The Story of our Handweaving Looms

Posted on 29 March 2018

In the centre of our Edinburgh studio stand our pride and joy; our two handweaving looms. Both have come to us through other weavers, and while we don’t know their full history we have been able to piece together some of their story to share with you!

handweaving loom in edinburgh

The looms are used to hand weave our SIGNATURE British alpaca accessories.

Just like our signature pieces, these looms are hand made one –offs, created many years ago by a master craftsman. They were made by a man called George Wood, a ships engineer turned loom maker who was based in Shepshed, Leicestershire.  Not much is known about him, but his creations are considered the Rolls Royces of the loom world, treasured by the weavers and art colleges lucky enough to possess one.

It is estimated he made around 300 looms in his career, every loom was numbered and logged although sadly the full records were lost in a fire many years ago. Here at Araminta Campbell we are privileged to own numbers 151 and 297 – so examples from the middle and end of his career.

handweaving loom by George Wood

Our 24 shaft peg dobby loom, number 151 made by George Wood sometime in the 1950s.

In 2012 Araminta bought her first George Wood loom, number 151 – which is a 24 shaft peg dobby floor loom. At the time Araminta had been invited to represent Great Britain at the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland, and was visiting Scottish weaver Kirsty Aitkin to ask for some advice. Kirsty mentioned at the end of their conversation that she had a George Wood loom for sale and asked if Araminta knew anyone who might be interested – and Araminta replied; “Yes – Me!”

Stored in a bothy (shed) beside Kirsty’s cottage in Loch Fyne, number 151 had been disused for years as she hadn’t found anyone she was ready to sell it to. Weavers are often very attached to their looms – they are much more than just a piece of machinery, and it feels important to pass them on to people who will appreciate and look after them. Thankfully although she was sad to say goodbye, Kirsty was happy to know that Araminta would be giving 151 a new lease of life and using it to continue the tradition of handweaving here in Scotland.

peg dobby floor loom made by George Wood

Our 16 shaft handweaving loom, number  297. Made by George Wood in 1985 when he was in his 80s.

Our second loom – number 297- is an 16 shaft peg dobby floor loom, and came to us from English weaver Sarah Tysson. She met Araminta at Handmade in Kew in 2015, and again buying a loom just happened organically! I recently got back in touch with Sarah and she remembers the occasion well:

“I was very reluctant to sell it, but the onset of rheumatoid arthritis forced me to look at other options. I kept putting off advertising it for sale…then during a conversation with Araminta at the Kew Garden show, she mentioned that she wanted to buy a 16 shaft George Wood, and had just missed out on a sale. I felt like it was meant to be…and I am absolutely thrilled that it is being loved and used again.”

Edinburgh hand weaving studio

Loom number 297 has found a happy home in our Edinburgh weaving studio.

I asked Sarah about how she came to own number 297 and found out that it had been made specially for her by George Wood himself!

“I bought the loom in about 1985, and went to his house & workshop in Shepshed to pick it up. He was a charming man, with a real twinkle in his eye.
It must have been one of the last looms he ever made, as he was then in his 80’s and starting to turn his hand to making clocks with wooden cog mechanisms…they were beautifully made. He joked that he was a bit too old to start another career!

His wife said if I asked him nicely, he would sign the loom for me!, which he did on the front of the beater; ‘Best wishes Sarah, George Wood’, but sadly it was only written in biro and has long since faded…”

Handweaving loom in Araminta Campbells Edinburgh studio

George Wood looms are beautifully made and are renowned in the weaving world for their reliability.

Although his looms are held in such high esteem in the hand weaving community, very little is known about George Wood. It was wonderful to hear Sarah’s story, and understand a little more about the master craftsman responsible for both our looms. It is obvious that every part of them is made with care and precision, and as long as they are looked after they should last for many more generations of weavers. They have such a rich history already, and every finished piece they produce adds to the legacy left behind by the mysterious George Wood.

We are proud to be continuing the tradition of handweaving here at Araminta Campbell, and love being part of the story of these historic looms. If you would like to see some of the products we create on them, check out our SIGNATURE Collection.

hand woven Scottish products

Some of the Signature British alpaca products hand woven in our Edinburgh weaving studio.

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