I have mentioned that Fibers, the LYS where I work on Saturdays, decided to start carrying the Ashford Knitters Loom for our customers. I have been delighted with the four scarves that owner Allison has brought into the shop, particularly the houndstooth pattern she made using two neutrals in alpaca. I am on fall break this year (the first time I have been connected with a school district that takes a week off at the end of the first quarter of school, and I am liking it). I decided to bring home one of the store models of the loom, and try it out, so that I could instruct customers..... I love it!
First off, I have to let you all in on a secret from my earlier life... I already know how to weave. I learned cardweaving as a pre-teen, then went on to learn backstrap weaving and tapestry weaving, which led to spinning, natural dye classes and a class in making and weaving on a Navajo loom (my first construction project, back when I was 21). Armed with past knowledge and excellent visual instruction, I warped the loom yesterday, using Rowan Felted Tweed leftover from a hat I made for DH last winter.
One of the best features about the instructions written by Rowena Hart, the expert weaver-in-residence at Ashford, is that she uses a continuous warping method, through the slots of the rigid heddle and to a supplied warping peg, that bypasses the need or extra work of using a warping board and then transferring the warp to the loom. I was able to warp for a five inch wide scarf and be weaving in less than an hour.
This photo shows how I wound all the warp in place, using kitchen parchment paper that was on sale at my local Grocery Outlet to keep each layer of the warp separate as it was wound on. Another very nice feature of this loom is the brakes on the front and back bar knobs that keep a nice, even tension on each end with the warp strung in between. These are a heavy-duty plastic, which might make them one of the potential weak points, though I do admire the longstanding Ashford tradition of craftsmanship.
I used two colors of bulky alpaca that I had stashed a few years back, thinking to make something to put into the crafts co-op's shop... they are working very well together and weaving is proceeding quite quickly.
This photo shows the two in a stripey section where I was trying out alternating two colors together.
Another really nifty feature is that the loom is designed to allow you to unscrew one knob in the middle, and fold it in half to carry places with you. A tote bag with shoulder straps designed for this purpose is an option when purchasing. I tried that feature out and spent the day at my high country house today, and have to rave about being able to fold and easily carry ANY loom. My past experiences with portable models such as cardweaving and backstrap were that tying to a support reduced their real portability... not always could I find the right support where I wanted to sit and weave. This model truly is portable and easy to use.
I would love to add some weaving to my project queue, but have decided I need to wait until after the first of the year to buy much of anything. I know that financial hard times mean doing more for yourself, and handcrafts have always been a big part of my life for that very reason. Weaving with this loom is a great use for leftover halves of balls, and allows for playing with color in a new way.
I got to thinking that maybe rather than encourage each of you to go out and get the Knitters Loom (you can order them from us!), I would suggest that you get together with your knitting group or fiber guild and buy one or two as a cooperative group... that would reduce the cost and everyone could take turns. Our guild has a triangle loom that can be reserved and checked out for two weeks at a time, as an example of equipment sharing. Hard times call for creative solutions.