Thursday, 16 August 2007

Making new aprons for my Toika Norjanna loom.

I have a lovely 8 shaft, ten treadle, countermarche floor loom. It's the beautiful, compact, Norjanna from the Finnish loom builders, Toika.

I am the second owner of this loom, which I found through the wonderful resource of the Loom Exchange. The previous owner, Sue Foulkes of Durham, England, is a skillful and talented weaver. She now uses a Louet Megado dobby loom, and her work will be in a joint exhibition with another weaver at Durham Art Gallery in December. Sue also gives talks and demonstrations. She tells me she's pleased the loom went to a good home, it is certainly loved and used, I can only hope that given time and dedication I will learn to be as good a weaver as Sue!

I don't have a warp on my loom at the moment. Earlier this year I was working hard at learning to design twill weaves. I was using Bonnie Innouye's book Exploring Multishaft Design. Bonnie says on her web site (under "My Book") that most of the projects are suitable for 8 shafts. I found that I had to work very hard to find ways of making some of the weaves work on just 8 shafts, and I could see many patterns would be easier with 16 or more shafts! It was very interesting though, I created some pleasing designs, and, most importantly, I enjoyed myself.

While working through the exercises in Bonnie's book I used a long, narrow, warp. As I worked I found that the tension on one side of the warp went slightly slack. This was consistent with a problem caused by the arrangement of the texsolv cord loom aprons and them winding onto the cloth beams slightly crooked. What starts as a slight, imperceptible difference on one side of the loom increases as more of the warp is used. I realised this problem will occur more often where a narrow warp is used.

You can see the cord loom apron in this photograph of the back of my loom.

The Texsolv apron cord threads through the cloth beam and loops around the apron rod (to which the warp threads are tied). In this photo the cord runs from the cloth beam, over the back beam and the apron rod hangs below. It doesn't hang loose like this when there's a warp on the loom. I realise a photo showing this part of the loom with a warp on would be useful, but I don't have one at the moment.

A big advantage of using this Texsolv cord apron is that it is very strong. I want to do rug weaving on my loom, which requires a very high tension linen warp, and so I will find this system invaluable.

However, after much thought I decided that the alternative system of lengths of cloth for loom aprons was likely to be better for weaving on lower tension warps, and especially for narrow warps. It will need less adjustment than the continuous Texsolv loops and should wind on to the cloth beams evenly.

I was interested when Leigh got a countermarche loom with the Texsolv system recently to see that the previous owner of her loom might have had similar difficulties, and had a different solution. On Leigh's loom the continuous cord has been cut and straight tie pieces are use instead - see here.

I'm a self-taught weaver and have only seen a couple of looms other than my own. I've never actually seen a cloth loom apron. However, I found useful advice in "Handloom Weaving Technology" by Allen Fannin (pub. 1979, by Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York), and fellow members of the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers were very helpful.

I bought canvas cloth, medium weight, from Whaleys of Bradford. I bought cloth that was longer and wider than necessary. The cloth is a single piece across the width of my loom, one side utilises the selvedge and the other is only protected from fraying by having a wavy cut edge. It is does not have a sewn hem on either side because more knowledgeable weavers have warned me that the cloth will stretch unevenly if I stitch it. The ends of the aprons are folded over to hold wooden rods and have large slits to enable me to wrap texsolv ties around the rods. I used hard wood slats that are sold in the hardware shop for the sort of clothes drying racks that are suspended from ceilings. I cut the wood to the same length as my cloth beams are wide. I'm using six. One at each end of the two aprons, plus two more to tie to them and to which I will tie the warp.

Here is the new cloth apron on the back of my loom.

In order to attach the apron to the loom by the most simple, and least obstructive method I could think of, I have use texsolv ties that thread through the holes through the cloth beam and are retained by knitting needles threaded through slots in the cord. (I should have mentioned that texsolv cord is made with short slots in it, like a chain).

