Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm in Love...

I've never had too much enthusiasm for owning a counter-balance loom, with no real reason as to why. Most likely, because it wasn't the first type of loom I ever wove on. Since I prefer the familiar, the comfortable, the unchanged, I haven't really given this type of loom more thought. But say "Free Loom" to me, and suddenly I have developed a desire to own one. I believe I've developed a tendre for the smaller Lane loom over the last week or so. Which means, I'll probably become rather attached to the larger, once I start putting its pieces back together.

As usual, it took Floyd and I a few attempts to get the smaller Lane loom through two doorways and into the Loom Room."How about this?" I asked, wondering whether or not we turned the frame sideways would help.
"Still need some clearance," Floyd said. We set the loom down, and studied door number one.
"I bet we need to take the door off. We always need to take the door off, " I suggested.
"Yeah," Floyd said, staring at the door. "I was just hoping, just this once."
"We're always hoping, 'just this once' but we always take the door off," I replied.

Floyd chuckled ruefully, "Ok, back her up." We walked the frame back out of the narrow hallway and out onto the wide landing at the top of the first set of stairs. Setting it in front of the bathroom door, we walked back down the hall to take the door off its hinges. After which, we walked the loom back down the hall again, only to discover we had to further disassemble the loom frame. We were also hoping to avoid that as well.

"Ok, back her up," Floyd said, yet again. Walking back wards, we set Li'l Lane back down, again, on the landing. Floyd grabbed his tools and took off the two front upright supports of the frame. That was the moment we noticed someone had stamped part numbers onto the loom."Saaa-weet!" I exclaimed. "It's even easier to put back together than usual, because the parts are numbered. Look!"
"That's a good thing," Floyd said.

Third time's the charm, so they say, and it certainly was true for us. We got Li'l Lane situated in her spot and began putting her frame back together.

Then began the re-arranging of the Loom Room. I now had seven looms into a small space. "How can we make this work?" I wondered, determined TO make it work. After several configurations and "No, that's not right. No, I don't really like that arrangement either," I apologized to Floyd. "I'm sorry. We've re-arranged this several times. I know we'll find the right combo. Maybe if we move this here..."
"It's ok, I'm married to your mother. It's no worse than re-arranging the living room a thousand times." He said.

Finally, we got it set up so that the flow of room traffic was as unimpeded. as possible. It is crowded, but I've yet to work in a weaving studio where it wasn't. Most times, someone's back beam, nearly became my back rest. Two of the looms are a little smushed together in this picture, because I've been moving them around as I work on them.

Later that week, we took off Li'l Lane's aprons, and I disassembled the shafts. I greased up the heddle bars, and replaced her heddles. Using Murphy's Oil Soap, I lovingly washed away the basement grime from her previous home on all her wooden parts. Once dry, I polished the wood with Old English. I don't know why I like Old English, but it works like a charm on old looms.

Floyd and I did our usual stalking of the mega-monster-hardware-store for parts and pieces that would work to refurbish the loom: new rods for the apron, four bolts and washers and wing-nuts for the beater. We were struggling to find the right diameter of rope to replace on the pulley-system, and we weren't happy with the choices of foam rubber we found to put on the frame to keep the beater from bashing up the old wood. However, we did score in the slat-wall accessory department, and found some parts and pieces that will work really well for organizing all of the reeds and equipment. After all, I'd just taken up all the floor space with looms. Now I need to take up the wall space with the auxiliary weaving equipment.

Using some old-fashioned ingenuity, Floyd thought of flip-flops for the beater bumpers (say that ten times fast) and we decided I'd hit a dollar store later to pick up a pair. Cut up the flip flops into rectangles, and tack onto the frame, and voila! The perfect bumpers, at an affordable price. A few days later, I stopped at JoAnn Fabrics for new cloth to sew into aprons. for the cloth and warp beams. The only thing I have yet to obtain is waxed cord. I prefer it for the aprons over any other string. I found several jewelry beading online supply stores, but as I'm not a jeweler, I couldn't tell one diameter from the next. I guess I'll be leaning on Rebekah's expertise for that.

