A loom – if taken care of properly – will outlive you.
I remember the first time that I heard that and realized that it was true.
Think about it.
There are historic looms that still work and are used every day. I took a tour of Tessitura Bevilaqua in Venice, Italy in May 2018 and I got to walk through the rows of historic jacquard looms from the 18th century that is still being used today to create yards of exquisite velvets. (Learn more about velvets and other pile weaves)
I digress a little, but it really is quite astonishing seeing these looms still working and being used.
That being said, these looms did not just survive all on their own. Instead, they are lovingly tended to and taken care of.
For the most part, I am talking about maintenance of your floor loom, but some of the principles can also apply to table looms, rigid heddle looms, and possibly even frame looms.
Just think about your loom being passed down in your family for centuries, let’s make that happen!
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Humidity and your loom
Humidity is the enemy of your loom.
Since your loom is mostly made from wood, a lot of humidity can and will warp your loom.
I have seen it happen and dealing with a warped harness on your loom is frustrating, to say the least.
Depending on the style loom you have this can make it so your harnesses stick and do not open and close your shed smoothly. This makes it so your weaving flow is disrupted and you have to manually fix your harnesses before moving on.
Then you have to do it again.
… and again.
A loom with fully wooden harnesses and tracks will be the most prone to issues like this, but any loom will suffer from humidity.
If at all possible you want to make sure that your studio is in a place with adequate air conditioning to keep this from happening. A dehumidifier might also be a good investment if you do not have access to an area like this or you live in a place where you want to keep your windows open often and humidity can sneak in.
Unfortunately, rust will rub off of your loom and onto your yarn.
I do not think I need to tell you that you do not want that.
If your loom parts start to get rusty or you have bought a previously used loom that has rust on it then you should clean this off before starting to weave on it.
While you can use a dedicated rust remover to do this, you can also use straight white vinegar and either sandpaper or steel wool. Either way, make sure to do it outside and I recommend doing it in an area where you do not have grass you are trying to grow! The image above shows moss, but I assure you no moss was harmed.
I also recommend wearing gloves while doing this. I worked on my loom parts over multiple days and the first day I did not wear gloves. My nails were not happy.
How to get rid of rust on your loom
First, separate the rusted metal from your loom if you can – detach rods, set aside your reed, or remove ratchets if possible. One option would be to soak these pieces in vinegar by submerging them completely and letting them sit. You would then need to either rub off the rust or use something abrasive to scrub it off. You then need to dry it off as soon as possible so it does not rust again.
This can work depending on what parts of your loom you are working on.
It may not be necessary to soak your metal pieces though and you may be able to just get away with scrubbing them with vinegar. This works really well for pieces like your loom rods that are smooth. Dip your steel wool in white vinegar and scrub! Just like above, make sure to wipe down and dry all the metal so it does not re-rust. The best thing to do is to dry as you go.
For your loom reed, it can be more difficult and time-consuming. Since the reed has many dents in it that will probably have rust on every side, you will need to spend more time working on each dent individually.
It can be tempting to try to just scrub it all together but trust me, it does not work that well. The steel wool does not get into the dents well enough to scrub the rust off of the middle of each metal bar. You may get a good amount off of each side, but you will still have to go back and individually work on each dent.
I have found that using 600 grit sandpaper and dipping it in white vinegar works well to work on each dent. The most important thing to remember, though, is to dry each dent off after you have finished scrubbing it.
I know that this is the third time I have said that, but it is important. Ask me how I know…
Since rust is caused by the mixture of oxygen and water on metal, the longer the metal stays wet, the more likely it is to redevelop rust. Keeping a rag or paper towel nearby to wipe down as you go will make things a lot easier.
Once you are completely finished you should seal your metal to keep it free from rust in the future. You can do this by using any machine/ metal oil that you can find. I used sewing machine oil because I knew it would be safe for my yarn even after it dried.
If you do not mind using an aerosol then you can also use wd-40 silicone spray, just remember that it is flammable and to dispose of any rags properly. The spray will be simpler than oiling your reed manually, so just choose the option that is right for you.
If your reed had tape on it at the top and bottom that comes off, then you can re-wrap it with either duct tape or cloth tape.
Yarn fuzz and dust
Probably the most regular loom maintenance that you will need to do is dusting. Like most furniture, your loom is prone to collecting dust over time. This is made even worse by the yarn fuzz that will accumulate on your loom as well. Every time your yarn rubs against your heddles or your reed, it could be leaving some fibers behind.
You will want to dust your loom on a regular basis. Make sure to focus on the area around your harnesses and reed, but really make sure to dust it all over. This will keep it good for general use.
When it is time for a deep clean of your loom then you will actually want to use a vacuum to get to those hard-to-reach areas. Mostly, your lamms or anything underneath the loom that does not actually get touched often.
Those areas will be the worst.
I like to dust off my loom between projects. This is just a good way to remember to do it. If you make it a part of your warping process, it will always get done.
Oil/ Grease moving parts
With so many moving parts on your loom, it is easy to see how eventually you might have to give it more than a little elbow grease. Instead, if parts start to stick or creak you may need to apply some actual grease made specifically for your loom to keep things moving.
This should not be something you have to do often, but it is good to keep in mind for the future if something starts acting up. A little goes a long way when it comes to the grease so do not be too heavy-handed.
Likewise, If you have an unfinished loom (some rigid heddle looms come unfinished) then applying a wax polish can help to keep the wood in good shape. This is not something you will need to do right away, but sooner is better than later.
You can check out The Woolery for loom grease, oils, and waxes.
Check apron strings/ harness system
While the loom itself can probably stand the test of time, there are some parts to your loom that you will probably have to replace at some point.
Pretty much anything that is not wood, metal, or plastic could deteriorate and this is pretty normal with wear and tear. Both the manufacturers and sites like The Woolery sell replacement parts for looms that you can usually replace pretty easily.
Your apron strings, some treadle ties, string heddles, and pulley systems may need replacing even if you take good care of your loom. This is just due to the normal wear and tear of them moving and working.
When you do your routine dusting and/or whenever you warp your loom make sure to do a check on these parts. The last thing you want is to be ready to weave and you are held up because of broken parts!
Tidy up your floor loom
The simplest bit of loom maintenance that you can do is to just keep it tidy.
If you are like me then after finishing a weaving, your loom looks a bit… messy.
Not only does tidying up your loom just make things look better, but it also allows you to get in there and dust more, add scraps to your scrap jar and find things you probably lost.
Get your loom ready for your next weaving and start fresh!
I hate cleaning, but I always feel better after it is done. Starting with a fresh and clean loom is a great way to clear your head and put everything into the next weaving project.
Loom maintenance is important for the health of your loom. If you want to keep your loom around to pass on to future generations or just want to make sure it is always in top shape for your own weaving, then it is good to show it a little love now and then.
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