SAORI loom, some assembly required (but very little!)

I’ve been considering purchasing a SAORI loom since I took a free workshop at a local public library with Chiaki O’Brien of StudioFUN this past June. (A narrative of that is here.) Yes, I bead. Yes, I took up sewing again about two or three years ago. I also work outside the home. I had never woven on a floor loom before this workshop (an inkle loom as a teenager), but I kept revisiting how much I enjoyed this experience, so I took money I had saved for years, and bought the loom from Chiaki.

The loom comes directly from Japan. I took pictures while unboxing my SAORI loom almost exactly two days ago after a late dinner – but the post is today, because I wanted to start weaving immediately! Also, I worked today. The photos are most of the story…

Big box! I’m grateful it’s doubly boxed, as the outer box was soggy in the corner. The inner box is perfect. (Also, I’m still decorated for Christmas, say hi to my light switch Santa.)

Inside is the main loom frame, and the rest of the working parts are inside the box strapped to the loom’s leg.

The instructions for unboxing and assembly are very detailed, including how to open it.

Inner box. In addition to the rest of the loom, I ordered “the book,” and some additional bobbins.

The rest of the loom components, laid out as in the assembly guide, for easy reference.

First part to install, the bobbin winder.

Now, hang the warp set. That’s the rope pulley system just barely in view at the top center of the picture, holding the heddles. It’s really appealing that this comes warped. I bought a serger a little over a year ago, and it came threaded; the same result of almost immediate satisfaction.

Now set up the warp roller at the back of the loom.

The latch and gear system for this works really well. I’m holding the latch up with the heddle hook so you can see the mechanism.

This is the warp control pedal. I will be revisiting this later…

Now setting up the reed.

Tying the warp threads on the tying rod.

All tied!

Hook up the pedals.

Add the built-in shelf.

Look at the “check if everything is set up properly” pictures. I pass inspection with two of them, but I have improperly wound the cable on the warp control pedal. Fixed.

And here is the loom, ready to weave!

It’s late at night by the time I finished, and I started weaving the next morning; I had the day off. I’ll show some in-progress pictures soon. Here’s one of the reasons I wanted this particular loom:

This loom folds quite compactly – but it has a 23″ weaving width, and the ability for about a 15′ warp. I do have a creative workspace, a small former bedroom, but it doesn’t have floor space for a permanent resident loom. I can fold this and put it away in closet, and transport it if desired. It really is an elegant design, and I’m looking forward to future weaving exploration.

O’y ya’h ohdiwena goh: “Through the Voices of Beads”

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a beautiful town in Ontario; it reminds me of Charleston with its lovely old houses. There’s a great main street of shops plus an apothecary museum, and forts to tour – and I saw a mink in the park on Lake Ontario’s south shore two years ago, when I was looking across to Toronto. Here’s a reason to go there now, this traveling exhibition from the Royal Ontario Museum plus work by beadwork artist Samuel Thomas at the Niagara Historical Society and Museum. There are about 30 pieces of historic and contemporary Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) beadwork. The exhibit closes April 30. Read more on Niagara This Week. Even if you miss the exhibit, go anyway. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit, with lots to do and see in the area.

Six years of updating

That’s a rather grand title, but true: I have added two to three pieces per year of beadwork to my gallery, and changed its format. The new format is easier to view, and will be easier to maintain. It’s interesting to try to determine themes and trends. Blue is one theme! I also use less peyote now than I used to. Here’s a screenshot of about half the gallery:

It’s in reverse chronological order, and pulls out some of the pieces that are significant, or just simply attractive in their execution. Click on a piece for a brief description, and/or click on an item and then through the images as a slideshow.

I updated my “About” page as well, and tweaked the sidebar. My SAORI loom arrives in about two weeks. I’ll be documenting my learning process with the loom, and perhaps that will mean some more changes – a beadwork gallery and a weaving gallery? One can only hope.

French pumpkin herringbone options and 2017

I still love to bead – and/but I’m developing more interests. I’ve tried a lot of things this summer and onward, and they generally are still textile arts; I stitched a tiny bit of sashiko embroidery noodling around in an embroidery class. Not complete. I took a class on coiled basketry (from Sandra Brick!). Not complete. I will finish these two projects, but I haven’t yet done so – it truly wouldn’t take much time. Both are projects I can see repeating if the fancy strikes, or if I want to make a gift for someone who would like one of these projects.

I took a class on flameworking beads, which I don’t think is something I want to explore further. The time and equipment (and money and space) needed to learn how to make something even close to good would be significant. Hats off to those who work with glass! I took a class on block printing where I carved a block of dense foam (vs. the linoleum blocks from high school art) into a really goofy-looking beaded daisy chain. Fun, but I believe I threw the block away.

