I thought I was doing a really good job of packing for a few days on the boat (turned out to be six days and I am now at a friend’s house, so I am still not “home.”). I did manage to pack enough underwear (always bring twice as much as you think you need). I got the clothes part down pretty well. I even managed to remember all electronic devices necessary for running Mirrix, all power cords, my phone, etc. I have that down to a science. Then I packed two baskets: one full of silk and wool and one full of tools and a loom. It’s a Laniloom and it had a sumac piece on it I was planning to finish and remove right away so I could start a silk and wool tapestry . . . .a very little one.
What I forgot: a shedding device and a spring.
Okay, so have to live without those two things. I was okay about the shedding device because even though I always use it for tapestry weaving and lately always use the electric treadle as well, I figured the slow pace of the boat and with all that rocking, I would be fine just picking the shed with my bamboo needles. But what to do about that missing spring? I wasn’t so happy about that because even if I had the wrong size spring I could have squished in a bit or stretched it out a bit to make it work. Springs are really nice for separating those warp threads. I did come up with a solution. Hoping I don’ t have to repeat it because it took forever and wasn’t so much fun, but it did work. I twined at the top and the bottom of the loom as follows. This is the twining on the bottom followed by a few rows of weaving.
This is the twining on the top of the loom:
Here is a view from the boat:
I didn’t get to weave a whole lot. I was experimenting with weaving double and single warps as one does with two shedding devices (and our upcoming weave-along, but this time I will use shedding devices and springs!).
I actually got farther than that, but am now back at home and am going to return to weaving with the electric treadle and start getting ready for our upcoming weave along.
Have you started a business selling work you made on a Mirrix? Has your Mirrix allowed you to weave when other looms couldn’t due to an injury or disability? Did you realize your artistic talent for the first time when weaving on your Mirrix? Did you teach a young person in your life to weave and ignite a new passion?
We are looking for inspirational Mirrix stories for a blog and email series. If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!
Just a wee update on my silk cuff. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll finish it yet (on a brass cuff or with clasp hardware?), but I knew I had to get it off the loom before my flight back to NYC from Vancouver Canada since the dressed loom wouldn’t fit in my bag. It was the most relaxing (beach-filled!) summer in my home town and now I really feel like we’ve left our poosaster in the past (if you’re not into reading my long poosaster post, the gist is that we moved three times and endured many other stresses while moving to the USA from Canada with our infant, Sam, last year). With lots of help from my parents I was able to pull off teaching some natural dye and print workshops this summer too! Here is a really nice post about one by my student, Heather Apple.
This spring, three lovely ladies received Mirrix Looms in exchange for blogging about their experiences with it. Following is a list of their amazing blog posts (so far!) following their Mirrix journeys.
We can’t wait to see what they each do next!
Enjoy and thank you to Janna, Christina and Julia!
INTRODUCTION TO JANNA MARIA VALLEE
GETTING STARTED ON MY FIRST MIRRIX LOOM
LURCAT’S TAPESTRY REVIVAL, PART ONE
LURCAT’S TAPESTRY REVIVAL, PART TWO
LURCAT’S TAPESTRY REVIVAL, PART THREE
WEAVING FROM THE BACK
A VISIT TO THE CLOISTERS, NYC
OFF THE LOOM
MY FIRST WOVEN BEADS ON A MIRRIX
A CREATIVE EXERCISE
ROCK SERIES: SAMPLE 2
TRYING MY HAND AT BEADCREATOR PRO
ADVENTURES IN EXTREME SHAG
FINISHING TAPESTRY ENDS
TYING UP LOOSE ENDS, LITERALLY.
CHRISTINA NEIT INTRO
EX LIBRIS AMULET
HELP ME DECIDE
EX LIBRIS BAG
TIDBITS OF BEADED LOOM DESIGN
SPLIT LOOM NECKLACE-WIP
EMBROIDERED SPLIT LOOM NECKLACE
TRIAL & ERROR
SECRET PROJECT 1ST PANEL
SECRET PROJECT UPDATE
JERRY RIGGED FOR A 16 DENT
MY FIRST GO AT THE LOOM
FIRST STEP BRACELET
BIT BY BIT
LEAPS AND BOUNDS!
