Romantic history of weaving.
Revival of interest in same.
Fascinating craft, allowing change of position and variety of interest, possible for "shut-in" workers.
Method of setting up loom, putting on warp, and starting the weave described.
Photographic illustrations of Colonial looms, and sketches showing the parts and how they are used.
Illustrations of coverlid weaving by a self-taught weaver, and of light weight loom suitable for convalescents.
Therapeutic value of weaving.
The song of the loom has clicked its staccato music through the primitive history of every nation that has taken part in the early civilization of the world. Poems have been written, ballads sung to it, music composed from romantic memories of it. The histories of epochs have been woven thread by thread on the loom, love stories have been told in its pictures, and the gay and sad ways of a people remembered. The Persian weaves his temple in his prayer rug, and kneels at its gates in his own home. The religion of the Chinese may be read in the rug under the feet of the atheist of to-day. The French court life is portrayed in the tapestries of Aubusson and Beauvais, as clearly as in the paintings of Fragonard.
And so it is of no little interest to know of the looms of the world, and especially of our own western world. We are proud of our early fabrics and carpets, and we should be equally proud of the methods of their production. Not only are we interested in the loom as a curiosity, but many women to-day taking up weaving with interest are troubled only by the difficulty of setting up a loom and learning to use it. When we consider how primitive women managed to produce fabrics of both beauty and durability out of the grasses and other natural fibers culled in their neighborhood, it seems as if any modern worker, even a "shut-in" woman, ought to be able to master the problems arising in ordinary hand-loom weaving. The processes are not difficult, requiring patience and thoroughness rather than scientific knowledge. This article aims to give a description of the various steps reduced to the lowest terms and in not too technical language.
The primitive loom used for rag rugs and simple linen weaving is much the same in construction as those used several hundred years ago. In one of Giotto's paintings of the fourteenth century a loom is represented not unlike those of the present day. The loom then
Putting On Chained Warp.
Note the raddle in position, also the flat sticks under the warp on the beam - used to keep it from settling in.
in use had all the essential parts, and the devices which have been added were intended to save labor, increase the output of work, and extend the possibilities of pattern weaving. Mediaeval weavers produced much beautiful pattern work. Some of these designs, handed down from one craftsman to another for seven or eight centuries, remain to us in the intricate blue and white coverlids of Colonial days; in twills or satin weaves and various bird'seye and other small figures now used in machine weaving for table linens and silks. These patterns were seldom written out by any systematic method, but were recorded in a kind of weavers' shorthand to be interpreted only by another weaver, consequently many of them were lost when hand weaving went out of fashion. Notebooks of patterns are sometimes still found in old country attics. Among the Southern mountain folk the traditions of how to "set up" and weave the old designs have been preserved better than elsewhere in this country, so it has been easier there to revive the coverlid and damask de-signs.
The Century Dictionary defines a loom as "a machine in which yarn or thread is woven into a fabric by the crossing of threads called chain or warp, running lengthwise, with others called weft, woof or filling." The machine consists of a solid frame-work, with a roller at each end over which the warp threads are stretched, through a series of eyelets called heddles, and the interstices called dents in a comb called the reed. The frame-work is sometimes arranged so that the threads run up and down, as in the Navajo looms, but the horizontal loom is more used and easier to procure and to manipulate.
The frame of the loom used by country weavers is generally about four and a half or five feet high, four and a half or five feet wide and six feet long. The timbers used are of hard wood five or six inches square, and in the oldest looms hewed out by hand from hickory or oak, finished with mortise and tenon joints, and keyed together with wooden pins. This gives a stable construction, and in some ways such a loom is more desirable than one of smaller size which takes up less room and looks more attractive. The loom illustrated in the large photograph came from central New Hampshire, where it had lain in the attic disused for sixty years. With a few extra pieces made by a carpenter and a new set of heddles it has proved most satisfactory, and has been used for about five years by a blind man.
A Typical Colonial Loom.
1 Yarn beam. 3 Batten.
2 Cloth beam. 4 Heddles.
Another of these old looms called "Aunt Debby," over a hundred years old, has proved equally satisfactory. It belonged originally to a village weaver, known to her neighbors as Aunt Debby. When she died she willed her cherished loom, her choicest possession, I almost said companion, to her minister. When he was called to another church he left the loom with an old Englishwoman who understood linen weaving. She called the loom "Aunt Debby" for its original owner, and wove hundreds of yards of linen toweling and sheeting. But a few years ago, in her eighty-sixth year, she decided that her weaving days were over, and "Aunt Debby" traveled many miles to a new home, where she is good for another century of work as helper to the patients in a sanatorium.
These old looms are easily set up, as the parts are generally numbered to show how they fit together. In buying one it is necessary to see that no important piece is lacking. One with all essential parts can be procured for about twenty-five dollars.
It will be observed that while the essential parts of the loom are similar, as shown in the accompanying illustrations, there are slight differences in detail. The harness or group of heddles is not always swung from the top of the loom in the same way, and the pedals or treadles are attached sometimes at the front, sometimes at the back.
The two beams or rollers must be held in slots at each end of the frame work, the front or cloth beam must be fixed so as to be held tightly in place by an iron pawl catching into a ratchet. The back or yarn beam generally has large pegs by which it can be turned, and a heavy wooden lever to set it and hold the warp taut. The photographs show these two beams, as well as the harness or heddle group, and in front of it the batten, which is a swinging frame holding the reed, so called because it is used to beat up each row of filling into a close fabric. Lathe or sley is another name for the batten.