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Split decision

I did what I planned, and wove the exact same pattern, exact same fiber, exact same sett on both the Varpapuu & the Macomber to determine which loom I would keep and which I would sell.

handwoven rayon pinwheels scarves
Here’s what I learned — I still don’t know.

Each loom had a warp long enough for two scarves. First I wove scarf #1 on the Varpa. It was fine. I was sure I’d like it better than the Mac. Instead of weaving both on the Varpa & then both on the Mac, I thought it would be best if I did one scarf on each. So I went to the Mac for scarf #1 there.

What?! I was shocked that I thought I liked weaving on the Mac better! That was so not what I was expecting; I had sort of set the Mac up to fail, but it didn’t. What the heck did that mean?

So I went back to the Varpa for scarf #2 there. Again, I liked it. Each loom has its pluses & minuses. Maybe I should identify what I like and dislike about each.
Varpa pluses

  • I love the way the brake works
  • I like that I can expand it to 12 harnesses with minimal cost
  • The loom itself is a thing of beauty
  • I love how quiet it is when I’m weaving
  • I like the knee beam

Varpa minuses

  • I don’t like the fact that it takes up an entire room; I thought I’d want a loom that could weave 48″, but since having one in the house, decided it’s not important to me
  • Because it’s so wide, I can’t really reach the brake and set the tension while I’m seated; I have to get up every time
  • While I don’t mind the weight of the beater as I’m weaving (much heavier than the beater on my Mac or my counterbalance) I wonder about the long term impact on my back, shoulders, neck, and arms
  • I don’t like the fact that it only has 8 treadles; yes, I could have 2 more made by a woodworker, but that’s an additional expense.  Plus, if I want to expand to 12 harnesses I’d want 14 treadles, and I don’t know that there’s room for that in the loom construction
  • I don’t like the ‘floating’ treadles, nor how little space there is between them; yes, I could have a treadle gate made, but again, that’s an additional expense
  • I timed it – it took me 45 minutes to do the tie up; that’s a long time for each setup

Mac pluses

  • I like the foot rest bar – it’s a brilliant design feature
  • I like the amount of space between the treadles – it’s easy to find the correct one
  • I like that I could expand it to 10 harnesses & 12 treadles if I want to
  • I like that the tieup is quick – just under 15 minutes
  • I like that it fits in my space well – a fairly small footprint for its capacity
  • I like the fact that I can release the brake and set the tension from my seat

Mac minuses

  • I don’t like how noisy it is
  • I don’t like the fact that sometimes the harnesses stick in the up position, or that the treadle clips sometimes pop off
  • I wish it could weave to 36″ wide instead of its 32″ capacity
  • Biggest minus of all – the Mac has a habit of separating my weft as it goes over the breast beam.  I had thought it was me, that there was something I was doing wrong – particularly that I was leaning against the finished fabric as it was on the breast beam causing the problem.  This time I paid particular attention, and made certain I didn’t do that.  But the problem occurred anyway.  Yet only on the Mac, not the Varpa, so it is obviously a Mac problem.
Here’s a shot of the fabric before it goes over the breast beam…

pinwheels over Mac breast beam

…and here’s what it looks like after it passes over the breast beam. Note the red lines, pointing to where it has separated or crammed that weft.
pinwheels under the Mac breast beam

Fortunately those problems came out in the wet finishing – this time; they haven’t always.  Ultimately, if I can’t weave the kind of cloth I want to on the Mac, the decision is made, regardless of its other positive attributes.

So I went to Weavolution & asked if others had had this problem on a Mac, & if so, how they resolved it. I got some great answers, and I’m working on implementation. After I get done I’ll try another warp of two rayon scarves sett at 18 end per inch and see if it the problem is gone. If so, I believe I’ll sell the Varpa. If not, there’s one more fix to try before I say goodbye to the Mac.

Unfortunately, I have to work quickly to make this decision. My dining room table is out on the porch under a tarp to make room for the Varpa. That’s fine until the snow flies, which will come before I want it to. So, much as I’d like to really take my time and be certain, in addition to not being pressured while I’m preparing for shows, I don’t have the luxury of time.

3 comments to Split decision

  • Don’t you have 2 empty bedrooms and a whole basement? And a garage and a barn? Put the table in one of those places and take your time to decide on the looms. Or keep them both and put one upstairs. In Jumbo’s room, obviously.

    • Peg Cherre

      The bedrooms are upstairs (too much to carry) and dark. The basement is the 3 Ds: damp, dark, and depressing. Plus, I no longer believe in filling my home with things I don’t need and have no emotional attachment to. Nope, I’m going to make a decision. In fact I have. I’m not letting on which way I’ve gone till the next post. ;^)

      But why don’t you have any bookmark orders?

  • […] pinwheels. They were both less of a pain to weave and less delightful as finished products than the 8 harness pinwheels. Then again, maybe they would have been more striking if I’d used black & white instead […]

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