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WeekendMiniaturist

A Beginners Guide to weaving miniature textiles on a loom

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WeekendMiniaturist

Our local Museum of Art is offering a beginners weaving class over a portion of  summer in the evenings, and I'm planning to sign up; thought some instruction would save me a lot of time of trying to figure it out with a book, and more importantly I want to support the local art opportunities in our community. 

 

I need some guidance on loom options for miniature textiles...

 

I watched a huge floor,  you- need- your- own -room,  size loom sell for a very small amount of money at a local auction, but I had no idea how to reassemble it or how to use it... and had no idea if I did, or if I didn't, need this loom.  It was probably the size of a dining room table when assembled, and I couldn't imagine loading it with silk sewing thread or how many hundreds of spools of silk thread that I would need to load the loom, so thought I could let that one go without remorse.

 

I think I remember Bonnie Backe had her loom at the Teaneck show in 2012, but I didn't take any photos or take any notes.  I'm sure I was still in fabric heaven, having shopped the garment district in NYC for most of the day, so clearly I was not focused on the future opportunity at hand.  I would never guessed that we would have weaving classes offered locally, or I would have been taking notes!

 

Do you have any books or current DVDs that you can recommend to a beginner?  Is there a specific kind of loom that you would recommend and what are the limitations of brands and kinds of looms available today?

 

Are there specific methods in the life size world of weaving textiles that are especially effective in weaving in miniature that I should pay attention to in my real life class?

 

Thanks for your help!  Tamra/Indiana

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bonni.b

That's terrific that you're entering the world of weaving plus supporting the local art community, Tamra. You did see me with a loom in Teaneck that year, but it's the loom I use for travel and teaching, it's the Dorothy table loom by LeClerc looms. The actual looms I use for making Weevings are the size of a dining room table one is a Macomber with a 45" weaving width, the other is an AVL with a computer interface. The loom doesn't really care what width warp you put on it, and the advantage of a floor loom is that your feet control the treadles, to raise and lower the shafts, while your hands can throw the shuttles and work the beater to push the weft (shuttle yarn) in place. The advantage of a table loom, the one you saw in Teaneck, is that it doesn't require its own room and some can be folded with the warp in place, to take up even less space. The disadvantage is that your hands are doing everything: raise the shafts for the next row of the pattern, pick up the shuttle and thrown it to the other hand, put it down, move the beater, change shafts for the next row, pick up the shuttle and throw it. It's just harder to get a rhythm going.

 

The good thing about a table loom, besides needing less space, is that you're much more connected to how the pattern is being formed. The bad thing is it's slower weaving. And it's somewhat more difficult to dress the loom, because everything is so much smaller. There are floor looms, like the Baby Wolf by Schacht and the Harrisville, both 4-shaft, that fold, and take less room in your home.

 

If there's a weaving guild that meets nearby, and when you're available, do join. They love newbies and will be especially intrigued with a weaver of miniatures. They might even have loaner looms that can be rented to see if you like that particular type. Just as there are many makes and models of cars, so it is with looms, and each has its staunch owners.

 

The best book I can recommend for a beginner is Learn to Weave by Debby Redding/Chandler (her name changed so you can find copies with either name). Her approach is to take you through dressing the loom and weaving, step by step, explaining why she does what she does as you go. There are several approaches to warping a loom, and each has its own adherents. Knowing a couple of them will help solve various challenges you'll encounter. The instructions in the book, like those in your class, apply whether you're weaving full size or miniature, so absorb all you can and have fun with it!

 

The most difficult part of weaving miniatures is finding small threads, frankly. Weavers buy cones of yarn, be it silk, cotton or rayon, not spools of thread, if they can avoid it. I'm fortunate to have a large stash of fine yarns left from my days as a sample weaver in the NYC garment business. But I've discovered other sources, like Lunatic Fringe, the Knitting Room, WEBS and Thread Art (small cones of cotton thread). Like most miniaturists, we have to think outside the box and keep our eyes and ears open. 

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, Tamra. If you have more questions, do ask!

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WeekendMiniaturist

I am looking forward to learning to weave.  Thanks Bonnie for explaining the advantages of both kinds of looms.  I knew that Carol Hinkle likes her floor loom, and now I understand why.