Just this month, I made a modified accordion book in a class, which was pretty successful and enjoyable, and something I can see repeating on my own in a modified fashion. In another class, I created a paper collage design, then manipulated it with a computer, and that was printed on fabric. The fabric is in the mail, and I will get to use it soon. I’ve started to consistently do more sewing, and I’m really pleased with my last project, a heavy wool casual winter coat. I could design more fabric and have it printed, combining these last two items.

I took a SAORI class (I’ll get back to weaving in a minute). Also, I do a fair amount of cooking and baking. I read books. I work two professional jobs which usually adds up to four days of paid employment per week. So where does this leave beading? Good question. I have to figure this out – setting some 2017 plans seems a good time to start. I want to make all the things!

There has been some beading done. I made some Christmas presents, did a restringing project for a friend, and made earrings for others and myself. And every once in a while, I go back to these herringbone ropes with the French pumpkin beads that I love.

I’m not completely happy with this. While I like the center rope, I’m not convinced it goes with the other two.

I think this is better. Using all wider stripes would work as well, but my current thinking is that this eventual necklace is going to be all about the pumpkin. Also, I’ve completed more inches with the heavy-on-the-pumpkin theme.

Now: weaving. I’ve ordered a SAORI loom, to arrive shortly after the first of the year. This is a significant investment in both money and my future time. Since I took that class this summer, I have really been wanting one. This is a plain weave loom only, with the process of weaving as its purpose.  Typically, there isn’t pattern and design; a weaver just picks the next color, weaving beauty with the lack of intention.

So, considering how I want to use my time and creative energy is what I need to do. What do I truly want to make, and how much time can I spend on each? The main contenders are beading, weaving, and sewing (plus cooking, reading, etc.). Do I want to see if I can find an outlet for selling things that I make, and do all the non-creating work that goes along with sales? I also need to overhaul this website. I think 2017 has lots of possibility. I’m registered for three classes for next year already – tapestry weaving, tin thread braiding, and making a leather tote. It’s a wonderful life…

Beadwork has happened!


Completed a while ago, but not yet posted, is this shallow, wide-rimmed bowl for a challenge/competition for Whimbeads. I purchased the kit of beads sight unseen (but themed by season), and created beadwork that incorporated at least half of the kit beads. I did use just over half the beads, and only the kit beads to create this.Heller_Dulcey_2

It’s brick stitch, self-supporting, 5″ in diameter, and 1″ deep.


I didn’t win anything, but I’m satisfied with my finished piece.

Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranaken World

This exhibition at the Peranaken Museum of embroidery and beadwork is one I’d dearly like to see. Blouin Art Info wrote a post about it, with a gallery of items included, as did the Straits Times. Peranaken Chinese are Straits-born Malay, descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago. Their beadwork is distinctive, and the shoes in particular are something I would love to see. If you are in Singapore before March 26, 2017, please visit!

SAORI weaving

I had a perfectly delightful time last weekend weaving on a SAORI loom. This is a Japanese loom and style of weaving, designed about 50 years ago by Misao Jo. From the handout that was placed on each loom, “‘SA’ of SAORI has the same meaning as the first syllable of the word ‘SAI’ which is found in Zen vocabulary. It means everything has its own individual dignity. And the ‘ORI’ means weaving. All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color. Because of this difference, “all are good.” Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick. It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.”

Taught by Chiaki O’Brien, hosted at a local public library, and funded by by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, this was a wonderful experience. Chiaki came with all these warped looms (those of you have warped a loom know this is significant; she told us it takes her about two hours to warp each loom). The loom at right front was brand new and came warped with black, otherwise, all the looms had multiple colors of warp thread.

These are simple, elegant looms. There are two harnesses – these are not looms designed to weave patterns, but to become immersed in the flow of weaving and work intuitively. In reading further, I believe there are two sizes of SAORI looms. This is the larger, which comes in this wood frame with folding metal legs or folding wood legs, and a non-folding version.

Chiaki was artist-in-residence at a local school recently, and teaches children frequently (She told us to pretend we were five years old when we started – so I started with yarn with sparkles in it.). She also teaches disabled adults. There is a wheelchair modification possible for these looms.

There was an English side and a Japanese side of the informational sheet about SAORI weaving.

My first yarn was a brown and “sparkle” ply. You see the boat shuttle that we used, and the plastic straw bobbin that we filled. I filled bobbins with colors that appealed to me, without much thought of cohesive design. I used colors that I liked with this happy, bright warp. There are three colors and two different weights of warp threads, and Chiaki sometimes put multiple warp threads in the same path, and occasionally skipped a warp, which you can see below.

More colors, wound on the bobbin as needed.

On the top of the loom is a wheel and mount for the bobbin for winding.

You can wind two colors together and treat them as one when weaving.

You can weave with two colors as I did below.

I was going with the flow – no straight lines.

A closeup that shows the extra warps. You can make a tighter weave, but I like this more open look.

In less than three hours, this is what I made!

Look how compact these looms fold!

I highly recommend SAORI weaving. I love the “beauty with lack of intention” that is encouraged. I hope to do it again sometime, and would dearly love to own one of these looms.