Three looms A Day

 Here are the new napkins for our family in process on the Toika.  This  loom and this project are very special to me.  The Toika Eeva is the first floor  loom I have purchased brand new.  It’s a long story and one I enjoy telling.

In July 2014 we went on a car trip to New England to visit Cape Cod, friends in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and to stop at the Marketplace at Convergence in Providence, RI.

A couple words about Convergence.  Every 2 years, Handweavers Guild of American (HGA) organizes a large conference for weavers, spinners and dyers.  It used to be THE place to go if you did any of those crafts.  Nowadays, most people seem to be attending classes closer to home and enjoy seeing the newest yarns, spinning wheels, drop spindles, etc. at shows like Maryland Sheep & Wool, Estes Park Wool Market and New York Sheep & Wool (often called Rhinebeck).  My personal favorite is Maryland Sheep & Wool but that may be because I live in Maryland and have for close to 30 years.

So, in 2014 we were in New England at the same time as Convergence and decided to go to the Marketplace so I could try the various computer assisted countermarch looms that interested me.  I started weaving on a Schacht Baby Wolf jack type loom.  A couple of years later, I bought a used countermarch/counterbalance 8 shaft Glimakra Standard because I experienced back and leg pain when weaving on the Baby Wolf.  I continue to weave on the Glimakra  and I enjoy it but there are some days my body can’t deal with using treadles at all.  I knew the time for something easier, like a computer assisted loom which lifts the shafts for you, had arrived.  I wanted to stick with a countermarch loom because I love the shed size and how quiet they are to operate.

There were only 3 looms that interested me, Leclerc Weaverbird, Louet Megado and Toika Eeva.  I had always heard the Toika was the Cadillac of computer assisted looms and, supposedly, the most expensive.  I knew I wanted 16 shafts and I wanted at least 48″ weaving width so I could weave wide rugs. We arrived at the Marketplace for opening and I expected them to be prepared.  Leclerc was the first booth we found but they were not ready for customers yet.  I watched as the company owner worked on a sampler he had on the loom.  I was concerned about how noisy the shafts were as they rose and lowered to create the shed for the shuttle.  Although it was a countermarch, the loom controls were metal and seemed quite loud.

Next stop was to visit Louet.  They were busy threading the loom and completing the set up of the computer which worked to raise and lower shafts.  They suggested we return in 15-20 minutes and they would be ready.  I stood and watched as they worked on the loom and became discouraged as I watched one person after another approach the company president and request information about the part they had ordered.  I learned that there was a 2-3 month delay in orders and many were turned away without news of when they could expect their part.  It seemed like a bad sign.

On to Toika.  The loom was set up and ready for me to try weaving on it.  I was introduced to the various features of the loom and invited to sit down and weave.  It was everything I had hoped for.  It was quiet, it was easy to operate and understand.  I learned that if I ordered a new loom, the Elkins (US dealers for Toika is WEBS in Northampton, Mass.) would come to my home and set up the computer box that sat on the top of the loom and give me an introductory lesson for using the loom.  In addition, the software needed to operate the loom was included in the price.  It was  the Cadillac others had dubbed it and the price was less than other looms I was considering.

I wanted to decide then and there but thought the wisest thing to do was to think about it.  I stopped at Louet and the loom was ready for a test drive.  There was still a part missing, I don’t remember what, but it effected my decision since even the owner was unable to get the parts from the main company in Holland.  In addition, it required a lot of leg strength to raise and lower the shafts.  That was the one thing I was looking to avoid!  We also stopped at Leclerc and I wove for a few minutes on that loom. Although it was easy to operate, it was not as quiet as the Toika and the clinking and clanging of the wires as they lifted and lowered the shafts was very annoying.  Plus, there was no one to help with setup.  You receive over 40 boxes of loom pieces and you are responsible for assembly.  Not ideal.

I gave it a night but truth be told I knew as we left the Marketplace that my mind was made up.  The Toika was everything I wanted and needed and I called Barbara Elkins the next morning and ordered the loom.  It was a great choice.  I love my loom a year later!

Art Elkins preparing to install the computer

Toika Eeva ready for computer installation
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