Friday, November 05, 2010

Hamily Heir-Loom Weavers

On Wednesday I went on a road trip with the Central Pennsylvania Handweavers Guild (CPHG) to Red Lion, PA and the textile mill Family Heir-Loom Weavers. It was a great fall day for a drive in the country. The mill is located in what was once an old dairy building. I found the tour by David Kline fascinating.

Family Heir-Loom Weavers operate over 40 power looms with Jacquard attachments. The Jacquard is an accessory to the hand and power loom. It was intended to supersede the draw loom. It is used to control and independently operate a single or large number of warp threads. With the ability to manipulate an individual thread allowed for the creation of fancy coverlets. Instead of coverlets with geometric shapes you could have animals, buildings, etc.

The Jacquard coverlet on the rack dated 1838 is what got David Kline started in the business. Family Heir-Looms sells a reproduction of this coverlet (seen on the left side of the rack).Here David is holding a sample carpet they reproduced for the U.S. Park Service from an original for Lincoln's home in Springfield. You can see the carpet here (top photo). The Klines have done 3 rooms in Lincoln's home and have since done work in 8 other Presidential homes including Mount Vernon.
When recreating any pattern David said the first step in the Jacquard process is to create the point paper (a carefully graphed and hand-painted design). The point paper is an accurate map of the finished project. Punched cards are created from the point paper. The punched cards are a mechanized way of lifting warp threads to make a figured design. In the early 1800's Joseph-Marie Jacquard perfected an ingenious system of cards punched with holes which, when attached to a draw loom, would allow some needles to pass through and block others. Family Heir-Looms also weaves jean cloth (gray material used to create the jacket in the picture) used in period movies and by reenactors. The tiled walls are still in place from when the building served as a dairy.
Next we got to tour the weaving rooms. Here are a series of pictures since I couldn't take a picture that captured the entire loom in one frame. Click any picture to enlarge, click twice to enlarge even more.

Back of the loom. Family Heir-Looms often puts 600 yard warps on.
Jacquard looms don't have harnesses instead the warp threads travel through "eyelets". The eyelets attached to harness cords that pass through a perforated board then head up toward the ceiling.The Jacquard apparatus determines, based on the number and arrangement of the holes in the cards, which of the individual warp threads will be lifted. For every throw of the shuttle the blank part of the card moves a series of pins or levers which raise certain warp threads while other levers, passing into the holes in the card, do nothing, so it has no affect on the other warp threads. Every pattern requires a separate set of cards.Endless chain of pattern cards.
Front of the loom with the finished cloth rolled onto the cloth beam.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


On Saturday I visited The National Museum of the American Coverlet located in Bedford, PA. The current exhibit is called Stay at Home and Use Me Well -- Flax and Fleece: Fiber to Fabric. On this day the museum was hosting the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America (a Chicago-based organization) which included a presentation by Ron Walter, a special exhibition tour let by Ron and show & tell. This was an all day event.

Stay at Home and Use Me Well showcases items from the collection of Kitty Bell and Ron Walter. The name of the exhibit was inspired by a flax hetchel or hatchel owned by Kitty & Ron that was made near Burrillville, Rhode Island dated May 18, 1797 and inscribed with the names of Mathewson and Lyda Mathewson with Stay at Home and Use Me Well.The exhibit was extremely informative. One exhibition room was dedicated to the entire process of linen and cloth production from plant or animal to the finished yarn. Ron's collection included a variety of spinning wheels and winders. There were wool wheels, flax wheels, production wheels, a pendulum wheel, and several long-bed spindle wheels where the spindle travels on a three-wheeled trolley. Ron also had a large collection of spinning wheel heads.The coverlets in the collection are of two types which they call geometric and figured and fancy. The geometric have pattern motifs based on circles and squares, woven by both men and women, mostly for use at home. The figured and fancy coverlets have ornate motifs of florals, animals, buildings, etc. and were made by men who were professional weavers mostly woven with the help of a Jacquard mechanism.

This Early American loom owned by the museum came with a Jacquard head they hope to install soon. Sitting on the bench are punched cards read by the Jacquard machine containing the pattern draft. This mechanism can raise or lower a single thread. It will be exciting to see it in operation.I purchased Ron Walter's book, of the same title as the exhibit, in the museums gift shop and it is worth every penny.