HAPPINESS IN READINESS
FREE FORM EXPERIMENT
It was suggested to me that this is a topic of interest to many bead weavers. I have to confess, I am writing this from the cockpit of a sailboat boat (husband’s midlife crisis was to fix up a salvage /wrecked sailboat . . .I think he had fantasies of us selling our house and sailing the world on it, or some such notion, forgetting that I can’t fit Mirrix on a boat despite the three little cabinets he reserved for that purpose. What a hoot! In any case, I am putting in my three days.) I only mention this tidbit of personal information because the only loom I have with me (and of course I have a loom with me!) has a tapestry on it which needs another four hours or so to finish and I have no bead supplies here so, in short, I can’t take pictures of finishing bead work because I don’t have any. I am hoping I can troll the Mirrix website, my photos on this computer and the internet to find some suitable pictures to accompany this piece.
I am the perfect person to talk about finishing bead work because I have spent years figuring out how not to, at least how not to in the usual sense. The method where you cut your piece off the loom and weave in ten thousand warp ends . . . well, for someone who hates to thread a needle because she just can’t seem to do it well or fast or without screaming a few choice words, the idea of threading and rethreading a needle in order to sew those ends back into the beads of a woven piece . . . I have to confess, I have never done it and I never will. I can’t imagine with a wide piece how it is even possible to find beads after a point in which to shove all that thread. I know, I know, there are plenty of people who do it, and the more power to them, but I am not one of them. It’s like when people see one of my tapestries or bead pieces and say: “Oh my gosh, you must have so much patience to do that!” Which is a little strange, if you think about it, because if it required “patience” to create art I am not sure I would create art. Patience sounds like work and creating art is anything but work (most of the time . . . except when sewing in a bunch of warp threads!). But I imagine there are people who find sewing in warp ends cathartic, just like I find spinning cathartic and that certainly is not for everyone. In conclusion: I am not going to address sewing in warp ends as an option because I am the last person to steer you correctly on that subject. Rather, I will present to you all the many ways I have found to NOT sew in warp threads.
I am going to start with the most relevant way. On Tuesday last Elena and I had the pleasure of teaching a webinar for Interweave Press. It took a lot of prep work, but the actual presenting was a lot of fun. Jennifer of Beading Daily fame was our mentor in this project and although it would have been beter to get to see her live and in person, it was still nice to hear her voice live! The webinar was about using the Mirrix No-Warp Ends Kit to weave a checkerboard cuff bracelet a kit we sell exclusively through Interweave Press.
There were 16 warp threads which would have meant 32 warps threads to sew in. We were left with only two. While I am at it, I am going to give you a link to that webinar.
How does this magic work? With the help of a could of thin bars, some S-hooks and not a whole lot of patience you warp the loom such that you put on exactly the length of warp you need. When you are done there is only the beginning and end of the warp thread to weave in. The rest exists as loops which kindly slide between the end beads. We’ve trimmed this piece with pico stitch (which I like doing). The clasp is a button because while we wove the piece we created a button hole.
Here is another example of a bracelet made with that kit: Mirrix No Warps to Weave in Bracelet kit.
Method one for not having to weave in warp ends: don’t create any!
Method two for not having to weave in warp ends: make the warp part of the design. I really love doing this. Use a thicker and pretty warp thread and allow it to show both around the beads and at the ends. This makes a funkier kind of piece, but I love them. We call them wrap bracelets because you can make them one, two, three, four or more wraps. (By the way, we just passed under one of those cool bridges that lifts in the air so our mast doesn’t get knocked off when we go under.)
Below is not that particular kit, but an example of a wrap bracelet using those very cool two hole beads (a bunch of different kinds) on a hand painted silk warp
And another one . . . this one using tile beads and duos (the ones on the edge) plus some porcelain beads and a pewter button.
Above piece still on the loom.
If those two options don’t appeal to you, there is always the tried and true third method which allows you to warp the Mirrix loom in the normal fashion, but eliminates the need to sew in warp ends by simply tying them off, sticking them behind the piece and sticking the piece on some kind of cuff. For example, a piece on a leather cuff.
Some other examples of beaded work attached to a brass cuff.
