Ergonomic Weaving

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn

Hi Madelyn,


As there are ergonomics involved  with using a computer such as screen height, distance, angle, chair height, and so forth, are there any suggestions to follow when it comes to weaving regarding your bench height, arm angles, vision, and so forth? Obviously, if your bench is too tall, you'll be bending your neck too far forward. Or if it is too short, your shoulders will get tired. Is it just personal choice or are there some guidelines to follow, such as your waist should be same level as front beam or something like that?.





Hi Scarlett!


We have published three articles on ergonomics related to weaving by Karen Piegorsch (“Warping Board Ergonomics,” September/October 2008, p. 12; “Lighten Your Load,” Jan/Feb 2009, p. 10; and “Set Your Body (and Your Loom) Free,” May/June 2009, p. 10.


There are some general principles I’ve learned from hours of weaving and watching my students, however. I set my bench height so that when I am sitting up straight, which I try always to do as I weave, the breast beam is elbow height (your forearms rest on it with your elbows at your side). If you are sitting straight, elbows at your side as you weave, there is no need to bend over during weaving; you’ll move your upper body from side to side as you throw the shuttle, moving forward a bit as you bring the beater toward you to beat. This height should also position your legs so that when you treadle you don’t have to lift your upper leg, just move your lower leg to take your foot from treadle to treadle. If you sit too low, a lot of energy has to go into lifting your leg to move to a new treadle and applying pressure to the treadle when depressing it.


Different body proportions, looms, and benches can make achieving these positions difficult. Schacht, for example, makes height extenders for the Baby and Mighty Wolfs, something you’d need if you have more than average length between foot and knee. 


Only weaving will tell you if you have everything in the optimum position. You should be able to weave with your back straight, moving your feet easily from treadle to treadle. Weaving is actually very good exercise: for back, arm, and abdominal muscles and for upper body movement.



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