Loom Move – The Rebuild

 

The holidays are over and the cold snap has broken so I’m no longer hauling wood and loading a stove every hour or so and fretting about farm animals suffering in below zero temperatures.  There are difficulties getting anything done in a timely manner this time of year, not the least of which is the lame internet access available where I live.  Getting media uploaded for publication can take days – yes, days. Consequently this particular post will be without video, bummer.

A few weeks ago began the loom move I wrote about in A Warped Sense of Fun.  There must be something about holiday weekends that attracts us to seemingly impossible tasks, New Year’s  seemed to work for those of us committed to follow through.

Let’s begin by saying it was cold.  Bone chilling, icy, snow on the ground, windy, cold.  Dressed for the weather we arrived at Peggy’s barn to initially figure out how to get the engine hoist where it needed to go.  It was heavy, on wheels and there was nothing but a snow/ice-covered path to get there.

The legs came off and on a sled it went. The beginning of a day of figuring out how to do things with what we had.

A lot of planning and discussion went on with this group.  How to move the base, where to place the head, how to pick it up.  Slow and steady was the call of the day, much different from the last session where everything seemed so rushed.

Planning – tools and parts in place.

Wondering if a plan will actually work.

For as much trouble as we had getting the head off and moved initially things seemed to go more smoothly moving it around in the shop and putting it back where it belonged.  Although about this time I was thinking my father and grandfather would be thinking of much easier ways to do this stuff (or laughing at our ineptitude).  Knowledge and experience, it’s what we’ve lost and none of us are the wiser until we work with things whose time has long passed.

Up and put in place.

Slow and steady.

As this was hanging in midair I couldn’t help but admire the paint Lenny had so painstakingly applied during its restoration.  It was a true labor of love.

Trying to get things put together.

Once the head was on the beater was put in place.

Finally it looked like a power loom again (something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see).

These are the faces of people who have accomplished something.  I love being involved in this sort of thing.  It makes you think until your brain hurts.   Everything you do has risks.  Everyone was thrilled (especially Peggy) that the big parts were all moved and put back into place without anyone getting hurt – the potential was certainly there.

We went in for some coffee and soup once the work was done for the day, a time to rehash what had just happened.  Richard commented on what a satisfying afternoon it had been.  It was a considerably different atmosphere on this workday.  Evenly paced, well thought out.  We did have our token youngster with us, we needed a strong back.  Andy is an old soul though, he seems to be channeling the mechanics of way back.  He gets it and loves it.   He is in this to see it run, not just to get it moved.  Good work had been done.  The loom has a way to go before it’s running but we no longer need a hoist to do the work.

I lost my grandfather decades ago, I was 20 at the time.  There are pieces of him everywhere still in the house I live in.  My father never got rid of anything – he had a desk drawer set up exactly as his father had, with his father’s things – a shrine of sorts.  Family members kept the stories alive.  The woolen mills were there lives.  I am a kinesthetic learner.  Watching Peggy weave, learning to build chain, winding bobbins, fixing broken threads, just listening to the loom run always seems to bring up more questions.  This is a visceral way to learn but it has given me the sights and sounds and smells of something that is part of who I am and where I come from.  Figuring out the mechanics is something we have all done, back generations and it feels comfortable and comforting to recognize that this sort of thing is genetic.  It’s also fun to work with people whose brains work the same way as mine.

 

WFH

When I started working with Peggy the only compensation I asked for was blankets to give for Christmas.  Quite honestly, being there, observing and helping in small ways was really compensation enough.

In one of my earliest posts about Bedfellows Blankets – It’s Always Something – I talked about the problems of badly spun yarn.  There were two jobs that were being woven for the same person with the same bad yarn.  One warp was finished and shipped.  The other has seen an off again on again relationship with the loom over the past 9 months.  Yes, that warp and I have been in close contact since I started going there.  It’s now affectionately referred to as the WFH (warp from hell).  Two hundred yards that have slowly and painfully made their way into cloth.

The pattern for the original job was a twill but had to be woven with double threads to give it more strength.  A little over 150 yards were woven, repaired and brought to the finisher before making its way to the customer.

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There were hours of mending broken threads.  Finally during the summer, with the cost overruns the customer cut their losses and there we sat with 50 yards or so still on the beam.  It sat there for a while.

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Peggy rethreaded it a number of different ways and finally began weaving a few throws when time permitted.  Warp threads still broke but different yarns for weft helped a little.