In conclusion, if you are like me and refuse to sew in a bunch of warp ends when you find yourself at the end of your piece, there are a bunch of creative ways to either eliminating warp ends completely or bury them underneath your piece and incorporate them in to the piece as a design element. I am sure that we will all discover more and interesting ways to avoid the warp end dilemma. If you have ideas of your own, please tell us about it in the comments section.
Hi everyone! Sorry I have been MIA for a few weeks. I honestly had nothing new to share. I suddenly had requests for other things, paying customers I had to accommodate and new living room flooring to install. More juggling 🙂
I had every intention to be all done with this today. Making four of the same thing is a very grueling task. I do have the third panel started and working on it all day tomorrow. When I warped the loom this time, I used the 14 dent instead of the 18 dent I used last time. As I finished warping it all I could think was that the spaces looked fairly far apart and I started panicking. The last panel I made had a bit of a ruffle in it, so I thought I should use the next size down so that wouldn’t happen again. I started to bead it and asked Elena about a 16 dent. She gave me this link
I was too panicked and distracted to read it through until I understood what it said. So I figured ok, I have to make this come closer, how am I going to do that. So I loosened the warp so I could play with the spring. How was I going to bring the spring closer together? Then I spied my elastics LOL Perfect solution! So this is what I did. I had to loosen the warp about 4 times and adjust all 4 elastics in each corner before I got it right. I had the first row of Delicas on there to know exactly what space size was going to work.
Today I was supposed to take all the photographs and write some copy for an upcoming webinar. But, mother nature had a different plan. The sky is a whitish grey filled with rain and absent of any good natural light. I only like to take photos in natural light, which under normal conditions my studio has a plethora of. Not today.
Elena suggested I write a blog post about various kinds of looms versus tapestry looms. Actually, she wanted me to compare dedicated tapestry looms to rigid heddle looms, but I want to go just a tad further and also address jack looms and counter balance looms.
In my Craftsy class I tell people they can use a rigid heddle loom for all the projects (which include affinity bracelets, no warp end bracelets and the tapestry/bead cuff) with reservations and exceptions. Craftsy also sponsors classes in rigid heddle loom weaving and I wanted people who already own this loom and are not ready to invest in a Mirrix Loom to be able to use what they have and get a feel for tapestry. I also showed them how to make a simple frame loom. A simple frame loom does not provide any tension. It’s great for an absolute starter loom but if you really want to weave tapestry, you need to buy a tapestry loom.
To the left is the “rigid” heddle that is used to raise and lower the warps on a rigid heddle loom. Half of the warp threads pass through the slots and the half pass through the holes. The warp threads that pass through the slots in the rigid heddle are under the greatest amount of tension because they are never raised or lowered. The warp threads that pass through holes in the rigid heddle are under less pressure than their neighbors because they must be raised and lowered.
Below and to the right is a full body shot of a rigid heddle loom. You can see how the warp threads that pass through the holes have been raised. The bottom layer of warp threads will always stay in that one position. In order to lower the warp threads that pass through the holes, that rigid heddle is pushed down and hooked under that the two rectangular pieces it is now sitting on top of.
Notice also the tensioning system. It’s a ratchet system. The beams both front and back are adjusted with these ratchets. Notice how they are only on one side of the loom. This is often the case. If you really ramp up the tension to its max for tapestry you will find that there will be some unevenness because the tensioning device is only on one side. But this isn’t really that much of an issue because it is so hard to get really good tension on a loom that is designed to provide decent, but not excessive, tension in order to accommodate cloth weaving.
The heddle system on a rigid heddle loom is just bad for tapestry because one set of warps is held under different tension than the other set. For tapestry, you want the tension to be even. So what did I tell the folks taking my Craftsy class who were using rigid heddle looms? I told them not to use the rigid heddle and to just use the loom as a sort of advanced frame loom.
I wove tapestry on rigid heddle looms for three years. I think I vaguely knew there were big tapestry floor looms out there but I didn’t know about any smaller tapestry looms. That was before the internet where all that information is so easy to find. Portable tapestry looms might have been available but they weren’t available through the outlets where I bought my tools and supplies. And because portable tapestry looms (that actually work) were not readily available and there wasn’t much information about them (or about tapestry period!) the weaving supply stores would push the rigid heddle looms for tapestry. Which is kind of like selling someone a dirt bike to ride on a freeway. There are better choices.
