Workshop looms

Dear Weavolutionaries,

I am very excited--I expect that my new "workshop" loom will arrive this weekend...which got me thinking about the idea of "workshop" looms in general. I know that the general answer in choosing a loom is that "it depends on what you want to weave," but I'll still venture the question:  do you have a philosophy or strong opinions on what constitutes a good "workshop loom"?  Any experiences with particular looms that worked really well (or not) for you for guild workshops, weaving retreats, demonstrations or other such events?  Floor looms vs. tables looms? Best at portability, folding and what not?

For me, I knew that I could be happy with a used 4 shaft loom but that if I was going to spend the money on a new loom I wanted at least 8 shafts, and that I wanted something that could serve as a backup to my "big" loom (which has been in need of repair...ever since it's been my loom, but that's a story for another thread).

I'm happy to share my decision later, but for now, what do you think?  I'm just very happy to have the new loom arriving....



Posted on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 15:27

Congrats on your new loom. Did you order an 8 shaft? What kind of loom is it? How wide does it weave? What do you like to weave? Will you show us pictures when it gets there?

Vicki Allen

Posted on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 17:32

Depends on what kinds of workshops you want to take, how strong you are, and how big your car is!

I have a "workshop loom", an AVL Workshop Dobby Loom.  I put it in quotations because I feel it is only technically portable.  It takes about 45 minutes to break down so it will fit in a car, and about 1 hour to put back together once you reach the workshop location, and you need a fair-sized car to transport it.  I do consider it a workshop loom, because I've brought it to one workshop, but it was a major undertaking.  I'd cross it off unless you have a strong need for 16-24 shafts at a workshop (i.e. almost never!).

If I were getting a more general workshop loom, I'd either get an 8-shaft Baby Wolf (or some other small, folding floor loom) or a 15", 8-shaft table loom.  The advantage of the Baby Wolf is that it's a floor loom and therefore much faster.  However, it's also bigger and bulkier to lug around.  I wouldn't have trouble hauling it in and out of my Prius, but I'm fairly strong; it's definitely awkward.

The advantage of the narrow table loom is that it's easier to transport and set up.  It also takes up less space.

Ultimately it depends on how much storage space you have, how much loom you want to lug, and how many shafts you think you'll need.  I'd go with eight because that's as many as you would need for all the workshops I know of, and it gives you more design options.

All that said - I have a 15", 8-shaft Woolhouse Tools table loom "for workshops", and so far it has just sat underneath my sewing table.  I discovered that I really don't have much tolerance for the slow pace of flipping levers; so I'll only use it if I absolutely, positively, kicking-and-screaming have to.  I'd rather spend two hours disassembling and reassembling my AVL Workshop Dobby Loom than use a table loom.  So it also depends on what kind of loom you prefer to use.

So many cases of "it depends"!  But I really think there's no one good answer.

Posted on Thu, 04/07/2011 - 04:10

I had to chime in. Not including the AVL workshop loom (a whole different animal. I haven't seen one in a workshop yet due to the "technical" reasons Tien mentioned ;-), I see three general types of workshop looms — small floor looms (Baby Wolf, Purrington, Dorsett for example), table looms with top levers (Voyager, Louet) and table looms with side levers (Structo, Dorothy). Lots more brands than I mentioned here, but basically you get the idea.

So in a workshop situation, the floor looms seem to be the most popular overall, as they are the easiest and fastest to weave on, although they are sometimes more difficult to lug around.

Of the remaining two, the top-lever table looms are a bit slower to weave on than the side-lever looms. Why? Because with the top levers, it takes 2 actions (lower the shaft levers, and then after the shuttle is thrown, you need to "release" them before changing to the next shed.) On a side-lever loom, when you push down the next set of shafts, the ones not being used automatically come back up (just one action).

I actually have all three kinds. I do a fair amount of sampling, attending workshops and conferences, demos, and actual project weaving on all of them. So it is rare 2 out of the 3 are empty at the same time. I would have a hard time parting with any one of them, although common sense would say one doesn't exactly *need* three workshop looms, right? (I am always good for a loaner, though!)

One other thing comes to mind about these three types of workshop looms. The floor models may have a greater capacity to weave off longer warps than table models. Some table models (Structos in particular) have quite limited space at the front cloth beam. (Something to be aware of if a workshop calls for more than 2-3 yards.)

So what did you get?

Posted on Thu, 04/07/2011 - 12:25

I use an 8 shaft, double back beam Dorothy for workshops and I've been using it for my main loom in the winter in Florida for the past few years.  Although it doesn't fold flat anymore since I added the extra 4 shafts and second back beam, it is still very portable. The side levers allow for fairly fast weaving. I wouldn't give it up.


Posted on Thu, 04/07/2011 - 16:09

I'm planning to bring my Glimakra Julia to my next workshop.  It is a little awkward in size, but I am making a dolly for it with nice big swivel wheels. It lays down nicely in the back of my Honda Element.   My Julia is only two shaft, C/B, but that is fine for the workshop I'm taking. I like the Julia a lot, and may even get another one some day, with more shafts. 

I have a Dorothy, but it is old and funky.  Some teachers specify "No Dorothy's for their workshops.  I borrowed a horrible little loom for a workshop a couple of years ago.  It was so bad, we abandoned it after two people in the round robin gave it a try.  I was fortunate that there was an extra loom set up in that workshop.

If you have to borrow a loom for a workshop, I would suggest weaving on it prior to the workshop.

Posted on Tue, 04/12/2011 - 14:38

Thanks for your ideas and comments. So many possibilities....

What I ended up getting is a LeClerc Compact 24" 8S/10T loom. Here's a link to a photo--my first warp for it (tencel for some scarves) is on top waiting to be beamed on:

My thinking went something like this:  transportation would be a problem but I would learn to deal with it.  [I have a Corolla with a trunk and I was/am doubtful at being able to fit any sort of floor loom completely in the car.  I have successfully transported a Baby Wolf (gracioulsy lent to me by another amazing and wonderful guild member) in this car, with the heavy part of the loom inside and the legs hanging out, well padded with towels and with bungee cords and other straps holding things in place. It was pretty secure but it still made me nervous.] So as I looked around at various looms, I became intrigued with table looms but I've never woven on one and was mindful of the comments about it being a slower process (interesting to know that the placement of the levers might make a difference on this).

I was really taken with the Gilmore "Gem II" as an alternative to the more common x-frame design ( but I live in an older house and wouldn't be able to get it through most of the doorways in the house (it could come into the house but only into certain rooms). Gilmore quality is legendary and I think it's a good value but again, I haven't woven on one, so I reluctantly put that idea aside for now.

The two small looms that I have used in classes are the Schacht Baby Wolf and the LeClerc Compact, which are roughly the same size and both work well. I would recommend either one but I found the LeClerc to be a better value and was able to buy one from a local dealer who could also help me repair my larger loom.  So two birds, one stone, and I hope to get both of them warped up this week. I've also registered for two workshops this summer to which I'll take the new workshop loom, so it's all good.

Thanks again!