Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Loom Story

A lot of us work in other media. It isn't unusual for an artist to combine two dimensional work with three dimensional work or to cross over from fibers to jewelry. Many of us have trained in painting or drawing.

While we were in the UK, I studied weaving for some time. I had always had an interest in fibers. I made baskets, learned how to hand-cane chairs and worked in making ethnic clothing and fiber conservation.

I have owned this antique loom since the early 1970's. The loom's beater section is mounted on rocker bottoms which makes it unique. And it wasn't until recently that I discovered how unique when I found Phyllis Dean's website:

It's totally hand made--actually hand hewn from pine--the tool marks show on the timber. All the wood has a wonderful patina, warn smooth by many hands and years of use.

Here's what it looks like fully assembled. Unfortunately, it's in sections now, stored in various places around my house. The largest pieces are the two upright pieces that have the arms on the side to hold the counterbalance beam at the top.

The warp beam is a modified log. The rod that serves as a break (see right side of the picture) can be inserted into the holes, looped through the rope that holds it from rotating (see the right hand side of the loom) Quite effective, really.

The reddish colored heddles are made of string tied in linen thread. They work just as well as wire heddles; actually even better because they have a bit of forgiving 'give'. It's not hard to replace a broken one, just tie up another thread.

The original reed is made of thin slivers of bamboo held down with strong cording wrapped around two round rods that measure the width of the interior of the loom. I still have it. It looks like the cord has been shellacked to give it strength. I'm sure the bamboo worked fine as a reed, but some of it was missing, so I inserted a metal reed in it's place. The cloth beam has a wooden feed dog and a rocker brake on the side. (Not showing in this photograph).

Not much to the tie-up or treadles here. I suppose I could add two more harnesses and a couple more treadles and have a 4 treadle counterbalance, but I was happy to do rag rugs and tapestry type weaving on this old beauty. The rhythm of the weaving and heft of the beater was a real work-out.

I bought this loom from a lady who was sitting in an old mill in southern Missouri, doing a demonstration of spinning wool. Just on an impulse, I asked her if she knew of anyone who had an old loom for sale. She said she had one at her house that she used to use, but hadn't for quite some time.

She said it was at her house, a short distance away, so we went to have a look.. I could hardly hide my excitement when I saw it. I asked her if she knew anything about where it had come from, etc. but she didn't have much information to share.

When I asked her if she wanted to sell it and how much she thought she wanted out of it, she began to query me about just WHO I was, who my family was related to. I got the distinct impression that she just wasn't going to sell this loom to the first person to come down the pike.....I felt like I had to give her my pedigree first.

And after about a half hour or more (these things take time, you know) talking with her and my giving her almost my whole family tree, I suppose she decided I was 'okay' I because we agreed on a price and began dis-assembling the thing to load it into our car. I paid very close attention to how it all went together so I wouldn't be stumped when I wanted to set it up. It would be several weeks before I could reassemble the loom in a new home.

I have spent many happy hours working on this loom, but the time has come to find it another home. I can't say goodbye to weaving all together, though, I have two other looms at my house--one I saved from the bonfire and another multiple harness table loom for complicated patterns.

So, either it will go to a private party who loves it and it's history as much as I do or to a museum or historical reconstruction exhibit where it can be shared. Interested parties can contact me through the comments section of the blog.

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