Welcome to my studio! Today I thought I’d take you behind the scenes and introduce you to Maryam, the loom I’m using to weave my color samples. Maryam is a TC-2 jacquard loom that I bought a few months ago, used, from a weaver in New Mexico who got her about ten years ago but never really bonded with her. So she passed Maryam along to me. 

After a few months of off-and-on work, we got Maryam into full working order the day before yesterday. Here she is:

photo of Maryam, the loom I'm using to weave my color samples

Maryam is named after Maryam Mirzakhani, a brilliant mathematician and the first (and to date only) female Fields Medalist. (The Fields Medal is the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize.) She died tragically young in 2017, at 40, of breast cancer.

I name my looms after female mathematicians because I was uber-passionate about mathematics all through high school and college, and I feel women in mathematics haven’t gotten as much press as they should have. So I name all my looms after female mathematicians. One of my little quirks!

(Now I’m curious…do you name your loom? And if so, what is its name?)

Maryam, like other jacquard looms, is powerful but finicky. Unlike shaft looms, jacquard looms let you control every thread individually. In Maryam’s case, it’s like having 880 shafts at your disposal, threaded up straight draw. You can weave pretty much anything that is structurally possible, including pictures. It’s fantastic power….if it’s working.

Therein lies the rub. Jacquard looms are complicated, and because Maryam’s manufacturer is in Norway, the time difference means it often takes an entire day to get a question answered. So between the repairs and upgrades (and shipping parts from Norway), it took three or four months for us to get Maryam up and running properly.

So naturally, as soon as we got her working, I celebrated by going on a four-hour weaving binge. (I mean, who wouldn’t? Let she who has never said, “Ah, screw the to-do list, I’m going to spend the rest of the day weaving,” cast the first stone.) I had put a fourteen-yard warp on, and planned for an elaborate set of color samples in different weave structures, but after falling in love with the patterning in the first structure, I threw my plans to the wind and wove four color samples with different shades of turquoise. Here they are:

photo of four samples using turquoise wefts

These are wonderful because they illustrate perfectly something I’ve been talking about for awhile: the importance of value in determining whether or not your pattern shows. These wefts are all the same hue – turquoise – but their values (darkness) are very different. The dark weft is almost identical in darkness to the warp, and the pattern disappears.

The bright turquoise (second from right) is very saturated, so it stands out a little better from the red, but because it’s also similar in darkness to the warp, the pattern is still muddled-looking.

It isn’t until you get to the light turquoise (second from the left) that there is enough value contrast for the pattern to become clearer, and it isn’t until you reach the pale blue-gray on the far left that there is enough value contrast for the pattern to become crisp and clear.

Look at the photo in black and white and this all becomes perfectly clear:

photo of the same four samples in black and white

Neat, eh? It will be a nice example photo to put into one of my courses.

Anyway, I put a fourteen-yard warp onto Maryam, in various different colors, which should be plenty to get a feel for what she can do.

The advantage of a jacquard loom is that you don’t have to rethread it in order to experiment with different drafts – because each thread is controlled individually, you can weave any structure you like on the same warp. So I can weave overshot, twill, satin, double weave…all on the same warp, without rethreading. It makes creating color samples much, much faster.

But there are some complexities to designing the samples, so I’m using this warp as an opportunity to explore what Maryam and I can do together. I figure it’s better to figure that out without pressure to get something specific done. There’s exploring the unknown, and there’s serious, focused, deadline-based work. Explosions can happen when you try to do both at once.

After this exploratory warp is done, I’ll have to decide what types of samples I want to weave next.

Which also means deciding what color classes to start developing next.

What would YOU like to learn?

Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.

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  1. I have always felt that our tools become part of us, so I name my looms after their former owners.
    So Wendy, Michelle, Joanne and Betty now live and work at my house. I understand there are a few Verla’s out there too since I have turned a few looms loose to new homes over the years to students who have carried on my naming tradition.

    1. What a wonderful idea, Verla! A tradition that honors the previous owner of the loom. May Wendy, Michelle, Joanne, and Betty (not to mention all the Verlas!) live long, happy lives!

