I’m buying a loom.
No one who knows me should be surprised by this. Fifteen years ago, I went to a spinning guild gathering. What brought me there was an interesting path. I’m an English major, and I love to tell a story, so you might want to get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in. I’ll wait.
Let’s start at the beginning. My mom and grandmother were both talented crafters, though my mom never would have considered herself such. She and my grandmother made beautiful lace crochet. My mom also crocheted fun things for me. Naturally, I wanted to learn to crochet, and I did. I don’t remember how old I was when I first started, but let’s say it was somewhere around age eight.
My mom was friends with my friend’s mom. Sue was just an awesome person and also crafty. Then she took up knitting. Since we spent a lot of time together, I got to see all of her wonderful projects. I was amazed at how fabric-like knitting was where crochet was decidedly bumpier. Of course, I decided I needed to do that, too. Sue lent me the book she learned from (The All New Teach Yourself to Knit booklet by Evie Rosen, in case you’re playing along at home). What’s great about this book is it has very clear illustrations for both the English and continental methods. Sue had picked up the English method; I chose continental for its resemblance to crochet.
I dove right into knitting. I practiced a small swatch of about 10-15 stitches. I knitted, I purled, I knitted and purled, and then I decided I was ready to knit a fisherman’s sweater. And I did. That’s how I roll.
This area doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of enrichment. However, about an hour away there was an annual craft fair held on the museum grounds. This was not your usual ‘teddy bears with lace glued on them and wooden cutouts of people’s backsides’ show. Oh, no. It was a juried fair, so there were artisans from all over. There washand-thrown pottery, blacksmithing, fine art, and a woman, Rosalie Truong, with angora rabbits. Oh yes. She had handspun angora yarn, dyed by her as well. The softness! The colors! Up until this point, the spinning I had seen was with natural-colored fiber, so it really wasn’t anything I was interested in. But now I saw the possibilities before me, and I knew I needed to do this.
In addition to her angora, there were other spinning fibers, and I bought two bags of a purple merino with firestar blended in. I told her I wanted to learn, and she pointed me to the fiber arts building, saying that a spinning guild was set up there for a demonstration and that they would be thrilled to help a new spinner. So off I went.
There were several women set up with their spinning wheels, mostly spinning the same natural fiber as I had seen before. I told one of the women that I was interested in learning how to spin after seeing Rosalie’s booth. She told me to get a drop spindle and learn on that. Hmm.
I went home and ordered a drop spindle kit from one of my knitting catalogs. (Note: don’t do this) I received it in the mail, and the spindle appeared to have been cut from a 2″x4″, the wool was neppier than any neppy thing you’ve ever seen, and the instructions were less than clear. After several tries, I laid it aside.
The next year, I went back to the craft fair, checked in with the spinners, and reported my progress, or lack thereof. One woman said that she would be happy to teach me, but she would be leaving to winter in Florida soon, but once she returned in March, we could start my lessons. Excellent!
There was a group of knitters I met with in the biggest town around us, which was about 60 miles away (told you this area doesn’t offer much). That month, a woman pulled out all these beautiful yarns that she was going to make into a Kaffe Fassett sweater. She was discussing how she had hand-dyed her handspun yarn for the project, and I was all over that. “You spin? I would love to do that!” She told me that I should come to her spinning guild’s get-together in a couple of weeks, and they would be happy to teach me to spin. I wasn’t going to have to wait until March!
That Sunday, I showed up at the event, trusty drop spindle in hand. “No,” she said, “We’re going to teach you on the wheel.” She had me sit down at her wheel and practice treadling. First your feet learn what to do, then your hands. I spent about an hour treadling, learning to start and stop the wheel. Then we added the fiber, and I learned what fiber should look like. Not the cruddy stuff sent along with the lumber-mill-reject drop spindle.
After I had spun on her wheel for a while, another woman invited me to spin on her wheel. For the uninitiated, spinning wheels are very much a matter of personal preference. What one person adores, another may despise. Now, the first wheel I used, a Schacht Matchless double treadle, is a very, very nice wheel. However, when I sat at Chris’s wheel, a Majacraft Suzie, I knew that was the wheel for me. Later in the afternoon, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a couple of women were watching me. “I hope I’m doing this right,” I said. “Oh no, you’re a natural,” one replied.
I should also mention that during this get-together, there were dyepots over a fire. People had brought spinning fiber to sell, and naturally, I had to give dyeing a try. So actually that day, two passions were born.
I went home, mind abuzz with possibilities. I researched the wheel I had fallen in love with and discovered that Majacraft had just released a new wheel built on the same principles as the Suzie, but a bit more fancy – the Rose. So, a mere four days after first touching a wheel, I ordered my Rosie. Drop spindle, schmop spindle. (Although afterward I got a quality spindle, and it is much, much better. Then Ramblin bought me a Golding, and, well, Reason #189 why I love Ramblin)
Now, also during that day, another woman let me try her wheel. It was a single treadle, and I learned that I don’t care for single treadling. But as I was trying it out, we were discussing various things, and I mentioned my knitting. “I would love to do that,” she said. I was puzzled. “But then, what do you do with your yarn?” I pictured her spinning up a yarn, winding it into a ball, tossing it over her shoulder into a mounting pile in a corner, and turning back to the wheel. “I weave with it.” Note that I did not immediately have the desire to weave.
So I’ve had many happy years of knitting, spinning, and dyeing fibers. I wasn’t against weaving; I simply said I didn’t need one more hobby as I barely have time to do the things I want to do with my current hobbies. Also, there’s all that finishing.
It was a friend’s beautiful Lunatic Fringe towels that created a hairline crack in my reserve. What can I say – I’m a sucker for all things rainbows. Still, I resisted. Then The Loopy Ewe started carrying rigid heddle looms, and people were posting their weaving projects on Ravelry. Then the Fat Cat Knits group started posting pictures of woven fabrics made into gorgeous bags. I began pricing the rigid heddle looms at The Loopy Ewe. Then one day one of my friends, out of the blue, declared, “I want to learn to weave!” Sigh. “I’ll learn to weave with you.”
A friend had a loom for sale. No, we’re going to Europe; I have no place buying a loom when I’ve never even woven the first thread! And it was big, a Schacht eight harness 46″. Surely I shouldn’t start with something impressive as that, should I? (with my history for diving in with both feet, I still don’t understand my hesitation at this point) But I did email her about it. And several other friends for their advice about getting into this new endeavor. And then it got put aside with travel, teaching, and life in general.
Fast forward to the rigid heddle class from this past Saturday. My friend and I went to River Wools in Terre Haute to be indoctrinated. By the end of the day, we both had scarves we were quite proud of for a first effort. All it did was whet our appetites.
I posted all over about my scarf, (See my scarf?) and a friend sent me a link to a loom for sale. It was a good distance away, and another person had inquired about it. But that was enough to get me thinking. I checked a few sources and then remembered the loom my friend had for sale. I hadn’t seen any mention of it on our discussion boards, so I thought perhaps she had sold it. But I emailed anyway. And she still had it.
So, that’s how I’m getting a loom.