Monday 28 September 2009

Mike Crompton Inkle Loom

Here is my new Mike Crompton floor standing inkle loom, purchased from Frank Herring & Sons. I included a stool to give an idea of height, and where you sit to weave on a loom like this. It has a screw tensioner and all the pegs are removable, handy for storage and also for changing the loom layout to suit a different warp length.

I know... it would look better with a warp on, and you'd like to see some weaving. I've not had time yet! The weekend has been busy, with a trip out on Saturday to collect a Henning Band Loom that was free to a good home, and Sunday I was recovering as I'm still not back to full strength after my long illness. I hope to get a warp on soon, I'm really looking forward to using this beautiful loom.

Henning Band Loom

This blog post is going to be more pictures than words, as I don't know much more about this loom than what I can share in pictures. We'll start with the single sheet of paper that is all I have to tell me what this loom is. There is no instruction book. You can click on any of the three black and white images below to see them enlarged.

Editing to add: I have just looked at the above picture again, it looks to me as if the bobbins dangling off the back of the loom are for pattern threads, so these are not wound on the warp beam with other warp threads. What do you make of this? Comments most welcome at the end of this post.

If you didn't click on the first picture and squint at the text, you'll have missed these words:
A new loom for ribbons and narrow table runners.
The work is EASIER, FASTER and more UNIFORM.
A good method to learn the basics of weaving. It also provides good exercise for stiff wrists and ankles.
It holds steady because you sit on the bench with the weave in front of you.
It gives up to 15 cm (6 inches) weaving width.
The loom is made of birch.
Common two-leaved twill and fancy weaving with date and name.
12 harnesses for fancy weaving.
Separate stretching of the pattern threads.
A UNIQUE feature is that the weaving reed is always perpendicular to the weave.
The Weaving reed has three different partitions, 40, 60, and 80 reed blades per decimetre (per 4 inches).

The maker is Brunne Snikeri, of Villvagen 8, 872 00, Kramfors. (I discovered this is in Sweden).

Here are some bits that came with the loom, spare reeds, lease sticks, a spare toggle, reed sleying hook and a small shuttle.

It also came with a bundle of warp sticks, a peice of brown paper which also has been used as a warp separator, and a bag of texsolv and cotton heddles.

(But not the tea mug, this being an English home there's always one of those around, this particular one made by British craft potter Mike Dodd.)

Here's my photo of the whole loom, there are signs that it has been well used and no doubt well looked after until at some point put into store. We guess it dates from 1970s or 1980s.

That cluttered, scruffy looking room is our Lived In room. (most English homes have a Living Room, or Lounge, ours is not really smart enough to take either name).

Starting at the bench end of the loom, here is the front warp beam, with apron and brake.

In front of the warp beam, a read in the beater.

This sequence of three pictures shows how the beater works with parallel action to ensure that the reed "is always perpendicular to the weave"

The two shafts are simply two dowels with texsolv heddles that fit into slots in wooden frames.

These pictures show the front shaft at rest, and raised by a pushrod from the treadle.

Looking down the left hand side of the loom, from sitting on the bench, this is one of the treadles. The other is on the right hand side.

I'm repeating the first photo so you can see where the treadles are in relation to the rest of the loom.

In front of the shafts, this frame holds 19 bobbles for drawcords that can be used to lift individual threads.

The main drawloom sits behind the shafts, with 12 frames lifted by 12 bobbles.

At the back of the loom there is a raddle, and a clamp that sits on the warp beam. Below, a cloth beam with apron and brake is the same as at the front of the loom.

Editing to add: in the black and white photo above showing dangling bobbins behind the loom, it looks as if the main warp threads run under this piece of wood and pattern threads over it. What do you think?

On the bench there is some tray space, before and behind the shafts.

It looks fairly good in the photos so far, but the joints that attach the front and back of the loom to the tray sides are damaged and so they can move apart, and there is a lot of sideways movement in the beater, caused by wear.

What happens next with this loom? We take it apart, clean it up, mend the joints, refinish the wood as necessary and renew the drawcords. Wash the old heddles, re-assemble. In the meantime, I'm researching different types of band weaving and thinking about how to weave interesting patterns.

Can anyone tell me anything about this loom, or the bands woven on them? Comments welcome!

