Building The PVC Loom


by David Holly

from the preface . . .

Why Build a PVC Loom?

Because, it’s economical, fast, and fun!  The secret is in using large diameter PVC tubes for the frame.  1¼” or 1½” diameter PVC provides a very strong, lightweight, and attractive frame.  All of the materials you need to build a PVC loom frame may be found at your local home center or hardware store.  You will also need to buy a reed and some heddles, which can be found in numerous weaving supply stores and web sites around the country,

Points to Consider:

For thousands of years, even before recorded history, people invented ways to weave cloth using only the materials available to them at the time.  For primitive cultures, this was often a sheep and a bunch of sticks, or even some weeds and a low hanging tree branch.  Primitive weavers had no measuring devices or precision tools to build their looms.  Yet they were able to produce many types of fine useable cloth.

If people can produce useable cloth on log and stick looms, just think of what you can do using modern materials.  We are very fortunate to have cheap building supplies available that are made to precision dimensions.  And, just like our distant ancestors, we can fashion a very usable loom from these “locally found objects.”  They just happen to be found in places like the Home Depot, Sears Hardware, and Lowes.

My reasons for designing the PVC Loom:

Years ago I decided that I wanted to weave.  But when I looked at the price of even the smallest table loom I was shocked.  Today, a new table loom with a 22” weaving width will cost anywhere from $300 to over $900 depending on the accessories and manufacturer.  At the other end of the price spectrum are the large floor looms for weaving wider width fabrics and rugs.  These looms can cost anywhere from $1,200 to over $6,000 new.  Even loom accessories are outrageously priced.  A “kit” to add 4 extra harnesses to one popular floor loom cost over $900 alone.  All that money for something a little more refined than logs and sticks!  I always thought that there was something not quite right about this pricing structure, and I finally figured it out.

Long ago, exactly when I’m not sure, loom manufacturers transformed the handloom into a piece of fine furniture.  (My theory is that this happened shortly after the time when hand weaving ceased to be a vocation and emerged as a craft.)  While there is nothing functionality wrong with furniture quality looms, they have created a true paradigm resulting in very high prices.  Most all handlooms today are made of hardwood and are constructed like fine furniture.  Fine hardwood furniture requires a lot of time.  People with the skills of a cabinetmaker are needed to dimension, join, shape, sand, stain, and finish the wood.  The looms produced are very usable and most are quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, for us, they are also quite expensive.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with such looms.  It is not my intent to bash any of the loom manufacturers out there, especially since they have helped to keep the craft of weaving alive all these years.  People working within a true paradigm, such as this, never even think of questioning the paradigm itself.  Just as no one would expect a bird to think of questioning the air in which it flies.  I just happen to come from outside this paradigm, so I started asking questions.

I think that many people would love to start weaving but can’t afford a loom plus all of the required accessories.  So, I determined that the real question is, “DO I HAVE TO BUY A PIECE OF FURNITURE IF I WANT TO WEAVE?”

Now, the answer is “no!”  I think that the loom is a tool, not something to be put on display.  Pride of ownership can be nice, but in my opinion, it is out of place in a craft such as weaving.  After all, the focus of any craft is not the tools, but the work produced using the tools.

For me personally, the high cost and fancy hardwoods had yet another drawback.  I considered purchasing one popular rug loom a few years ago.  It is made from mahogany and maple and costs over $5,000 brand new.  It’s a beautiful, fully functional weaving machine.  But, I think I would actually worry too much about dents and scratches to use it properly.  Maybe it’s just me, but I hate getting scratches and dents in a beautiful piece of wood, whether it happens to be part of a dinning room table, or a baby grand-sized floor loom.  I’d probably end up just polishing it once a week and showing it off to friends and relatives.  I think that looms should be used, not admired.

The bottom line:

Over the past 12 years I worked on alternative methods of creating an economical loom, and I finally came up with the PVC Loom.  There is nothing you can do on a wooden furniture-quality loom that you can’t do on the PVC Loom.  If it bothers you that the loom is made from PVC pipe, just remember that you never have to show your loom to anyone.  But, you may want to show everyone the beautiful textiles you create using your PVC Loom.

For me, using a tool like the PVC Loom puts the craft of weaving into proper perspective.  Producing cloth on a loom I built, using ordinary inexpensive materials, allows me to create something that (I think) is greater than the sum of its parts.  Using my PVC Loom allows me to focus on the act of weaving, not on the loom itself.  (Look at what some people can do with knitting needles and yarn.  You would be hard pressed to spend more than $20 on even the finest pair of knitting needles.)  And, if I scratch it, who cares?  All the parts for a PVC Loom, including reed and heddles, will probably cost you under $200; much less if you plan to scrounge around at garage and yard sales, or browse equipment on eBay.

Building and using a PVC Loom can give you an added sense of accomplishment.  There is economy and satisfaction to be found in building and using such a machine.  I hope that you find the information presented in this book to be clear, complete, and well written.  Have fun, and happy weaving!

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