Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who said you can't....

The old maxim..."Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks" works perfectly for old looms. Here is a terrific story sent to me by some inspiring blog readers.

This is an OLD Loom!
The Loom over view
"My wife and I bought an aging Macomber 40” loom about twelve years ago. Contacting Macomber, we were able to ascertain that it had been built in Saugus in 1953. 

Undaunted, we disassembled it, cleaned and varnished all the woodwork, and renewed the fasteners. The loom had only four shafts, but a castle that would accommodate ten. As a metal sculptor, I was able to duplicate the  existing shafts, jacks, lamms, and treadles such that we now have a ten shaft loom. My wife (the weaver; I am the LT --- the loom tech) has turned out scarves, blankets, fabric and many other beautiful woven objects. She has always wanted to weave a rug, but was uncertain as to whether that would work out well on a jack loom. We decided to gamble on altering the existing loom to make it as compatible as possible with the somewhat more robust demands of rug weaving.

The first step, in order to provide greater tension on the warp, was to increase the distance between the shafts and the back beam. We were able to move the entire back beam structure---as it was---to increase the warp depth by some 30”. The supporting horizontal black metal bar can be raised to give access when dressing the loom. At the same time, we put sturdy metal braces on all four corners of the castle structure to reduce any side-to-side motion. The entire loom is also bolted to the floor and to the studs in the adjoining wall. The apron ribbon on all three beams is “Mule” tape, a tape used by electricians. It has a breaking strength of 2500 pounds, is very thin and does not stretch.

Turn buckles on harnesses
breast beam "catch" for front side rod
From a discarded loom we were also able to add a second, plain warp beam to the already existing sectional beam, and to create a second back beam to accommodate the warp from this second warp beam. The raddles, and temples we made ourselves and we were fortunate enough to have an extra 12-dent reed, which we altered to a 6-dent one.

The rods that connect the jacks and lamms have always distressed me with their tendency to bend and stretch. To correct them such that their tension is equal and the lamms lay in a smooth line, we spliced small turnbuckles, available from the local hardware store, in line with the rods. This allows tightening or loosening of the rods as needed.

Following Peter Collingwood’s recommendations of “a pound of beater weight per inch of warp” we added two 20 pound steel bars to the beater, and to make it easier to handle, also added a handle.  

Of all these innovations, my favorite is the catch for the movable bars that allow the breast beam to be lowered to the floor when dressing the loom. With a simple notch filed into the bar and a screw in the vertical wooden member, the bar drops onto the screw as the breast beam is lowered, a huge help for those of us limited to having only two hands.

A successful sample has been woven. The linen warp in the pictures is for the first finished rug, which will be soon started."

Best wishes,
Reese T.

Thanks Reese for sharing your story! I still have so much to share...and so little time!   Check out the local newspaper story on my trip. I have been busy with teaching, but now...alas studio time!

Thanks to all for your orders, questions and encouragement!

Happy Weaving ~ Sarah

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thread by Thread

Giraffe love
"Thread by thread" is a standard phrase I use to remind myself that weaving is a slow, repetitive process that in the long run offers me time and space for reflection and encourages me to be grounded in the present moment.

As many of you know, this winter I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Simonstown, South Africa to Barbados in the Caribbean. This seven week ocean passage offered me a similar opportunity. Through the repetition of daily life on board a 43' boat, the landless wide horizon and living under the stars, sun and moon, I found myself able to just hang out in the beauty of the present moment. To just sit and watch the horizon for hours was a precious gift.

I have much to share, many photos of our passage and of course Macomber Loom news. Thanks to everyone for keeping in touch with me. I realize that my last blog posting was in December. So I promise to do my best to share images, memories and news.

Elephant family on the move
Prior to leaving South Africa, our crew went on a short safari. Don't you just love the eye lashes and horns on this giraffe?? We had a wonderful extravagant 5 days in the bush. We were able to witness up close all of the Big Five (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros), as well as many other beautiful animals, birds, trees, and flowers.

I have posted a short video on UTube of some lionesses we watched lounging in the hot South African sun. Check it out!
weaving in the produce
We left Simonstown, South Africa on January 26th. Here is an photo of my "weaving" the produce into a shelf to prevent it from flying around the cabin while we were under sail!
Land Ho! Approaching St Helena
Since we were East of The Cape of Good Hope, we had to scoot around this point and we now know why this point used to be called "Cape of Tempests". The waves, the wind and the current all combined to give our boat, Bahati, a rousing entrance to the South Atlantic. After about a week the seas calmed down and we had a lovely 2 week passage to St. Helena. This little rock of an island is where Napoleon was exiled and died. Here is a photo of our approach to St Helena and Longwood House, the estate where Napoleon lived during his exile.

From St Helena, we sailed for seven days to arrive at Ascension Island. This small island is mostly a military and communication outpost on a volcanic rock. The landscape on Ascension was a strange combination of red dirt hills, white sandy beaches, grey volcanic rubble and green lush jungle. This tiny island is where green sea turtles swim from Brazil to lay their eggs. We were there during egg laying season and watched these giant creatures lumber up on shore to dig a nest in the sand and deposit their eggs. You can see more images of this bizarre landscape by checking out the Ascension Island website.

Mars-like Ascension Island
We departed from Ascension Island and sailed
for 24 days to reach Barbados. I will continue to share images and stories of this amazing trans-Atlantic voyage.

Thanks to all of you who continued to place orders for Macomber looms and parts in my absence. Kudos to my dear husband Ben who learned more about this stuff than he bargained for!
Harriet Tidball threading her loom.
Notice the front beam is dropped down to allow easy threading.
So just like Harriet Tidball who is threading her loom, I continue to believe in the power of weaving to keep me grounded in the present moment.

And I continue to discover the beauty thread by thread, warp and weft.

Happy Spring from coastal Maine ~


24" 8 Harness CPJ Macomber for sale

  24" 8 Harness Macomber CPJ Portable Loom for sale. Double back beams with friction brake and warp separator. 4 reeds, storage box, 2 ...