Friday 25 September 2009

linen yarns and inkle weaving

In August I got out my linen yarns, warped up the loom and wove Janet Phillip's twill sample blanket in linen. I shall write about that soon, in another post (or two). I loved the look and feel of the linen so much I went off to GTM Sales to buy more of their lovely yarns.

When I got back, I got side tracked. I had four colours of yarns that looked so lovely together I wanted to weave inkle bands. Inkle weaving is warp faced (i.e. the weft is hidden) is a great way to show off a special yarn.

I love that American English expression, "it followed me home..." here's a group of lovely yarns all waiting to get in my workshop..

The queue trails back down the stairs...

That's a job to sort this weekend, before it gets in the way of the work we are doing around the staircase - as you can see the walls need finishing.

My first two inkle bands had somewhat random thread order, just to see what happened.

Here's another photo, so you get the idea of how the bands look in different light.

The loom I used is a little Ashford Inkle loom, a really nicely designed loom, made of N.Z. beech, see next photo.

If you look at the shuttle next to the loom you can see that I have wound the weft thread on it in a figure of 8 pattern. This works so much better than winding round and round, if you use a stick on a band shuttle at all, do try it and see! I learnt this from someone else's blog, and I didn't bookmark the entry and now can't find it again.... whoever it was, thanks very much.

Other essential equipment for me are the lolly sticks and cotton heddles, which I made from a dk knitting cotton, in the manner demonstrated below. Well, umm, this heddle was tied around the pegs as shown when new, it must have streched a bit in use.
First heddle around a warp thread (they loop over alternate threads, all the threads that go over the first peg - the threads in between miss that first peg). Here's the first heddle going on. Note that since I wove this band I have changed technique, I put the heddles on each thread immediately after it is tied on. It's less fiddly like that and none get missed out (oops! yes, been learning by my errors again).

The next three photos show how a "shed" is made on this loom to pass the shuttle through in front of the heddles. Unlike other looms, the threads in the heddles stay put while the threads that are free are raised or lowered.

A nest trick I have learnt to get a neater start to the braid is to commence by putting a couple of little sticks in the warp, one in each shed, just as you'd weave a header row on a floor or table loom.

The same little sticks are useful as beaters and for lifting the threads either for opening up the shed or for weaving pick-up patterns.

My third band was properly planned out before I wove. Partly because I read Kaz's post about design for inkle weaving,
(thanks Kaz!) partly because I was looking for a more organised pattern.

I have Karisma coloured pencils which make lovely bright soft coloured marks on paper. One morning I sat down and tried a few patterns. Then I wrote out how many threads of each colour were needed, in order, so I could warp up without errors.

I like inkle weaving. I've also tried out tablet weaving recently, no room to write about that here, I'll tell you about that another day.

Last week I made enquiries about a floor standing loom. I've been thinking of getting a larger inkle loom for wider or longer braids, not least because I think it would be more comfortable to work at. I went to look at one a year ago, it was Dryad make, and turned out to be much smaller than I expected, so I could not see how I would sit at it comfortably. I think it was something like 2 foot tall. I've been looking at Harris looms and other odd makes that pop up on ebay, but wasn't sure they'd be much better. Some seemed to be designed as a warping frame that you could weave bands on if you liked, which to me is a compromise not worth making.

Then I discovered the Mike Crompton floor standing inkle loom in my Frank Herring's catalogue. I googled "Mike Crompton" and "weaver" and found out that he is a tapestry weaver living in Yorkshire. That seemed a good start. I looked at the black and white photo in the catalogue, and liked the proportions of the loom. I discussed it with my boyfriend, who loves working with wood, and who had offered to make a loom. (I like to remind him I need more of those nice warp sticks for my table loom, first, which nobody sells. He makes a few every now and again.). I phoned Frank Herring's and asked about the total height of the loom, (90 c.m. at highest point) and the max. warp length (5 m). It all seemed just right, so I rang and placed my order on Monday morning, and my loom arrived on Thursday and it is beautiful Photos another day, soon.

On Monday afternoon, an e-mail arrived in my inbox with the subject "band loom needs a home" from a sender I'd never heard of. I stared at it, surprised. I opened the message. A friend of a friend has a most unusual Swedish band loom to give away to a good home. It is like an inkle loom, but with warp rollers, two shafts and... a drawloom attachment behind the shafts. Oh wow. I'm going to pick it up tomorrow.