The next photograph is a close up of one of the slots in the apron (edges finished with a machine sewn blanket stitch) and the texsolv tie cord. You can just about see how I cut channels in the wood with a saw and chisel (I had to dust off my memories from school woodwork classes!) This prevents the cords sliding along the wood.

So, maybe you, like me are now wondering if this hard work has been worthwhile? It's time to get a warp on the loom and find out.


Leigh said...

Dorothy, this is a very interesting post. You have figured out some things that I didn't realize, so this is valuable information! Until getting a countermarche loom, I thought all problems had to do with the weaver! I have Allen Fannin's book, but have never really looked at it. I am very interested in how well you like weaving with your new apron.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dorothy,

I've been thinking of making new aprons for my old George Maxwell loom. Did you have to prewash your canvas from Whaleys in Bradford before you made the aprons?

How have you found them?

Best wishes,

Dorothy said...

Hi Lucy,

I've had just over a year of using my new loom aprons and I am very happy with them.

I didn't pre-wash the canvas, my reasoning was that it's not going to be washed as part of normal usage so I don't have to think abut pre-shrinking.

Only problem I have had is with the apron rods I first used - they were slats meant for one of those ceiling drying racks. Just the right size, but the wood was not strong enough and bent. I have new apron rods made from beech wood - boyfriend is a woodworker so easily made them for me. If you need apron rods and don't know a woodworker, you might ask a joiner to cut the wood to size and finish it with rounded edges. Beech is good because it is strong and doesn't warp easily.

How lovely to have an old George Maxwell loom, I'm sure it's very deserving of special new aprons!

Sandie said...

Hello from warm Floridia - I am thrilled to find your site. I'm totally new to weaving and just was given a beautiful Leclerc Mira. Lacking anyone to tutor me -- or really even seeing any of the warping up process, I am stumbling through using a series of books. So far I've done pretty well assembling the loom. However, now I am trying to figure out the apron situation. HOW are the cloth aprons attached to the beams?? The warp beam has factory drilled holes, but they don't go all the way through. The cloth beam has no holes. I have the heavy cloth aprons used by the previous owner. H9ow how do I attach the fabric to the wood? I can't even think of tacking or sticking the cloth to the beautiful maple. What am I missing? HELP, please. I will be checking back almost hourly to see an answer -- I'm really anxious! Thanks in advance for any suggestions! SANDIE

Dorothy said...

Hi Sandie, lovely to hear from you. You may have learnt from this blog that I have been teaching myself to weave at home on my own, but I had some help from internet friends.

Have you discovered Yahoo Groups? There's a super group called "Weaving" where lots of weavers of all abilites chat about this and that. It's a good place to take any sort of weaving question.

You'll probably find that vendors of looms and yarns are friendly and helpful too, certainly in the UK I know several I could ring for a chat.

I think I've found the answer to your problem on one of my favourite web sites, for Camillia Valley Farm in Canada. When you've looked at the page this address is for, do go on and look at the rest of the site. They are particularly good for book reviews. I know they have lots of customers in the US as well as Canada.

Best wishes, Dot.

Sandie said...

Dear Dot - Thanks for your help. I went to the site and they have very clear illustrations. Howver, the imply that the cloth should be tacked on the beam. I don't think I'll try that! How is YOUR apron fastened? There must be another way. Thanks again for your help. (Incidentally, my daughter lived in Chesterfield for some time. Is that near you?)

Dorothy said...

Hi Sandie, my method for attaching the aprons to my loom is described above, look for the sentence "Here is the new cloth apron on the back of my loom." and following paragraph.

You say the holes in your warp beam don't go right through. Mine do.

I have never seen a Leclerc loom.

I highly recommend you contact Camilla Valley Farm. They seem very helpful and offer lots of parts for Leclerc looms. Otherwise, contact Leclerc, they have a website.

Weavers are, on the whole, friendly and helpful people, I don't think you need to be shy of asking.

I also highly recommend the Yahoo "Weaving" group which I mentioned. If you join that group you will be able to contact other people with Leclerc looms. There are 2453 members!