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Monday, January 9, 2017

Warping the Big Barn Loom... Part III

Davis Family with Peter Tumbledown

This is a photo of a sheep named Peter Tumbledown in 1910 on my very lawn.  This is the Davis family, Reginald and Winthrop Davis were twins, with their mom on the left and friend on the right, their family rented my house for a couple of years.

I have no idea if they had more sheep or if this was a pet. I don't know if they sheared their sheep or if they spun, wove or knit. But it is a great old photo.

My sister, Donna, did raise sheep. She raised, sheared, spun, knit and wove.  She came over to help me warp the Big Barn Loom the other day. I was so thankful for her help. I weave on a very small loom, a tape or band loom. Band looms are so easy to set up, usually 20-40 threads per warp and the warp has shorter lengths. On the Big Barn Loom, I am using a "found" newer reed that has 168 dents.  I had two spools of linen warp that was in my stash for years.  So we figured out we could make a linen warp about 13 feet long.

improvising on dresser drawer knobs

Beverly gave me a warping reel with the loom, but it is very big about 6' tall when standing. I am not sure where I will set it up, so my sister and I made our first warp on the long dresser I use to warp my tape looms.

It was hard to keep the cross in place, but she did it well, and we warped our first rug.

putting the cross on the original lease sticks

front to back warping.... going through the reed

threading through the string heddles center to right

halfway done threading!

tying on the back beam

ready to wind the back beam

Donna winding the back and...
Erin evening out the front
tying on the front beam

ready to weave... almost

Finding people to help and trying to figure things out means I have to use help when I can get it!  Donna, my daughter Erin and I got the threading done.  Before I can weave, I have to put new ropes on the heddles.  I have them hanging with jute cord, but something stronger is needed.  I also have only one original lamm, at least that is what I am calling the short stick I have that ties to the bottom heddle stick and then to the treadle.  One is missing so I am about to carve a replica.  Roger is back in Minnesota and has just finished the missing pulley.  The loom came with three very old pulleys.  We are going to need four to set up properly.    But for now the loom is warped.  And it looks great!
We are all excited about getting to the weaving part.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Big Loom... Making String Heddles and Aprons.... Part II

The other day I finished making string heddles.  This is all new to me, so in my typical "let's just do it" frame of mind, I ignored on-line suggestions of using Texsolv cord and just used some heavy crochet cotton.  I am reading "Weaving Rag Rugs" by Tom Knisely, so I made the suggested 300 string heddles on my little jig,  However, my loom did not come with a reed but I have one someone gave me that is 30" long and has 168 dents.  So this is what I will experiment on. I have a lot of extra string heddles made.

I wound my cord around the end of my table which is 27" wide 75 ties and cut each end. I did this again so I would have a more manageable two bundles of 150 strings.

(On the center hold make the square knots with the first knot starting left over right and the second knot starting right over left. This will keep the center hole in the heddle from twisting).

I found the traditional size of the strings was 10 1/2" long, so I made my jig accordingly with headless nails in a scrap piece of wood.  The center hole is 3/4" long and this worked well later when I threaded the warp.

I bent the top nail a little so I could remove each heddle, square knots at the bottom of each center nail and a square knot at the bottom. Removed the heddle and draped it over a wine bottle.

Next, I strung a few on my heddle sticks and tied one end of the heddles together.  If you prop up the open end of the heddle sticks with a thick stick or similar object, you can easily slide the rest of the heddle strings on. Then tie the other open end of the heddle sticks together and for added safety, I ran a cotton cord along the top and bottoms just to make sure nothing was going to slide off.

I made an apron out of heavy canvas.  I measured the width of my loom beams, cut accordingly and made the back apron 40" long and the front apron 50" long. I folded and stitched the sides of each apron. I zig-zagged one end to be attached to the beam. I folded and marked triangular cuts for the bars on the other end.  I zig-zagged the holes, refolded and double stitched the pocket down for the insertion of the metal bar.

My loom had old cords tied into the four holes along each beam and no trace of an apron. I found other looms that had nailed an apron along the beam. My loom had no such nail holes and this loom also has grooves cut into each beam along side of the four holes cut across the beams.  I could not find any photos of old looms on-line that showed this groove, but I thought if I wrapped the end of my apron around a narrow stick 1/2" x 3/4", I could insert it into the groove and tie it in. Once I did this, I found it would stay in as I turned the beam so I did not need to tie it on.  I tied a cord around each end to make sure the stick would not pop out.

And now the aprons are attached. One finished heddle is temporarily hung while I think about the next step. How will I hang the heddles?  Roger is back in Minneapolis turning me a new pulley.  Why?  Well I will tell you all about the pulley system in my next post.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Big Barn Loom Moves In... Part I

East Knoll, Torrington CT

I live in an old house in New England. East Knoll was built on small knoll on the east side of the highway that runs from Torringford to Winsted, Connecticut. My grampa bought the house from the decendants of original family that built it around 1820.

Mary and Capt John Birge built their house across the highway from my house and I believe their son, Simeon, built our brick house.  Generations have left their imprint in this house. The attic has my parents magazines and odds and ends from the  1950's. My grandfathers books are up there. My great grandmothers sewing basket. And before that books from the Birge family, a paddle style tape loom, a walking spinning wheel and a couple of reeds for a barn loom.

