I have been warping my low warp Aubusson loom to full weaving width capacity of 60 inches. I am using 12/12 cotton seine twine with a sett of 10 ends per inch.
Each time I warp this loom, I do it a little differently, drawing from my experience with the gamut of multi-harness production floor looms, adapting what is helpful for this specific loom. I recently added a reed holder and reed in between the back beam and heddle bar area, to help maintain even spacing of the warp at the back, especially when advancing the warp as well as during the weaving. I still find it helpful to consult Ordissage et Montage de la Chaine: Tapisserie de Basse-Lice Technique d’Aubusson by Marc Tehery, which I had purchased when I was in Aubusson, weaving in the atelier of Gisèle Brivet on one of her basse-lice looms.
Nearly 20 years ago, I bought my low warp Aubusson loom from Christine Laffer. It is one of about a dozen such looms built during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in Berkeley, California by Jean Pierre Larochette and Craig Levite, or “Ganesha” as he was called by many of his friends. This was during the days of the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop.
In September of 1996, I flew out to California and attended the weekend-long Anatomy of Tapestry Symposium that Jean Pierre organized. When Jean Pierre learned that I would be driving the loom from San Jose to New Mexico in a cargo van, he sat across from me over lunch and sketched on a napkin how best to pack the parts, with the heavy front and back beams of steel and oak on the bottom, lashed together so that they would not shift and roll.
He then sketched on another napkin how to assemble it, telling me that I would need two people on each end of the front and back beams inserting them simultaneously exactly perpendicular into the holes in the steel plates on the side supports. These two napkins and Marc Tehery’s book constituted the “instruction manual” for my new loom.
As I drove from San Jose, California to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the brew of possibilities unfolded before me. With this loom, I knew I was about to enter the threshold to exploring large ideas in tapestry; a threshold with tangible links to the long lineage of the métier de basse-lice dating back to 14th century France, to the weaving centers in Aubusson and Felletin.
Now, as I prepare the warp across 60 inches of width, I am establishing the weave structure and foundation for sound tapestry cloth. My focus has to be on each detail and each step. Accuracy is essential. Mistakes in threading, spacing, or uneven tension will only cause difficulties that magnify during the weaving process. Not being in a hurry is important, just as is checking and double-checking my work.
After 28 hours spread out over a couple of weeks, the loom is now ready. The threshold is open and waiting.