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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Tale of My Loom

The acquisition of my first loom was quite an adventure. When I first decided to leap into the breach of rug weaving I knew I had to have a large heavy loom. I was frustrated in High School when two of my best friend inherited old hand carved Swedish looms from family members, but did not weave at all. The women in my family had worked. My paternal grandmother had been a teacher, nurse and eventually a chiropractor. She kept her practice almost to the day she died. My maternal grandmother had also been a teacher and when her husband passed away very young she began work as a bookkeeper for the county, a job she stayed at for the rest of her career. As far as I knew there were no hidden looms haunting any barns in my family. This meant I would have to hunt for my own.

I quit my job at the drapery factory where I had worked for almost 10 years and received a small amount of profit sharing, which I planned to put towards fiber endeavors. I had already purchased a spinning wheel. I bought a lovely fleece after a friend showed me the basic mechanics of spinning, and I ordered the Ashford wheel and a book. After much trial and error I finally figured out how to spin so one dream was accomplished… That left me with $300.00 to spend on a loom.

Someone advised me to look in farm auctions… that there often were looms sold that had lain around unused for a long time and that I might find a bargain. This was in the early 80’s. I hunted all the farm newspapers for months and finally ran across an auction that listed a rug loom. I was so excited. I drove quite a distance and waited anxiously in the cold for the loom to come up on the block. They sold all the little stuff and finally moved to the furniture. After several hours the loom finally came up. I was ready. I clutched my number and was ready to do battle. The auctioneer began and started the bid at….. $300.00. I was crestfallen. I shouldn’t have, but I had put all my hopes and dreams into that one loom.

I had bid on a couple pairs of earrings, which I had won, sort of a consolation prize I guess. A gentleman approached me and asked if he could purchase one of the pairs. We struck a deal since he wanted the pair that I was not interested in. We got to talking and I poured out my tale of woe. He told me that he had seen a loom much like the one that had been at the auction at a garage sale he had attended. He happened to still have the address and figured the guy might still have the loom. Oh boy, I thought, a second chance. I thanked him profusely and went home in high spirits.

Later that week I called the guy and he told me that yes he did still have the loom and if I were interested I was welcome to come see it. I was very interested and apparently felt over confident. I called a friend who had become a weaver in college to help me evaluate it and we drove the 50 miles or so to look at it. When we got to the guy’s house we found the loom in pieces. He said he was a potter and that he had purchased it a few years earlier from an elderly rag rug weaver. That told me the loom was at least a rug loom of some kind. He had never gotten around to putting it together though, but said all the pieces were there plus a couple shuttles (that looked hand made)

I asked him how much he wanted for it and he countered with “What did I want to offer?” I blurted out that I only had $300.00 to spend and he accepted. I probably could have gotten it for less, but weaving fever took over I guess.

My friend and I packed up all the pieces to the loom and crammed them into the Dodge Colt I was driving back then (they just barely fit) and we hauled my new treasure back home. My friend Michael helped me set it up and low and behold the darn thing had no treadles. Well that was weird. Every big loom I had seen had treadles. Not only did it not have treadles, but it had all this cast iron stuff that didn’t seem normal for a loom. Bravely I pushed ahead though and set it up the best I could. I knew I needed more information about this industrial looking monster so I hunted for clues all about the loom. There was a fading label that read Newcomb Loom Company, Davenport IA. Being the resourceful woman that I am, I called the Chamber of Commerce in Davenport. I was told that the Newcomb Loom Company had gone out of business the previous year (Drat the luck), but that a man had bought the rights to their patterns and designs. His name was Menno DeBeachy. I got Mr. DeBeachy’s address and wrote him. I included several pictures of the loom and the dear man wrote a nice long note back with instructions on how it really was put together.

He told me it was a flying shuttle loom that had had its side arms cut off (the flying parts). He also told me a little bit of history about my loom, which was called “The Weaver’s Delight”. They were each numbered and the Newcomb Company was very careful not to sell too many looms to any particular area and also that when a loom passed into another weaver’s hands that that new purchaser was recorded. He very sternly also told me that I had several pieces on backwards. His instructions were very helpful and I used him as a resource for several years. I bought some replacement parts from him and got the loom warped up and began weaving. A few years and a few rugs later I wrote to him looking for a replacement part and received a note back from his wife telling me that he had passed away, but that the designs had been purchased by another gentleman named Garland Tickle. I was beginning to think that one needed an unusual name to own the company.

After a few more years and many more rugs passed I purchased a second Weaver’s Delight and cannibalized my old one to repair the newer one. I registered my looms with the loom registry and found a list of the previous owners and the years they had been produced. My first loom was built in 1918 and the second 1942.

