Three people have spoken with us since November asking us our advice about getting into weaving. In particular they have directly enquired about buying looms…what did we think? …where should they look? …what should they look for? …how much should they be spending?
So I thought that as a way to reawaken this blog I might take some time to warm-heartedly reflect on weaving, and the weaving community, and looms, and our place in this grand mess. :)
1. So you want to weave, eh?
Have you ever woven before? That’s always the first question we ask. And it’s okay to hear, No, but I think I’d really like to. After all, that’s where everything starts. What we don’t like to hear is, No, but I went and bought a loom. (!) And we know that that happens too. But there are a lot of looms for sale that have never been used by the people who bought them – both women and men – because they thought it might be for them, but who had not really considered everything involved. Buying a loom can be like buying a puppy. Do you really have the time and commitment for it?, not that you cannot learn to live your way into it.
The best way to get into weaving is to first find someone who weaves, and who is willing to sit down with you and to place your hands on one of their looms, and who will sit with you over hours of coffee and share their life with you, because that is what weaving is all about in the end, trading your life for making cloth. True, you might find a club that sponsors classes, but we see those as a second step in the process. The bottom line is whether there is someone who can personally spend time with you to ease you into this life? That person might be a teacher of a class. But let’s face it, some teachers are in it for themselves. Some clubs exist as gatekeepers to a self-perceived exclusive domain of knowledge. And some weavers are personally threatened by others’ interest. We’ve seen it all.
What we share here is meant to simply be encouragement from one basic weaver to another. We have nothing to prove and only encouragement to give.
We were extremely fortunate to have met our mentor, Susan. First of all she is a weaving fanatic…she lives to weave. Secondly, she is volumetric in her experience and knowledge, having forgotten more in her lifetime than we will ever come to know about weaving. But best of all, she is personal and humble. (And she’s got a great sense of humour and is a hoot to be around!) There is no end to the time she will spend with us to work through something. If you don’t understand something she is talking about she will come at it from another perspective and then another until you do. We are truly blessed by her.
So. The first thing to do is to find someone who can put you in the cockpit and hand over the controls to you. And the rest is up to you.
If your answer is a growing, Yes!, then you need to evaluate how much time, and how much space, and how much money you want to spend, and what those things all do for you.
2. Do you have the time to weave?
We do not have a television. We have a computer. We watch the news in the morning. We get weather reports throughout our day. We have email. We watch a movie at night. Other than that we live in this beautiful place and have built our lives around doing stuff that primarily allows us to gratefully live here and that serves other people for free. So we have cleared everything else back so that we can do things like weaving. We made time so that we could weave.
We bought our first loom in 2015 for $400CDN from a young mother who overreached and who wanted to weave but who had two small children and a tourism business she had built and woke up one day and said, I will never get to weave. And good for her that she came to her senses. Experience cures nonsense. Kids tend to do that. This is precisely how we got our first loom, a 45″ LeClerc Mira that sat in her garage for a couple of years and needed attention. Do you have the time to weave? But consider this. Perhaps you do not have the time to weave on a full-sized loom, but you can do it on a smaller loom set off in the corner that you can come and go from as you wish? Not all weaving requires the same amount of time. To weave a lot of material on a big loom requires a lot of time in every respect.
3. Do you have a place to weave?
Looms take up space. The wonderful thing about my mentor is that her whole life revolves around weaving. Looms and weaving material are packed into every square inch of her house. I am glad that she is as smart as she is because I would never be able to remember where all the items are that she has squirrelled away everywhere! ;) It is a genuine wonder for me to be in her home, like a great library just packed with books. A treasure trove!
But all kidding aside, only you know the space that you are willing to commit to a loom…and all the supples you are bound to accumulate with it. And there will be lots of those, more than you can imagine, bins and bins of them, just mark my words.
4. Do you have the money for a loom? (If not, then take heart!)
***This is really what I wanted to write about today. Buying a loom.
This blog is meant to encourage everyone to weave. Of course if you have a lot of money – and a lot of people do – then this blog really is not for you. If you can phone up a retail outlet for looms and give them a credit card number and take delivery on a loom without batting an eye, good on you. But for those of you who are working people and feel the intuitive draw to weave, and have the time and space and passion to do so, then we are on your side.
If you have looked through this site you know that items like wool and cotton and yarns and supplies can be had and built and stored. If you want to weave and do not have money for yarns then rags are everywhere and for a bit of resourcefulness you can produce rugs by the score that are much better than anything you can find in Wal-Mart…a craft you can be proud of. And of course if you are in our area we have wool galore that we keep for free for others.
Here’s what you want to consider if you are looking for a loom and do not want to spend a lot of money on one. First of all take your time. There are a lot of good deals out there as I write. In Hamilton, ON there is a 45″ Nilus LeClerc in great shape for sale for $500 that says negotiable on it, and in Red Deer there is a 36″ Artisat LeClerc for sale in perfect shape for $500, and in Calgary there is a $5,000 Colonial V2 LeClerc for sale for $1,800. And there will be others that will come up. Take your time. We paid $400 each for a Mira and a Fanny, and got all sorts of accessories and books and benches, etc. with each of them, along with a genuine New Zealand Wee Peggy spinning wheel for $150 that is in perfect condition! Do not get too anxious once bitten by the bug.
Warning: There are a lot of sellers out there who will take advantage of you! Some do not know what they are selling. That is one key sign that what you are going to pay is too much. Ignore them! It is not nice to say, but I am going to do it anyway, these people are greedy idiots. I always keep my eyes open for looms at a good price. I do not do it so that I can buy more…I am no dragon. I buy they so that I can restore a piece of equipment that should not go to waste. I buy them so that I can preserve a wonderful tool. I buy them so that I can pass these on to a deserving person.
A couple years ago I bought an old abused LeClerc Jano loom. It needed to be torn apart and refurbished. You can read about it here: https://borealweaver.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/an-intimate-look-at-a-jano/ and https://borealweaver.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/jano-restored-pics/. I paid $70 for this loom. I stripped the wood and scoured and polished the metal. It’s a wonderful little machine!
A while ago I ran across an ad for another one. When I enquired I was informed that they wanted several hundred dollars for it since it was an antique! Bologna!!! It is old…nearly 90 years old. But it was junk. If you were a collector and it was in perfect shape, then perhaps you would pay that. But its wood was very worn, its metal was darkened, and that means that its heddles and reed were likely worthless and need to be replaced. And yet they claimed that it was in good shape. I honestly doubt if they knew what ‘good shape’ meant.
Another ruse is someone who has a loom and who looks up what a new one is going for and takes a couple hundred dollars off of that price and wants to sell it to you as a ‘deal’. Believe me, that is no deal. Something better will come along. You may have to drive to pick it up. And it may need reconditioning. But if you are willing to do the work, the deals are out there.
Now I have been rightfully chided by some who say that they do not have the skills to recondition a loom. And that is a fair statement that I respect. But I also know that there are a lot of people out there who do have the skills and who would love to rework a loom at no price…or perhaps for a pie or a couple of loaves of homemade bread. And if you do not have friends like that, then it is time to make new friends!
If you really want to weave and have limited money don’t worry, be of good cheer. Make it so. Enquire. Find good people. Consider what you want out of it and what you can give to others through it. Deny other things so that weaving can take root. Carve out a space. Don’t overspend…buyer beware! And be at peace and have fun with what you can do!!! At least that’s how we see it. It’s a great way to give back in a world that seems more heedless and impatient by the day. And good luck.