Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Tapestry Looms

The tapestry I am working on the Mirrix is for Pacific Portals exhibit; ATA's unjuried small format show in Long Beach.  Entry form is due by January 15th - done.  Now all I have to do is weave the tapestry before March 15th. I also just finished a tapestry on my other tapestry loom which is a Shannock.  So how about some thoughts on the pros and cons of each?

Warped Shannock behind naked Mirrix
So I now own both a Mirrix and a Shannock table loom.  My Shannock table loom was my first tapestry loom I ever bought; liked it so much I bought a six foot model.  It is and has been my workhorse since 2004.  I don't think Shannock table looms are being made anymore. Just recently most in my tapestry group bought new Mirrix looms so now I also have the Zach 22". Having woven with both; I like them both.  No returning either of them!  But there are differences.

From a warping standpoint I prefer the Shannock.  It is way faster to warp.  Just wrap the warp around the top and bottom beams.  No changing directions going back and forth around a bar.  Tapestry is such a slow medium why add additional time to the process?  With the Shannock I am up and weaving faster due to less winding time, less warp and fewer heddles.

Less warp:  If I am only going to do one small format tapestry; the Shannock will use less warp.   At 8 ends per inch - no big deal.  At 14 ends per inch - a bigger deal but not a deal breaker.   If I am going to weave more than one piece on the loom; I can pull the warp around the Mirrix and use the warp on the back of the loom for a second piece.  Of course, that first tapestry must stay on the loom until the second is complete.  I have never done that before; but the option is available.

The Mirrix says its maximum tapestry is 40 inches; which is quite attractive. The longest I have done on my Shannock is 24 inches and that was pretty tough.

Fewer Heddles: I have always used heddles; I find tapestry becomes excruciatingly slow without them.   I only have so much patience and my lifetime limited and filled with choices...
The Shannock uses large inexpensive paperclips as heddles easily available at Staples or similar store.  The loom is designed so that you attach one heddle to every other warp end.

The Mirrix uses these Texslov pieces, ordered from a weaving store in sets of 100.  Of course, I could also have made them myself...but no, no, no.   I bought 100 with my loom, turns out I needed more since when I ordered it I did not realize I needed a heddle for each and every warp end..  Cutting all 200 of them was a chore, but now all are cut so no more hassles there.

The heddles were easy to attach on both looms.  I just had to attach twice as many on the Mirrix.    The heddles on both looms work well. When weaving each provides an adequate shed.  Each has a different hand motion to switch the shed; but its easy and after a couple of times; I didn't have to stop and look.

The Virgin Tapestry on my Mirrix
I am still on my first tapestry, but so far, I find weaving on the Mirrix better in three respects;

1. The paperclips heddles on the Shannock often get caught at a narrow warp; particularly if they are bent out of shape in any way.  The Mirrix heddles don't do that.

2. The Mirrix feels more substantial.   The difference is like the difference between driving a brand new Porsche vs. driving an old Dodge Colt.  Both get you there; but the ride is way different.  The Mirrix's wide feet provide excellent stability vs. the ones on the Shannock.   [I should look into getting new feet for the Shannock.]

3. The most troubling aspect of the Shannock for me is the fact the side bars are not exactly perpendicular to the ground.  They angle in slightly; making it harder to see if the edges are straight on a longer tapestry.

Here is the big issue for me with the Mirrix...

Weaving a Portrait on the Shannock
I weave from the back and like to check out my tapestry to see how things are going.  Those back warps on the Mirrix; particularly at narrow warps provide quite a screen; making it difficult to see through.  I end up spacing out the warp and peeking through. 

As I have been become a more experienced weaver; I have been checking much less.  There are situations where checking is important. When I weave an image; like an expression on a small face, the placement of a particular dot of color is critical; it will make or break the tapestry.  When confronting one of those situations on the Shannock I would just flip the loom around and weave that dot exactly where I wanted it.   That's is not an option on the Mirrix.

 It will be interesting to see how I do with this new loom when I get to that point on my latest tapestry.  This small tapestry has three small faces; each with a unique expression.

More later.


Merna said...

Excellent post, Diva!

You really nailed the pros and cons of those looms. One advantage of the Shannock was it's cost, much less than the comparable Mirrix at the time, irrelevant now that the Shannock isn't available. And another pro for the sturdy Mirrix is its lighter weight for taking on the road.

Rebecca Mezoff said...

I also like the Mirrix and have the same opinions about it. I also weave from the back and wish I could see the piece somehow easier--but we'd lose that 40 inch weaving length if it was warped another way.