A Warped Sense of Fun

Weavers are a crazy lot, well maybe not all weavers.  My circle of weaving/fiber friends tend to lean towards crazy and I’m thinking that is probably the attraction for me.  The mechanics – the equipment – is really the draw.  I love the structure of it all including the cloth which makes me wonder sometimes why we are not more sane.

Now add to this mix a bunch of enthusiastic boys (mid to late 20’s) and an incredibly heavy, cast iron power-loom and you have a recipe for a real anxiety producing experience.

This is Peggy’s barn frame loom.  She’s a beauty and the first one I ever used.

I have to start with this because it took on a whole new purpose this past Saturday.  There are three Crompton & Knowles W3 power looms in Peggy’s weave room right now and there was a much smaller one in a very small room on an upper floor.  She decided to move it into her weaving room so it could be used.  It’s a beauty.  48 inches wide, having a complete restoration done by Lenny, the loom mechanic.  To my knowledge it hasn’t been run since the restoration, but I digress.

I was called about the move a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t able to attend the first phase.  Last week I got another call and also volunteered husband Bill (the mechanic) and my son-in-law (the young back).

Before we left the house Bill loaded up a chain fall, pipes, bars and other heavy equipment moving tools.  He met Richard in the room with the loom – the other member of the boomer generation with some knowledge of how to do these things.  They formed a plan (meanwhile the boys dove in).

I was tasked with taking apart the barn frame loom on the floor directly above the loom we were moving – the boys decided that the loom would make the perfect mount for the chain fall to pick up the head of the power-loom below (at 600 lbs. mind you) and proceeded to cut a hole in the barn floor.  I cannot begin to express the amount of anxiety I had about this.  We love our looms and I was beginning to think we were about to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.

The loom was moved over the hole, angle iron was placed on the top and the chain was lowered and attached to the head of the power-loom ready to lift it off so the based could be moved out from under it.

There was a slight problem because of the yelling that needed to be done on the parts of both sets of people – on different floors – on when to stop and start, up or down with the chain.  I worried for naught, the loom frame didn’t even groan.

A 2×4 was placed through the heavy end of the head and the chain attach but moving it proved to be quite the balancing act.  Ratchet straps were deployed and the moving continued.

The engine hoist was brought in and the transfer from the chain fall was made.

With the help of young backs the head was lifted off of the base.  We got to a point where it could stop and all had a lunch in the barn.

Where the geezers conferred some more.  I’ve found that the older the guy the more planning they do.  I think these guys were thinking much farther ahead on this game – like about putting it back together or getting it down the hill into the basement.

With all hands on deck the base was moved from under the head.

Then the head was moved out onto a second trailer.

What a beautiful piece of machinery she is.

Once the base pieces were moved into the weave room the head was ready to follow.  (Yes, that’s a Maypole braider in the background and I just wanted to throw it into the back of our truck but thought Peggy might notice it was missing).

It was getting late in the day and the objective at this point was to get everything inside.  People were exhausted.  The base was assembled enough to stand on its own and the head was put down beside it.  Assembly will happen another day (or days most likely).

I never realized what happens with an age gap like we had in this little project.  The boys had this energy, enthusiasm, let’s get this job done kind of attitude.  Those of us in a different generation approached it with caution, planning, fear of injury.  It’s kind of sad in a way, how much we lose as we get older but on the other hand we have gained so much in experience.  I dare say not a single one of those younger guys gave a thought to injury when all I was thinking about was where I can dial 911.

In writing this it suddenly dawned on me how many of these my father and grandfather moved out of the weave room at Charlton Woolens after the flood in ’55.  My dad was 24 at the time, they must have had help but honestly the weave room must have had 50 looms of much larger size in it.  They moved them to the next town over and rebuilt what they could out of what they salvaged.  Now the burning question is how did they do it?  There’s no one to ask.

I know they had family and like minded friends and I assume what happened this past weekend was similar in fashion to what happened then.  People came together to work towards a larger goal.  That’s the beauty of the crazy weaver community.  We are surrounded by people who love our crazy and are willing to be a part of it.




11 thoughts on “A Warped Sense of Fun

  1. I do trust all the ideas you have presented in your post. They are very convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very quick for beginners. May just you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

  2. I had just found this post and wanted to ask, is this W3 from the Charlton Woolen Mill? Id be interested to know because I worked there as a young adult in the 1970’s when my mom and dad retired from the mill around the same time.

    • It’s a W3 but not from Charlton Woolen. I would really like to talk to you though. That mill has a special place in my heart because so many people in my family worked there. My email is dogmom256@gmail.com, please contact me when you get a chance. What did you do while working there?

      • Amazing! Well we are an old Charlton family and chance is I probably worked or know some of your family. My dad was on the Fire Dept. In 1955 and Skip Bellerive carried me as a 1 year old during the flood to the Sullivans near Frank Ronzos ,he was the owner of the store where Ted’s is today. Yes I would like to speak with you, but even more I’d love to see that old loom running. I worked all jobs in the weave room. I got to work with my dad as a Fixer apprentice the last two years before he retired. Bobby Fitts was the boss. Bill Meservey was the Super. His wife was my teacher at the City Grade School on rt20. Yes I go way back. Who are the family members who worked there?

    • I think seeing it run may have to wait til the end of August. The looms are used by a friend of mine (I’m the bobbin boy). There are 2 W3s she uses but only runs one at a time. My grandfather was a loom fixer there I believe until 55. The weave room was flooded out and he bought all the looms for scrap and he and my father mended what they could and began Alix Woolens in Globe Village in Southbridge. They lived on Stafford St next door to Benoit’s. Henry Benoit was my great uncle and did a lot of machining for the mill. I visited Charton Historical Society a few years ago and looked through their drafts but they dont have anything preflood.

      • I knew your Grandfather Henry , I’d been to his Machine Shop many times with my Dad. I’m closer in age to Frankie Benoit. He’s a little younger than me.
        I’d like to send a picture of my Dads tool box he built. I had it refinish and we use it as am end table in our living room. A typical Fixers Box. I have a blanket that came from the Weave shop durning the contract they had for Army blankets during the Vietnam war. It’s in perfect condition. That’s when the mill went with mainly “wool blends”. The Spinners hated working with it because the fibers were so short. I’m glad to exchange stories with you any time and hope you to meet with you and see that old loom run. Thsnks again for taking the time to respond.

      • Henry was my Dad’s uncle – Franny was his cousin. My grandfather was Elmer Alix. Richard Alix was my dad. I have my grandfather’s toolbox as well and a great photo of it in the weave room with everyone else’s. We’ve never cleaned it out. Full of tools and parts. There are actually pieces of looms all over the place here. My father never threw anything away.

      • Love to see the pictures when its convenient, my apologies, I have your family members mixed up. I did know Henry, but not your Grandfather. Your cousin Frankie was part of the crowd my nephews were friends with. Time has a way of getting away. So please let me know when it would be a good time , to stop by the “Mill” and take a peek at this loom. I’d be happy to listen. As a child I would leave the window open at night and fall asleep to the rythm. They used to run 3 shifts back then. Thanks again

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