For my own good, as the adoptive mother to Fred’s larger, unfinished loom; and at the request of my guild sisters who haven’t understood the one he’s been weaving on for 50 years; I have become the sole student in the Fred Lamb school of weaving and loom design. A much longer, more detailed study of all the why’s, how’s and whatzit’s of this loom is in preparation, and will be available in our library. In an attempt to save time, printing and postage; I will sum up.
Fred’s loom scares regular weavers. Exposure can throw a new weaver into total brain freeze. My first impression of Fred’s loom was confusion; finding it almost confrontational to the eye. It stands tall and metallically unfamiliar. Guessing it’s weight at a quarter ton would be an underestimation. Extra things are attached in unfamiliar ways; but unfamiliar can turn out to be amazing.
The easiest way to understand it all is to understand Fred Lamb. Fred loves fabric. He appreciates the colors and textures, but what really gets him going is the structure. His engineers’ eye sees deeper into the beauty of the construction of the fabric. He understands, marvels at, and respects the interplay of every thread. A weaver uses a loom to produce a finished piece of cloth. Fred built his loom to weave perfect cloth, every time; no matter the design or material frailties of warp or weaver. Everything added or altered to Fred’s loom is designed to “treat the warp with considerate discipline; and the weaver with tender respect.”
Most of us never consider our warp. Once it’s dressed, we’re happy. We try to keep a tight, even tension that gives us an ample shed. We hope nothing breaks. Most of us have no understanding of a true shed. Weaving with a true shed means no stretch. The warp is never under more tension than when it stands at rest. Rising shed jack looms can’t make a true shed; Fred’s can. His adaptations have made it possible to combine the design possibilities of the jack loom with a shed that’s usually only possible on countermarche and counterbalance looms. Once his shed was true, his focus became the discipline of a “known and reproduceable tension which is constant and not changed by shedding or warp advance or weaving take-up in total, or for individual threads”. Many of the more unique alterations are part of the whole that create an even tension throughout the entire weaving process. This allows for the use of yarns of extremely low tensile strength to be used as structural warp; a feat declared impossible by the most learned of fiber artists.
Tenderly respecting the weaver explains everything else we don’t immediately recognize. Counterweights bring the combined lift weight of all 16 shafts to an effortless 8oz. Warping is greatly simplified using 1″ reels that each hold their own cross, and entire sections can be modified mid-cloth. Underloom tredle tie-ups are eliminated, replaced with one tredle for up and another for down. Shaft selection is made by pegging bars on a vertical reel at the side. Fred calls this his “Rapid Random Access System”. The reel has 144 positions. The reel can be moved non-sequentially, so patterns can be changed or repeated with the turn of a wheel, at the whim of the weaver. Fred hasn’t woven all of the 4000 different blocks of S/W he figures he can currently produce, but his plans are to add 72 more pattern bars to the reel.
This is not a production loom; it isn’t designed to walk. A computer could be interfaced to quicken up the shaft selection, but Fred has never been interested in weaving yardage. He sees a car blanket as just a soft, warm place to hold 60 blocks of Summer and Winter. Fred Lamb has developed his loom for encouraging the continuing education of his very creative mind.