I get questions fairly often from people who know I backpack with a loom and want to know what I take. What I pack does vary depending on whether I am going backpacking, car camping, or traveling to teach somewhere.
As a lightweight backpacker, my total pack weight before food and water is between 13 and 18 pounds. The lighter the better as food and water can add another ten pounds to the total. Hiking becomes miserable with more weight than that. So any craft that I bring into the backcountry has to be both small and light. When I bring a loom, I bring the smallest Hokett. I have sold these looms on and off over the last few years and always keep my eye out for the very lightest wood. I have one "tiny" loom that is about two ounces and I doubt I could find a lighter one. This is actually the only time I use that smallest of looms. I like the bigger looms even though I rarely weave on them edge to edge. The weaving is much easier when there is some free warp.
This is what is in my backpacking kit:
- Hokett tiny loom
- 7 inch shed stick
- tiny turned beater
- small knitting dpn for an "open shed" stick
- 5 inch metal weaving needle, small tapestry needle
- one or two tapestry bobbins (especially nice for handspun)
- small amount upholstery thread wrapped on card
- ball of 20/6 cotton seine twine (I wind on ball winder and pack in individual ziplocks)
- butterflies of yarn or small balls of Weaver's Bazaar 18/2
- small pocket knife with folding scissors in my pocket
All of those tools including the loom fit inside a zippered Tyvek case. I've seen these kinds of simple bags often at knit shops or you could make something yourself. Tyvek is light and tough and us backpackers use it for ground cloths for this reason. It works well for weaving bags too.
My kit gets larger when I go car camping. The loom becomes a 9 x 10 inch intermediate loom and the amount of yarn multiplies quite significantly. I also bring a regular pair of scissors. I'll just throw in the whole cone of warp and bring several bags of Weaver's Bazaar 18/2 wool. I like to weave on the 6-dent Hokett looms warped double for 12 epi with this wool. It comes in great colors and is tightly spun so it isn't damaged if I do end up pulling it through a tight warp (though this is rare as I almost always am using a shed stick). Sometimes I use Harrisville Shetland at this sett or handspun. The image below is handspun woven at 12 epi on an intermediate Hokett loom.
When weight and space are less of an issue, I add a tape measure, cardboard strips to space the bottom of the piece, more bobbins, and a spool of upholstery thread. I'll also carry a Sharpie and some paper if I want to sketch out a simple cartoon.
When I travel to a conference to teach, I usually have a lot of yarn along and much bigger suitcases. What I bring is similar to what I'd bring car camping though I often have the advantage of teaching a class on Hokett looms which means I have demo looms along and often have a different size or sett to pick up if I change my mind about what I'm working on. Weight and size limitations do apply here as I can't manage more than my two gargantuan suitcases and two carry-ons without help. And independent I shall remain.
The image below shows what I had with me when teaching at Midwest Weaver's Conference a couple weeks ago. Of course there was a back-up cone of warp in the classroom as well as two bags of Weaver's Bazaar 18/2 yarn. Did I weave on this loom while at the conference? Barely. I am always so optimistic about weaving while teaching. I think I'm going to be a great example to my students and show them something brilliant and fun that I just carry around in my handbag and whip out while waiting for everyone to finish their ice cream (it isn't that I don't eat ice cream, I just eat everything too quickly). But alas, teaching is exhausting for me. The days are full of working with students which is a great deal of fun. But by the time dinner rolls around I'm exhausted and if I can manage a simple knitting project or a little spindle spinning, it is a minor miracle. But I still continue to pack a Hokett loom on teaching trips. Always the optimist.
Lately I've had some questions from people heading off on rafts or in canoes for extended backcountry adventures. I don't know how you pack for river trips, but I'd put the yarn in a dry bag if it was me! It isn't likely too much damage would be done by the water, but who wants soggy yarn for the rest of the trip?
I've been testing some wonderful little cases for Hokett looms which aren't ready for sale, but I think they are lovely. I think a case like this would be wonderful for backpacking but I won't take it along because it is too heavy (it isn't really heavy, just a few ounces, but those ounces add up when backpacking. I'll take one anywhere else!). Maybe if I ever go on a pack trip with llamas I can sneak it in. This bag has become super useful for throwing in the car for various out and about events. Thanks to Carol Krebs Thompson for making them and for allowing me to test them out for her.
So find yourself a bag of some sort, put your kit together, and take your loom with you when you go somewhere... even if it is just to your backyard.
Do you have a particular way you like to take your weaving with you? Tell us about it in the comments.