In the meantime, I've been working on the two Macombers we picked up from Bowling Green University in Ohio. I washed them down, and have been waiting to polish their wood, as I have had some repair to do first. Their aprons and shafts are off, heddle bars greased. My daughter has been sorting flat heddles to be put back on. I sanded down the back beam of the one loom, where the varnish was all but gone, and so far, put two coats of satin finish on to protect the wood. I would like to put at least two more coats on. It will never look 'new' but the rest of the loom still shows signs of use and I didn't want to completely refinish the beam and make it stand out. Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I prefer the markings on a well-loved, well-used loom.

L'il Lane, along with the two Macombers are still in pieces, waiting for their make-overs to be complete. Big Lane is in even more pieces waiting for her make-over to begin. And while I love working on a Macomber, something about this Li'l Lane speaks to me. I don't know if it's the aged wood, the size of her, or that by still existing, she speaks of a time and era that came before mine. All I know, is I'm attached to an inanimate object. And I can only hope she'll be a joy to use when all is said and done.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Loomatics (rhymes with Lunatics) ride again

It was a hot, humid, yet glorious Tuesday, when Floyd, my son Joshua, and I went on the road with a trailer hitched to Floyd's truck. Stopping in Philadelphia to pick up Kathryn, we began our most recent loom collecting adventure. Sadly, the world is now bereft of Doris Boyd, a wonderful fiber artist, wife, mother, teacher, and long-time weaver. Her basement held all of her looms, equipment, and yarn, where, I imagine, all of the activity took place. The family, hoping to clear out the studio, had held a sale of her looms back in April. This day, they were giving away the rest, hoping looms would go to good homes. A member of the New Jersey Handweavers Guild had contacted Kathryn to donate a loom to the homeless project: a 24" Devereux loom. In turn, Kathryn informed us that there were other looms, wondered if we'd be interested. Interested? Did she really just ask me if I was interested. Ahem….

"Hi, I'm Melanie, and I'm a loom-aholic."

I never turn down the opportunity to acquire another loom (especially if the only cost is in mileage/gas/acquisition and repairs). And really, what’s a road trip without pulling Floyd, my appointed 'loomatic,' into the mix? Sooooo, Floyd and I put our heads together, figured out from whom we could borrow a trailer (Thanks Eric!) and made last-minute plans for a trip to Tabernacle, NJ. Since we set out so early, we decided to stop for breakfast close to our destination. After all, "loomaticing"(I just made that word up. No really, I did.) requires great quantities of ones reserve energies.

Around the table starting on the left: Kathryn, Floyd, Joshua, Melanie

After several cups of coffee, a couple of omelets, creamed chip beef, and a short stack of pancakes, our tummies were tanked up, and we were ready to go out into the world of loom foraging. We arrived at the Boyd home a few minutes early of their opening, but it wasn't long before more eager loom-atics showed up. Several looms were already put aside for others, however with great foraging prowess, we were able to acquire two Lane counter-balance looms: small and medium sized.

It took some creative disassembling on our part to carry the Lane looms out the door (good thing we had tanked up in advance). The Devereux was compact enough to keep in one piece. It took even more creativity to pack it all up into the back of Floyd's truck and the trailer, but we managed.

Arriving back in Philadelphia, we hit a snag when we tried to take the Devereux through Kathryn’s front door. Oooops…well this is why we always bring Floyd along. Ok. Turning the loom this way and that, and still there was just no way it would fit. Frustrating. We only needed a stingy little half of an inch, and the loom would have made it. We looked at whether or not we could get the screen door off. Maybe that would gain us more clearance. No? How about putting it through the window? Oh, fun. None of us relished that thought. OK…let’s take it apart. Floyd? Oh, my. Well that’s interesting. The Devereux seemed to have (aside from the beater) no nuts and bolts with which to take it apart! Hmmmm. We looked it over. We lifted and looked under. We bent down low and looked sideways. Humpf! “Well how about that!” We collected sighed. Who would have thought? A fine work of craftsmanship, in and of itself, the loom was constructed aesthetically so that the joins were practically seamless.
(Floyd taking off the beater...which actually did have bolts)

Not to be out-crafted, eventually, I noticed four wedges down at the bottom of the loom. The foot rest, and back support bar fit through slots on the frame sides, and then the wedges were positioned into slots, as if holding the bars onto the frame.

