Dear readers, I have done a terrible thing. So miserable was I at the absence of my lovely 8-shaft table loom, missing all the justification for fancy fibres and silly spinning, that I went and bought a rigid heddle loom.
As with spinning wheels, sewing machines and everything else, what is the ‘right’ kind of loom seems to be a point of contention among weavers. Most people are pragmatic enough to admit that the ‘right’ loom depends on the job it needs to do and a healthy dose of personal preference. However, as a bit of a technical geek about all the things craft, I might find a rigid heddle loom a bit restrictive.
Unfortunately though at the moment life and space dictates that neither a shaft loom nor a floor loom was going to be a feasible option. I also appreciated the idea that rigid heddle looms would be easy and quick to warp (ha!) in comparison to a shaft loom so, despite never having used one, I settled on the Kromski Harp, which has the ability to double as a warping board too.
If you’re looking for a UK Kromski supplier as they seem to be rather scant, look no further than Spinwise. They say on their website that customer service is at the focus of their business and I can assure that Ann was absolutely outstanding. From the first contact where I wanted to discuss options and what equipment I’d need, or whether the whole thing was a good idea anyway, Ann was totally honest, straightforward and it was clear all her recommendations were based on many years of expertise and experience. It was incredibly helpful to have someone to think about all the things I could possibly need and put together a package for me. It’s not always that straightforward to work out what comes included with looms from online listings…
The loom came in record time but first things first, I had to put it all together. I am a flat pack furniture veteran by now and have to assemble stuff with frequently sub-par instructions at work so I was relatively confident this cute little loom couldn’t pose too much of a challenge. This was only partially correct. I bought both the loom and the stand (mine is an 80 cm loom and as I don’t own a table I figured this was a good investment).
It turns out the ‘instructions’ that come to put it all together from Kromski are unhelpful to the point of being a hinderance. Despite it being of paramount importance that you get the roller bars and stops on the front and back of the loom in the correct orientation, the drawings, that frequently change in terms of their representation of the loom, perspective and just about everything else are really not very reassuring. Luckily, if you do get a loom from Spinwise, Ann has put together some helpful pdfs to save you from the worst of your frustration.
Despite the instructions, the loom and stand are relatively easy to get together… well, they were until I managed to shear one of the barrel nuts and bolts while putting together the stand. I have no idea how I managed this, as judging from the extent of the shearing I had applied a rather significant amount of hulk-like force to the problem… That or the bolt was made of butter. I’m going with the latter explanation.
Luckily, Ann to the rescue again and I managed to get a replacement. In a fit of impatience, I did try making a direct warp with the loom on the floor but this was a monumentally stupid idea that just led to so much frustration it didn’t work. I tried to weigh down a post with books to use this to drag the warp around, which was horribly ineffective. I just admitted defeat and redid the warp with the loom on the stand which was orders of magnitude easier. Weaving cones also unravel much more easily when you pull them from above, not on the same plane.
Trying a direct warp was interesting and I can see why people like it! I had quite a long space so was able to do about 2 meters of warp in 2/16 cotton. I did get the second heddle extension but I just went with the 12 dent reed for now and the whole warp is about 90 slots wide. It has been a while since I made a warp but overall, it wasn’t too bad an experience. I do wish I had an upright lazy Kate sometimes though!
It’s not the best warp I’ve ever made in my life as I think I didn’t really take enough care when making the warp with the direct warping method (I highly recommend getting everything well aligned and not sending the loom skidding across the floor at every opportunity). My other recommendation is never think it’s a good idea to tie on to the apron rod with anything other than a surgeons knot. That was a sufficiently bad idea that I had to correct it. I did feel just a small moment of pride seeing the warp all tensioned up on there. Not a perfect warp, but a finished warp, and I’m very, very happy with that.
A warped loom is just being a beautiful thing, tingling with possibilities and I couldn’t resist just having a go at getting a very approximate header in to see if the warp would spread and behave normally. I have to admit the whole moving the heddle thing is very, very weird to me. I’m missing the tonk of the beater (as well as discovering how hard it seems to be to beat straight) and I don’t so much gracefully change my shed between the up and down positions so much as wrestle the heddle into place and swear when it decides to try and automate the weaving process for me…
At the moment, I’m finding the loom weird. I keep pawing at thin air for some shafts and throwing the loom and the stand about while trying to beat. It’s awkward, clumsy and weird but this is very much the fault of the weaver and not the loom. The plan for now is to practice plain weave with some different threads and just try and turn this fight for dominance into more of a cooperative effort.
Rigid heddle fans, any suggestions for thing to do or play with? I’m feeling a bit lost in this brave new world!