Flax field

Flax field

Monday, April 29, 2013

Old Textiles

I have started teaching at The Pioneer Craft House in Utah.  The art institution was started in the late 40's by two weavers, Mrs. Glen Beeley and Mary M. Atwater.  Mary did not stay with it, artistic differences between the two women.  But both of them left a legacy that I hope to continue.

In order to do teaching on the equipment here, I had to clean, oil and repair each of the floor looms.  Out of the eight looms only the two Hammet looms don't have companies still making looms.  I had the instruction manual fro them, and it gave the bolt and screw sizes, so I was able to get them working.  I had to drill and replace a worn screw with a bolt on one brake and now it is holding very well.  I have gotten parts and help from Gilmore Looms, Harrisville Designs, Macomber and Leclerc.  I am working on the last loom now.  

In most cases, besides the dirt and dry wood, brake problems have been the main problem.  But a few bent treadle rods and replacement aprons have been in the mix.  It is so great to sit down to a loom that is working well and that looks good.  I have straightened the heddles (I have a ton of them for replacement.) and put on or ordered more tie-ups for the treadles, too.

Another part of the clean-up here is the old textiles.  There have been a large number that have just been tossed, old student work that even they did not want, etc.  But there have been a few treasures.  I have an old coverlet, 1800's according to Sharon Alderman, that is hand spun and dyed with indigo.  I will need to clean it this summer, Sharon gave me some help with how to do this.  It has two panels and they have been stitched crudely with heavy waxed linen, so I may remove that stitching and re-do it.  We will have to see when I get it out again and check it closely.  

 I have also found a large number of interesting examples of weave structures.  I washed and in some cases hemmed a number of pieces and made a display for the studio.

I think most of these pieces were woven in the 1940's and 1950's and they all were VERY dusty.  They must have been sitting and collecting dust since almost that time.  There is a large collection of overshot weaving.  I think that was a favorite weave for them.  I also have  fragments I may mount for class samples.

There are a couple of pieces with labels from the weaver.  I have seen her name in my reading of old "Handweaver and Craftsman" magazines and I found letters from her in the files.  Her name is Kate Van Cleve and she wove and wrote about weaving in the 1930's and 1940's.  The lace pieces that we have a great and there is a baby blanket in basket weave that is the only basket weave piece that I have see that is stable and nice.  It is woven in very find wool, so the floats create no problem in the finished piece.  (I am very concerned with making structurally sound weaving.)  Unfortunately, there are some moth holes in the piece, but it is not too bad.  I can still use it as a great example in my beginning weaving class.  Again, the dust in the piece was awful, but now that it is washed, it is great to show.
This place-mat and napkin in Huck lace is beautiful and has a different look than the Huck we see now.  I think the place-mat is a little softer than what I like for a mat, I see the weight as better for a table cloth.

The other place-mat is also a soft one, but the structure has me thinking of how I could use it.  She has woven a three thread Huck, but she theaded two threads next to each other on shaft three.  It give and interesting look and it is different from the regular four thread huck.  

Here is a close-up.  The doubled threads on shaft three make give a texture in the plain weave area and the two shots of metallic are at the top of the hem.  There is a lot of metallic threads in these old weavings.

There are also a number of Guatemalan pieces (mostly tourist stuff) and some interesting stitchery on table cloths.  I will have to get some pictures of them.

I also got my heavy weight towels hemmed.  I am very pleased with them.  I will probably put a couple in the drawer for use and them keep some out for using later.
I ended up with seven towels and a plaid table mat.  I have two towels that are the plaid, three that are white weft and one each of blue weft and gold weft.  It was a good test of the loom and now I have a new group of towels.  


  1. Deanna, I am pleased to hear how much work you got accomplished at PCH. Your hard work is going to pay off for your students by allowing them to work in a clean environment with tools that are in good shape. Nice legacy!

  2. Thanks, weaving is fun on a loom that is working well and it can be awful on a loom with problems.