In my post about the Weavemaster loom I said I had 3 looms. I'd forgotton the little inkle loom which was resting on top of a bookcase. Now, we add to the list another inkle loom and a Hennings band loom with drawloom attachment, made by Brunne Snickeri of Kramfors, Sweden. And I still have to re-organise the yarns and put my new cones of linen away. Am I in control of this weaving workshop, or is everything in it self-replicating in an out of control fashion? Except the weaving... ah, yes, weaving, that must be the best way to organise my yarns. So, the next warp is prepared ready for my floor loom, and on we go!

Saturday 19 September 2009

Japanese Indigo, part 3

For a second time, I filled a jar with leaves from my Japanese Indigo plants, covered the leaves with water and left them soaking.

(Other names of this plant are Persicaria Tinctoria, formally Polgonum Tinctoria, also called Dyer's Knotweed).

There were less leaves in the jar and I left it for 9 days (instead of 7) because I was busy with other things. The yellow colour of the liquid around the leaves seemed more soupy than before. It had stood in our kitchen, which was generally around 20 degrees centigrade. I took the jar as before and heated slowly in a bain marie to 68 degrees centigrade, after an hour I took it off the heat and let it cool a bit before draining off the liquid.

When this was done the leaves time were a slimy mush. Last time I used this dyestuff I had not left the leaves soaking so long beforehand and the residue at this stage was more like over cooked spinach, this time they were more like something out of a stagnent pond. That's what they smelt like too!

This method produced a much greater quantity of blue dye, even though there were less leaves. In the photograph below you can see the results of my first dyeing session on the right (100g wool, approx 30g silk) the yarns on the left (200g wool) were dyed from the second jar of leaves.

Knowing that the photo sequence I posted in part 2, showing the colour change, was of particular interest to several readers, I took some more photos of what happens as the dye oxidises. I tried to count seconds as well, but found that a bit tricky as well as holding the yarn and taking photos. I think it was less than 5 seconds, certainly not more than 5. (Please note this picture is a series of 5 photos that I have pasted together.)

The yarn looks shiny here due to being wet, and a bit more turquoise than it was when rinsed and dried.

I think that maybe the last Japanese Indigo session this year. However, I may have enough woad to give that a go (about 5 plants have survived inspite of the greedy slugs) and I have a purchased sachet of "natural indigo" to try out.

I'll be letting my plants regrow now, and expect them to flower in October / November and then produce seed for next year. I have 3 plants that I did not cut back flowering on a windowsill in the house already. I'm told that keeping seed of at least 3 plants is important to ensure genetic diversity in the seed.

Just a note about indigo in general - Persicaria tinctoria (originally from Vietnam and south China,long used in Japan and China) is just one of a large number of plants that yield indigo. Others popularly used for dyeing include:
Isatis tinctoria, the European plant "woad" called "pastel" in french);
  • Isatis indigotica - a relative of woad found in China;
  • Indigofera arrecta, originally from east Africa, also grown in Indonesia and the Phillipines;
  • Indigofera cerulea from north west India;
  • Indigofera tinctoria, from tropical Asia, probably originally India;
  • Indigofera suffruticosa, used in ancient civilisations of Mexico and in Peru, later introduced to Indonesia.
Other sources of information:
For anyone who wants to learn more about this dye plant, I recommend Teresinha's Wild Colours website. She is offering seed for sale, and I'm sure she is a good source for seed as it seems to be very important that the seed is fresh. Seed I purchased from a large seed company a couple of years ago did not germinate.

A Dyer's Garden, Rita Buchanan, pub. Interweave Press, 1995, ISBN 1-883010-07-1
two pages about the Japanese Indigo (under the name Dyer's Knotweed) and how to grow it, two more pages on dyeing with indigo plants.

A Weaver's Garden, Rita Buchanan, Dover Publications, 1999, (abridged version of longer text published by Interweave Press in 1987), ISBN 0-486-40712
18 pages on Indigo, which includes chemistry, history, dye instructions, and a page and a half dedicated to Japanese Indigo (under the name Dyer's Knotweed)

A Dyer's Manual, Jill Goodwin, 2nd edition Ashmans Publications, 2003, ISBN 0-9544401-0-2
A very useful book on dyeing from plants you can grow or find in hedgerows which has a whole chapter on "Indigo" including woad and Japanese Indigo (under the alternative name, Dyer's Knotweed).

Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science, by Dominique Cardon, published in June 2007 by Archetype Publications Ltd.
The most wonderful reference book imaginable for anyone seriously interested in natural dyes, and the only book I have found that is really good on the chemistry of natural dyes.
I have the original French edition (cheaper, bought from
Le Monde des Teintures Naturelles, par Domonique Cardon, pub. Belin, 2003, ISBN 9-782701-126784-01.

I also have to recommend the Guild I belong to, Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers. I was given the seeds and dyeing instructions by a fellow Guild member, and several members of the Guild have been involved in a valuable discussion this summer about our experiences of growing and using the plants.

This link gathers together all my posts about Japanese Indigo (in reverse order).

Friday 18 September 2009

Band Weaving

While my Henning Band Loom is being repaired I decided to try out patterned band weaving on my inkle loom, following the instructions in Anne Dixon's "Baltic Style Patterns on the Inkle Loom".

This is Anne Dixon as in the recently published "Handweavers Pattern Book" or "Handweavers Pattern Directory" as they call the U.S. edition. She has also published three booklets on Inkle weaving which are printed on folded A4 paper. I only bought them this summer, having started Inkle weaving with proper books - little did I realise that Anne Dixon's booklets tell you everything you need to know with very easy to follow directions and diagrams. The three can be bought from Fibrecrafts and P&M Woolcraft in the U.K. for less than £10 - I think every Inkle weaver should invest in them! Anne also taught Inkle weaving at this year's Association of Guilds Summer School, and I have heard very good reports of her teaching.

One thing I learnt from Anne Dixon was to use three lolly sticks at the start of the warp, I used two before, three is better. It gives something to beat against when you start weaving so that the weaving is good and firm from the start. The warp here is all cotton, the light blue is 2/12 mercerised and the deeper blue a 2/6. Both yarns from William Hall & Co., Cheadle, England.

A couple of other changes to weaving equipment, I had seen in "Weaving Bands" by Liv Trotzig and Aastrid Axelsson, that Swedish band weavers use a bobbin shaped shuttle and beat the weft in with a weaving knife. I found an Ashford boat shuttle bobbin (which is a bit too large to handle easily) and an old cake knife. The cake knife as a beater has greatly improved my bands, as I beat the weft in more soundly with this narrow, blunt-edged knife I am getting much neater edges. It also features a fancy tip which is good for picking up the pattern threads.

When I was given the Henning Band Loom I had no idea what it was or what to do with it. Naturally, I turned to the wonderful international weaving contacts I have on the Yahoo "WeaveTech" list and in the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers for help.

The response was superb, many helpful people contacted me with information and advice. In addition to finding a couple of experts, I was also advised to see the website of Anneliese Bläse (for those of us who don't know German, Google will do a reasonable translation). Recommended books were the one mentioned above, plus Bandweben (German) or Bandveven (original Dutch) by M. G. Van Der Schaaf (this can also be found in Spanish translation).

I learnt that patterned woven bands are a long standing tradition in all the countries that surround the Baltic Sea, except for Denmark.

By chance I came across another book that is a special publication about the narrow pattern bands woven in East Prussia.

Here are books I would recommend:

In alphabetical order:

Baltic - Style Patterns on the Inkle Loom, Anne Dixon, pub. by Anne Dixon, 1995, ISBN 1-899972-09-9
and by the same author / publisher:
Inkle Loom Weaving - the Basics and Design, ISBN 1-899972-08-0
Lettering on the Inkle Loom, ISBN 1-899972-00-5

Very good and inexpensive instruction books.

Bandweben, M.G. van der Schaaf-Broeze, pub. in German in 1976 by Hornemann Verlag, ISBN 3-87-384-201-7.

Lots of band patterns that you can read without knowing much more than names of colours.

Byways in Handweaving, Mary Meigs Atwater, first published Macmillan Company, New York, 1954 (other editions since, still in print).

Card weaving, inkles and the inkle loom, twined weaving, brading and knotting, plaiting, beltweaves, and in Miscellaneous "Scandinavian warp-faced weave".

