I am leaving today for my week long class in Jacquard weaving at Montreal's Center for Contemporary Textiles. When I come back I am going to show off all the awesome things I learned how to weave, and got to look at, but before then, I am going to give you a quick weaving tutorial so maybe you can understand what I learned.
To start, you have your basic frame loom, which is just like those loopy things you made potholders with. Only its a bit more sophisticated, but really only a small bit more.
I basically have built a very large scale frame loom (now 12ft wide and about 8ft tall) on the wall of my studio with nails and two by fours. Since its on the wall its more correctly called a wall loom, which is a dumbed down version of a vertical tapestry loom which is what William Kentridge's massive amazing tapestries were woven on, (the ones that were in the PMA recently). I'm very jealous of the setup they have and trying to make my wall loom a little more like that with the help of pulleys and such.
The mechanical loom is what most weavers learn on (here at Tyler I got lucky number 13), there are all sorts of variations to different makes and models but they all consist of the same basic principles. Warp going vertically needs to be threaded and kept tight and the weft is passed back and forth horizontally by the weaver, with like 30 steps leading to that simplicity but its a very basic machine, no electricity, no heat or gas coming from this thing. Just a whole lot of woodwork and metal parts and strings laying parallel to each other. Then there is the AVL loom, which is a much more expensive loom that is aided by computer technology, programming and that seems to have a lot of glitches (I do not see the perks in having these looms, only the negatives). It has a lot more options as far as decorative patterns go, say the mechanical loom can only give you 100 different patterns, the AVL could give you 1,000, but thats only cool if you are interested in making fancy patterned fabric and lots of it. The thing is hooked up to a computer and you press start, and it weaves, you still have to pass the weft back and forth though. Then! Finally!! There is the Jacquard Loom, it is a loom where the possibilities are endless, no longer are you working in a grid that is limited to simple or complex patterns (woven fabric is like pixels) . On the Jacquard Loom all of the warp is acting independently, therefore you can get photo realistic images as well as text (pictured) and various other effects. The weft is still passed by hand on most Jacquard looms that are used to make fine art and still called handwoven. Otherwise there are looms that have shuttles that pass back and forth mechanically and this is mainly used for industrial weaving. Some sweet looms that are in Philadelphia are the ones in Philadelphia Universities Textiles department, they have a ton of different looms including the AVL looms and Jacquard looms but they don't make art there, they produce textiles. Also, there is a wire store in Philadelphia, I forget the name but they have looms weaving wire mesh by themselves! Its a crazy thing to see a loom going by itself and producing a roll of wire mesh out the backside.
Pictures of Montreal's killer weaving/textiles setup when I get back. I hope you learned something. Visit my studio, I weave nonstop!