This turned out to be a very special day, one I shall remember. We had beautiful weather for the ride there and back and I traveled with friends who I very much enjoyed their company. We felt very welcome and met some wonderful people.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Project On My "New To Me" Glimakra

In a previous post I wrote about my Adventures in Overshot. In that post I mentioned Helene Bress whose coverlet books were so helpful to me. Helene will be our guest speaker at tomorrow's guild meeting. I am so looking forward to it.

The project was still on my Loomcraft and I decided to cut the warp off the loom and move it over to the "new to me" Glimakra. Boy was that an exercise. I recreated the cross on the Loomcraft then created a warp chain. I attached the trapeze to the Glimakra and weighted the warp.
The rattle was attached to the back beam.The cross was pulled forward and tied it to the loom frame.The harnesses were hung and the heddles threaded.The reed was sleyed. The warp was attached to the front beam. The countermarch unit is installed, the cords are in place and the treadles are all tied up.

I used the method described in a white paper by Madelyn Van Der Hoogt called Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Tying Up Your Countermarch Loom.
The method I used is definitely not in the Swedish method. Next time I plan to dress the loom the Swedish way.

Here she is all finished. The pattern is best known by the name of "Pine Bloom" (an old Appalachian draft). The warp is 10/2 unmercerized cotton, the weft is 20/2 unmercerized cotton and the pattern weft is 5/2 mercerized cotton. I have enough warp to weave another one.

The Glimakra is an absolute dream to weave on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow came to D.C. and the Washington Convention Center on August 21, 2010. The D.C. show received nearly 23,000 ticket applications (more than any other locations on the Summer 2010 tour). They estimated 6,000 attended the show with approx. 70 appraisers. There will be three Washington, D.C. episodes that will air sometime between January and May of 2011. I got an all day ticket from a friend whose friend is one of the appraisers.

One of the items I brought was a Jacquard coverlet I purchased at auction on Nantucket for $200. It was made by J. Cunningham in 1844. It is woven with white cotton and red wool. On the interior are four large floral medallions. The borders have the New York State seal with "Under This We Prosper" above and George Washington on horseback in the corners. It also has the slogan "United We Stand Divided We Fall" and J. Cunningham Weaver N. Hartford Oneida Co. N. York 1844. (Click picture to enlarge.)

I brought along the book "American Coverlets and Their Weavers" where James Cunningham is listed with his bio and a picture of this coverlet done in blue and white. The coverlet was appraised by Beth Szescila who specializes in rugs & textiles and decorative arts. Beth said it was one of the nicest she has seen and because of the condition she appraised it, at auction, between $3,000 - $4,000.

I really had fun at the Antiques Roadshow. It was great to see all that goes on behind the scenes and to see many of the appraisers you see on TV. To see what goes on at Antiques Roadshow watch this video.

If you want to see one of these old looms in operation check out this fascinating YouTube video.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Glimakra Update

After my last post I got busy cleaning my "new to me" Glimakra. When they say the Glimakra is just a bunch of sticks this is what they mean. It's amazing how the loom can be broken down into a bunch of sticks. I cleaned every wood surface. Joanne Hall recommends cleaning the parts with vinegar and water. I did this until I ran out of vinegar then switched to Dawn dish washing soap and water. I then wiped the wood surface with 100% Tung Oil from LeeValley.To learn more about the construction and care of Glimakra looms visit this page on Joanne's site.

I didn't really need any parts per se . I did purchase a 10-shaft countermarch from Becky Ashenden. I also purchased two books from her, Damask and Opphamta with Weaving Sword or Drawloom and The Old Linen Closet: From plain weave to damask. The loom came with 9 heddles (18 sticks) so I ordered another 2 sticks to give me 10 shafts. It also came with 11 treadles. I thought 9 heddles was a little odd but 11 treadles was very odd.

