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Thousands of North Americans enjoy the ancient craft of weaving. In fact, the journal Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot is distributed to about 10,000 members every three months. It seems the future for weaving is looming large.

Basically, anything woven can be made on a loom at home. This includes tapestries, blankets, towels, curtains, place mats, scarves, and clothing -- even fine silk garments! All it takes is a loom, some thread, yarn or strips of rags, and time.

Weaving is for people "who want to do something sort of artistic and yet useful," says Bill Koepp, a weaver in California. "People love it if you give them a hand-woven article."

Koepp has been weaving as a hobby since 1976. He also gives advice to other weavers on the Internet. About 1,600 weavers belong to one of the lists of which he's a part of. Koepp suspects weaving is growing in popularity.

"I think it's becoming more popular, but it's too early to tell," Koepp says. "The signs are that it's getting more and more popular with people because they're getting more and more tired of all this mechanized [stuff]."

Koepp says the popularity of weaving goes in cycles. It was very popular in the 1940s and again in the 1960s and 1970s. Recently, its popularity has started to grow again.

Weaver Joanne Hall has noticed the same cycles, but is unsure what causes them. "I think it goes in waves," she says. "It could be tied to wartime or economics, but I don't know."

Hall teaches weaving at her studio in Montana. She offers one main reason people like to weave: "It's just a lot of fun."

There are three basic kinds of looms: floor looms, table looms, and tapestry looms. Floor looms and table looms do exactly the same thing, but the table loom is smaller. Tapestry looms are slow and intricate. Weavers of highly detailed Navajo rugs use them, for example.

Getting Started

The one downside to the hobby is that looms can be expensive. Many cost $2,000 or more. A good option is to buy a used one for between $100 and $400. An even better option might be to take a course that supplies a loom.

Christine Loff teaches a 10-week weaving course. "Where I teach, everything's supplied," she says. "So you need nothing except to bring yourself there, which I think is good because then people can try it out and see if they like it before they go and lay out for a loom."

It's possible to make your own loom if you're handy with wood. That's what Koepp, who's a carpenter by trade, did. It took him three weeks to build a floor loom that he and his wife still use.

Loff, who is also a representative for a weaving guild, says a wide variety of people are attracted to weaving. More than 400 people belong to the guild.

"The people in my classes have ranged all the way from teenagers to a man of 90," she says. "It's a recreational activity mainly, in our culture. People are looking for something relaxing. They're looking to produce useful things for their house."

Besides the cost of a loom, a weaver needs to buy thread, wool, or strips of rags. The cost can add up, with a wool rug costing about $50 to $80 per square foot.

The cheapest method is to use old shirts and jeans. Then, you can make a rug for $10 to $15 per square foot. Six inches an hour is a typical speed on a floor or table loom, and three inches an hour is the norm on a tapestry loom.

Weaving is something virtually anyone can do. It doesn't require mobility or heavy lifting. It just takes a few months of practice before threading the loom and throwing the shuttle become second nature.

"A lot of people do it who are so beaten up by arthritis they can hardly move," says Koepp. "There are no restrictions that way."

Most weavers give their creations away to family and friends. A few attend craft fairs where they sell their wares. A very small number make a living selling their woven products, usually in addition to teaching weaving.

Hall is one of the select few who makes a living weaving. She sells tapestries to museums and teaches weaving at her studio.

"It's just like with any other artist -- many of us become teachers in order to do that, because it's kind of an insecure way to make a living, because you're constantly having to market and sell your work."

To find out more about weaving, contact your local weaving guild. Most guilds offer courses for beginners, with all equipment supplied.

So, if you like to make useful things and want a relaxing, creative, and fun hobby, maybe weaving is for you. Try it out and see if you catch the weaving bug.


Handweavers Guild of America, Inc.
Two Executive Concourse, Ste. 201
3327 Duluth Hwy
Duluth , GA   30096-3301


Association of Northwest Weavers' Guilds
Collection of useful resources and event listings for weavers located in the northwest U.S. and western Canada

Ruthe's Collection of Weaving Resources
Advice from a hobbyist weaver and information on weaving supplies

Rug Weavers' Workshop
Weaving tips and tricks, a gallery of photos, and more
Weaving draft and pattern archive with over 30,000 historic drafts for weavers

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