Kim’s Vlog, May 2021: Unboxing My New Rigid Heddle Loom

5 May 2021
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I’ve been toying for a long time with doing a vlog for my column, instead of writing it. It would be a fun change of pace for me, and hopefully fun for you, too.

Then the perfect thing happened: I mentioned to Kate during one of our twice-weekly meetings that I had bought myself a new loom. Her response was, “I would pay anything for an unboxing video of that.” I mean, I’m paraphrasing here, but her enthusiasm for an unboxing video surprised and delighted me.

Thankfully, I had just sorted out how to use a two-camera setup when we hosted our natural dyeing Studio Hours session, so I knew I could easily set something up for an unboxing. Which isn’t to say this is fabulous cinematography, but hopefully it’ll be fun to watch.

So here’s why I bought a new loom.

I have dabbled in weaving (I am a serial dabbler). I’ve taken a workshop on tapestry weaving and messed around with it a bit. I also had a 10″ rigid heddle loom for years. During the time I had that small loom, I wove approximately one-and-a-half scarves on it. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy weaving, it’s that I don’t enjoy scarves—it took me years to put my finger on that. I don’t crochet or knit scarves, either. It’s shawls or nothing. But that’s not the only reason I bought a new loom.

A few years ago, my son and I visited family in the U.S., at a time when one of his cousins was approaching his bar mitzvah. His mom, a textile artist, had jury rigged her Cricket loom to work with a second heddle, and on it she was weaving laceweight yarn into a traditional Jewish prayer shawl for him, a tallit. I was mesmerized by this, and also she told me she wouldn’t recommend her makeshift setup. That stuck with me.

Much more recently, one of our contributors, Joanne Seiff, told me about a long-running program in Winnipeg through which members of the local weaver’s guild work with parents of kids preparing for their b’nai mitzvot, teaching them how to weave a tallit for them. (We hope to have more on this program in the magazine at a later date; stay tuned.)

What stuck in my mind about that is the permission it conveyed to me to be a beginner weaver and also to take on an ambitious, heirloom project.

So I bought myself a 32″ rigid heddle loom, and below is, as Kate requested, the video of its unboxing.

Note that it’s very obvious in the video that it has been years since I warped a rigid heddle loom. I forgot the names of parts, and everything. As well, in the few days since I filmed this, I’ve managed to find a bit more info on how folks generally handweave a tallit—I am relieved to know it’s very unlikely I’ll choose to use laceweight yarn for it, thank goodness!

Look for more on my weaving adventure in future vlogs. And if you have tips or advice for me, or questions you want to ask me or that you want others to possibly help with, please post them in the comments section at the bottom of the page!

The full transcript of the video is below.


Unboxing My New Rigid Heddle Loom

I’m Kim Werker, one of the co-founders and the publisher here at Digits & Threads. And I am going to unbox my new loom today.

[00:00:09] I am starting to work on a pretty ambitious, personal weaving project. And part of the reason it’s ambitious is that I am not an experienced weaver. This project is for my son, who is currently 10 years old, and in about two and a half years, he will have his bar mitzvah. And it’s traditional for a child who has their bar or bat mitzvah to receive a prayer shawl called a tallit. And there are some considerations about how a tallit can be made. One of the most important features of it is the fringe at the bottom, but other than a tiny bit of restrictions about what kinds of fibres, uh, tallit can be made from, and that it requires fringe it’s, um, there’s a lot of leeway.

[00:01:02] So anyway, this is the ambitious personal project, and I’ve got until the winter of 2023. So given that this is the spring of 2021, I feel like it’s an appropriate time to, to give myself the time to be able to weave such a, kind of an intricate project. Now, the good news is that my son couldn’t care one way or the other, so he’s not going to hold me to any standard of perfection, but I’m excited to play a hand, literally, in creating this item that he will hopefully have for the rest of his life.

[00:01:34] Now to get started with that, I need to learn how to weave better. I used to have a very small 10- inch -wide rigid heddle loom. I had, um, a Cricket loom. And the thing is there’s very little that’s, 10 inches wide that I enjoy, even as a knitter and a crocheter, I will make loads of shawls, but never a scarf.