I set her up all by myself in the spare bedroom but already moved her to the living room. This time with the help of my DH.I'm in the process of outfitting her with Texsolv tie up cord. After washing and organizing the Texsolv heddles I ended up with ~ 850. I ordered 200 more from Earth Guild because that is what I will need for my next project. This loom is typically sold with 11" heddles but mine were 12 1/2". I guess the shorter length will give you a larger shed. Any shed on this Glimakra will be bigger than what I had on any of my jack looms. I cut this warp off my 45" Loomcraft. It started out as 6 yards. I'm using a trapeze. I need to decide if I will set the loom up as counterbalance or countermarch. My project is a 45" square Overshot. I should still have enough warp for 2 squares.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

I Have a Glimakra!!!!

Did I need another loom? Not particularly. Did I want to own a Glimakra? You betcha! It helps having friends who are bad influences. I got an email about a loom in the Philadelphia area for a very good price. It was a 40" wide, 8-shaft, counterbalance and countermarch Glimakra with no extra accessories like reeds. Turns out someone else got the loom.

I looked on the Spinners', Weavers' & Knitters' Housecleaning Pages and found a 47" 8 harness, 10 treadle Glimakra for an even better price. This one is counterbalance but came with 6 stainless steel reeds and a few other extras. If I add the countermarch parts I will still come out ahead. This loom was located about 30 minutes north of Philadelphia. My bad influence friend and I went on a road trip a few days later and brought her home.

Here she is before taking her apart. The loom needs a good cleaning. It was filthy. Here is the bad influence helping me load the loom into my SUV. This is everything. I actually had room for another Glimakra with room to spare. I was pretty tired by the time I got home so she had to sleep in my SUV last night (The loom not the bad influence!) Actually she may have to sleep there again tonight. The bad influence and I had a fun time. I picked her up at 7am, it took a little over 3 hours to get there, we spent about 2 hours taking her all apart and loading her up, we ate lunch at Olive Garden, then had a long drive home. We got hung up in some slow traffic. I pulled into the driveway a little after 6pm.

I did manage to wash all the Texsolv heddles and cords last night. The water turned black instantly. They are all nice and clean now. I don't want to bring the other pieces into the house until they have had a good cleaning.

It has all its original parts including the owner's manual but the lady did keep the packing sticks. Grumble, grumble. It was made ~ 1981. It is missing a few pieces here and there. Just minor stuff. I've already been in touch with Joanne Hall about replacement parts. She responded to my email quickly. I've only heard good things about Joanne and her husband Ed. It's refreshing to get good customer service these days. I'm working on a list that will include the countermarch upgrade. I plan on getting her up and running as counterbalance then transition to countermarch.

I think I shall call her Emily!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Great Wheel, Wool Wheel, Walking Wheel, High Wheel, Others...

I got this Great wheel from a friend in her 80's who developed macular degeneration. She purchased it at auction in Southern PA many years ago. It's been in my living room with my 3 other spinning wheels collecting dust. I decided I wanted to learn to spin on her. (Click any picture to enlarge.)
I found a label on the accelerating wheel head and did some research. The wheel-head maker is Benjamin Pierce (1814-1899) and was manufactured in Chesterfield, NH at the Chesterfield Factory (also known as Factory Village and now Spofford Village). Pierce was known for the manufacture of bits and augers. The New Hampshire Historical Society owns a ledger and daybook of Benjamin Pierce and Old Sturbridge Village Research Library owns a Pierce daybook (1859-1866).

Another bit and auger manufacturer living in Chesterfield at the time was Richard Henry Hopkins (1831-1877). Hopkins was also a wheel-head maker. It was common for Chesterfield manufacturers to combine the business of creating bits and augers with manufacturing spinning wheel-heads. The forging skills were similar. At one time Hopkins worked for and partnered with Pierce.

Apparently Pierce was selling wheel-heads manufactured by the Hopkins family and others, and eventually made by himself and his son. Around 1868 Frederick Benjamin Pierce, the son of Benjamin, joined as a partner in his father's business. This continued until Benjamin Pierce sold the bit shop to the Currier Brothers in 1882. From what I can tell it appears the elder Pierce may have continued marketing the spinning wheel-heads after he commenced manufacturing them. Pierce also manufactured spinning wheels and flax wheels.The label reads, "Benjamin Pierce's Wheel Heads /Particular care must be taken to keep them / dry. When used they must be kept well oiled, / and when new bands are required, they must / be smooth and even. Spindles warranted steel. / by BENJAMIN PIERCE, Chesterfield Factory, N.H." I believe it was made sometime between 1853 and 1882.

