We’re a small organisation full of makers, and I think at least two of us own a hand loom for weaving textiles. (One of the reasons I enjoy the TV show Vikings so much is the casual looming that’s going on as backdrop in many of the indoor scenes – the textile sort, not the impending-doom sort, although there’s plenty of that too.)
Here in the 21st century, Lorna and I use hand looms because powered looms are very expensive. They’re also usually pretty enormous, being meant for enterprise rather than home use. This is pesky, because there’s a lot of repetitive action involved, which can be hell on the carpal tunnels; weaving can be slow, tough work.
Enter the Raspberry Pi.
Fred Hoefler has taken a desktop loom and added a Raspberry Pi to automate it. (Your computer’s fine: this video has no sound.)
Fred wrote about the project on his website, explaining that he came up with the idea for very personal reasons. His wife Gina has been a weaver for 30 years, but she began to experience difficulties with the physical aspects of using her loom as she grew older. Conversations with other unwillingly retired weavers told Fred that Gina’s situation was not uncommon, and led him to design something to help. His device is intended to help older weavers who have trouble with the hard work of throwing the shuttle and holding down the pedals. Assistive looms cost upwards of $10,000: Fred’s solution comes in at a tidy $150, factoring in loom, Pi, and some motors from Amazon. So this isn’t for hobbyists like me: this loom can be a way for people whose livelihoods depend on being able to weave to continue working long after they might have had to retire.
One of the most satisfying things about the Raspberry Pi for me is its power to drive cost out of devices like this, and to change the way we work. This is a simple build, but it has so much potential to keep someone’s income flowing: we hope to see more as Fred develops the project.