Looms last a lifetime and are available in a wide range of prices and sizes. Knowing your budget helps narrow things down. You should budget for purchasing multiple reeds for your loom. Owning both 8-dent and 10-dent reeds will handle 90 percent of weaving projects, but if you love fine yarns, it’s nice to also have a 12-dent reed. If you are a color/texture weaver, you will want to have a 5- or 6-dent reed to accommodate chunky, textured yarns. Reeds can be interchanged on looms of similar size. I have 8-, 10-, and 12-dent reeds that work on both of my floor looms. Stainless steel reeds are more expensive, but they won’t rust like their carbon steel counterparts can in humid environments.

If you can’t afford a new loom, consider previously loved looms. Often included with used looms are bonus yarns, tools, reeds, and maybe a bench! One warning: Beware of buying a used loom without inspecting it in person. I’ve seen looms with parts missing (brake cranks are important) or broken parts (cracked beater supports) that were purchased from photos. To make sure everything is weaving-ready, walk through the warping steps when you inspect the loom.

Many years ago, a friend bought a floor sample Peter Collingswood Harrisville loom on eBay from a shop that was closing. When it arrived, we discovered that to fit the loom in the boxes they found for shipping, the (now closed) shop had broken apart glued joins! And none of the pieces were marked! And no assembly instructions! In hindsight, we should have called Harrisville for instructions, but using the photo in a Handwoven ad for reference, we got the loom together. We learned a lot, but it was challenging.

—Deb

To find out the rest of Deb’s tips for picking the perfect loom for you, make sure to check out the September/October 2017 issue of Handwoven. Featured Image: Jack looms are versatile looms available in a variety of sizes, including some that fold up for easy storage. They’re best for light- to medium-weight fabrics.


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