When I bought my Toika loom in 2006 in the last year of my weaving certificate course, it was advertised as having a a draw loom attachment. Sure enough it had 4 levers along the front of the castle and a couple of brackets on either side, just one lever and one bracket shown here.
A couple of years ago there was an article in VÄV (1/2013) about the reproduction of an old Gotland textile. The author thought that it would have required 32 shafts but looms like that were not available when it was made. She worked out that it had been made with a double harness loom with 4 ground shafts in front and 4 pattern shafts behind. After re-reading the article a few times, I realised that this was the set up I had but didn’t get around to doing anything with it. Then a weaving friend gave me a small bundle of what looked like tangled strings but on closer inspection turned out to be long eyed and long heddles – just what I needed to turn my loom into a double harness loom but still I didn’t feel ready to try it out.
A few weeks ago there was discussion of double harness weaving on Facebook and just after that Weavolution started their annual Halloweave challenge where weavers are encouraged to do something different with their weaving during October. It might be to weave every day, try a new technique or just to try something they have been putting off for far too long. So I joined the Polo House – the Halloweave house just for weavers who, like Marco Polo, wanted to explore something new and I plunged in. As I was not really sure how it would all turn out, I made a warp narrow enough to use just the heddles I had and used yarn that could be discarded without too much regret if it all turned into an unworkable tangle.
It turned out to be not nearly as difficult as I had expected. The setting up was complicated especially for the first time but I expect it will become easier with time and the weaving itself was very straightforward with plenty of opportunity for spontaneous exploration. I’d liken it to setting up a warp with a very complicated stripe pattern – once that’s done, the weaving is easy. I’ve written about it in much more detail on Weavolution as louiseinoz here and here.
I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to explore double harness weaving further. A proper draw loom isn’t even on the horizon at the moment but I know that with the set up I have, there are lots of other things I can do. At the weekend I found a 4 shaft overshot pattern to use as a profile draft, made a couple of jigs to make more of the special heddles, made the heddles and wound a warp, burgundy 8/2 tencel, as I wanted to try something finer and wider, hence the need for more heddles.
It must be Spring in Melbourne as I've started weaving in the garage again and for even more proof, here's my clematis in full bloom