[00:01:54]So. Given that a tallit is generally about 20 or 24 inches wide, I realized I had an opportunity to have a great excuse to upgrade my loom. I wanted one that was bigger, because honestly, just like in crochet specifically, I want to weave blankets and I do not want to weave blankets out of like nine- inch panels and sew them all together. But weaving a blanket out of a 30- inch panel or even a 28- inch panel and only weaving a couple of them or even three? Now that is something I can get behind.

[00:02:30] So I have here on my table, the loom, and when I told Kate Atherley, co-founder and editorial director of Digits & Threads, that I was doing this wild thing, she said “I would pay anything for an unboxing video of this loom.” So that’s how we make editorial decisions sometimes here, at Digits & Threads, and I was like, “I will make you an unboxing video.”

[00:02:57]Even though Kate asserted to me that unboxing videos usually involve people opening things up, getting the lay of the land, retaping them, and then filming? This is a 100% authentic, legit, never before opened unboxing of this box.

[00:03:14] So. You can see from the packaging that this is an Ashford loom. It is specifically an Ashford 32-inch rigid heddle loom.

[00:03:24] So now I’m gonna, I’m going to open it up. I’m going to flip it on its side and here, Oh, if you’re interested, I can show you, this is what it is that I’m opening up. Okay. And in here are all of the things that I will need to get started weaving. Uh, there’s a reed, I believe it’s, um, uh, an eight dent read two shuttles, a threading hook, a warping peg and clamps, step-by-step instructions, and, uh, the option for a double heddle, which is far beyond my skillset at this point, but something I’m very interested to learn about and play with.

[00:04:03] So I’m really excited about this loom because I feel like it will give me a lot of opportunity and room to grow. So now I will open up this. I will slice the tape that I swear has never before been sliced and retaped. And set this down on a table here. Let’s see what we can do.

[00:04:32] Oh, look at that. Okay. So this is a big loom y’all. Here is that reed that I was telling you about. Um, so you can see it’s, uh, it’s pretty long, it’s 32 inches across.

[00:04:50] I’m going to set this over here and then underneath, you can see, here we’ve got the wooden pieces that I will assemble into the loom. So those pieces I’m going to actually set back for now. I’m not going to assemble this loom, uh, right here and now, that’s not going to happen. Uh, but I am extremely impressed by how, how very clearly this is that you would think that perhaps there might be something dangerous in here, but it’s just the hardware. So that’s exciting. Here we have all of the gears, right. And these will be used to help to tension. Uh, the warp once the loom is warped. Here, we have, I can tell by the end here, right, that this is one of the shuttles and I believe kind of sneaking up if I can. Oh, you know what? This easily comes undone. Unwrap that right. We’ve got these pieces that have the holes pre-drilled for assembling the loom and we have two shuttles. So here I’ll put them end to end at this end and you can see one is for less wide projects. And one is for wide projects. And I have a feeling I will, especially as I start the first few projects I make on this loom, I will make smaller. I’m going to do a lot of learning, making kitchen towels, I believe. So those will be, you know, only about maybe 15 inches wide. So I may want a smaller shuttle for that. So I’ll sort it out; might be a DIY project in my future.

[00:06:38] Um, and we’ve got more pieces of the loom. You can see, these are cool. I want to say it’s an octagon. Is that right? One, two, three, four. Yeah, octagonal, um, pieces. We’ve got some cardboard pieces here. I honestly have no idea what the cardboard pieces are for, but here I can kind of splay it out a little so you can see cardboard pieces.

[00:07:10] More wooden pieces. And I believe this should be maybe the warping peg or I keep angling things the wrong way. I’m gonna not undo this fully. Right. So I believe that these two pieces here that look a bit like trees, they are separate pieces. Um, those might be for holding the heddle or the heddles, like they’ll go on each side.

[00:07:39] Uh, this is indeed. Right. Look, I assembled this part. Um, the warping peg. And possibly in with the hardware, maybe I’ll open that up too, will be a clamp. So clamp the warping peg to a table or a chair. So let’s kind of go like this a bit.
[00:08:01] See what we’ve got in the WARE? Okay, like it’s screaming. Here we are. So we’ve got, oh, everything’s bagged up. Anyway. Indeed. Clamp pieces for, I’m assuming that’s what that is. I could be wrong. There’s some washers in there. And then we’ve got more washers and screws in a variety of sizes, colors and textures.

