Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Little Loom Restoration

Happy First Day of Spring, for those in the Northern Hemisphere. And about time, sez I. The first wave of migrating robins breezed through here early last week.

I've been laying low for a few days, recovering from surgery last Friday to have my gallbladder removed. While happy to have the little beast out from within, I must confess I'm a terribly impatient patient when it comes to recovery. The surgery itself is not the whack'em wide open affair that it was in my mother's day, but still and all, a body part has been removed and there's bound to be a few repercussions. My energy waxes and wanes, and so I set upon a little job that was suited to my temper.

A local fellow donated  this little 2-harness loom to our local museum. And although at first glance it was in operating order, closer inspection revealed several issues.

For example, the heddles on the front harness had slid off the bottom bar, revealing broken threads, for instance. And the harnesses themselves were not hooked up properly, with more broken threads.
And I just noticed that the frame isn't square in these first pics. It can be folded down flat, and at this point the bars that hold it square were not properly seated in place.

I'm not sure who last warped this loom, but they really didn't have a clue what they were doing. I can see Laura shuddering whilst looking at this photo!

Time for some TLC.

There is nothing on this loom to indicate its origins - no logo or other identifiers. So I went to my friends on a FB page dedicated to restoring old looms. Comments flowed back almost instantaneously. Most said it was either a Brio (from Sweden) or Peacock (US). After working on it, I believe it to be a very early Brio: everything on it is wood except the reed and bolts. These were children's looms but adults have used them.

There is very little useful information online about these looms. After an exhausting and exhaustive search, I found a few photos that informed my plan of action, and so I set to taking it part.

I cut off the woven piece, pulled all the warp out of the heddles and left it on the back beam. Then I cut all the string that was holding the harnesses together and on the frame. One photo I found showed that the owner had replaced those strings with twill tape. Brilliant!

I affixed the twill tape with small safety pins, so that I can adjust them if and when needed. The heddles were bundled together while I tweaked the set-up. There are no treadles, of course, so the harnesses are lifted/lowered by turning the top bar (the twill tape is tacked to it); the tape around the bottom bar keeps the heddles taut.

I unwound the warp from the back beam, straightened it as best I could (no cross ties, etc!) and wound it back on, using pieces of parchment paper between the wraps. And then I threaded the heddles and reed.

It's looking pretty good, but when I laid in a few shots of weft, I found a some things that need adjusting. I'm going to try shortening the bottom tapes, lengthening the top ones, so that the shed is more centred in the reed.

This will never be a production loom! but it is great for demonstrations when I'm at the museum with my spinning wheel. I'm certainly not going to lug my 45 inch counterbalance floor loom around. When I spin yarn, most people understand what knitting and crocheting are, but they don't generally understand how fabric is constructed. This is the very basic way it's done.

I let people try out my spinning wheel when I'm working at demo days. I'll certainly let them try this little beauty as well. Touch adds to memory, and hands-on is the best way to learn.

I'll post some pics of 'real' weaving when I get the Little Loom set up properly. Maybe I'll even make a little video of weaving.


  1. Interesting. I've not seen this loom before. Glad you were able to get it functioning again. :)

    1. This one opened up a whole new world for me! The smallest loom I'd ever encountered before this was a LeClerc Dorothy, 15" I think. Would love to get one of those, preferably a 22" but the new ones are very price-prohibitive for me. And FYI, that was at Olds College in 1979 when they had a course called Cloth Fabrication or some such thing, before Fibre Week. I was an agrology student there 1977-79.

  2. I had a friend who wove coverings for lampshades; I'm sure she had the same loom.

    1. There are a surprising number of little looms made by a variety of companies. Would be interesting to see her work.