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.

 

 

 

The Return of the Sun

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I read with interest yesterday an article about Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, the day halfway between the winter and spring solstices.  It is a holiday to celebrate the return of the sun.  It was interesting because I was just noticing the lengthening of the days.  It’s been easier this year because the winter has been so mild, the temperatures hovering around 50 this week makes it feel like we should be tapping the trees.

This is also when my to do list becomes extremely long and I dare say unrealistic.  There is a need to clean out, pare down, remove the cobwebs, air the rooms.  It’s like you want to shake off the past year.

I also notice a ramping up of creativity.  I just pulled a project from the loom and have three lined up on the table waiting to go on.  I have other looms and am seriously thinking of warping all three with different projects.  I’m not sure how productive that might be but it’s a thought.

There’s also the rug I continue to hook, the sweater I’m knitting, the teddy bear nearing completion.  There are baskets to stain, rooms to paint, furniture to build, cookies to bake.  Uhm, yeah, I’m out of control here.

In addition to that a case of wanderlust has come over me. I just want to get into the car and drive, preferably to water (I daresay I’d have to drive to the ocean because everything here is still covered with ice).  I don’t even know why the water part matters, I want to visit fiber stores and quilt shops.  I want to wind my way through New Hampshire to Maine touching handspun yarn and fine woolen fabric.  Looking at looms and shuttles.  Changing up the scenery, dreaming up big projects (like I don’t have enough already).

Feels like a serious case of spring fever to me, or maybe just an effort to shake off what has been a harrowing month.  Then again it could be something like a mid-life crisis only well beyond the mid-point.  Let’s see how this all shakes out.

 

 

Weaving Wednesday – April Fools

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Last night’s weaving class was one disaster after another it seemed.

My towels were tracking funny in the loom, the more I wove the worse it got until the weft had taken on a decidedly diagonal line.  I asked Pam if I should take off the toweling and tie the warp back on but we started out trying to see if we could just start over again and make it straight.  We checked all of the mechanics of the loom, tightened every screw, nut and bolt.   A few picks into it the problem was still there and it became obvious that the tension was more loose on one side than the other.  I had to unravel a good amount of weaving to save the warp length.  Wasn’t as bad as it sounds, once I got going it was almost relaxing.

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As I’m unravelling my mess, Jan, to my left is having the exact same problem.  It was hard to believe that both of us, doing completely different projects had the same thing going on.  It was true.  After tightening up her loom and measuring and remeasuring to see if it could be anything else she had to unravel her project as well.

As we were rebeaming my warp we found a problem with the brakes on the loom that might have been a factor in my whole fiasco so we had to pay attention to that before I continued.  All in all a rather stressful night for Pam.

While we were talking about warp tension she told me I should post a few photos of another project that has turned into what I would consider a nightmare.  A class member decided she wanted to weave yardage for a jacket out of chenille.  The pattern is lovely and they thought they had beamed her warp perfectly until she began weaving.

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In the process, while moving the warp forward, all hell has broken loose with her warp. This may be the nature of chenille since none of us has ever woven anything wider than 10 inches.

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The only way to salvage this was to use lease sticks in the warp while weaving.  This holds the tension evenly (although I couldn’t tell you how at the moment).

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Every time the lease sticks get to the heddles everything behind it has to be untangled as the sticks are pulled back.

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I’ll be honest with you – this might just be the project I would walk away from.  Or it might have turned into yardage for a vest instead of a jacket.

All in all last night was the first night I might have thought for a second we were the biggest April fools of all.

Agricultural Fairs

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The Heath Fair is coming up and I decided to enter a few things in it this year.  The overshot coverlet is one of them.  When I was a kid I would enter the fair every year.  I loved going there and seeing my things on display and winning ribbons.  They have premiums as well and the amount has not changed since I was 10 years old.  First – $3.00, Second – $2.00, Third – $1.00.  It has never been about the money – it’s about the ribbon.  Heath is still one of the best agricultural fairs going in my opinion.  It is very small, it has all the best fair food, they have a horse draw (which is my favorite event – especially with my camera), and they have a good, but not overwhelming competition going for all of their crafts, canning and livestock.  I also enjoy visiting people I’ve know for a lifetime but only see now at the fair.

The interesting thing about the fair is that everything that is entered has to be made in the time between the end of the last fair and the beginning of this one.  When it comes to canning and pickling that puts a bit of a time crunch on the maker.  I made the pickles last week, it will be the only canned good that will go in.  The weaving obviously has been completed and I entered a small hooked rug.  The other thing I entered is “Category: # 18  “Best Confection or Baked Good made with Maple Syrup”.  I have NO idea what I’m making and that may be the one thing that falls by the wayside.  You see, with entering things in the fair you have to register well in advance – no registration, no entry.  Fortunately they do online registration now so I just picked some categories and entered.

The day after registering for the Heath Fair my weaving instructor sent out an email asking her students to consider entering some of their weaving in the Big E because weaving was a category that was in danger of being dropped due to a lack of participation.  This fair is HUGE.  It is the Eastern States Exposition, goes on for days and the competition is stiff, especially in livestock.  I was unsure if the quality of my weaving would even be up to standards for this fair, I didn’t want to be embarrassed.  I got an “are you KIDDING?!” when I expressed my doubts so I entered two items.  If you’re an entrant you receive two entrance tickets and a parking pass – can’t go wrong with that – parking alone can be a deterrent for me.

The thing is I entered a piece that isn’t even on the loom yet.  I warped it last weekend only to find out that I had threaded it wrong, after unweaving about 5 inches I discovered I hadn’t counted my warp threads correctly so I had to really start all over again.  Bummer.  Guess what I will be doing this weekend.  I see it as the ultimate challenge – a 72″ overshot scarf in tencel and wool done from beginning to end in 3 weeks (maybe a little less).

Challenge accepted.