Have you ever thought about starting to weave but decided against it because the cost seemed prohibitive? All the tools, yarn, equipment, not to mention the loom itself?
I totally feel you! Starting out was a whirlwind of buying equipment to improve my weaving while on maternity leave. And often you’re putting money into weaving before you even know that you like it. No one would ever say that’s a good idea!
Luckily, there are some simple tricks to make weaving a much more accessible hobby.
Looms – Affordable Options
Tapestry, or Frame Looms
Many beginners start with a frame (or tapestry) loom, as this is an inexpensive and accessible option. There are many types on the market, and one can be easily made up from a photo frame, or from a 2×4 from the hardware shop. Alternatively, both Louet and Ashford sell tapestry frames up to about 70cm long.
Weaving with a frame loom looks simple, but takes a sophisticated approach to colour and texture, and requires quite an artistic flare. The end product of a frame loom can be easily hung or framed as a gorgeous art piece.
Local artist Jasmine of Jazzy Makes (Facebook here, and Etsy here) is an accomplished tapestry and wall hanging weaver. Her work with colour, texture, and flow really shows the complexity that can be achieved with a frame loom. The frame loom doesn’t have to be the ‘Beginner’ option, it can take you far in weaving.
Rigid Heddle Looms
Rigid Heddle looms describe their biggest feature in their name: the heddle is static and the ends per inch can’t be adjusted. They’re quite affordable (compared to other looms) with the Ashford SampleIt priced around $150. Furthermore, they seem to keep their value when buying or selling second hand.
They’re great to learn on as an introduction to shaft weaving, and are simple to warp and require very few tools. The SampleIt mentioned above comes with all the tools you need to start weaving.
Second Hand Looms
All of my looms except 1 (The Louet Erica courtesy of Thread Collective) have been bought second hand. The beauty of this machinery is that the design was specialised pre-20th century. Therefore, the technological advances are relatively slow and looms from the 1970s have very similar features to looms bought new today.
Second hand looms can be found in a variety of places, and it helps to know where to search.
Gumtree and Ebay are both options. As is Facebook Marketplace. It’s important to know what search terms to use: “Louet Erica 3 Shaft 50cm” will yield little to no results, whereas “Weaving loom” yields many. Yes, you’ll have to trawl through results, but it’s better than getting no results at all. (Another option is just “loom”, but as I quickly realised, this is also a name for an auto-electrical part which people commonly try to sell.)
Specialist facebook groups are another option. On a side note, if you haven’t yet joined the Australian Spinners and Weavers Facebook group, make it a priority. They’re amazing.
Check your local guild. The NSW Guild has a page specifically for secondhand sales of looms, tools, and spinning equipment.
Speaking of Guilds, membership to one enables you to rent or borrow equipment for a whole range of fibre arts from weaving to felting. They have extensive libraries, and offer study groups for weaving technique and skills. As well as this, they run classes, and have a range of experts on hand.
It’s a great, low-cost option to introduce you to weaving.
You’ve now sorted your loom. It might have come with some yarn (many do) or other accessories which make the start of your weaving journey that much easier.
You can use almost any fibre for warp, and you can definitely use any fibre for weft. If you’re restricted by budget, or you are worried about making mistakes with ‘good’ yarn, acrylic from your local wool shop or Spotlight/Lincraft will work. If it’s strong enough to take a tug, then it’s strong enough for warp.
Op shops also have yarn in their craft sections, or you could ask around. You might have friends or family who have a tiny mountain of yarn at home.
Tools of the trade
“What tools do I need to weave?”
The answer to this question really relies on what kind of cloth you want to make and what loom you have.
I’ve developed the following from trips to Bunnings and Kmart:
- Warping board
- Tensioning device
- Stick shuttle
- Bobbin Winder
- Treadle tie-ups
- And other things I can’t think of right now!
A lot of weaving tools are glorified sticks, or a circle of wood around another bit of wood, or some cardboard and some tape.
I will go into more detail about various tool hacks in a later edition, but please don’t think everything has to be wizbang. A lot of the time, especially when you’re first starting out, you will make do with ‘good enough’. And if you enjoy weaving, you’ll upgrade; if you don’t, then there’s less money spent.
- Leclerc sell a plastic moulded shuttle for $35. It works just as well as a wooden $150 shuttle, and the bobbins are freely available.
- When moving to a shaft loom, buy as many shafts as you can afford. This is particularly difficult in Australia as our weaving community is small and widespread, but 8 shaft plus weaving looms do come up every now and then.
- Borrow the weaving book you need. Weaving books are prohibitively expensive, and not much information about weave structures etc exists on the internet (yet!). Put a shout out to your guild.
- There are yarn “destash” pages on Facebook where artisan yarns go for cheap.
- I often use cotton as a warp yarn. It is about $25 from Thread Collective for 1/2 lb. Alternatively, Bendigo Wool Mills sell thicker cottons.
Weaving doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to require much space. From the large floor looms, to the small tapestry looms, it’s all weaving.
If you have any further tips, post them in a comment below!
As always, if you have any questions feel free to send me an email via the Contact page, or comment below!