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Tapestry versus rigid heddle versus jack looms

Posted on by mirrixlooms / Posted in Tapestry Weaving, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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):

UnknownThat 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!

We Love The New Spencer Treadle… But Don’t Take Our Word For It

Posted on by mirrixlooms / Posted in Products | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

power treadle off the loom

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!

I told you so!

Posted on by mirrixlooms / Posted in Deals, Products, Projects | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

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: claudia@mirrixlooms.com.  Shipping is $6.00 no matter how much you buy, so please remember to add that.

First Deal:

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.



In case you are not aware of the shape of these beads, I borrowed some photos to show you:  365-36 371-06 366-06 364-25 280-516 250-66


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: claudia@paypal.com.  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: claudia@mirrixlooms.com.  Flat shipping $6 even if you buy them all.

Tying up loose ends, literally.

Posted on by Janna Maria Vallee / Posted in Bead Weaving, Bead/Fiber Combination, Social Market for a Mirrix 2014, Tapestry Weaving | 1 Comment

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.

silk and crystals finished with a 9 strand braid.

silk and crystals finished with a 9 strand braid.


Mirrix’s First Virtual Art Show!

Posted on by mirrixlooms / Posted in Contests | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Introducing Mirrix’s First Virtual Art Show! 

Starting next week, we will be accepting pictures of woven work that follow a certain set of criteria (woven on a bead and/or tapestry loom, finished in the last 6 months, etc.) which we will then put up in a virtual gallery for all to see.

by Claudia ChaseWe will be accepting submissions until late autumn, 2014. Our panel of judges (to be announced soon) will then choose winners in several different categories (including one for beginners!). There will also be a “People’s Choice” award.

We will give out (non-virtual) ribbons and certificates to the winners. But really, it’s all about fame and community. How much do you want to brag to your friends that you won Best of Show in Mirrix’s first ever Virtual Art Show? You know it’s a lot!

Take this opportunity to share your work, to see what others are working on and to have a little fun with the Mirrix community! Everyone is welcome!

More details will be announced next week. If you are interested in being a share-sponsor for this show or a judge please let me know! elena@mirrixlooms.com

Weaving in Bed

Posted on by mirrixlooms / Posted in Inspiration | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

loom in bed

Ever have one of those evenings when you get home and know you should take the dog for a long walk and make dinner and you have 15 emails you need to reply to, but really you want to crawl into bed even though it’s only 7 pm? Last night, I did just that.

I turned on Netflix and brought my 12″ Little Guy into bed with me. Then, I wove. One thing I love about tapestry on a small loom is that you can really weave anywhere. All I needed was my loom, yarn and a pair of scissors (I also was using the weighted beater we sell on our site… once you go with a weighted on, you can never go back) to weave in bed.

I got into one of those meditative states where I had no idea what time it was and, for the first time that day, I wasn’t worried about work or weekend plans or anything else going on in my life.

That’s what weaving is all about. And that’s why we make these looms.


Tapestry cuff

Posted on by Janna Maria Vallee / Posted in Social Market for a Mirrix 2014, Tapestry Weaving | 1 Comment


This week I’m weaving from the Mirrix Tapestry and Bead Cuff Kit and I learned that although I really love the idea of making something with all beads or all fibre I don’t get excited about combining the two.  So as I began to think about incorporating bead into this weaving I just couldn’t go ahead with it.   Therefore, this cuff will be 100% fibre. It’s the 1inch cuff kit and I’m using the c-lon warp on a 12 dent spring and the wonderful silk that is hand-dyed by Claudia herself.  I’m weaving it in a sort of free form style where I’m not following a cartoon, but I do have a design in mind.  I used the image below as inspiration, which I found in the book titled William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement.  

arts and crafts movement embroidered cotton


It is of an embroidered and appliqued linen designed by Godfrey Blount and made in the workshops of the Haslemere Peasant industries.  I was mostly inspired my the meandering vine.  Keep your eye on my Instagram for updates on this cuff.  I’m thinking I’ll add a center flower and then do a mirror image of the vines and flowers on the opposite side.

