Four Shafts are Fabulous!

Robyn Spady is one of my weaving structure gurus; I don’t think Robyn’s ever met a structure she didn’t like and that she couldn’t thoroughly master, transform, and make sit up and do tricks in less time than you can say “tromp as writ.” So it is also interesting to me that Robyn is a passionate proponent of 4-shaft weaving. Robyn knows what to do with as many shafts as you can imagine: she has an AVL loom and she likes it. But she also knows that creativity rests with the weaver, not the loom. Here she is to tell you a story of four happy shafts. ––Anita

I recently became a “foster parent” to a loom. This happens occasionally when the planets align and I find myself presented with a loom that needs a new future. To be completely honest, I don’t need any more looms . . . but, I accept these orphaned looms and bring them home. Then, I wait. I don’t seek out an adoptive home for the loom. I wait until the planets align again and I cross paths with someone looking for a loom, which is often an eager new weaver without a loom. In the meantime, I may or may not restore the loom. This is for a few reasons. First, as soon as I start working with a loom I run the risk of becoming attached to it. Second, it can be a lot of work and I plan to pass the loom along anyway. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the new owner will learn a lot by giving it the necessary care and feeding to restore it back to pristine condition.

The loom that recently followed me is a 36″ four-shaft counterbalance loom. It was made by the now defunct Payton Loom Company of Portland, Oregon. My first loom, originally owned by my great-grandmother, is a 30″ version of this loom and I still frequently weave on it. Plus, I was fortunate to get to know Dorothy and Curtis Payton when I ordered what was to be the last loom they made, a 45″ 4-shaft counterbalance loom.


Why was this loom given away? Well, for one thing it was too large for the small space available in the weaving room at the retirement community where it was originally going. I also suspect it was given away because it only has four shafts.

Doubleweave Tablemats on 4-shafts
Robyn’s doubleweave table mats from the Nov/Dec 2011
issue of Handwoven were woven (of course) on four shafts.



If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone utter the three words “only four shafts” I’d have enough to order a very nice dinner, including a terrific glass of wine. Perhaps even enough to invite a guest to join me in toasting to the virtues of the 4-shaft loom. If I wove on nothing but 4-shaft looms for the rest of my life, I’d be happy and never bored.



In September 2012, I wrote a Weaving Today newsletter post about hosting a block party on your loom and my love of 4-shaft looms. In this post, I wrote “. . . other than a true loom-controlled satin weave, there isn’t any weave structure you can’t weave on four shafts.” I went on to list many weaves may be woven on four shafts, such as double weave, diversified plain weave, shadow weave, velvet, taqueté, and more.



Frankly, when I think about it, four-shaft looms are pretty decadent. I remember watching Canadian weaver Jane Stafford captivate a large audience while presenting them with the beauty and versatility of plain weave. Cool! Only two shafts!



This new-to-me-loom will not stay with me for very long. After I restore it back to its former glory, I plan to invite a childhood friend of mine, who recently expressed interest in learning to weave, to stay with me and weave on it. Hopefully, the planets will align and the loom will have a new owner . . . and the weaving community will have a new weaver! 

—Robyn Spady

Post a Comment