Weaving in Small Spaces

I would love to have a giant studio space with big windows, long tables to lay out my weavings and ample space to walk around my loom. However, at this stage in my weaving career and personal life, I can only afford to have my loom in my living room. And since we have moved from Western New York to where we are now- that living room space is approximately 50% of the apartment (my husband is so gracious).

I have a two foot walking space around the three back sides of my loom. This often proves challenging with a desk on one side and bookcases on the other.
I have a two foot walking space around the three back sides of my loom. This often proves challenging with a desk on one side and bookcases on the other.

Apartment dwelling does not have to quell your weaving endeavors. I am weaving large blankets on my 53″ loom and I often have the bathroom tub filled with weavings that I am washing by hand. I have however picked up some tips and tricks on weaving in small spaces. This may not work for everyone, but it has been successful for me thus far.

Utilize Storage Wisely

This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything has to be perfectly organized 100% of the time. What it does mean that you think about how you use your space and how often you need access to certain tools, materials and sources of reference. Along one wall of my “studio” space is Ikea shelving. I love Ikea shelving for the sole purpose that I can adjust the shelving height. So I can pack all of my yarn in one bookcase, the other has all my books in it, and another has tools. Because I don’t have a lot empty floor real-estate in order to get into the shelves, I put the things that I use the most towards the side I have easiest access to. And things that I don’t use frequently, but I would still like to be able to have if I need it is on the side where I have a harder time getting in to. This helps prevent me from having to spend 15 minutes moving furniture around to reach a book I need, or to find that certain color of yarn I’m looking for.

I love my Ikea shelves. I can adjust the shelves to fit all the different height ones that I have. And also all of my reference books are right at hand.
I love my Ikea shelves. I can adjust the shelves to fit all the different height ones that I have. And also all of my reference books are right at hand.

Also work vertically if you can. I have two long horizontal surfaces that I try to keep clear of clutter (that does not always happen, but I try!) and I only store certain things on these surfaces. Anything else has a home in a shelf. I have shelving below my desk and shelving every where in my space. By going vertical, it frees up what little horizontal space I have to do my work at, such as sewing, painting, and planning.

I also use storage bins (the clear plastic kind that you can get at Target, Walmart or other stores of the like.) I use the storage bins for current projects that I have going on. I store the bulk of the yarn for the projects in the bins, and once they are completed, I put the completed fabrics in there as well until it is time for delivery. The bins I can slide along side or underneath my table so that are out of the way enough that i can move around, but also create some additional horizontal space to work on. **This is also beneficial if you have a pet who likes to lay in your fibers and weavings.**

Multipurpose Equipment and Furniture

It would be wonderful if I could have a station set up just for winding bobbins, and having my warping board affixed to the wall- but it just isn’t possible. Living in a small space means that you have to relearn how to utilize your tools effectively.

I have two warping boards. One is capable of 10 yards, the other is capable of 15 yards. Because most of the weavings I have been doing lately requires more that the 10 yard capacity, that board is broken down and stored away- no sense in keeping it out to look at. The other warping board I keeping together, and when it is time to use it, I use quick grip clamps to hold the board to the front beam of my loom. This keeps the board at the right height for me to comfortably wind warp, and when I’m done I can put the board away.

My loom bench is also a tool that I can use for more then just sitting! When I am winding on long warps, I wrap the warp once around the bench. This will give the warp just enough tension that it will stay even most of the way on the loom, with only a little bit of tugging. However, when I am weaving the full width of my loom this does not work for me. A trick I learned in Harrisville would be to get a brick, put some felt at the bottom of it, and use that to hold your warp with tension on it while you are winding on the back beam. Multiple bricks can work for a multiple chain warp.

What I have Learned about Weaving in Small Spaces

Above I have mentioned a few tricks that I use while I work. I would like to tell you a little bit about how it feels to work in a small space. You may think that you are going to feel cramped, that you won’t be able to CREATE the way you would like to, and you aren’t going to be nearly as productive. I felt the same way when I moved into this apartment. But working in a small space has taught me some valuable lessons.

My back beam has some tight access- right up against my heater and the windows. My secondary loom bench serves as my seat while I'm threading the heddles.
My back beam has some tight access- right up against my heater and the windows. My secondary loom bench serves as my seat while I’m threading the heddles.

Keeping your workspace clean is integral for creativity. I thought that being surround by everything I was working on all the time would help me think of new and wonderful things, but in reality after every project I have to pick everything up that goes with it. Yarn must be put away, all the notes have to be put in their designated folders, and any other tools must be put away before I start again. It helps me officially finish projects, and keeps me focused on one project at a time.

You can be productive in a small space. Having your weaving in your space at all times forces you to address that project that isn’t finished yet, or those weavings that still need to washed. Since moving, the longest my loom has been void of a weaving was about a week. That week was during the time I was unpacking and trying to figure out how to arrange my loom. I am always reminded about the next project I have in the que, because the yarn is only three steps away. To some- this could be a detriment, for me it is a motivator. Mainly because the more I weave, the more cool yarn I could get to weave more awesome projects.

I am not going to say I’m perfect at this- as of this post there is a bin underneath the back beam of my loom that I have to climb over so that I can thread the heddles, and I have started a new project without having put away all the things left over from the previous project, but I am learning. Every day I’m learning new techniques in order to better organize my space and learning new habits to keep on top of it before it gets overwhelming.

Working in a small space is possible!

Setting up a set of blankets on the loom, everything around and on the loom is clean and orderly- making it easier to focus.
Setting up a set of blankets on the loom, everything around and on the loom is clean and orderly- making it easier to focus.

How do you have your studio space set up? If you could design your own studio what would it look like? What are some tricks that you have learned in order to help you utilize your space? Let me know in the comments below!

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