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Thursday, May 14, 2009

I was followed

Admittedly, I welcomed these strangers into my car. I even paid money to take them home. And now they are settled into my family room, staring at me, waiting for some action. But don't worry, because these permanent guests are used to hanging around, and they won't cause any trouble - just yet. After all, they had been sitting in some other home or workshop until I swept them away in a frenzy yesterday during the Weaver's Guild of Boston member's silent auction held during their annual end-of-year meeting.

It's a good thing I arrived late so I only had time to skim the room and bid on the items I had in mind before I came. Maybe it was newbie enthusiasm (it was my first Guild auction) that drove me to bid a little too freely. The checkout staff was certainly happy to see my total bill! However, I got a couple of good deals and I contributed to a worthy cause by supporting the important and noble craft of weaving through the Guild.

I didn't expect to win almost everything I bid on, but I did acquire several items that I needed. Having only one shuttle made multi-color weaving more of a chore, so I bought another Leclerc closed-bottom boat shuttle. For another $2 I also picked up two more Leclerc stick shuttles for my rigid heddle loom; one of the shuttles is a nice long 15".

One of the items I knew to look for at the sale was a Schacht inkle loom which I had seen demonstrated in my weaving class. My teacher had mentioned that it would be going into the auction and I intended to bid on it. I was lucky enough (stood next to the loom at the auction's end to get the final bid!) to win it. An inkle loom is a simple yet effective tool for making belts, handbag handles, guitar and camera straps, and many other types of decorative bands. Items woven on an inkle loom are warp-faced; that is, 99% of what you see is the warp (vertical yarns) as opposed to the weft (horizontal yarns). The warp is the strongest part of the weaving, so warp-dominance in this case creates a very strong woven object, which is desirable in belts and straps. To go along with this loom I grabbed a copy of Weaving Bands by Liv Trotzig and Astrid Axelsson from the book table. My hope is to use the inkle to make straps to match bags handmade from either my own handwoven textiles or from commercially-made fabrics that I have stashed away.

The Schacht has adjustable tensioning, which is a nice feature. This loom came warped and ready for a belt, courtesy of my teacher.

I also won some cotton yarn in assorted weights and colors, including these earthy berry and warm brown tones, and three cones of natural.

On the right is a 1 pound plus cone of Silk City's organic cotton in a lovely pale green color. (The color is actually a little more yellow in person.) When I saw that it was organic cotton I made a bid for it (and won!). I got it for a great price too. It's a fine yarn at 7000 yards per pound. Not sure what it will become. On the left is a cone of natural cotton, maker unknown.

Besides the inkle loom, I made one other large purchase, but this one was an impulse buy. For a mere $76 I couldn't pass up this eight-shaft, 16" wide, table loom, maker unknown, and needing some upkeep. Why do I need another loom? Every weaver can understand the unspoken answer, though friends and relatives may cock their heads and wonder if I have lost my mind. Other crafters will understand that each tool has a range of functions that is different from those of its cousins, and one tool just can't do it all. The inkle creates bands and straps; the rigid heddle can only do plain weaves but it folds and is portable; the floor loom has four harnesses, can make complex patterns, but is not portable; and the table loom is small and somewhat portable, has eight harnesses for a greater level of pattern complexity, and is the right size for samples.

Looks good for the price, eh? Mostly, except this loom has a few "quirks" that will require some pondering to fix. For one, upon closer inspection, my husband and I have come to the conclusion that this loom was probably homemade. The harness levers are simple sticks of wood hinged in the middle, which is not a good design because these levers are too narrow and set too closely together to be comfortable for the user. In addition, when the shafts are changed, the levers shoot forcefully up and down in a guillotine fashion which is dangerous to the fingers! The shafts make terrible clunking sounds when they hit bottom; this is easily rectified with some foam tape "bumpers" on the harness rests. The channels in which the shafts run are unevenly cut, although the harnesses seem to raise and lower just fine. Finally, the brake gears are made of wood and look handmade. There's no external crank to turn the beams that wind on the warp and cloth. We think this can be fixed and a crank added. Of course, there is some rust on the harness frames, which is not unexpected, but the twisted wire heddles look in good shape overall. The 12-dent reed needs a little cleaning too but it is not as bad as the reeds that came with my floor loom.

Lots of steel wool, waxed paper and elbow grease required!

I suppose you're thinking that this is sounding like a lemon of a loom, but overall it is sturdy and in decent shape. All the parts are there for a working eight-harness loom. My husband (an engineering type) thinks that we might try a couple of changes to make the shaft levers less hand-chopping and more ergonomic. We have some thoughts about taking off the top castle (the flat piece of wood on top) and replacing it with a new one onto which front pull levers might be mounted, like in this Schacht loom, or this Leclerc model. This would be ideal if we can determine how to achieve this. For the price, we think it is worth trying to turn this somewhat ugly duckling into a weaving swan. We'll let you know how our experiments turn out!

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Blogger On a Whimsey said...

How exciting! You are certainly going to love getting these babies up and running. Can't wait to see what you create and what gorgeous coloured yarn too!!

May 15, 2009 at 3:34 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Wow, Liv, what a haul! I'm not surprised you were tempted...

May 15, 2009 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger ZudaGay said...

What great new things to work with! I can see that all of them will be very useful. I hope you can bring the table loom back to life and make some wonderful cloth with it.

May 15, 2009 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Sixsisters said...

How exciting to be able to get what you needed at an auction. Now is the fun part. Hope you enjoy getting
it all together and producing some of you lovely

May 15, 2009 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger thewildhare said...

Oh My MY!!! You have taken the total plunge into the fiber arts, haven't you Olivia! How wonderful! I love the inkle loom - what a fabulous idea. I need to go do some research....

June 6, 2009 at 11:07 AM  

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