Wheel-heads made in Chesterfield were manufactured according to patents 1803 and 1810 owned by Amos Miner from upstate New York. Miner's 1810 patent gave him exclusive right to manufacture, or license the manufacture of, his wheels until 1824. After the expiration of the patent Chesterfield became the center of manufacturing wheel-heads in New England.

There are maker's marks on the end-grain of the table under the wheel-head. Punched twice are AWheeler and C. W. MUZZY. I found in the census some Wheeler's and a couple of Muzzy's living in Chesterfield but haven't absolutely identified them. If anyone knows for sure the spinning wheel was made at the Chesterfield Factory I would appreciate knowing. Update: After pouring over census records I believe AWheeler is Ashbel Wheeler born about 1817 and C.W. MUZZY is Carlton William Muzzy born about 1837.The accelerating wheel-head appears to be all original even the braided corn husk bearings. I noticed the spindle is ever so slightly bent and that causes the spindle to wobble. In order to remove the spindle it looks like I would need to remove and replace the corn husks and I hate the thought of doing that if they are original. The accelerator head appears to be made of beech wood. The table is 45" x 5" x 2".The wheel diameter is 49". The wheel looks like it is made of Chestnut. At the scarf joint you can faintly see the square headed copper nails. The drive cord tracks properly. I will probably remove the knot in the cord and overlap the ends and sew them together then wrap and sew the overlap to prevent fraying. That's how I learned to do it from Norman Kennedy in one of his classes. Today I ordered Katy Turner's book "The Legacy of the Great Wheel: Myths, History, and Traditions" from AbeBooks. I also ordered some back issues from The Spinning Wheel Sleuth that contained information about Great wheels.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sewing Machine Cabinet for my Singer 185J

In an earlier post I talked about getting nostalgic and purchasing a Singer 185J just like my very first sewing machine. I ended up buying 2 of them. A portable I got on eBay and another one in a cabinet from Craigslist. I decided to put the machine in a different cabinet and this required quite a bit of work.

The Singer 185J is a 3/4-sized machine so the opening in a standard sewing machine cabinet is too big.The hinges used to mount the previous machine will not work for my 'Lil Green. The old hinges are mounted on the underside of the cabinet. The spacing is wrong and the post used to attached the machine to the hinge are the wrong size. The hinges are what allow the machine to swing down into the cabinet when not in use.
On top are the square hinges I removed. On the bottom are the round hinges that fit 'Lil Green. These will get mounted on the cabinet top.
First I dismantled the cabinet.
I made a filler piece from birch plywood and cut the holes (at the right depth) for the hinges using a forstner bit. It took me hours to carefully cut the plywood so I could get an exact fit. I then glued and screwed a couple strips of hard maple to the underside of the cabinet to support the plywood since the Singer 185J is an extremely heavy sewing machine.
All finished. At some point I will apply stain/finish so the plywood will blend in with the original.
'Lil Green in her new cabinet.
Front view.
Rear view.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

42nd Annual Spinning Seminar at The Mannings

We had the best time at The Mannings spinning seminar. They are located on the banks of the Conewago Creek halfway between York and Gettysburg, PA. The complex surrounds the 1874 farmhouse and barn. You didn't have to register and there was no admission charge. There were 14 demonstrators covering a variety of topics and you could come with your wheel and sit and spin if you wanted to.Jan Derry has been raising Bombyx mori silk worms for ~ 15 years. We got to see all the various stages from mating to laying eggs to spinning cocoons. For more details check out this blog.John Bostek demonstrated sheep shearing of Border Leicester and Cormo sheep.Cotton spinning with Sally Jenkins.A video clip I took of a friend giving cotton spinning a try.

Wool Wheel, Great Wheel, Walking Wheel or High Wheel. There are probably other names as well. Sharon Peffer is using her Norman Hall reproduction Great Wheel. She explained the difference between the Minors Head's and Bats Head's. If you wanted you could try your hand at drafting.This is just a sampling of what we saw.