    1. I painted it! Not the usual painted warp, but 3 yards of one color, 2 yards of another, and so forth.

      It’s actually a little more complicated than that. It’s two painted warps, alternating colors, as if for double weave. That lets me weave two layers at once – so two layers of solid color, or two layers of striped cloth, or one layer of double weave blocks, or quite a few other things. Kind of mind-bending but lets me weave a lot of different samples on the same warp.

      1. So did you “paint” the warps using knitting blanks as discussed in a previous post on design?

        As an advancing beginning weaver I find all of your posts very informative. Thanks for taking the time to answer all of the questions.

        1. Hi Mary,

          No, I just stretched it out and painted it the “usual” way. Knitted blanks are great when you need precise control over color changes, but are too much trouble when you’re doing long runs of color. Since I was doing 12-foot runs of the same color, there wasn’t any need to do a knitted blank. I did tie off the warp tightly between colors, though, to keep the colors from running into each other. I also blotted the warp slightly dry as I went so there wouldn’t be excess dye to run along the length of the warp – that reduces wicking of colors. For some warps you want the colors to run and blend together, but for this one I didn’t. Hope that helps!

          And I’m glad you’re finding the blog posts helpful!

  2. Thanks so much for discussing color value again. The trick with the black and white photo has been so helpful.

    I don’t normally name my looms. My looms and I bond by touch. I love the feel of the wood under my hand

    1. You’re welcome, Kathy! Value is the most useful of color concepts to me. If I could teach only one color tool it would be the black and white photo.

      And what a lovely way of putting it…bonding by touch. My looms are pretty industrial-looking, but I love the feel of the beater under my hand as well. There’s nothing quite like it.

  3. I thought it was interesting that the turquoise second from the right, when shown in black and white, really seems to be the same value as the warp, yet in color I feel like it shows up fine against the warp and I actually like it the best of the four examples.

  4. That’s a great example of colour value. I only have a Rigid Heddle Loom and she is Mary (after Mary Lyon, a female geneticist who discovered my area of study).

    1. Hi Anita,

      There are no treadles on a jacquard loom! Maryam works using a vacuum pump – press the button on the beater and a vacuum pump literally sucks up the threads that are supposed to lift for that pick!

  5. I have a new 8 shaft Leclerc and would love to do a weave-along with you, where you give us a draft and the basic contrast we should try to create. Then through a log like this, we share our journey with you and everyone else weaving along. This way, you coach us to help learn through trying, while also learning and seeing everyone else’s projects.

    Love your style, tone, and enthusiasm!

    1. Oh, that’s a great idea! I’ll have to think about how best to do a weave-along. The challenge is picking where to hold the weave-along – I’ll have to think about that! Probably Facebook or Ravelry.

  6. I second Judy’s comment above about iridescence! I have been thinking about how to get that.

    I’d also love to learn how to do a gradient warp where you transition from one colour to the next in a warp but with a smooth transition. I have tried using Fibonacci and that is OK but you see lines in the colour as you change – is there a way to get a gradual and smooth colour change in the warp?

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! Yes, there are ways to get smooth color gradients – though it is easier with some colors than others. I will add that to my list! Thank you!

  7. This came at the perfect time. I had been thinking about one of these looms the other day. For me they were brand new when I learned about them at 2018 Convergence. Why was I thinking about them? Because I was struggling with my 12S that seems to change personality each time I sit down with it. That made my mind wander to other options.

    The value samples definitely show the point, along with the black and white photo.

    Personally I don’t name my looms. Friends often can’t remember the names of my two cats. How on earth would they manage with loom names.

    I do have a friend that names her cars and I think that is fun.

    1. I LOVE my jacquard looms. Absolutely LOVE them. That said, they are super powerful but not at all simple to use. I had to basically relearn how to design in order to use them. If you’re seriously considering one and want more details, feel free to email me – I’m happy to talk your ear off about them!