 

I'm going to look at those fibers on cones, too.  I have previously purchased silk ribbon from threadart.com, and I know I can purchase silk  thread on cones in my shopping for fibers for petitpoint, costuming and quilting. 

 

This is going to be fun!  Tamra/Indiana

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bonni.b

I had a further thought about the difference between floor looms and table looms. Depending on what you're planning to weave, a floor loom has the advantage of a longer distance between the front and back beams, so there's less stress on the warp when warp ends are raised. There's a definite limit to how fine the threads can be on a table loom, a 20/2 cotton (the same as #20 pearl cotton) or 2/30 wool is as fine as I like my students to go in classes. There's just too much strain on the warp ends when the shaft is raised 3" when there's only 18" distance between what you've woven and the back beam where the warp is coming from. So they break. Fixable, but a pain.

 

With a floor loom you have more like 30" of warp traveling front to back, so when some threads are raised 4" it's less stress overall. Make sense? If you're only planning to weave rugs, a table loom will serve well enough. For finer fabrics you really need a floor loom. Fortunately, the auxiliary tools you need - warping board, shuttles, bobbins, bobbin winder, reeds - are the same no matter which loom you choose.

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WeekendMiniaturist

Bonnie, this is Incredible information for a beginner.  The forum is going to be an incredible resource for the miniature community!  I know I will have a much better understanding after I get to class... what kind of looms do you use at Guild School?  Will a classroom loom be out on display when we are touring the classrooms?  Tamra/Indiana

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bonni.b

We use the Dorothy table looms by LeClerc at Guild School. You'll definitely see them during Open Classrooms - they're too big to hide! Seriously, we'll have several set up for show, including one I'll be bringing that's already warped that I'll be using to demo the rep rug technique on. No one in the class will be weaving by Monday night, as a rule it takes them until Tues. to finish dressing their looms. That's the fun day, all the threading errors show up when they start to weave...

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WeekendMiniaturist

I have registered for my local class, and I walked by several rooms, and saw a lot of floor looms (didn't see any table looms) on my way to the museum office so I could pay for my class.   This is definitely my year to step out of my comfort zone and go to classes!  The looms were all fully loaded, though, so I don't really know what to expect and am just planning to go with the flow, and just be a sponge!  so... threading errors, uh oh, do you un weave to correct a threading error... in petitpoint, I'm a big fan of stitch over, or utter denial, probably can't do that when you are weaving.   I would assume a rug is easier...

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bonni.b

What's the title of the class? How many weeks, or total number of hours? I'm a little surprised that they provide a dressed loom, but that's just me. There are 2 possible errors - threading errors, which show up when you start to weave, either crossed ends that won't weave or ends threaded in the wrong order for your intended pattern. They need to be fixed, especially if they're crossed ends. Also in this category are denting errors, having a gap in the reed or too many ends in one dent. They'll show forever, even after wet finishing, so it pays to fix those, too.

 

Then there are also treadling errors, raising a shaft when you're weaving that's out of sequence for the intended pattern. Those you can unweave, or choose to call them "design elements"! Or just call it practice and start another rug. 

 

Could be their thinking is to eliminate all the threading errors by having the looms pre-warped. But that gives the impression that dressing a loom isn't really "weaving", when it's all part of the weaving experience. Repetitive, yes, but you have to pay attention, too. At least we know that as a petitpointer you have a high tolerance for tedium!

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WeekendMiniaturist

There are existing classes going on now, so I think that is the reason the looms are fully loaded.  I hope the class begins with dressing the loom,  otherwise I'll be lost when I get home and eventually need to load one myself.  Classes are 3 hours in the evening for 6 weeks, so about the same time allowance as a Guild Study Program.  6:30 to 9:30 pm.  I waited until summer, so I would be leaving and it will still be daylight, here...  I think it was titled, "Beginning / Intermediate Weaving Class".  

 

"Learn the art of weaving using traditional techniques.  Students will work on projects of their own design, with encouragement to advance to multi-shaft structures.  One - on- one consultation to warp set, materials, patterns structure, etc., provided.  Enrollment limited to 9 students."

 

Well, at least I have a book...2014 may be the year of the scarf for me!  My first class of the year, early March, was to learn to purl, and I have about 36" inches of my 60" knitted and purled according to the design...

