Our Story

AVL derives its heritage from the designs and inspiration of Jim Ahrens (1906-2000), a mechanical engineer by trade who began designing looms in the 1930s.  Beyond designing looms, Jim was also a production handweaver including contract weaving for department stores, owner-operator of a weaving school and retail store, and textile researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jim sold and serviced his looms for nearly five decades (1940's - 1980's). These included direct tie-up, side tie-up, rising shed & countermarch dobby, and draw looms. For more on Jim Ahrens, please visit Ahrens Looms website.

In the mid 60s, Jim began designing a radically different loom that combined the best parts of handweaving with his years of industrial knowledge. This loom eventually became our famous Production Dobby Loom. Soon thereafter, Jim received a large order of looms from Pat McGaw, director of the Pacific Basin School of Textiles in Berkley, CA. This took things to a whole new level, and in 1977 he joined forces with Jon Violette, a cabinet maker, and Ms. McGaw’s brother to form a new company called Ahrens & Violette Looms. The rest is, as they say, history!


Birth of the Compu-Dobby®

In early 1982, AVL made another breakthrough. This time, the inspiration came from Silicon Valley, where personal computers were starting to make big headlines. We realized that the dobby mechanism is essentially a computer using 1s and 0s as inputs. In other words the harness is either up or down.  From there we made the relatively easy jump substituting solenoids and electronics for wooden bars and pegs.  Tim Trudel produced our first software, Generation II, for the Apple II computer. It featured 32K of memory, ran in black and white on cassette tape and was a sensation! We’ve since had several software programs written for us from all over the world, including San Francisco, Syracuse, France and Oslo, Norway where our good friend and colleague, Bjørn Myhre (author of WeavePoint) resides.  Our latest iteration, the Compu-Dobby 5, continues the tradition with surface mount electronics and multiple communication interfaces.

In the Years Since

We’ve kept the innovative forces that Jim instilled into the company going! In the 1990s, we introduced

  • the Professional Dobby Rug Loom, which was the world’s first (and is now the only) commercially available hand-operated dobby rug loom. The AVL Rug Loom known for its ruggedness and capacity for complex weaving.
  • the fully automated version of the Production Dobby Loom, called the Industrial Dobby Loom. This loom has become a hit for sampling and transition from pure handweaving into light industrial quantities.
  • the Studio Dobby Loom, in conjunction with the world-famous weaver Ann Sutton of the U.K., specifically geared toward design studios and educational institutions.

    In the 2000s, we introduced 

    • the Workshop Dobby Loom, also known as the California Traveler. Designed for traveling to workshops, this diminutive loom breaks down quickly to fit in the car. 
    • the A-Series (in honor of Mr. Ahrens). The A-Series is our premier production handweaving loom with an amazing array of options to suit a range of productivity needs.
    • the Jacq3G Jacquard loom. This is our 3rd iteration of Jacquard. AVL engineers are honored to be walking in Monsieur Jacquard’s footsteps, though unlike the original, our system does not use wooden boards, but rather a sophisticated system of miniature solenoids to control each hook.
    • the V-Series (in honor of Mr. Violette). This loom combines the simplicity of a traditional fixed breast and back beam with the sophistication of a computerized dobby and electric shed opening.

     2005 AVL Looms Team

    Front Row: Peter Straus, Rachel Hurlburt, Tracey Cannon Middle row: Dan Graves, Bridget Elmore, Steve Pientak, Kim Mitchell, Andrea Schefke, Bob Kruger, Jessie Meza, Debra Albert Back row: Shawn James, Sue Luna, Armindo Fonseca

     In the 2010s, we launched

    • the Little Weaver tabletop dobby loom with its innovative shed opening mechanism tied to the beater movement.
    • the K-Series (in honor of our longest serving employee and loom designer, Kim Mitchell). 

    Tectonic Shift: Bringing Hand Weaving into the New Millenium

    In 2018 we entered new territory with the K-Series loom - our first counterbalance loom that made it possible for the first time to treadle up to 40 shafts without a lift assist system. More impressively, we implemented digital controls for the automatic cloth advance and warp tension systems, all controlled by our new web browser-based AVL Drive software developed specifically for the Compu-Dobby 5. What does all this technology do? Improve the weaving experience by leaps and bounds!

    From left: Kaytie Allen, Scot Kilpatrick, Kim Mitchell, Jannie Taylor, Mai Lee Thao, Dianne Ayers, Richie, Marty, Marshall Ellis, Tracey Cannon, Steve Pientak, Ryan Utnehmer, Amy Foster and Bob Kruger.