Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Streamlining A Portable Loom


My third loom, an unknown brand, is also the only one I paid too much for (read: fairly priced).  I didn’t know at that time how many looms would later throw themselves in my path.  I was in a hurry to have a portable loom because I believed that a date would soon be set for an upcoming workshop to be taught by Syne Mitchell (months later, this date is still unknown, although the workshop is still being planned).  Initially, I was dazzled by another loom loaned to me (stay tuned for a future blog post), and thought I would sell this loom on and replace it with a “better”.  Now, after seeing and reading about other looms, I don’t know of any other portable loom that I would rather have (that I can afford); I’ve come to really love this one.

This loom has a very odd weaving width of 22″.  When I first bought the loom, I checked The Weaving Works for a new reed to replace the rusted one it came with, and found that 22″ is not a stock size.  If I wanted a replacement reed, I would have to pay for a few extra inches and find some way to lop them off.  (Very offensive to my frugal sensibilities.)  Their closest size smaller was 18″.  But the size/price ratio of a recently scored deal on two, 20″ stainless reeds makes the loss of two inches extremely acceptable.  After all, this loom is intended mainly for workshops.

There are so many reasons to love this loom!  It folds down very quickly, easily, and compactly, with the weaving in  place.


I can’t say the same for my 25″ Rasmussen loom, which seems ungainly in comparison.  At 22″, this loom is manageable yet not tiny, a lot easier for me to move and tote around, and fits into my small car without having to adjust my son’s booster seat.  A closer inspection showed that the rust on the original reed is actually very light.  It might be useable as-is, but a little cleaning, and perhaps some naval jelly or autosol should make it very serviceable.  More than four harnesses would be nice, but it isn’t as if I have nothing else to weave on, and with the way things have been going, there may yet be another loom in my future.  (No!  I’m not looking!)


Getting the new reeds was the impetus to upgrading this  loom.  The first thing I did was replace the wooden harnesses with aluminum ones.  I purchased 1/2″ x 1/8″ (x 6′) aluminum bars from the local hardware store.  I cut them down to size with a hacksaw.  A few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed I would ever have anything to do with a hacksaw.  It’s just so — not me, but DH has been very busy recently, and I wanted this done.  I’ve surprised myself in having done this without making a complete mess of things.  I started out hacking apart 1/16″ thick bars, but they turned out to be too flexible for harnesses.  Not a wasted effort, as they will do very nicely for packing the warp.  The 1/8″ thick aluminum was the maximum I could use so the heddles would still fit without having the harnesses bend.  I even drilled holes into them.  This took a trip to the hardware store, where I was sold a titanium bit for drilling through metal; then another trip to ask why it didn’t work.  The help at the hardware store couldn’t understand why I was only able to dent the bars, not drill through; they didn’t know the ignorance they were dealing with, and were no help.  (Getting informed help at the hardware store is dicey; it varies widely between fatastically illuminating and indifferent misdirection.  I get the best help at the hardware stores smaller than a city block; unfortunately they don’t have the best selection of parts. )  Mulling it over during one of my son’s soccer classes, I realised I had set the rotation of the drill in the wrong direction.  That was the solution!  Since I couldn’t wait for a free day (and my son has had so many activities I needed ferry him to and from), I took advantage of one cold, wet evening, with only a little light to see by; to hack, drill, and sand all the aluminum pieces I needed.

It was after dark, and it was raining.  My very adorable four-year-old insisted on pulling up a small chair to sit outside with me.  When he refused to wait for me indoors, I bundled him up in his bulkiest down-filled coat with hood.  He is really a trooper.  He puts up with so much of my nonsense, and that evening was no exception.  He’s incredibly patient and understanding, up to about an hour.  After that, it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy, but I know I have a jewel beyond compare!  He was so sweet, sitting near to me, huddled in the dark with the rain rolling off his back — but what a monster his mother is to let him!  She was well rewarded when she came down with bronchitis; luckily, he did not have much beyond some mild sniffling.  I also suffered three days of pain and soreness in my hands, elbow, and shoulder.  But, I’ve healed and recovered; and most importantly, DS is fine!  (Oh, he’ll have some tales to tell about his crazy mama when he is older!)


With new harnesses in place, I put on the 600 metal heddles removed from the Leclerc Dorothy.  They look so much nicer than the string heddles in three colours!


For springs on the bottom harness rails, I used seamless elastic hairbands.


Do you see the warp wound on the back beam?  It’s been there for the thirty years it was owned and never used by the previous owner, whose mother had put on the warp.   It’s a soft cotton with a pearly sheen, and I decided it would be a waste not to use it.

I counted 276 ends, and decided to thread it in the “Gothic Cross”, treddling pattern III, from Marguerite Porter Davison’s book, “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book”.  For the weft, I used an unmarked cone of black thread from my stash, which I chose because it was the closest match for size and weight to the cotton warp.  I thought it (the weft) was synthetic, possibly acrylic, but burn tests all seem to indicate cotton, linen, or ramie.   (Flame was bluish, and burn residue contained no beading at all, only a soft ash.  The ash was black, but then so was the yarn.)  I looked at the fibres under a microscope, but the yarn looks very smooth and not hairy at all (this would seem to me to indicate synthetic).  I highly doubt it is linen or ramie, since I could not detect any long fibres; the untwisted plies come apart like unspun cotton.