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Natalia Frank

Hi Tamra and Bonnie,

 

I am so glad you opened a discussion topic about weaving. I was intrigued to learn weaving for a while till last year I finally bought Baby Wolf by Schacht floor loom and attended my first class.  

 

Bonnie, don't be surprised, some places prepare the dressed looms for the class. It saves their time, but what they might fail to do is to tell the students that they charged for it. I had a teacher that taught us how to do it, and Tamra, if you want to learn to weave, you need to learn how to dress the loom, otherwise you are stuck to pay other people for dressing it. It is not difficult to dress the loom, but takes a lot of time. I have a reed with 30 dents, so I can feed 2 ends in one dent. I have a lot of fun weaving! 

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WeekendMiniaturist

6 weeks of classes, and I do have a finished scarf.  (Relief that I did finish my project!  I'm sorry to have almost disappeared from the forum.)  We did learn to dress our own looms, and I have learned so much in 18 hours.  As I go back and read Bonni's messages, I really understand the conversation now.  Weaving is a lot of fun and I'm even pleased that my selvedges are OK for my first weaving project; I am sure that my practice with Petit Point and weaving wicker in miniature have given me a set of skills to assist in the outcome of that first scarf.  I really want to do some of the scale mini projects in the book, Weaving in Miniature by Carol Strickler & Barbara Taggart.  I have already prepared a basic warp for my next practice scarf project 10 ends per inch, and 10" wide, but am headed to the library to do a quick search on a different draft for the scarf, as I would like to try something other then a plain weave.

I selected a 100% Extra fine merino wool, fingering weight, for practice scarf 2, and I purchased lace weight 70% superbaby alpaca, 30% fine merino wool, for my first practice for a miniature coverlet...it may be a little too big, but it will be fun to practice and it has a very soft hand, and very pleasing to the touch. 

 

Yes, I definitely understand why the foot pedals make weaving more efficient.  Leclerc's website does show that you can convert Dorothy to a floor loom.  Next year, I do want to return and do something wider on a floor loom, perhaps a 24" silk wrap.  I did my first project on a Dorothy table top loom, as I didn't want to fall in love with floor loom. 

 

Natalia and Bonni, how do you control the "draw in" of your woven article?  I would compensate by adding more ends per inch on the warp, but my instructor was frowning when I suggested my method of getting the desired outcome.  My scarf was set up as a 10" scarf and I expected draw in of 1", so it should be 9" wide, and my scarf is a skinny 8" wide.  Oops.

 

Weaving - pretty magical experience; I felt like I was on a magic carpet ride as I learned so much in such a short period of time.

One more practice piece and we will attempt to work on a miniature project.

 

Tamra / Indiana

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bonni.b

There is always draw-in on any weaving project, and adding more ends per inch just makes the finished piece more dense and less drapey. Instead, you learn from experience - next time you'll know to start with 11" in the reed to get a 9" scarf, or you sample. The weave also plays a part in how much the piece draws in, a plain weave (tabby) has more interfacings - over, under, over, under each end than say a 2/2 twill that only interlaces every 2 ends. 

 

A good book for 4 shaft weavers is Margarite Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book first published in 1944. I like it because she has woven all sorts of twills, overshot patterns, M's and O's, and other weaves, with a white warp and black weft and there's a photograph of each treadling variation for every threading. She won't give the sett and yarn choice to you, of course, but it's a great source of inspiration for the designer. I believe she wrote the treadling for a counterbalance loom, so jack loom weavers use the opposite shafts (or look at the back side of the fabric). In other words, if the tie-up at the top of the column has x's in 1 and 2, tie up (or raise, if you're on a table loom) 3 and 4. 

 

Once you've learned weave draft notation, you can read any book on weaving, as far as the weave itself is concerned, even if the book is in Swedish. 

 

The most difficult part of weaving miniatures is finding fine yarn and fine reeds, frankly. I fell into fine yarn ownership when I was weaving samples for the textile industry 20 years ago, and because I had to have the samples exactly as the mill would produce the fabric, I own reeds in every dpi from 6-24, plus some finer ones in metric dentage (is that a word?). You can use a #10, with odd denting - 2, 2, 3 to get 23.3 epi for example, but you get reed tracks that can't be wet finished (washed) out.

 

I'm so glad you had a magical experience, Tamra. Keep us posted on the next adventure!