Because it was so difficult to regulate tension on a rigid heddle loom I got really good at weaving. I had to try so hard to get my selvedges to be straight. When I finally encountered my first tapestry loom . . . well, let’s just say it was pretty darn amazing.
I did a search on the internet for my first real tapestry loom. Of course, a photograph of my actual loom in my living room came up! Oh how funny. Here she is (or was since I have since sold her):
That is a 45 inch wide two shaft Leclerc Tissart. She is a counter balance loom. This means that all the warp threads are under the same amount of tension. When one set of warp threads is raised, the other set is lowered. Basically, the two sets of warp threads are pushed away from one another and always remain under the same amount of tension. This loom, which hasn’t been made since I think the 70s, was sort of designed for tapestry but in reality when I read over the literature that came with it the target market was more rag weavers, rug weavers. It had some issues like the fact that the adjustment device for the top beam was a worm gear: a flat piece of metal wrapped around a metal disc. I discovered that if I fold a tiny piece of sandpaper in half and stuck it in the gear, it would hold it under tension. It did take me a few very frustrating months to figure that out. I also had an issue with the cloth on the bottom and top beams. Attached to each of those beams is a heavy cloth that is about two feet long. The bar that you tie the warps to is stuck in a hem at the end of the cloth with spacing. Under tension, that bar would bend. I replaced the hole mess with ropes attached to the beams and a much heavier bar. I also discovered that the top the piece of the loom where the warp passes around would bend under tension. I attached a heavy piece of angle iron to it to stop bending.
All this tinkering probably was the seed that became Mirrix Looms. I gained first hand knowledge of what one needs in a loom to make it really work for tapestry. And although this was supposedly a devoted tapestry loom it really felt like it hadn’t received its necessary due of R & D. Maybe that explains why Leclerc finally gave up making these upright looms.
Lastly, I want to talk about jack looms.
These are the looms you tend to think of when you think of looms. They are designed to make cloth. They can have as few as two shafts (the part of the loom that holds the heddles . . . each shaft provides an additional set of heddles) and as many as . . . I don’t know . . . 24. Each shaft moves independently of one another. This leaves for amazing design opportunities. And these looms are perfect for weaving cloth where extreme tension is not necessary and it’s okay to have the raised warps under different tension from the lowered ones.
Although this is a weird detailed photo of a jack loom (this one is made out of PCV pipe) it was the best close up image I could find of how the warp is held on this loom. When all the warps are in the same plane (none being raised) they are not kept straight, but rather pulled down slightly. See the bottom layer of warp in the above photo. This allows enough play so that when warps are raised they can create a fairly large shed (the space between the raised and lowered warps). A large shed is kind of necessary when throwing a shuttle back and forth. On my Tissart, I could maybe get a 3/4 to one inch shed (like the Mirrix) because I had my warp under so much tension. I at one point did own a jack loom and I tried weaving one tapestry on it before I realized it was NOT a tapestry loom. I could not get enough tension and the tension between the raised and lowered warps was different. When you are weaving discontinuous wefts you are randomly wrapping around warps that will necessarily be under different tension. The rigid heddle loom was actually better than the jack loom for tapestry weaving.
Every loom has her job. People ask me: can I weave on scarf on the Mirrix and I say: the Mirrix is a tapestry and/or bead loom. It can be used for a wide variety of weaving that fits more into those classes including rug weaving, rag weaving, wire weaving, inkle band weaving, etc. But cloth weaving requires a built in beater (unless you are weaving on a back strap loom, but that’s an entirely different subject not to be addressed here) so that every time you weave a pass you slam the beater forward and it will evenly pack down the weft in a straight, perfect line. Otherwise, you would have to use a hand beater which just wouldn’t work as well. Rigide heddle looms are great for weaving scarves!
The job of a tapestry loom is first and foremost to provide excellent even tension. It really helps to have a tapestry loom with some kind of easy to use shedding system to raise every other warp thread. It should be made of sturdy material so it doesn’t warp or bend under tension. The problem with small wooden looms for tapestry is, when you take into consideration the fact that my really big Tissart couldn’t withstand the tension necessary for tapestry, they just aren’t strong enough to hold tension without their beams bowing.