The tables underneath the loom are two Lego tables borrowed from DS.  It’s really too difficult to weave on a table loom on the floor; if I take the loom to a workshop, I’ll also have to bring along a folding table.  I have a portable camp table with aluminum rolled top, but it needs to be found in our garage first.

It was so much fun to be weaving along so easily, that fourteen inches of cloth went by before I noticed that my cloth did not resemble the pattern I chose…


The darker, top part is the pattern I had planned.  I arrived at the wrong treddling in the bottom part because with two different tie-ups given for the three versions of this pattern, I followed the wrong one.  I have no excuse, as I have even specifically asked (and received the answer, on Ravelry) about this very thing for a different project!

The reed markings are numerous, since I sleyed the 10-dent reed 2-3-3 with the approximately 40 wpi cotton warp.  That was for a sett of 27 epi; I actually wanted it to be lower, but I chose 27 for the ease of threading.  It will be interesting to see how much of the marks disappear after a wash or two.

We spent Christmas Eve at my sister’s house; I brought this loom along with me and wove or talked weaving whenever not eating or opening presents.  My sister’s mother-in-law, who is just getting interested in weaving, got to weave for the very first time, and added at least an inch of pattern to this project.  My brother, who obviously hasn’t been reading my blog lately, asked if this was my most fancy and prized loom.  (No, it’s the largest one I don’t mind schlepping about in my car to workshops and such!)  They’re great siblings.  They’ve always been very tolerant of me, even if they don’t always understand!


At the very end of the warp, I wove two 3″ sections (with blue weft) for my notebook.  One of the sections will be left unfinished for comparison.  I have no plans for this cloth, except a tentative idea to cut some of it to make a small knitting bag.

Unfinished measurements (minus fringes, red spacers, and blue samples): 9.75″ x 74″



28 December 2008 - Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , ,


  1. “When I was a kid, my mom would let me watch her saw and drill metal in the rain.” And his friends say, “Awesome!”

    Now that there are weaving oddments I’d like to build, I think the first serious power tool I’d get would be a drill press. No more trying to drill a perfectly straight hole while holding a piece of wood down with my foot on a stair step!

    I like it that you used the old warp. Maltese cross is one of the patterns I admired in Davison. It’s nice to see how it looks in a bigger swatch. That other treadling could look really nice with a multicolored warp.

    I have a question: Where did you find your burn test interpretation key? The one I came across gave fewer helpful details.

    Comment by Trapunto | 29 December 2008 | Reply

  2. Oh, I have you to thank for advising me not to chuck the loom before weaving on it first!

    Wow, a drill press. My DH put his foot down when I found a like-new table scroll saw for $15. Absolutely, no, no negotiation. It really killed me to say “No” when the owner called me back and begged me to take it for $10. So, I’ll have to live vicariously through your drill press.

    As to the burn keys, the one I referred to this time was from “The Key To Weaving” by Mary E. Black. Here is a chart online that I found useful as a starting point: http://www.ditzyprints.com/dpburnchart.html . I’ve also referred to the chart in Alden Amos’ Big Book Of Handspinning (?title?) (although I didn’t this time, as I didn’t get it from the library in time).

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 29 December 2008 | Reply

  3. Great photos and love seeing the looms. Just a note- Gowdey Reed (gowdey reed dot com) in Rhode Island makes custom reed sizes – no affiliation, but I’ve been very happy with the reeds I’ve ordered from them (and they are reasonable!).


    Comment by Kimmen | 30 December 2008 | Reply

  4. Kimmen, Thanks for visiting the site, and for the information!

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 30 December 2008 | Reply

  5. You are a stud. Chicks with power tools just rock. Way to refurb that lovely little loom and bring it up to speed. Like Mz T, I really like the Maltese Cross — although have not woven it up myself.

    Looking very cool, and as industrious/creative/inventive as you are, I know you’ll find use for the fabric.

    Weave on!

    Comment by Jane | 31 December 2008 | Reply

  6. Beautiful cloth – and I think so even with the pattern change you didn’t plan. I was reading one of your older posts where you compare quick but not quality work with that which seems to take forever to get anywhere but turns out high quality. I am in much the same boat – never seem to get anything done in any reasonable period of time, but the items I do complete have been with me throughout the years. Good luck and hope to see you again in my wanderings 🙂

    Comment by rhelynn | 7 February 2009 | Reply

  7. Thanks for the comment, RheLynn! Weaving is a great teacher of patience — things take the time they take, and rushing just makes messes. (I’m capable of messing up, even when I don’t rush…) I’ll definitely be checking up on the picture frame weaving you’re starting!

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 7 February 2009 | Reply

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