Janna Maria Vallee

Secret Project Update

Posted on by Christina Neit / Posted in Social Market for a Mirrix 2014 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I was hoping my ‘secret project’ would go much faster than this. It probably would if I committed to only ‘it’ in a weeks time. I just finished the second panel last night. That means I have two to go and I am halfway there. Hoping to have another one done next week, but found myself on the phone yesterday and other beadwork was added to ‘do now’ list. I should be a professional juggler LOL


In the meantime, I lent out my ‘Little Guy’ loom to my guy, Dave, and have taught him how to use it to bead on. He went to Montana recently and bought an old cowboy hat at an antique store. He wants a beaded hat band to go on it and I think he didn’t want to wait for me to do it :) He is doing a freeform pattern, meaning he is designing it as he goes. I was a bit surprised at the bland colors he chose, but it isn’t mine, so who am I to say anything, not like I expected pink and red or anything either.  LOL

Obviously we need a lint roller

Obviously we need a lint roller


I will also keep you updated on his progress. You think mine is slow… :D

Free Form Experiment by Julia L. Hecht

Posted on by Julia Hecht / Posted in Social Market for a Mirrix 2014 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment
Experimenting with 2 holed beads Free form style

Experimenting with 2 holed beads Free form style

Greetings Beaders and Weavers!


Here is my first experiment “looming” with 2-holed tile beads and beads of different sizes.  I am using 8/0 Delica beads, 11/0 delica beads, 3 mm Fire Polish, 3 mm Druks, and 11/0 round seed beads (rocailles).  I warped with S-LON regular weight beading cord using the 2nd smallest spring that came with my Big Sister loom.  The  8/0 Delicas are half the size of the tiles and so I warped 2 different sized spaces.  One holds just one 8/0 Delica, and the rest are twice that width.  By recognizing how the bead sizes relate, I could mix and match and find my way …. It is a free form design, meaning that there is no planned pattern.  I am planning to master this technique and teach it this fall at my bead shop, Poppyfield Bead Company, in Albquerque,New Mexico.

Meanwhile… On a personal note…

In my last post I discussed being “fed up” and taking a step toward improving my life.  Since then,  I’ve been continuing to decrease the chaos in my life and all good things are happening.  Since cleaning my closet, I’ve attacked the back room at my shop, as well as my bead studio.  Tomorrow I will be visiting my storage unit to do some organizing there.  I’ve even asked for help a couple of times, something that is very tough for me.

Let ‘s all do something good for ourselves today!

Peace and Beads,



Introducing: The Double Shedding Device Weave-Along

Posted on by mirrixlooms / Posted in Tapestry Weaving, Weave-Along 14 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Update: You can now sign up for (and learn more about) this weave-along here

A weave-along is a FREE online course. Claudia Chase and Elena Zuyok of Mirrix Looms will lead participants through a project woven on a loom. Every Sunday participants will get an email going over what participants worked on week before and giving instructions and tips for the week ahead. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and engage with other members of the weave-along via email and social media sites including the Mirrix Facebook Page, Mirrix Facebook Group and Mirrix Ravelry Page. This is a community event!

See our previous weave-alongs here. 

double shed

Weave-Along 14, which will begin in September, is for people who have woven at least some tapestry before. (If you need a little experience, check out Rebecca Mezoff’s online tapestry class before the weave-along begins.)

In this weave-along, participants will learn a technique of weaving with two shedding devices. This technique allows you to make a more textured tapestry. You’ll be able to weave, let’s say, 14 dents per inch and, at the same time, 7 dent per inch.

The piece will not have a pattern, but will be a tapestry done with silk and Waverly wool. You will be able to buy supplies from our website, but can also use your own!

As part of the weave-along, we will give a discount on


purchasing a second shedding device.

More information to come next week! Let us know if you’re interested in the comments, by email or via social media!




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