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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!

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