In conclusion: if you want to weave tapestry, buy a tapestry loom. If you also want to weave scarves, by a loom designed to weave cloth. Because rigid heddle looms are relatively inexpensive and available from so many manufacturers (they marketed them as the “knitter’s loom”) you can easily add one to your fleet of looms and have a dedicated tapestry loom.
The trend is to go smaller with this equipment. Few of us have huge rooms in which we can house huge looms. And those huge looms are really expensive (thousands and thousands of dollars). It’s clear that the latest trend is toward multiples of smaller looms devoted to a certain product: tapestry, material, bands, whatever. Those huge looms also take at least a day to warp. That was not something I ever looked forward to. Whereas,I can warp the largest Mirrix Loom (Zeus, 38 inches wide) its entire width in about an hour and a half or less.
What looms have you tried for tapestry and what are your thoughts about those various looms?
Ready for your first tapestry loom? Fill out our “Choose a Loom” form here and get a personalized recommendation!
Did you ever watch Reading Rainbow? It was a PBS kid’s show that started in the 80s about the wonder of books and reading. At the end of every show there was a segment of book reviews by kids. LeVar Burton, the host, would start off the segment by saying, “But you don’t have to take my word for it!” And then the kids would launch into their reviews. This phrase came to mind when I started planning this post.
We love our new Spencer Power Treadle and have become addicted to using it pretty fast (seriously, it saves so much time!) but we know that hearing that from the manufacturer doesn’t mean quite as much as hearing it from impartial sources. We asked three famous tapestry weavers (full-disclosure, Rebecca and Kathe did help us with beta-testing of the treadle) to write up a little review of the treadle.
We love the Spencer Power Treadle, but you don’t have to take our word for it!
“First of all I love treadles on my Mirrixes. Treadles increase my weaving speed. The Spencer treadle is an incredible addition so much more versatile then my older treadles. It is very easy to affix to the loom. It travels well because of its small size, light weight, and ease of assemblage. Physically it takes less effort to use. Because of the way it is designed it gives a deeper shed and holds the shed open until I change it. It is very easy on hands, because of the the way the shed is held open until it is shifted. The Spencer can be operated with a very small movement of the foot or either foot making it ideal for people with limited motion and/or strength or for those of us who weave long hours each day on the Mirrix. ”
-Kathe Todd-Hooker. Professional tapestry weaver, teacher, author.
Visit her blog here.
“The new Spencer Treadle from Mirrix looms was waiting for me when I returned home from the American Tapestry Alliance Retreat and I was able to put it to good use at a show I was doing the following weekend. I usually take along a 16 inch loom, treadle and easel to demonstrate when I do shows with my Mirrix Looms and tapestry supplies. The first thing I noticed is that the smaller footprint and lighter weight of the Spencer Treadle is going to make my life much easier. Not only is it easier to pack but it is also easier to detach and attach the treadle to the loom which makes it much nicer to travel with. The action of the treadle is so fast and easy that it is much more convenient for changing sheds, weaving and talking at the same time. In a very short time it was becoming an automatic movement for me which should speed up my weaving when I am not demonstrating. There were many watching who had seen me demonstrate before who were impressed with the smooth and effortless action to open the sheds. I was even filmed and interviewed by a local channel 6 special report team about people following their passion while demonstrating at the show. In short, it took less than a weekend for me to become quite spoiled by my new Spencer Treadle!”
-Janette Meetze. Professional weaver/artist and teacher. Visit her blog here.
“I love my Mirrix looms unabashedly. I have a small fleet at this point and I love to use them for my tapestry workshops. They are sturdy, reliable, and they meet my high demands for tension. So it is not surprising that I had great expectations for the Spencer electric treadle by Mirrix. Tapestry weaving is slow and shifting the shed the normal way works well enough (and I can’t even talk about picking sheds—I don’t know how some tapestry weavers do it). Frankly, I wasn’t sure the treadle would make that much difference. I have to say I was horribly, irrevocably, undeniably wrong. This treadle is wonderful. I have really enjoyed being able to shift the shed with my foot instead of reaching for the shedding mechanism. I have tested it on my 12, 16, and 22 inch Mirrix looms and it works well on all of them. I’m afraid I might need a second treadle pretty soon! I love the added speed, I love that I don’t have to reach up to shift the shed all the time, I love that it is quiet and only switches when my foot tells it to, and I love how small it is. My only fear is that the power will go out and I’ll have to go back to the handle. Maybe I should get a generator.”