1800's weaving reed

This brings us to weaving! Reeds are part of a beater on a loom.  The weft threads are threaded through string heddles and then through a reed. The reeds in my attic are made from bamboo, cut into fine strips and attached to a frame like a big comb.

Weaving tent cloth in 1776...A page from: History of Torrington CT ...Orcutt 

So someone here in my house was a weaver.  I have talked about the tape loom in other pages of my blog.  Last year while working in Minnesota, I met a man weaving rugs on his mothers old Swedish rug loom. A massive and beautiful affair, years of dust and sweat from generations of weavers making rugs.  We spent five days demonstrating our trades at the fair in front of an old Swedish cabin and watching this wonderful man weave his beautiful rugs... and I wanted one.

Swedish loom, Isanti MN

The next spring, back in Connecticut, I got a phone call from a woman that lived in Isanti. She remembered I wanted one and said she had a barn loom in her barn. They were taking down the barn, so if I wanted it, come get it.  Of course I said yes but I had to wait a three months to pick it up. It was in pieces. She thought everything was there.

On Rogers lawn in Minneapolis

We got it on the back of my Chevy S10, set it up once in Minneapolis, then disassembled it and brought it back to Connecticut at the end of August. Put it in my barn and yesterday we started to set it up, upstairs in our old farmhouse.

Bringing it in from the barn...
and up the narrow steep steps...
into the new weaving room....
and setting it up.

Next... we have to make a couple of missing parts. Then we can set up the heddles and warp.

To be continued!  Sign up for my blog and you will be mailed the next part of the story and restoration of this 100 year old loom!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival... and Mercer Museum's Connection.... and Pottery

Mercer Museum, Doylestown PA

Mercer Museum is in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  I used to demonstrate pottery at their Mother's Day festival.  Now that their festival has been sadly terminated, I still stop in every year to see their tool exhibit.

There is a wonderful article about Henry Chapman Mercer on this site:

Henry Chapman Mercer and Rollo

This year on my way through Pennsylania, I stopped to show Roger the collection of stuff that Henry wonderfully collected.

My main interests were of course the pottery tools and weaving.  There is a little cubicle where some great pottery tools were displayed.  When I demonstrate pottery, I use an early American treadle wheel.  Most potters know about them although electric is now the preferred tool, and non-pottery people have never seen such a thing.  Treadle wheels, not kick wheels, were used in the United States till electricity was more readily available... even to the 1940s, treadle wheels were still being used in our shops.

Mercer has one.

Treadle potters wheel

My main interest this year, however, was the Tape Loom collection.  Unfortunately, a lot of the museums stuff is in little rooms behind glass.  I did not make an appointment to be let into the weaving room, so my photos are not as good as I would have liked.  They have quite a few box looms, and several paddle looms.  

In my research for the old tape looms, I have found several styles in the United States brought over by immigrants or made in the traditional manner by farmers and tradesmen for wives and daughters. Here in New England, there are many of these looms in our museums not recognized by most visitors and even weavers who now weave on bigger looms.  Tape looms were used to make Tapes and decorative bands. With the coming of power looms, cross grain tapes needed for ties and stays were mass produced at the turn of the last century.  Some die hard weavers kept weaving decorative bands but until recently the tape looms have been shelved in museums and not in use.

I find it a nice past time much like knitting. It is portable, fun to do, and like knitting, the bands produced are unusual and unique unlike bands you can buy in the store.  Inkle looms, the 1927 spin off of the Sweden floor band loom, somehow survived... because they are unusual, unique, portable and fun.  Most people use the inkle's now for guitar straps and belts.  

The nice old box or gate band looms seen at Mercer were used for decorative ties and trim as well as narrow bits of cloth needed for apron and hat ties.

Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum

I have been helping to revive this ancient tool for the past 20 years.  The bands are fun to make, there is a limitless combination of colors and styles.  They make wonderful headbands and bag straps, curtain ties and trim. It is portable, there are many you can put in your knitting bag or pocket, and people love to see you weave and love the results!

I will be at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend, May 28th and 29th, with my looms in the demonstration tent on Saturday.  I will have several set up for you to try.  Once you are hooked I have looms and how-to books you can buy, and information on how to make your own or where to buy modern plastic ones. I will have lots of bands for you to goggle over too.

Sunday I hope to be in a sales tent if you can't make it Saturday. Drop by and try out a loom!

If you knit, weave, like to use your hands you will love this old craft!

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Spring... Let's Get Together and Play with Wool! Wool Festivals in New England!

Nice way to  get out and see fellow wool lovers clipping, spinning, knitting, crocheting and just feel the home grown wool.  See the critters that grow it, see the people that take care of the critters, watch people using the fibers of different critters.  Meet fellow wool friends!

I will be bringing my looms, tools and how-to books and samples. Come and see and try out Tape and Band looms.

Chancellors Sheep and Wool Showcase, nearby the Hudson River in Germantown NY.
April 23rd, 11-4pm

This beautiful old estate hosts our first festival. Border Collies, Shearing, Music and great food!

Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival... Our 107th year! Vernon CT
April 30th, 9-4pm

The Tolland Ag Center is the spot to be for fibers, tools, gifts, great foods like lamb stew, kabobs and portabello burgers, music by the Fiddleheads, contests, classes, demonstrations, rain or shine!

Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair.... Commington, MA
May 28 and 29

See you at the Festivals!