"Hey look at this!" I said "I wonder what would happen if we took those out." Floyd got out his tools, gently easing the wedges out of their slots. Amazingly enough, the entire loom is held together by those four wedges. A rather ingenious design, if I do say so myself.

Piece by piece, we got the Devereux into Kathryn's house, and into the front room.

"Do you think you can get that back together before you go?" Kathryn asked.
"Sure, No problem!" I said.
I began to reassemble the loom, and got a slight bit stymied when it came to putting the shafts back on. As sweat beaded on my brow, and my loom repair prowess was tested, not to mention my pride, I fiddled until I got it figured it out. I had never seen a counter balance loom quite like the Devereux, its pulley system quite different than what I'm familiar with. Not to mention, I've only touched a handful of counter-balance looms. Taking what I knew about the loom, how it should work, I managed to work out the solution. Now here's hoping when Kathryn warps it for the first time, it's correct. I could foresee a trip back to Philadelphia in the near future, if it's not.

Being pressed for time, we said our goodbyes, and piled back into the truck. We wandered around the maze of streets for a bit, as Kathryn's neighborhood was a little unfamiliar. The GPS wanted to take us around the block endlessly, but thankfully, Floyd has a good sense of direction. We still managed to beat the beginnings of Philadelphia rush-hour traffic.

Arriving back in Reading, we pulled up to the curb, put our flashers on, threw the cone out onto Washington street, and quickly unloaded the trailer. We were nearly completed when an officer pulled up behind us and asked if we had a permit.
"A what?" we asked
"A permit for loading and unloading on a thoroughfare. You need one for Washington Street."
"Oh we're sorry. We didn't know. We've been unloading stuff before and never had a problem. No one ever told us different," we said.
"Just make sure next time you have a permit," the cop said as he pulled away.

Stashing the looms quickly into the building, we head off for some quiet and some vacation time, the looms waiting for our return. Don’t tell Floyd, but I don’t think the one loom’s going to fit through the Loom Room door. It’ll be a surprise.

It's always an adventure when the loomatics go for a ride.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Loomatics, Chapter 5, "Final Destination."

Morning arrived again, as it is wont to do, and much too early as usual. We decided to get off to a start an hour later than Friday, beginning our day at five am instead. Tanking up at a service station, I picked up a couple of egg Mc Muffins at the Mc D's and a couple of cups of coffee. We loaded up, and moved 'em on out looking ahead to our journey's end, some things looming, knowing we had at least another five hours on the road.

Crossing the border once more into Pennsylvania, I watched as the landscape turned back into the familiar rolling hills, heavy with forest. We passed through tunnels, over bridges, around corners and bends, making our pit stops here and there. I snoozed for an hour or two, catching up for sleep lost the night before. Floyd manned the steering wheel for the whole of the second day of our trip.

Eventually we pulled up to the building, another successful hunt under our belts. We unloaded the van, hauled the looms up a flight of stairs, down the hall to the Loom Room, and settled them, temporarily. After which, we concluded our odyssey by returning the van to its former glory: replacing seats, cleaning out trash, and eliminating evidence of the last sixteen plus hours.

We drove back to my house, where Floyd had left his truck. Swapping out vehicles, he waved good-bye to me and head straight back to some things looming to keep Rebekah company. Meanwhile, I, Melanie, the wimp, climbed the stairs to my attic bedroom, flopped face down on the bed and remained happily unconscious for the next six hours.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip. We were blessed with great weather and good road conditions. Now all I have to do is re-assemble two looms, grease up their mechanical parts, and test them out. I couldn't be more pleased.

Until our next adventure...