  8. thanks for this. very timely, as winter here is wearing on, though the light is coming back and staying longer around the 45th latitude N.

    i have never had such a fancy loom as the beautiful maryann, and i love that you will get to know the ways of it. i called my glimakra upright tapestry loom ‘regina’ after it’s model name, but pronounce it with a long i in the middle, as in canada or england. the others i have known by their makers’names, as in studio art, or purrinton. the first one i ever had with four harnesses was an altered scandinavian one i found in pieces in the basement of a craft shop in new hampshire in 1967 and how i wish i’d named it. i know it is ‘her’ and i still use her; it’s as if i know her so well i’m embarrassed to ask her now.

    lately i am working on a lot of versions of inkle-like looms mostly named after the people who helped me make them. thank you for the opportunity to think about this. even though i’m not designing wide warps any more, i find your ideas about combining different hues, values, and sizes of warp so useful, can’t thank you enough.

  9. I am so “admirative” of your posts ! and I am so far from your techniques, but that helps, even from my b-a-ba. So much to learn before, but precious informations to stock.

  10. I’m not a weaver either but I love your work and I am so glad you named this loom after a female mathematician as women don’t get enough recognition in that field. I’m learning to spin but I love to see the work you produce and I’m in awe of your work…

  11. Marvelous loom! What software do you use for design? What’s the max weaving width?

    I just read and throughly enjoyed most of your India travel blogs. Given your exposure to that culture and deep understanding of hand crafts, do you have any conflicting feelings about buying and using an automated loom? I ask because I’ve considered buying one but have an inchoate feeling that I’d be sliding toward industrial production.

    1. Hi Pat,

      Great questions!

      I don’t have any conflicting feelings at all about using a computer controlled loom. To me, a loom is a tool, and there’s nothing wrong with picking a tool that allows you to weave what you want and enjoy the process of weaving more. A shaft loom is more complex/”industrial” technology than a backstrap loom, in that it allows the weaver to weave faster, more efficiently, and more accurately, yet few weavers would think twice about using a shaft loom, because they want to produce fabric at a pace that’s faster than a backstrap loom allows and they enjoy the process of weaving on a shaft loom more than they would a backstrap loom. Similarly, I feel that if a computer controlled loom allows you to do more of what you want, why not get one? For me, the design possibilities that a dobby loom (or a jacquard) opens up are tremendous and having the computer handle the hassle of remembering which treadle comes next is a huge boon in that it allows me to weave faster and more accurately, just as a shaft loom allows a weaver to pick out threads faster and more accurately than a weaver weaving on a backstrap loom. In both cases the weaver is still doing the weaving, it’s simply that the tool does more of the mechanical part, leaving the weaver free to focus on other things. The computer-driven looms also free up huge design potential.

      For me, the part of the weaving process that I most enjoy is the design process – working out complex designs and then weaving them. I like computer-driven looms because they open up the possibility for much more complex and interesting designs than I could achieve on a treadle loom. They also make my weaving process less error-prone, which I find more enjoyable. To me, they feel like they enhance my joy in weaving, so I use them. Other weavers feel differently, and they prefer to weave on treadle looms. But in either case, I think you should weave on what brings you joy, and not worry about whether it’s industrial production or a traditional method of weaving.

      (By the way, the looms are not actually automated – I’m still the one designing, and I still have to do the actual weaving. The computer raises the threads, but I’m the one throwing the shuttle.)

      1. I love this reply! One of the things I've most enjoyed most about your course instruction is the focus on the weaver finding joy in what they are doing, whether it's the colors selected, the patterning, the tools, etc. Your attention to joy in the process of whatever it is seems to be an over-riding theme in your work, and certainly your teaching. Of all the skills and techniques I continue to learn, whether in class or from your blog posts, this is one that I find most helpful in keeping me moving forward.

  12. I almost emailed you a few weeks ago because I was having problems with drafting in crackle and saw where you were having the same problem some time ago in a different blog. But I think I’ve got it now!!

    I took a workshop from Lisa Hill a couple of years ago in deflected double weave. In explaining values in colors she suggested taking a black and white photo of the colors you want to use and adjusted them until you get the colors you want and in the right order. I use that technique now every time I am designing and it’s saved me a lot of heartbreak! I’m a very visual person.

