Nearly 30 Years of Weaving And I Still Don’t Know “Jack”

We’re not total strangers, jack and I.  We’ve crossed paths.  Met briefly at a couple of workshops, and at a friend’s house.

I’ve read several descriptions.  And seen a lot of pictures.

But we’ve only ever had a passing acquaintance.  We’re certainly not good friends.  And the thought of spending any real time together?
It never crossed my mind.

Not until recently, that is.

Maybe because my first loom – a counter-balance loom  – seems like the perfect loom.  Small and sturdy.  Exactly the right loom for me.

I  learned  to love weaving with a counter-balance loom.

Photo of 27" Leclerc Counter-Balance loom

My first and favorite loom – a 27″ Leclerc “Fanny”

Maybe that’s why my second loom is also a counter-balance loom.

Photo of 36" Leclerc Counter-Balance Loom

My second loom – a 36″ Leclerc “Fanny”

And my third.

Photo of 45" Leclerc Colonial Counter-Balance Loom

My third counter-balance loom, a 45″ Leclerc Colonial

To me, these looms represent everything good about weaving.
Easy, effortless and enjoyable.

I’m happy weaving with these  looms  – and have great long  lists of  “what to weave next” – projects perfectly suited to weaving with a counter-balance loom.

So even though the 45″ (older) Leclerc Colonial is convertible – (and not just from counter-balance to jack, – I have the kit to add 4 more harnesses), – even though I could switch it over to a jack loom, – I’ve never been particularly interested in giving it a try.

Any discussion of counter-balance vs. jack  fell by the wayside.
Into the category:  “It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, and I don’t care”.

Until recently, that is.

Because recently I’ve had several conversations about looms.  Conversations with people in my Learning to Weave classes; conversations with weavers thinking about getting a different/smaller loom; conversations with people visiting during Open Studio Weekend; conversations about choosing the “right” loom, and which loom is the “best” loom.

And I’ve started thinking about how limited my weaving is.

When a question comes up about jack looms, all  I can say is:
“I don’t know”.

(For the record, I think “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer.)

But all that thinking and not-knowing made  me curious.  Not just about why I was choosing not to know.  (Although that may be the more interesting question.)  I started to get curious about “jack”.

How would (my) weaving be different if I used a jack loom?

The Leclerc Looms  website  has good  information about the mechanical differences between counter-balance,  jack and countermarche looms – along with the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

But I wanted to know what it meant to me.
What did it have to do with the kind of things I like to make – or  the kind of fabric I like to weave?

Would having a jack loom change how I felt about weaving?  Could I, would I, should I – weave differently – or explore different things  if I had a different type of loom?  Was there something in particular I wanted to try, but couldn’t accomplish with a counter-balance loom?’

And the “ifs” turned into “then”  and “when”.
If I was considering converting the Colonial to a jack loom,  then I might as well set it up with all 8 harnesses.  And if  I was going to look for a learning project, then I might as well look for one  that  let me experiment with multiple harnesses.
When I found the right project I decided to give it a try.

Photo of Leclerc Colonial Loom as 8 harness jack loom

My Colonial Loom with 8 harnesses.

After 2 months and three warps, I’m surprised and pleased.    The nearly completed project was a perfect introduction to “jack”.   And even though it represented just a little bit of time – (in weaver time) – it feels like time well spent.
Most of all, this experience  helped clarify something the Home Economist (Consumer Scientist?) in me suspected – something the Weaver in me needed to know for sure.

It’s not just about the loom.

Our personalities, values,  lifestyle choices,  likes and dislikes,  dreams, aspirations, goals –  all of those things deserve our attention.

The first loom you use may not be either “right” or “best”.  But if it gets you weaving, it’s a still a good choice.  It’s important to notice what feels like fun – and what doesn’t.

Keep weaving.  And pay attention. Weaving can show you things.
Whatever loom you use.

Your preferences will show up in the fabric.

Photo of various colors used in 8H weaving.

Changing weft colors made this an adventure!

I’ll tell you why this was such a great project in my next post.

Right now, with another 20 inches or so left on this (last) warp –
 I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

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