Love the Simple Life (and Loom)

One of the joys of small looms is that they can slow down the weaving process, allowing us to experience the threads in all their beauty. Here's Jane Patrick, an editor emerita of Handwoven, to tell you about her love affair with small looms. ––Anita

  Jane Patrick
  Jane Patrick: small loom

Even though I could weave on a floor loom and get one easily (married to Barry Schacht as I am), I tend to gravitate to simple looms. You can’t weave as fast perhaps and you don’t have all those shafts and heddles that offer infinite pattern possibilities. But you do have intimacy and flexibility. I think that’s why I grew to love the rigid heddle loom and its close cousin, the inkle loom.

The rigid-heddle loom has a heddle made up of alternating slots and holes––fixed and open threads, if you will. The inkle loom has the same setup with alternating threads, heddled and unheddled, fixed and open. Those slot or open threads can be easily manipulated for float patterns.

And here’s where these lowly looms soar: Because you are controlling the pick-up threads by hand, you are not confined to a thread on a specific heddle or harness. You can change your pattern willy nilly—make up your pattern or change your pattern as you go along. Freedom.

Inkle looms are designed for warp-faced weaving. The weft is essentially a binder showing only at the selvedges where it turns the corner. The solid warp design is most appealing and is not affected by the weft. Bold graphic patterns, even simple stripes, offer strong patterning possibilities.

Band on an Inkle Loom  
Inkle looms offer a chance to
contemplate and reflect while
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If you are a rigid heddle weaver, and if you’ve tried to weave a warp-faced band, you know that you can use the heddle for creating the sheds, but because the threads are so close together, beating is a bit of a struggle. You can do it, but it’s not what the rigid heddle loom does best. And why you might want to add an inkle loom to your weaving equipment options—if you don’t already have one.

I also love simple looms for their intimacy. When you are weaving on a simple loom, you are close to the loom and the threads. I feel a part of the loom and the pattern that’s growing pick by pick, row by row. I feel connected. I’m aware of the process of each pass of the shuttle. Maybe you can have this same experience on the floor loom, but there is something about weaving on an inkle or rigid heddle loom that slows things down. I find this meditative. It’s where new ideas develop, where problems are worked out (and not just weaving ones), where contentment lies. It's that stopping to feel the threads (smell the roses) that brings peace. And this is one of the reasons we weave. Isn’t it?


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