-Rebecca Mezoff. Professional tapestry weaver and teacher. Visit her website here.
Want to get started with the first ever (we think) electric treadle for a portable tapestry loom? You can get your very own Spencer Power Treadle here!
As I was packing beads and way too many kits to haul off to Convergence where we had a booth in July, Elena said: “These are fiber weavers. They are not going to buy beads and kits.”
“Sure they will,” I said with complete certainty.
Guess who was correct? Turns out the customers at Convergence were looking for . . . drum roll . . . LOOMS.
The good news is I didn’t haul that much stuff. There isn’t really enough to put on the website, so I thought I would list them here. All you have to do is add up your total and send a PayPal payment to: email@example.com. Shipping is $6.00 no matter how much you buy, so please remember to add that.
Eleven five gram tubes of those amazing CzechMates. These beads all have two holes and YES you can weave them on a Mirrix Loom.
What can you do with these beads and a Mirrix Loom? I’ll show you.
A combination of super duos and size 8/0 beads on a leather cuff.
Weave this on a hand-painted silk warp. You can find the silk here. The beads are a combination of ChechMate Tile beads and Superduos as edging.
This last one is a little wild. Silk warp and a combination of every bead in this collection. I threw in some porcelain beads at both ends. Yes, it was fun to weave and just as fun to wear.
Here are the beads: The colors are beautiful. Some are mixes I made and some are single colors. You’ll love them all and then work really well together: 1 box each of 6mm Lentils, 3/6 mm bricks, 5/16 mm two hole daggers; 2 boxes each of 5/16 mm triangles and 6 mm tiles; 4 boxes of Superduos (my favorite!). Eleven 5 gram boxes in all for $35 (plus $6 shipping). The bad news is there are only five bags of these beads left.
I thought I would play with the Tapestry/Bead Cuff Bracelet’s size both beads and cuff. Instead of using size 8/0 beads, I wanted to use 11/0 beads. The cuff became a 3/4 inch cuff versus a one inch cuff. The spring is a 14 dent spring instead of a 10 dent spring. It’s a finer version of the original cuff and I am sure someday we will get around to listing it on the website. But if you want it now (price $69 plus $6 shipping) you can order by just making a payment to our paypal account: firstname.lastname@example.org. We have nine of these kits available, but if they are popular we will make more!
Kit includes: two 3/4 inch brass cuffs, hand-painted silk, novelty yarn, 20 grams of 11/0 seed beads,C-Lon beading cord and thread, E-6000 glue, ultra-suede.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at: email@example.com. Flat shipping $6 even if you buy them all.
I’ve shared all my Mirrix projects with you but often the finishing touches had not been applied, so I thought I’d tie up those loose ends and show you the finished pieces, all of which are Mirrix milestones for me. From left to right is…
1) the cuff I wove with Claudia’s wonderful hand-dyed silk and some gorgeous crystal beads. This is my first ever attempt to combine beads with fibre! As much as I wanted to I could not make an ugly bracelet with these materials. Here’s the post that explains why I would ever want to do such a thing. I finished it with a 9 strand braid, for which I followed this great video tutorial on Youtube. The video is geared toward people who want to make decorative bread, but I found it perfect, and easy to follow since the instructor uses such generous wads of dough for each strand.
2) My First tapestry on a Mirrix! Although my heart is with tapestries that are finely woven, my next tapestry will be with a larger EPI (this one was 12) so I can get it done faster and feel less encumbered by it in the context of a weekly update. With that said, I love this piece! The main tapestry is wool, and the indigo is hand-dyed by me, as is the shag poof which is 100% silk. And as I mentioned in a previous post I received advice from my hair-stylist brother about how to trim the shag. Surprisingly he didn’t seem to be too fazed by the request. As you can see the top selvage is warped due to the shag being too bulky, so I may attempt to have it mounted on a custom cut rock so the selvage will lay flat (when glued) and also have it slant forward so we can see the tapestry underneath the shag. I’m not completely set on that idea though.
3) My first attempt at weaving beads. Today I finished it off with some hardware and it ended up looking very vintage, almost art nouveau when worn. So I’m much happier about it than I expected. I may need to make more like it, next time on the no-warp-ends kit.