Sunday, April 5, 2009
"Our tools are very much a part of who we are."
--Ray Kurzweil, futurist
When I first saw this loom, in 1980, it belonged to another weaver. At that time, I didn't know front from back on a loom, but seeing this loom, I distinctly remember an inner voice speaking up: if this loom could come into my life, I would become a weaver. And, soon, strangely, this came to pass. The weaver decided that the loom took up too much room in her studio, and she wanted a smaller, 4-harness LeClerc. She asked if I could store it, and so I brought it to Avalanche, 4 miles up the road from Brush Hollow.
It is a Norwegian style, counterbalance loom. These old hand made looms are called barn looms, either because it was built with the same construction as the log barns in this area, or because it was so large it was only set up during the summer, in an unheated outbuilding, to weave. It has 2 harnesses, two treadles. Step on one treadle, it pulls that harness down, and by pulley action lifts the other harness.
It has a massive wooden frame cut from trees here on the old Norwegian immigrant farm, where they built the house, and the barn out of logs, and then the furnishings. The back beam is an octagonal shaped single log piece. The sectional rails were added to it, but the circumference of the log is 30". I don't know how much it weighs, but it is heavy. The overhanging beater is typical of Scandinavian looms, and this one swings easily, and beats with a satisfying thunk. It also creaks and squeaks a little. I think it sounds like a wooden boat. It was made ca. 1900. There is no maker's name on it, no date. A few notes penciled on the side of the beater in a weaver's hand say 3 rugs were woven for Martha Overbak. It came with no bench, but I can see where one was bolted on and removed. I learned to weave standing at it.
Once it had a fly shuttle, a contraption that flung the shuttle through the weaving shed. That was gone, like the bench, but the beater is a foot wider on either side of the loom to acommodate that mechanism. Weaving on an antique loom I often wonder who wove on it before me, and what they wove. The weavers are most likely ghosts now. They most likely wove rugs, or toweling. Maybe blankets. This was not a loom for fancy weaving.
At first I thought I should saw off the extensions on the beater, since I had small children then, roaming around the loom, and feared the beater accidentally hitting the 2 yr old. But I didn't shorten it, and there were no accidents. The beater packs a rug beautifully. It also turns out that the loom is very good to weave linen on.
When people visit here, and see this loom, they are often reminded of a grandmother who wove on a loom just like this one, only hers was much bigger! I think they were probably much smaller then, and have an enlarged memory. To thread the loom I sit inside it, and I lean into it while I weave. It feels like a room inside this loom, a spacious room from another time, and is still a good place to be.