    1. Black and white photos are the best design tool ever! How did we ever get by before the development of the digital camera/smartphone?? 🙂

  13. I named my looms, and spinning wheels, after the characters who have made a profound impact on my life. For example ‘Olive’ for Olive Prunier my dearest friend that turned 100 yo in November 2019 and has in the past 20 years taught me more about use of colors in quilting and in gardening than my forty five years of experience ever could, ‘Sal’ for Allison Spitz who was from New Zealand and Olive’s dear friend and who had a most fascinating life story which affected me profoundly, ‘Temple’ for Temple Grandin who has supported and pioneered immense progress in advancing animal rights (a topic near and dear to my heart) and finally ‘Shrek’ my vintage 1909 Eureka rug loom which I decided while being a monster of a loom is a very Nice monster.

    1. Hi Kim! How wonderful to hear about all your loom names! Sitting down to weave must be like sitting down with a group of friendly, powerful women. What amazing energy those names must invoke for you!

  14. Love your color examples. I run the Bateman study group for CW and had made purple and glittler samples of a 12S Bateman twill and had gone to great trouble to work out a particular motif: the samples where fun but they did not show off the motif at all! Warp and weft color values too close. I found some awesome lavender tencel and the result is a stunning tunic with the pattern as clear as a bell.

    I haven’t actually named my looms, but I call my 8S Harrisville my Ford and my 12S Firesided my Cadillac. My trusty 8S table loom is my Honda Motorcycle! For those of you out there who love using weaving software, consider naming any computer loom after Admiral Grace Hopper!

    1. Hi Meg! Great to hear from you! And wonderful to hear about your samples and tunic. Value at work again!

      Funny you should mention Grace Hopper! My other TC-2 (how strange to be saying that – I never thought I’d be able to own even one of them and now I have TWO!) – is named Amazing Grace, after Admiral Grace Hopper, both because that was Grace Hopper’s nickname and because the jacquard loom was the first computer.

  15. My Schacht Mighty Wolf loom is Olive and she is named after adear friend who has reached 101 years old. My Wolf Pup is named Olivia after a sweet little Whippet dog.

    1. Wow, 101 years old! I wonder if your friend Olive is the same as Kim’s friend Olive Prunier in a previous comment? If so, small world!!

  16. We have five looms, and they all have names. A baby wolf from Schacht is a Jack loom so we call it Jack. Lilla is a 1 meter counter marsh from Oxabåck. Meg is our 32 shaft Megado from Louët. We have a 8 shaft table loom from Ashford that we call Rex (we wanted a boy). Most recently, Ulla is a 1.6 meter Oxabåck that has a draw loom.

    Have you given more thought to producing a class on ”The importance of Value” that could be web cast at a Guild meeting? Increasing your exposure at the grass root of weaving would allow more of your target audience to see what you have to offer, and could encourage them to take other classes.

    1. Hi Robert! Great to see you again! And I love your loom names.

      I’m still thinking about the lecture course. I’m not sure I’m going to start with value but I do think I will produce a lecture course eventually. I’m giving two talks at Complex Weavers this year and may wind up using them as the basis for a recordable lecture for guilds, webinars, etc. So yes, I am definitely thinking about it!

      Are you going to Complex Weavers Seminars this year? If you aren’t, you should! Your analytical mind would LOVE it!

  17. Tien,
    Love the reason behind the name Maryann! I thought naming the loom was a cultural tradition from the scandinavian countries. I name the loom after the previous owner. I only have one new loom it’s a Saffron from Mirrix for sampling tapestry lessons.
    All the best,

  18. Wow! Were you going to demo at Convergence? Hope we can meet in 2022 at TN conference..

    Thanks for sharing your time and talents.

    a retired art teacher who is spinning, weaving, dyeing and knitting still at 74. (started in college in 1964.)

    Gardening and the fiber arts are keeping me sane in these difficult times.

  19. We’ve been exploring the work of Ada Dietz at The Little Loomhouse in Louisville, Kentucky. Master Weaver Lou Tate worked with Dietz to publish her monograph Algebraic Expressions in Handwoven Textiles in 1949. Math and musical scores are just some ways to explore weaving designs. Adding in the multiple ways color can enhance those designs is an exciting option of exploration, too!

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