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Brandaen

I very much enjoyed my class this year in Castine with Bonni and came home to find both a table and floor loom waiting for a cheap price on craigslist.   Happy weaving has insued and I am slowly getting the dressing and warp creation down... baby steps .

 

 I would love to learn how to scale down a draft I am looking at for miniature use...possibly a new thread ?

 

 thanks for everything Bonni, you are a huge wealth of knowledge ! and great help !

 

 Brandaen

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WeekendMiniaturist

Welcome Brandaen to the forum.   What did you do for your first project at home?  I'm glad that you were able to find looms on craigs' list... I don't want to look, scared I might find a floor loom, and I have no place for it to live!  Isn't weaving fun?  I had a lot of fun with the concept of 'throwing the shuttle'.  My Wednesday Night weaving was good therapy for a difficult day in the office.

 

I have a Dorothy 4 Shaft Table loom, and am working on making a raddle so I can organize my threads, then dress the loom.   I just purchased a 52 peg sock loom, that was on sale at Joann fabric this weekend, so I could re-purpose the metal pins for my raddle, as I didn't want to use nails, thinking that I will eventually get to smaller, and smaller fibers, and I'll want a very nice raddle.  The raddles in my weaving class were homemade with nails in a board, quite functional, just concerned about snagging fibers in mini, so I spent $5 on the sock loom (Authentic Knitting Board, made in China), to harvest the pegs for my raddle.

 

Is it better to have my 25" long raddle with 1/2" increments or 1" increments when I'm drilling my holes?  When I warped my threads at class they are bundled currently in groups of 10, for 10 epi, but I don't have a 10 dpi reed, and Leclerc is closed and on vacation and a show right now, so I am waiting to order.  I only have a 12 dent reed.  And how do I clean a steel reed?  I tried a wire brush, and some muscle, and I've not been super successful.  When I switch to silk, I'll be very anxious about the reed, so I any metal people are reading how to clean steel, please let me know what to do!   Is it worth the additional money to purchase a stainless steel reed?

 

I think I have a Swedish shuttle, at least it matches one that I find on eBay that indicates it is from Sweden.  It has rollers on each end of the shuttle, but I don't have to bobbin, so will have to fire up the lathe, and make my own, and I still need to make a warp board.  Making a warp board looks pretty simple.  (I hope I'm not overly optimistic.)

 

I'm so glad that we have some weavers in our forum.  Perhaps I should invest in a higher dent reed, as I really want to get to weaving miniatures.  In real life is 12 dent reed used more frequently then a 10?  Deborah Chandler's book does tell me how to substitute when using the 12 dent reed, when I'm supposed to have a 10.  Did this contribute to my draw - in?

 

Thanks - Tamra/Indiana.

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bonni.b

I've been web surfing, looking for yarn to use for miniature overshot coverlets, and here's what I've found so far. For the tabby is my coverlets I use 140/2 silk, bought as a mill end over 20 years ago. But roserushbrooke.com has both 60/2 cotton and 100/2 silk thread on 800 yard and 1000 yard spools respectively. Silk uses a different numbering system than cotton, so 100/2 silk = 50/2 cotton. Would either work for tabby at say, 50 epi? Yes. For the pattern I've found a fine merino at habutextiles.com which is really close to the 2/48 wool I use. At 747 yards per ounce, it's pretty fine. Which is what we want. Sold in 1 oz. tubes, it comes in 40 colors, so you can let your freak flag fly, if you're not into the traditional indigo overshot. 

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bonni.b

I missed your post earlier, Tamra, sorry. Most Dorothy's come with a #12 reed,  and that's what I'll be using, two per dent, when we weave the Real Rag Rugs at Guild School next year. (Can't wait and it's 10 months+ away, sigh.) Otherwise, we've used a #17 with 2 per dent. 3 per dent for fine wool lap robes. I've only used a raddle when the color order was critical, this year, for example. We had the same finish nails in strips of wood at 1/2" intervals and it worked fine. I normally warp front to back, so I don't have everything threaded before I find out I have 5" wide in the reed instead of the 7" I'd planned. Or one less stripe, after the warp is all beamed. Mistakes happen and I want to know when I'm through the reed, instead of all beamed, heddled and through the reed. Your mileage may vary, of course. 

