It’s been a long New England winter, and all the new books of the past year are keeping me in good company. Have you read Threads of Life: a History of the World through the Eye of a Needle? The author, Clare Hunter, wrote with such personal passion about her various choice of examples. She has led many community projects in textiles that demonstrate how people from many cultures, male and female, young and old, have a visceral, often therapeutic, reaction to working with needle and thread. The book would be greatly enhanced with photos, but not having them forced me to search online for some of the projects the author covers. I savored the book and hated to finish it.
Now I am reading another book on a similar subject, that is handled so differently. It’s The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World, by Virginia Postrel. It’s also a compelling read, from the point of view of a journalist. The stories of ancient textiles: making string and cord, the dawn of weaving, are subjects that I have loved since early adulthood. There is reasonable evidence that spinning thread and cord and rope is what ‘drove’ humans to invent the first drive band, which means that what the first wheel was used to accomplish. Thread!
It’s fairly likely that I won’t get through all the books I bought in 2020 until sometime after 2021!
I have spent some time over the past few weeks setting up my new-to-me AVL. A couple of years ago I sold my previous 16S AVL mechanical dobby, an FDL (folding dobby loom) with a 40″ weaving width, along with my 8S Toika (countermarche) that had a 60″ weaving width. I wanted to replace these two loom with one computer driven loom with a 60″ weaving width. All of this selling and buying went far more easily than I would ever have imagined. It all transpired in the course of about 3 months. Bob says I’m quite the pessimist, but I see my attitude as positive in a different way. I make peace with what I imagine might be the ‘worst case scenario.’ If I can do that, I can stay the course for however long something takes to achieve. And this whole process of getting rid of two looms to replace with one went surprisingly well.
My current loom has a fascinating history that I knew nothing about when I first pursued getting this loom. The loom does not have have an AVL plaque or a serial number, which means it is a very early model, perhaps from the late 1970s. Marion Scannell, from Waterford, Connecticut was the first owner. She had a weaving shop called Waterford Weavers, and many weavers in the state considered her a mentor. She was generous with both her knowledge and weaving supplies. She wove all the fabrics in her home, from draperies to tablecloths to upholstery fabrics. Boy, I wish I had known her and visited her house! At that point in my life I was living and weaving in New Jersey, so close but so far. She used Fiberworks to run the dobby head. She was instrumental in getting many of the weaving guild members excited about computer driven weaving. After Marion’s death this loom was given to the Blue Slope Museum in Franklin, CT. One of my friends in the guild used to volunteer at this museum and at one point noticed a shuttle with the “Waterford Weavers” label on it. When she inquired she learned that Marion’s daughter had donated a number of weaving tools as well as the loom to the museum. The loom had been disassembled and stored in a barn on the museum’s property. The compudobby box was being stored in the house. The museum personnel wanted to out-place the loom since it was far too modern for the museum’s time period. That’s when the loom came to studio of my friend Janney who just passed it on to me. Janney rebuilt it and tuned it up. She assured me it worked well even after the many decades of its life. She was right, and I am so thrilled to be weaving on it now.
These days my creative time is a balancing act. I have my fingers in a lot of pots. I’ve had to set aside a number of projects in order to get this loom up and running, over a year after I bought it. I’ll spare you the details of why that happened, but many of you know how much of each year I spend living on a boat without access to my looms! I designed the pattern that I’ve put on this AVL, and it has some glitches. Perhaps that was not the best choice for a first project to get acquainted with the loom, but my time at home for weaving is always shorter than I’d like so I thought I’d better jump into the deep end. I hope I’ll be posting photos of my turned taquete circles on 16 shafts soon. It will become a blanket for my toddler age granddaughter. Meanwhile, Mila the husky looks rather posh striking a pose at the loom.