My name is Allison of Shutters & Shuttles and I am a professional weaver based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have been weaving for nearly 10 years, after being introduced to it through a college Intro to Fibers class at Tennessee Technological University. I was initially a Glass Blowing major, but jumped around a bit before finally landing in Fiber Arts. I bought my first loom in 2010 while I was living in Huntsville, AL with my husband. We needed a small rug in our rental house and it seemed more cost effective to buy a floor loom to weave one than it did to buy a ready-made rug! I had to re-teach myself how to set the loom up and how to read weaving patterns, but I was able to remember enough to make our rug! From there I continued to experiment with different fibers while making all sorts of things- kitchen towels, scarves, table runners, etc. It was only natural to open an Etsy shop, selling the products I’d been weaving!
That summer, I returned to a summer camp where I had worked in college, but this time to teach weaving. An opportunity to buy a second loom through the camp presented itself and I knew I had to have it. The first loom I bought and learned on was a 4-harness floor loom which is a really great beginners. The new one was 8 harnesses which allowed me to weave more complex patterns. I actually still have this loom and still love it! After coming back from camp with my second loom, I knew I was getting pretty serious about weaving. Around this time my husband and I were moving north to Nashville, so house hunting meant looking for a house with a dedicated room for my studio!
Once settled in Nashville, I continued to weave and sell goods and began attending various local (and not so local) craft shows. Porter Flea is a favorite and happens twice a year - one of the best curated shows in Nashville. I met so many talented people and began collaborating with local designers like Lauren Winter and Elizabeth Suzann. We develop fabrics for me to weave and for them to then sew into garments. The fun in seeing their ideas come to life in my cloth led me to really focusing on weaving & selling fabrics to designers, rather than creating the finished goods myself. This meant getting a wide enough loom to accommodate basic garment-width fabrics (45-54”). I decided on a Dobby Loom by AVL (based in CA). I can now weave up to 60” wide and use a fly shuttle! I just pull a cord and the shuttle shoots across to the other side! It also has 16-harnesses, so I can weave incredibly complex patterns!
Having a loom that large made working out of our house a little impractical. Actually, the new loom wouldn’t even fit! So if I wanted to expand my business, I knew it was time to start looking for a dedicated studio space. I was lucky to have befriended designers Jamie and the Jones and Ona Rex through collaborations and they were all also interested in renting a workspace. We found a really great space just south of downtown that has a large open warehouse where we all can spread out. We even have a huge garage door that can be opened up in nice weather!
I am still completely smitten with my 16-harness loom and use it to make pretty much everything. I love weaving such wide fabric. Still seems magical. I also still weave on my smaller 8-harness loom and I continue to make rugs on occasion - though they are quite different than the first that I made! I was taught to weave on a floor loom, so that is where I feel most comfortable. But the floor loom is a complex process that you really have love it in order to invest the time and money required. This isn't practical for most people interested in the art, so a great place to start would be a small frame loom (or I-loom). The concept is the same as a floor loom- the yarn alternates over and under, but on a much smaller scale. The yarn is rather manipulated by hand, and not raised and lowered with pedals. I so enjoy weaving on a frame loom in my spare time because it’s lightweight and portable, relaxing, and relatively quick. Also, I'm not limited by patterns or numbers of harnesses so it is liberating and I can just go wherever my inspiration takes me.
For those of you interested in learning the basics of weaving, I am teaching at Craft South later in the summer, so visit their contact page to sign up on the mailing list. We’ll be working on a small frame loom and I’ll teach you how to warp the loom to prepare for weaving as well as some basic patterns and techniques to get you started. We’ll be making wall hangings in the class but that’s only the beginning. You’ll leave with the knowledge to continue weaving one of a kind pieces of fabric that can be sewn, hemmed, or pieced into pretty much anything your heart desires.
Weaving your own fabric is truly magical and I sincerely hope I’ve inspired you to take the next steps and learn more about this wonderfully traditional craft!
All the best, Allison
A recent in-depth interview: Woven Magazine
The summer camp referenced above: Rockbrook Camp for Girls in Brevard, NC
Designer Collaborations: collaboration page on my website
Weaving how-to book recommendation: Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler.
Weaving history & inspiration book recommendation: The Techniques and Art of Weaving by Marylne Brahic.