Weaving 101: Cost of Supplies, Equipment Overview, and More
I live in an isolated area and have just discovered weaving (my sister-in-law gave me a rigid-heddle loom). I have found many resources online to help me learn to use it, and I have woven two short scarves. I see videos of people weaving on floor looms, however, and really like how that looks and the kinds of weaving they are doing. If I wanted to get a big loom and weave some of these fabrics (towels, scarves, shawls, rugs, etc.) how many other pieces of equipment would I need? What kind of cost would I be looking at and what kind of loom should I get?
There are so many factors that would influence your choices of what to buy that it is hard to answer this question. But it is worth trying since it is a common question coming from onlookers at weaving demonstrations. The first thing I would do in your place is see if there is a weavers’ guild anywhere near you. It would be worth a drive to go to meetings. You will meet weavers who are very interested in helping you get started. Most guilds have beginning study groups, many have looms to loan out, and there are usually guild members who teach. If that isn’t possible, the next best thing to do is to go to one of the weaving schools scattered around the country, one in which you learn basic warping and weaving techniques and where can try out different looms to see which one fits you best. Different looms work well for different types of fabrics. A good rug loom will weave towels, but if you are mostly going to weave towels and scarves, you don’t need a really wide loom such as you’d need for rugs (even small looms take up a lot of space).
You will find used looms available but it is a good idea to know specifically what make and type of loom you want before you go shopping. When you consider cost, a table loom is much less expensive than a floor loom (and is portable so you can take it on trips), but it does not give the same weaving experience (a truly wonderful rhythm of weaving). A loom with two or four shafts (the frames that take the warp threads up and down) will be less expensive than a loom with eight shafts or more, but there may be many tempting designs that you won’t be able to weave. To make that choice, I usually ask students what fabrics they are most attracted to: soft wool scarves where the yarn is the focus or intricate patterns where the design itself is the focus. For the latter, the more shafts the better. In addition to a loom, you’ll need a warping board, a bobbin winder, and boat shuttles (much easier to use than stick shuttles).
If you do buy a used loom, be sure you weave on it before you buy it, unless you know the loom type well and are sure that it is in good condition.
I think of these items (loom, warping board, bobbin winder, shuttles) as one-time expenses. Their total could be anywhere from under $1,000 to more than $4,000 (even way more), depending on the choices you make. But once you have this equipment, your continued cost will only be yarn. Of course, “only” is a relative term!
I hope you can find a guild or classes near you and get started soon!