The most recent person I contacted about my loom and replacement parts was Sharon Outlaw and so the interesting name chain continues. This has now been a few years and I wonder if the Outlaws still own the business? My Weaver’s Delight turned out fortuitously to be just the right rug loom for me and we work together like clockwork most of the time. It has it’s own personality just like me and we both have our off days, but most of the time we work great together and hopefully will for a very long time to come

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My other Weaving

Besides weaving with rags and felting with wool I cane and rush chairs. It started when my husband and I were setting up housekeeping and were given four lovely chairs from his grandparents. They had come from the old ice cream parlor that his family had run. The only problem was that they were dried out and had absolutely no vestige of seats left in them. Well free is free and I said "Oh I can figure that out" and we brought them home.

It took me a little while to find someone who sold cane and that particular company enclosed a free sheet of paper explaining how to cane a chair. I ordered enough cane to weave four seats and leaped bravely into the breach.

I suppose I should preface this a little with some background information on my confidence. I grew up the oldest of seven children. My folks were strong believers in doing for themselves. They were both very creative and inventive people. They also instilled in us children a great respect for the earth and for reusing and restoring things that could be rescued.

I watched my mother learn how to cut glass to replace broken panes. She repaired many a toilet. We canned much of our own fruits and vegetables. I learned never to be afraid to try to learn how to do something no matter how daunting it may seem.

That first chair took me almost two months to complete, but 30 years later we are still sitting in it. When I compare it with my work now I am a little embarrassed at the lack of skill, but someday I will reweave them all. It is, I'm afraid, a little like the cobblers children always going without shoes. Anyhow I have since caned hundreds of chairs and even restored chairs in the historic home of Henry Sibley at the Sibley House Museum.

I have become a very good seat weaver and am presently working on a beautiful rocker. I finished the seat and am presently working on the back of the chair. It is a big chair and is using a great deal of cane, but so far no sneaky little problems. I have finished the horizontal and vertical canes and am now working on the diagonals. After those have been completed the chair is finished with a binder that covers the holes and finishes the piece.

This is the current chair I am caning... It has a total of 190 holes drilled around the edge. Re-weavers of chairs charge their customers by the number of holes. This particular chair is woven using fine cane. I just finished one that used super fine cane and man was that a pain to do. The holes are very close together and the cane is much more fragile to work with.

Here is me working in the living room. I do most of my caning while sitting on the sofa. I have a nice soft area rug on the floor there and since I have to flip the chairs so much it provides padding and keeps the chairs from getting scratched

Here is a pic of the cane waiting to be soaked before weaving. I wrap it into little curls and clip with wooden clothespins. It fits more easily into the bowl that way

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's up at WebWorks

I'm afraid all my time lately has been spent trying to get my rugs photographed and up on ETSY and ArtFire. I only can get about four done per day and when you have 200 rugs that can be a daunting task.

I do not weave 200 rugs a year, but over the last 20 or so I have managed to build up an inventory which I can then add to as I sell. That way I usually have something that will suit the customer. Not always though. Every now and then I need to do a batch of rugs that will take a long time to sell. Turquoise, Pink, Orange... all of those need to find just the right people to take them home :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What Is It?

I own so many odd fiber tools that I think I will start trying to figure out what the more mysterious ones might be or even whether my guess has been incorrect and they are not actually fiber tools.

This is a good start since I simply have a feeling that these might be fiber tools. When my grandmother passed away a couple years ago I found a small paper bag with these beautiful tools. They spoke to me somehow and I asked if I could have them. No one else had a clue what they were so I acquired them. Now my grandmother was not a weaver, or fiber person that I know of. Her mother had been a milliner briefly, but my grandmother had been a bookkeeper for most of her life after being a school teacher.

If anyone can help me identify these little critters I would greatly appreciate it. The lines around the tops of the bulb part are small grooves

oh and as a side note I did weave the matt that is sitting underneath the bowl :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Showing off a bit

My daughter Maddie is easily a much more basically talented artist than I am. I can only take credit for some of her genes and allowing and encouraging her to explore anything and everything her artistic heart desires. My mother studied commercial art and was a prize winning rosemaller. My dad was also very artistic. My great grandmother was a milliner (something I only recently discovered) She has been part of my rug weaving her whole life and it has been exciting this year to have her take "Intro to Fibers" in college where she is a Theater major with an Art minor. She went above and beyond the call of duty in the class. Her professor was Morgan Clifford, an internationally acclaimed weaver in her own right, and Morgan has already asked her to continue in studio fibers. The following are two felt pieces that she did for her final project in the class and subsequently gave her to her dad and I for Christmas. (She got an A)

This is Maddie's felted rendition of one of my favorite works of art. Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" it called Nuno Felting which means the bits of colored wool are needled on to a sheet of silk. Scarves are often made this way.

This is the one she made for Puck. It is Monet's "Water Lilly's"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year, a New Blog

My first post in my new Blog. I wish that I could say that I have been weaving up a storm, but most of my time has been spent photographing my current inventory and trying to get things posted on Etsy and Artfire. So far so good, but I still only have a small portion of my rugs posted. Every day I do a few more. I hope to be able to keep up with this blog. I will try to post at least once a week.

Oh today I did manage to get three sheets filleted and cut into strips. Now I just need to move all the Christmas stuff out of the studio so I can get at the sewing Machine and the loom.

Happy New Year