 

To clean rusted reeds, I like Nev-R-Dull, which you can get at traditional hardware stores. It's a "wadding" in a can, which means it's loose cotton fibers impregnated with some sort of magic, and smelly, chemical that cleans metal. Pull off a wad, and use your fingernails to push it between the dents while rubbing, changing wads when they look dirty. (Then get a manicure) It's best to warp with a black warp afterward, so the residue doesn't show, but alternately if you warp front to back, the residue will all be on the last 20" you can't weave anyway. If you're more comfortable warping back to front, wind off a warp of cheap acrylic knitting worsted, don't bother threading the heddles, and wind it back and forth thru the reed to clean it.

 

It's charming that you want to make your own bobbins for your Swedish shuttle, but a better use of your time and money is to invest in a bobbin winder with a shaft to hold the bobbin (Leclerc makes them, as does Glimakra, find a used one on ebay) and then you don't even need to buy bobbins. Just save your printer paper "rejects" and recycle them as bobbins. Cut the paper into 4 pieces, one cut lengthwise, one crosswise, clip off the corners and use those to wind your bobbins on the bobbin winder shaft. A bonus is you can write the color and size of the weft on the paper end. Google winding bobbins to avoid bobbins that self-destruct while you're weaving. (Keep the yarn moving back and forth, building up the outside edges before filling in the middle.) If your bobbins don't fit the shaft in your shuttle, just snip them off - it's just paper!

 

A warping board isn't hard to build, but if you can get one for $50 or less on ebay, it's worth it. 

 

Finally, the reed had nothing to do with the draw-in. You could try aiming for a certain width on the loom, a maximum of 1/4" on each side is recommended. But so much depends on the weave, the fiber you were working with, was the sett right for your yarn, and how tightly were you snugging the weft up to the outside ends, that's the crux of the matter. So many variables, that's why smart weavers sample, sample, sample. 

 

It truly is magic, though, huh?

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WeekendMiniaturist

Have lots of wood - husband is a cabinetmaker.  I must save the money from the warp board column to spend on fiber! The wood stuff in real life size is second nature for me.  Can probably do this one solo, after he cuts my boards for me on his table saw. Good, I'll do 1/2" spaced pegs for my raddle, and I have to call around to find Nev-R-Dull.  (Relief on this one.)

 

You mentioned real rag rugs.  Has anyone woven rugs with hemp?  I found a cone of 1 strand hemp and bought it for wicker, but it has me wondering if it is strong enough to weave a rug with.  I haven't broke any warp threads so far, but I imagine it has to happen at some point.  I'm not sure if this stuff would hold up to weaving. 

 

It's not that I really want to make the bobbins, the shuttle is perfect size for my hands, and very light... the mfg bobbins are too long.  I outlined the size of area where the bobbin is inserted, and I couldn't find anything to fit when I looked at all the classroom supplies and on-line. There were a lot of different kinds, sizes, and shapes of shuttles in the classroom.   It will not take any time at all to make bobbin to fit the shuttle on the lathe... maybe 10 minutes?  Probably take me longer to find the right drill bit for the wire, though.  I'm sure I'll be in the shop on Saturday morning... Don't cringe, but since I seldom use my dremel lathe, I think it will be perfect bobbin winder.  Could also make a holder to put bobbins on my benchtop drill press, but will watch ebay for proper equipment. 

 

It is good to have instruction on the proper way to wind the bobbin. 

 

I am thinking that I should slow down and work my way through some of the lesson's in Deborah's book.  My loom came with the previous owner's sampler...She was weaving with looks like cotton string and strips of cloth.

 

Hope I'm not making you have heart palpitations, Bonni...mixing my mini woodworking equipment, but really I use my Jet Midi Lathe for wood turning, and I just look at my dremel lathe and wonder why I still have it... well of course, I saved it so I could wind bobbins when I take up weaving.

 

Weaving is a magic carpet ride, can't wait until I can do that bed coverlet in miniature, that I've been thinking about for such a long time .. that's when the real magic appears!

 

I find weaving to be pretty relaxing... and most definitely, easy to see your mistakes.

 

Tamra/indiana

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bonni.b

Hah! You certainly do not give me heart palpitations, I just like having bobbins aplenty, without having to strip them, hence my fondness for paper quills cut from scrap/recycled paper. I justify a weaver owning a lathe by turning wooden tassel heads for students in my passementerie classes, we do what we need to do to sleep at night after spending grocery money on tools, yes?

