Several people have asked me why I chose the Toika Eeva rather than any other loom. This post is for you, and for anyone else who hasn’t yet asked but would still like to know – which is probably most of you weavers, isn’t it?
Firstly, once you are thinking about 32 shafts, there are not very many options to choose from. If there were a local option, that would be the obvious choice, but there isn’t. However, I could narrow it down to Europe at least, so – somewhat regretfully – I ruled out AVL. This left me essentially weighing up the Louët Megado against the Toika Eeva or Liisa.
In the UK the default option for a while has certainly been the Megado, and I know many people who weave on one. Including, as it happens, myself. I don’t have a 32S computer-driven Megado, but I continue to work very happily on the 16S mechanical dobby Megado which I bought from Ans ten years ago. I really enjoy weaving on this loom, and know it well. By contrast, I had only had one shot at weaving on an Eeva and none at all at weaving on a Liisa. For both makes, I know weavers who have them and love them.
Questions of size
The Megado comes in several weaving widths up to 130 cm, the Eeva and Liisa in a completely different range of options up to 150 cm. Irrespective of weaving width, though, the Toika looms are physically bigger. They are deeper and taller and occupy a great big chunk of space. Now my home is in a building that was built in the 1860s and the rooms are large. We don’t have so many rooms that we can do anything and everything we might like to, but we do have the volume to accommodate a large loom if that’s how we choose to live*. Hey, we may never see our friends again anyway, so who needs a big living room? Seriously, though, this would not be a viable option in many newer houses. Have we finally discovered the one advantage of living in a drafty old conversion? It is, in other words, a genuine choice.
Features and functions
There are many different things I want to do on this loom, and they will involve (not necessarily all at once)
- weaving wide pieces
- complex multi-shaft threadings
- warps made sectionally
- supplementary warps
These are things I already do, but couldn’t do all at once because I didn’t have one loom that could handle them all. Both Toika and Louët have made provision for them. Both looms have a single-box fly shuttle (only the AVL offers a double-box, alas, in spite of much pleading by European weavers), and both offer sectional warp beams, for instance.
However, I have increasingly been working with supplementary warps, and this is something that Louët doesn’t do so well. I added a second warp beam to the Delta many years ago, and to the Megado more recently, but it frustrates me that it is not connected to any braking mechanism at the front of the loom. It could be converted to live tensioning, I guess, but why not supply it so that it is integrated like the main warp beam?
The second warp beam on the Toika is fully integrated so that the weaver can manage the tensioning and the warp advance from the front of the loom, and this was a big selling point for me. I have one sectional and one non-sectional beam. So far I have only made single warps, but I have a genuine choice about which beam to use since both are equally operable from the front. The cog wheel tensioning system has actually surpassed my expectations, because it allows very subtle adjustments. I had no idea I would get so much pleasure from advancing the warp! You might not think that warp beam mechanisms were something to get excited about, but for me, this was the clinching argument in favour of the Toika.
However, I was also swayed by a couple of other points. Possibly small points, but in the greater scheme of things aren’t they all?
One is the openness of the structure and access to the shafts. I have had to add and to move heddles on the Megado several times, and not even the coronavirus could make me do it again. It is a nightmare to get in there and release the shaft, never mind fixing it back in place. For a few years now I have had the heddles distributed in a way which works pretty much optimally for the sorts of weaves I do, but I have to be continually alert to this issue when designing. I would rather change the design than ever add another heddle, and that’s what I do. It works, but it’s a relief that it won’t be challenging-to-the-point-of-deterrence on the Eeva.
Another is the option to have a hanging beater. I am accustomed to weaving with a standing beater, but I’m keen to broaden my horizons and am already enjoying the ease of the swing. Although working with the fly shuttle is that bit more terrifying than it was on the Delta, I reckon I can get to grips with it. And I’m vaguely aware at the corners of my vision, that having a high castle with a hanging beater means I can rig the fly shuttle to work with a floating selvedge, in a way that proved infeasible on the Delta. I have yet to attempt this, though, so don’t hold me to it.
The main trade-off that I am aware of is that the Toika’s computer brain is a bit less subtle than that of other computer looms. That might seem like quite a major concern, but it does also have the reputation of being a very reliable computer brain, which could be seen as a major issue too. And as all computer loom brains are equally new to me, I can learn to work with this one.
I’ve also had several comments about the TC2, which seems to be the loom people expect to arrive in a crate from Scandinavia, so I will just add that it was never under consideration. Even if I had the budget, to date I have no interest in jacquard weaving as something that I would do myself. I love that other people are doing it, and I love seeing the diverse work of other weavers, but no thank you. Shafts for me.
I consider myself an exceptionally fortunate weaver to have access to a loom like this and a place to work on it. The Eeva was my choice because it addresses some very specific points that I prioritised, but I just want to add that I would be delighted with any of the above. They are all fantastic looms and I’m anticipating years of happy weaving on mine.
* I’m using the royal ‘we’ here, of course. S knows the score.