Tapestry Weaving on the Mirrix:
If you've ever tried to weave tapestry on a loom not intended for weaving tapestry, you understand how frustrating it is to not have the kind of tension necessary to weave a tapestry that will not look like something you imagine might have emerged from weaving day at summer camp. Tapestry is a demanding medium full of must have requirements. If you give her what she wants, she is as lovely as can be. But if you deny her the simple requirement of a dedicated and worthy tapestry loom, she can be quite the adversary. Forget even selvedges unless you are some kind of magician. Forget evenly spaced warps. And if you have an inferior shedding mechanism or none at all, forget your sanity. It's bound to march off to the wistful world or potholder looms while slashing the warps on your inadequate loom with a sharp and deadly scissor.
Good tapestry looms are necessary for weaving tapestry. Period. Four harness jack looms don't work. Rigid heddle looms don't work. Flimsy portable wooden tapestry looms don't work. Little home-made frames work for about two rows and then you might as well just stop because it goes downhill after that and you won't be hanging that thing on anyone's wall.
So what are the exacting requirement of a good or even great portable tapestry loom? (The same requirements apply mostly to a floor loom but since you won't be hauling a floor loom around the house or to your next workshop which is necessary to be called a portable loom, we will leave them off this list. Okay, here comes the list.) We are talking portable looms here.
1) Provides great tension. No compromise on this. Shall I say that one more time? Okay, you get it.
2) Provides some kind of shedding device that is easily operated and keeps the shed open without you having to do a series of cartwheels first. Having to stick a stick (say that ten times fast) into the open shed to keep it in place isn't so much fun.
3) Stands sturdily in place either on a table, in your lap or on some kind of stand.
4) Can provide the kind of length you need relative to the width you know you've got.
5) The option of a variety of reeds for various warp setts because not everyone wants to weave at six ends per inch.
6) The ability to add a foot treadle is a huge plus. And it's rare, so if you are looking for that stop your search because you've just found it.
7) A guaranteed life time of use. Yeah, that's important. Who wants to waste money on a piece of beautiful (that's the last requirement) equipment that falls apart before you've abandoned it for other tapestry weaving lands?
8) Beautiful. Indeed it should be beautiful. Afterall, tapestry takes more time to weave than most of us are willing to sleep in a day, so if you've got to look at that loom for hours on end you sure want it to be beautiful. Remember that little saying of ours: Because the loom you weave on should be a work of art? We are sticking to it.
Other things to consider:
What size loom do I want and what can I get? Having a nice range of sizes is very helpful because some of us like to crawl into bed with our looms and others like to make a big spectacle of their creative moment with something huge and grand like the Zeus loom (okay, it's not that huge, but as far as portable tapestry looms go, it's pretty darn big as was the dog we named it for). Some people love a size so in between the two that they can even tell you exactly how many inches wide they require or would like. We might not have the exact size loom for everybody, but we come close. And no one is saying we won't special order one for you if you just can't live without a 23 and a half inch wide loom! We've done it before. That's how the Zeus loom came into existence.
What do I want to get with this loom? You need to make or buy heddles. Easy to make and not so cheap to buy. But it's your dime.
Are you weaving sewing thread at 22 ends per inch (a halo comes with that request)? If so, you might want to spring for that bottom spring kit. It helps keep all those thinner than thin threads orderly while you remind yourself why you have agreed to such a task. And speaking of springs, you need to know which warp sett you want. The tapestry looms all come with four different springs (8, 12, 14 and 18 dents per inch) which allows for quite a variety of weaving setts. We have filler springs (10 and 16) if you just have to march to your own drummer. And we've got those two tail end springs for those of you who can't bare to weave with anything thicker than sewing thread and itty bitty spun silk threads.