Inkle Weaving, Lavinia Bradley, pub. in 1982 by Routledge Kegan and Paul Ltd., ISBN 0-415-05091-X

Excellent book on inkle weaving, possibly the best, and includes a chapter on pick-up designs, also lettering and Bolivian Pebble Weave

Ostpreußische Jostenbänder, Irene Burchert, pub. 2007, Husum Druck und Verlagsgellschaft, ISBN 978-3-89876-364-6

Specifically written to record and preserve the patterns and techniques of the narrow pick-up patterned Jostenbands woven in East Prussia, used as skirt and apron ties, an inexpensive and useful book, although written in German (I bought from

Weaving Bands, Liv Trotzig and Astrid Axelsson, pub. in English by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1974, ISBN 0-442-30032-8 (hardcover) and 0-442-30033-6 (paperback), first published in Swedish with the title "Band", by ICA Forlaget, 1972.

Includes: plain bands, patterned bands using pick-up, tablet woven bands, plaited bands, pillow bands, and over 40 pages of patterns.

I have also found it necessary to improve my knowledge of the German Language, so have invested in a dictionary and grammar book, and borrowed a CD lesson course from the local public library.

If any of my readers are particularly interested in having a go at weaving these bands, why not join the Online Guild for 2010 so you can participate in a workshop to be led by Sue Foulkes in November 2010 for learning to weave patterned bands Baltic style on a backstrap loom? Sue has been preparing for this workshop with a trip to Sweden to research the subject and has woven many bands to learn and practice the technique.

I am having to come back and edit this post to add the most wonderful resource of all, the editor of Swedish weaving magazine, Vav Magasinet, Tina Ignell, was able to find for me a copy of an article in Vav Magasinet 1984 / 4 where the Henning Band Loom is reviewed and instructions are given for weaving three bands. I heartily recommend Vav Magasinet!!

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Weavemaster loom

updated 14/04/2022 

I expect it is normal for new weavers to start with a simple loom, maybe a small second hand 4 shaft table loom, or a rigid heddle loom, just to get the idea of what weaving is and see if they like it. I started with an 8 shaft Toika floor loom, after a couple of years added a table loom to the collection (8 shaft Leclerc Voyageur) and now I have bought my first dinky little 2 shaft loom, a dear little vintage Weavemaster. Why? Because I wanted a truly portable loom that works like any shaft loom and can be used to explain weaving to people who have never seen handweaving before - and I meet many of them! A rigid heddle loom may be fun to weave on, but not as versatile as this little shaft loom. I also have the thought in mind of all those 2 shaft weaving possibilities I've never tried out, from saori weaving with interlocking weft to simple hand manipulated lace, and the many combinations of different thread types and colour & weave interactions. Somehow trying these has never been a priority on the 8 shaft floor loom! The Weavemaster loom has simple twisted steel wire heddles, set in steel frames. It has a choice of two positions for the beater & reed (see the slot on the side of the loom here, with two round rest points): There are simple levers on the side to lower the shafts (rest position for them is raised) sorry this photo has somehow got in upside down, just imagine you're leaning over the top of the loom from the other side and looking down from above... The front and rear cloth beams have a simple ratchet and pawl on one side, with a wooden knob on the other: The shed on this little loom is a good couple of inches, but as there is little space between the heddles and beater I shall probably carry on using the little stick shuttles it came to me with, although I can get a small Leclerc boat shuttle through without problem. It came with a "colour and weave" pattern set up and the weaving started, so for now I'm continuing with this. How small is this little loom? 17 1/2 inches (44 cm) total width, 15 1/2 inches (39.5 cm) front to back, 13 1/4 inches (33.5 cm) tall. It weighs 7 lb (3.17 kg).

EDITED 14th April 2022 to add the following in response to a query in the comments about how to fit extra heddles to a Weavemaster Loom

I don't have this loom anymore, so cannot inspect the shafts to see if they can be taken apart to put new wire heddles on the rods that carry them within the frame. However, I believe what I would do myself is fit string heddles. With this in mind, I recommend the following resources created by Andrew Kieran, who I knew as a fellow Weave Ring blogger, one of the links on the left is for his blog, Weave4fun Andrew studied Design for Textiles at Herriot-Watt University as a mature student and then worked for a while as a loom technician at the university, so he really knows and understands looms and weaving. (Hi Andrew! Maybe you will come across this, hope life is treating you well.)

Andrew created some excellent Youtube videos, and I recommend two in particular to Weavemaster owners. The first shows how to create string heddles. I've done this on my own loom when I found I needed an extra due to a threading error. Once you have located / sourced a suitable fine smooth yarn they are simple to make. The second is Weavemaster Loom Basics.