I have an 8-shaft Mighty Wolf that I love and have no plans to replace, and then something else happened. I recently acquired a giant stash (nearly 100lb) of quilting fabric that has faded along its fold lines, perfect for rag runs. My Mighty Wolf, which so far has done everything I asked of it and more, is the wrong loom for rag rugs, so I need to supplant it. I am getting lots of conflicting advice about the sort of used loom I should be looking for. Some folks are adamant, and I mean adamant, that rag rugs can only be woven on counterbalance looms because of the need for high warp tension. Other folks (and that includes Janet Meany's wonderful book on rug weaving) suggest that either jack or counterbalance will work providing the loom itself is big and sturdy enough. I am not very tall and do not have loads of upper body strength, so I will need a loom with no more than a 45 inch weaving width and would really like a weighted beater. I am intrigued by counterbalance looms but my experience with the Mighty Wolf has left me very happy with jacks and easy tie-ups.
So I am asking this community of experts about your experiences and recommendations.
Thanks so much,
I'm afraid I have no experience with weaving rugs at this time and all my recent research does point to counterbalance looms being preferred for them. However, I have also seen the suggestion that a larger well built jack can still work, its a matter of tension. But I really want to thank you for stating that you really like your Mighty Wolf! Its one of the looms I am considering as I wade through tons of articles and websites trying to find a replacement for my first loom which has proven itself warped beyond repair. It is difficult to find actual looms to try out in person so thank you for your opinion.
Hi Agnes, I don't have any rug weaving experience either but I do have friends who weave tapestry rugs which require strong tension and they use jack looms. I don't know why your Mighty Wolf wouldn't work. My friends have gotten steel bars and bolted them to their beaters to increase the weight. There is a good reference to doing that in Peter Collingwood's Rug Weaving text--at least I think that's where it is... Also, you might consider trying rep weave with the cotton strips. Joanne Tallovic's Rep Weave and Beyond has a lot of great rugs etc made with cotton strips using 4-8 shafts. Post some pics when you've finished something....or even while you're working on it
I've been weaving 'rag' rugs on my 1964 Gilmore jack loom for a long time and I love it. I'm only 5'1" (and shrinking with age), not terrifically strong, and have almost no grip strength. It's not a problem! Gilmores are designed with rug weaving in mind.
Use the Force: Physics is your friend.
You need a sturdy loom. You need a way to help it resist 'walking'—mine is on a rug. Despite the fierce arguments of the adamants, a sturdy jack loom is just fine at providing the tension you need. Further, it's unnecessary to BEAT the picks in: I'm a squeezer and it works great. I suppose that adding weight to the beater would help, but I haven't bothered to do it. Also, I like to work while standing—it's one of the pleasures of being short.
Before you buy a new loom, make at least 3 rugs on your loom. You'll develop strategies that work for your body, and get good enough at making the rugs that you'll be able to tell whether you'd prefer a loom that works differently from yours.
Good Luck and Have Fun.
I have woven numerous rugs on a Macomber, which is technically a jack loom. The issues are tension and beating. The Mac B type is a big heavy loom with a big heavy beater. Besides requiring a beefy frame that can withstand the tension and the brakes to match, the tension and weight require more force to lift each set of shafts. Back hinged treadles and overhead jacks help with this, especially if the warp begins in the "low" position. Of course, if the shed sinks as well as rises as on a counter balance or countermarche, all the better. This is why there are only a few jack looms that can match the countermarche looms for rug weaving. If you're small, this is all the more important.
That said, I've seen some really nice krokbragd woven on a Baby Wolf out of rags. Weave structure also makes a significant difference.
Thank you all for your comments. Nothing will persuade me to give up my Mighty Wolf - it is a wonderful loom. But I also don't want to abuse it. I have my eye on a Nilart jack loom, the predecessor to the Nilus. It's big, all right, and has the option of a weighted beater as well, so I think it can manage my calico "rags" and I won't have to risk the joints of my Mighty Wolf. Lucky for me, I have plenty of space. Now I just need to find a few strong men to put that Nilart in the truck . . . .
Thank you again for all your comments!
The Nilart loom has a different name from the Nilus because it was the only Leclerc loom at the time (when it was new) which had the option of having more than 8 shafts. Many of the loom parts on the Nilus are the same as the Nilart. The Nilart center frame is bigger to hold the extra shafts.
Jason Collingwood made a video about rug weaving and included a section on modifying your jack loom. Here's the link:
I am a devoted Wolf loom owner (2). The issue is the X frame of the Wolf looms as well as the Jack part. A Jack loom with a square frame would be stronger than the folding frame of the Jack which under great tension might begin to fold up. I think that is the big issue with your Mighty Wolf.
I would suggest you give your loom a chance on the rag rugs! I have a Mighty Wolf and have made many rugs with great success. I even took a rag rug class at John Campbell Folk School and a Mighty Wolf was one of the looms for the class. Rag Rugs are great fun so give it a try!
What changes when a countershed rug loom is used on rag rugs is the firmess of the rug when on the floor. The looser tension on the lower shed common to all rising shed looms, is not conducive to the guitar string tension needed to have the rags "bite" into the warp so they stay in place and produce a rug so tight that no light shines through when held up to the light.
For a first try, pretty much any loom will give you an idea of materials and techniques needed. After that, to improve rug quality, if you need another loom, an old counterbalanced rug loom (Union, Newcomb, Orco, etc.) would be your best bet.
I have a Baby Wolf, which I would not use for rugs, not because it is too small or light weight (it is too light weight) but because it is constructed with carriage bolts. These depend on a square section of the bolt fitting into a square hole in the wooden frame for rigidity. When I tension the fine wool warp that is on the loom now, I can see the back beam shifting, and that means it's eventually going to round those square holes in the wood. The Mighty Wolf is constructed in the same way (the ones I have looked at are), and tightly tensioning a warp will do the same thing. I would suggest a square frame counterbalance loom with 2 or 4 harnesses. They're simple to tie up, and can be bought for a few hundred dollars.