[00:08:31] So that’s great. And now I kind of kept this for last, right. I have to, I’m going to pull the rigid heddle loom book in here. So let’s see what we’ve got. There’s the learn to weave booklet, which is pretty cool.

[00:08:53]So now you can kind of see here. If I kind of bring this up, we can see a little bit how these pieces come together. Right? So the gear bits here and here, these frames, the shaped wooden pieces go on the sides.

[00:09:09] The long wooden pieces are kind of obscured by the actual weaving that’s on here, but they’re holding things together side by side. Here’s the reed. And if you have never woven before what the Reed does is you can see here, the warp threads are strung through the holes in the reed here. I can show you that and bring the reed back here.

[00:09:35] So I’ll put my hand behind it and you can see these holes here. And there’s also spaces between the holes and the way that you thread the yarn in the holes and between the slats of the reed, helps to determine part of the pattern that you will be weaving. So, um, this eight dent reed, or a seven and a half dent reed is ideal for using like a DK weight or worsted weight yarn, maybe.

[00:10:07] Um, In order to weave my son’s tallit, I will need a lot more holes within an inch to fit in here. So I’m going to start on this, uh, on this right here with some yarn I already have on hand. And then I think I will move to a reed appropriate for using, say a fingering weight yarn. And then with that experience under my belt and hopefully through some conversations with some folks I know, I will decide huh, what size of reed I’m going to need in order to weave this tallit for my son. It’s entirely possible. I will decide through this experience that I will really love weaving worsted weight, blankets, and will indeed purchase a tallit for my son. I’m putting that out there in the realm of possibility, it would not be a failure- it would just be one of the potential possible outcomes of my learning journey.

[00:11:04] Anyway. Um, so what else comes in here? So we also in the documentation bag, this is a very full bag of documentation. Just keep going. It’s like a clown car. Um, we’ve got this whole look at that beautiful photo. Oh, New Zealand. I would like to go to you someday. That is just lovely. Um, here’s the Ashford World of Wheels and Looms. So that is quite lovely. Oh boy. I want to make all the things you guys. Oh, all of this beautiful color, so many amazing things.

[00:11:45]Oh, this is a fibre craft magazine. I didn’t know this would be in here. Oh, this is very exciting. Look at that scarf. You see the scarf on her?

[00:11:56] Oh, that’s beautiful. Well, I’m very excited about this. Have a little flip through. Oh, look at this about dyeing yarn. Oh, look, there’s a kitchen towel pattern right here. Well, that’s just too exciting. Sustainable crochet. I’m all over that. Oh man. Rug hooking. We’ve got more weaving, spinning. Wow. What a bonus!

[00:12:26] I’m so excited about this. This is like, as if I wasn’t excited already, I get a fibre craft magazine. And finally, oh, this is cool. This, I was not expecting. Guesses guesses? This is sandpaper.

[00:12:42] This concludes the unboxing. You can see here, I’ve got just a mess. Of stuff that I now will need to re-box or, or maybe I’ll just start to assemble the loom. Actually, that seems like a much better idea. Doesn’t it? Perhaps I will start to assemble the loom.

[00:12:58] Thank you for joining me for this unboxing video of my 32 inch Ashford rigid heddle loom. There will be more weaving from me in Digits & Threads updates over the course of the next two and a half years, I suspect. And perhaps beyond. As well, we are going to be covering weaving. It is part of our editorial mandate. We’re very excited to bring you stories of, weaving of all sorts from across Canada. And we do urge you to consider joining Digits & Threads as an Armchair or Studio member. It’s our paying members that enable us to pay contributors across Canada for their expertise, and to tell the great stories that are happening all across this land. So thanks so much! More weaving soon.

Digits & Threads Is a Member-Supported Independent Online Magazine

The articles, tutorials and patterns we publish about Canadian fibre and textile arts, crafts and industry are made possible by our Armchair and Studio Members.

Copyright © Kim Werker except as indicated.

About Kim Werker

Kim Werker (she/her) is a co-founder and publisher at Digits & Threads and Nine Ten Publications. She has worked in the crafts industry in one way or another since 2004 as an editor, writer, instructor and speaker. She's authored six books about crochet and one about making ugly things on purpose as a creativity exercise. Kim lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and son, and their mutt who's named after a tree.

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