Tapestry Loom ~ Archie Brennan Style
It seems like most of the tapestry weavers that I know have at least one loom made in the style of the loom that Archie Brennan designed. They seem perfectly portable, sturdy and easy enough to make. I have a number of looms, but the only looms I have for traditional tapestry are small and not all that sturdy. So I decided to have a look at the plans and see if I needed to add this to my ever growing collection.
First things first, a look at the plans. You can find Plans for the loom online. They’re free, the looms can be purchased from them or you can make it yourself. He asks that you don’t sell them, not too much to ask since he does hand out the plans for nothing. I see looms online all the time frequently titled, “The loom I designed”, Archie Brennan and Susan Maffei deserve the credit for their design. I prefer to use loom plans as an inspiration when I make a loom. They did the hard work, now I tweak, add and subtract (hopefully without negating usefulness) to my satisfaction, customizing it to my personal use. I decided that I liked the smaller loom to start with, but I wanted the heddle bar added since I’m accustomed to using heddles – my first adaptation. So I made my shopping list and checked it twice. Then left it at home of course…….
Off to the home improvement store, without my list of course. I had just come from the Tapestry Weavers Group where I saw a couple of the looms in use. I made another list from my head and plunged in. The plans called for 3/4″ copper tubing, 2 x 20″, 2 x 12″, 2 x 8″ long, plus what I needed for the heddle bar, the threaded bars, nuts and fittings. The first thing I realized was the weight. I lifted just the pipes and the thing weighted a ton. The more I looked at these pipes, the more I realized they were larger than the ones my friends had. I contacted one of the weavers and she confirmed that they went with a smaller size than Archie specified. So I put the 3/4″ back and got the 1/2″ instead. I chose to use an epoxy to lock the fittings together rather than use nuts and bolts. I didn’t want to mess up with the drilling, copper isn’t as cheap as it once was.
Thankfully I have the tool to cut pipes already. I marked all my pipes and cut them all out. Copper has a habit of obtaining a patina, so once I got them all cut, I sanded the ends to remove the burs from cutting and scrubbed the length of the pipe with a green scrubby and Ivory dish soap. I rinsed them well and let them dry completely. I did a “dry fit” to see how it would look and make sure that I had it right. The first thing I noticed right off the bat was the length. This loom is long, too long to be all that portable, and a lot longer than the ones the weavers I knew had. so I took the two 20″ pipes and cut 8″ off. If I make another loom, I’ll already have two pieces ready. I mixed a two part epoxy that jewelers use (I robbed my jewelry making supplies) and got to work joining the pieces. I used the handle of a cheap paintbrush both to mix the epoxy and to apply it to the inside of the fittings only. I completely assembled the loom and before the epoxy was set, I placed it all on a flat level surface and applied weight to everything I could to be certain that the loom would be straight and square. I left it alone until the next evening.
For all intents and purposes the loom is done and ready to be used. I have to make some more modifications. First, I don’t want to smell the copper when I’m weaving, second, the patina that forms on the copper will rub off on my hands, so I don’t want to get my hands all black and possibly stain my weaving. My cure for both of these is to decoupage the loom and seal it, along with a ruler tape for ease of warping. So I had to brave a trip to the craft store for some scrapbook papers, self adhesive measuring tape and sealer. Now I just have to decide if I want to cut or tear the paper and get to work on finishing this loom. I certainly hope that it looks good after its done or I’ll be the laughing stock of my local weaving guild.
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