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It was still an exercise in frustration.  But . . . the finished throws were quite beautiful.  I decided these were the ones I wanted for gifts.  I brought a couple home – one herringbone and one plaited twill and wrapped them for Christmas.   I asked if I got some yarn for weft could we weave one for me.  I got a resounding  “Are you sure?”

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I got some lovely Harrisville Highland which proceeded to cause no end of problems because the weight of the yarn was just a little too much for the bobbin winder.  The temps were subzero outdoors and around 55 in the weave room.  Antique, oil-filled machines do not like cold temperatures so the process was slow.  Finally we were off and running.

Ahhh, I love that sound.  If you turn the sound up as high as it goes that’s what it sounds like with your ear protection on.  I’m not sure why my grandfather wasn’t deaf.

Well, we were stopping every 10 to 15 picks as usual.  The whole process was pretty painful.  Photographing is was – challenging.  During that little video two threads broke that I didn’t see on either side of the frame.  Yup, now I was just thinking about the repairs.

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Knotting the fringe was the final job before wet finishing – into the washer, cold water gentle, line dry.

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The finished throw is truly wonderful.  The yarn fulled as I expected making a soft, thick blanket.  The fringe looks almost like raw wool ( it almost is) because it had to little twist in it.  I probably should trim it and will eventually but I’m just enjoying it for now.

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These past months have given me a new respect for artists who create these treasures.  People will buy them and love them but will never know what went into their making.  The time, the care and often  frustration.

Peggy wove 3 more throws the other day while I was there.  One went pretty well, the other two not so much.  There’s probably another 20 yards on the warp and I asked her when she was going to be done with it – just cut it off.  She told me she was going to continue to work on it.  She did it to honor the wool.  So with time and patience that’s what she’s doing and for me that’s the most important lesson of all.

If you’re interested in one of these throws contact Bedfellows Blankets and ask about the WFH.

 

Learning New Things About Old Things

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This morning I was doing some photography for a book that Peggy is writing on wool.  It’s been a long time since I’ve taken photographs for someone else, let alone tabletop items.  It was stressful and wonderful at the same time.  She also wanted a photo of my wool wheel in a specific place.  As you can see I had more than one obstacle to deal with.  He is a master of photo bomb.  I had to physically remove him from the area.

Along with the photographs I took was one I had to scan.

Charlton Woolen Weave Room

This is a photograph of the weave room at Charlton Woolens probably taken in the mid to late 1930’s.  My grandfather’s toolbox is one of many in the photograph.  This photo was one of the many reasons I wanted to experience the Crompton and Knowles power looms. In doing so this photograph is so much richer.  I now have an understanding of what was happening in this room, where the weavers stood, the noise.  I look at this photo and think about how you must have felt the vibrations in your feet and gone home with your ears ringing.  I have a better idea of the kind of job a loom mechanic had.

I’m always amazed at just how long research takes when it comes to history if you want to understand the whole story.  Genealogy gives you the names and dates of the people – the who, what and where kind of thing.  The photographs, when you can find them, begin to fill out the story.  Then there is the living history.  This is far more elusive but when you find it you can put yourself in your ancestors shoes with a little bit of imagination.

Social history is what makes studying the past come alive.  It’s where you begin to understand a little about the way people thought about their world and made their life decisions.  Public records give you clues into things.  You begin with the big stuff – politics and religion and work your way down to minutia.  Things like what were they wearing and how did it affect how they moved and did their work.  You look at how men and women treated each other, how economics made or broke their lives.

I think there’s been an injustice served on the American people in not teaching our history in a way that is accessible to everyone.  I think a lot of the turmoil that we see is a lack of understanding of what has gone on before.  I feel like people are making up things as they go along in a way that is only self-serving. Their knowledge is so narrow.  Maybe because social media has taken over our lives and rather than read a book we read twitter every morning.  I think the idea of knowing our history has been lost.  It’s too bad because some of the greatest stories ever told are true.

I plug along learning new things about old things everyday.  I’ll continue to put myself into situations where I can understand what was going on or the work involved.  One year I dug my garden plot completely by hand so I could feel what kind of work went into putting in a kitchen garden for the women of 1840.  It’s one thing to read about it, quite another to do it.

The real goal is putting the family history into words with understanding.  Not just any story, a story that makes these people human. One that makes you understand that the world could be just as scary a place to them as it sometimes is to us.  History repeats itself, over and over, but unless you know something about it you don’t recognize it when it happens.