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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


  1. I love the story of your loom, thank you! I have no idea of what it might look like but it conjures the image of an old Wolfe gas range with the cast iron! Sturdy & faithful!

  2. Thanks so much Sheila. When I get the time I will post some pictures of the dear old thing... you can get a glimpse of it in the little Webworks on TV buzzed into Madison link at the top left of the page here.