 

Can you chuck a tapered spindle in your Dremel lathe and use paper to wind bobbins on that? Just a thought. 

 

Check out Brandaen's new thread on the Textile forum about reducing overshot patterns for coverlets. Right up your alley, I think.

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WeekendMiniaturist

(I am not able to cut and paste in this forum.)  www.RedRockThreads.com  has Superior Kimono 100wt Silk on cones 1090 yards for $16.75.

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WeekendMiniaturist

Hi Bonnie, I have a 12 dent per inch steel reed that came with my Dorothy loom.  Is there any other size reed that I should consider purchasing?  My husband is encouraging me to consider the stainless steel reed - because of the oxidation on the steel, so I'm really wondering what I should invest in that gives me the most flexibility in miniatures.  I can weave a scarf in 18 hours, and am using wool for this project, so it won't be on the loom that long, but I am worried if I switch to wool / silk blends or silk sewing threads in miniature; I do not want any discoloration.

 

If anyone else has some insight / opinions about reeds.. as I'm only working on scarf #2, and I haven't yet considered what I can weave in miniature yet.

 

Tamra/Indiana

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bonni.b

Unless you live in an area that has damp summers, or winters, you can get away with using carbon steel reeds. I foolishly stored mine near a sump hole in the basement and now have rust on some of mine, but Nev-r-dull fixes it. As to the size reed, it depends. I sett 60/2 cotton at 60 epi, and use a #20 reed. I also use a #15 reed for rag rugs, using 30/2 cotton at 30 epi. You can of course get 60 epi with a #12 reed, but the reed will leave "tracks" in the fabric that won't come out during wet finishing. Then again, using 60/2 cotton, or #100 silk thread on a Dorothy loom is a recipe for disaster, because there's just not enough distance from the breast beam to the back beam, so when the warp is deflected by the action of the jack loom, ends break. Wool as small as 2/48 works on a Dorothy, because the wool is stretchier. 

 

Because in the past I was a sample weaver for the textile industry, I own every reed from #6 to #24, plus several very fine metric ones I picked up at closing mills and on ebay. Most of the projects I've taught at Guild School used a #17 reed, just because I found several that I could cut down into lengths that work for miniatures on the Dorothy. I guess if I had to recommend just one, it would be either a #15 or #18. Fifteens are pretty standard, but as you've found, any dentage(?) can be ordered. 

 

As far as discoloration, I've had more trouble with heddles than I have with reeds. I had to paint my inserted eye heddles from AVL with nail polish because they were making fine silk that was very closely sett grey. Otherwise, just use a dark warp with a new reed, and aside from rust, you won't have problems with carbon steel. 

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Bill Hudson

Bonni, can you post some pictures of different looms discussed here so us ignorant can get a better understanding?  Please….and explain some of the terms used.  What are reeds?

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bonni.b

Here's a diagram of the parts all looms (except inkle looms) have. The # before the reed designation tells how many "slots" per inch it has, to maintain the desired spacing of the warp ends (threads held under tension on the loom) on the loom. Dpi refers to "dents per inch" as in the French for teeth, dent.

 

Jack looms, the most common in the US, raise the harnesses by "jacking" them up, raising the harnesses needed in the next sequence for the pattern.

 

Counter balance looms, common in Colonial American times, operate by a system of pulleys that raise one harness and lower the opposing harness. Thus, raising only one harness out of 4 is not possible.

 

Counter marche looms, more common in Scandinavia, both raise and lower all harnesses independently, so there's less strain on the warp because each end is only moving half as much as the raised harnesses on a jack loom. But each harness must be tied to the lamms, which attach to the treadles on the floor, twice, making changing tie-ups more challenging. A possible explanation for why they're not so popular with American weavers?

 

 

post-11-0-77265200-1414117859_thumb.jpg

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Bill Hudson

That is great Bonni.  Thank you. Now what is the difference between a floor and table top loom and what is a Dorothy?  

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Bill Hudson

I guess I should go back and read from the beginning.   :wacko: Still I am not sure I understand a Dorothy loom. How small are they actually? What would be the maximum space I would need for one?   :rolleyes:

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