A Long Wait for a Large Loom

There are many advantages to a guild such as the support and comradery of like-minded people who share an interest or passion in something. Sharing knowledge; whether in a library or through the members sharing their ideas or teaching. The pooling of resources to acquire equipment to be shared amongst the group that individual members either can’t afford or do not have space for.

Ann and I belong to the same guild here in Ottawa, Canada. It’s old as far as Canadian guilds go; having started as a group run through the Ottawa Civil Service Recreation Association from 1943 to 1946. In 1949 a few of their members went to a weaving conference.  When they returned home they decided to  start their own guild and became the Ottawa Valley Weavers guild. They eventually added “and Spinners” to their name. I joined in 1987 or 1988, becoming their new Librarian at my first meeting. (I did clearly warn them about the severe dyslexia but they didn’t think that would at all be a problem). So I started my guild career in  a closet, under the stairs, with the library. The guild was meeting down the hall in an old gymnasium at Devonshire Public School.  Ann joined a bit later.  By then I and the library were living in a different closet. She kindly decided to join me to help with the library. The library team eventually grew to Ann, Mary and I, but still in a closet with the books.

 1 Devonshire Public School (we were in the lower level with the closet under the stairs and the old gymnasium.)

For many years, the guild did not have a space to house equipment but always yearned to do so. We kept the shared equipment we did have in various members basements including a borrowed 90 inch loom (before my time), then a purchased, second hand 100-inch loom. The Library has sample binders from projects made on both of these.

Our 100-inch loom was second hand when we acquired it. It had moved multiple times, coming to rest for many years in one member’s basement.  It was used for many projects, mostly blankets and coverlets. If you have not seen one they are big looms.  It takes 2 people to weave on it.  This one was becoming more and more temperamental in its old age it took a large team to get the warp on. Warps were long to accommodate multiple blankets on the same threading. The treadling and colours would change between coverlets depending on what the weaver wanted.  Occasionally, between one coverlet and the next the loom would require readjusting of the tension. At this point the loom was functional but just a bit grumpy occasionally.

In 2003 the guild received a grant that allowed us to move into a space in Heartwood House (an umbrella group for many charity’s and the OVWSG) to set up our long dreamed of studio and house the library. The 100-inch loom as well as other floor and table looms left members basements and arrived in our new space.

2 Heartwood house.

 3 Our new home in the basement of Heartwood house, with the 100-inch loom warped and ready to go! The loom was often in use since it was much easier to get into the guild studio and use it.

4-7 Weavers work in pairs and weave 2 blankets. It takes two weavers weaving at once to make each blanket so they weave one for each of them. 2002

We moved to various rooms in the basement,  taking the looms with us.  In 2009 we made another move, this time going upstairs to one of the large classrooms which had large windows. We had to pick up and move all our guild stuff; the wheels, the library and the all the looms including the 100-inch up the stairs to the new space. All that moving was worth it since we now had a wall of windows and lots of bright light!

8-12 Upstairs in the light warping team in February 2009

After 10 years the building Heartwood house was renting was sold out from under them.  All the charity’s and us were on the move again. It took quite a bit of looking but finally a new location was found. We all moved to a building that once was a Giant Tiger Store with a small attached mall. Ann S., another member, headed up the design team that designed a purpose built studio space with a kitchenette, the library, and all the looms (wheels were moved to a storage closet down the hall.)

13 Moving Out of old Heartwood House! 2013

14-15 Moving into new Heartwood house (a lot of those boxes are the library!) 2013

 16-22 Weaving in the Studio 2014

After being in the space for a while, it was found to be a bit tight, so a classroom space was rented upstairs and the 100-inch loom moved yet again.

 23-24 Moved to the Classroom Nov-Dec 2014

The classroom originally was divided,  having a second smaller room where the loom was put, but we had the partition wall removed to create one big space. The space had carpet originally but we eventually upgraded to laminate in hopes we could have felting workshops upstairs and for easier clean up under the loom.

 25-27 This is the weaving draft for the coverlets. Here you can see tying on a new warp to the old. This is used to keep from rethreading the heddles or to save an expensive warp from being loom waste.  It is the second use as a dummy warp this time. 06-29-2015

28 Special guest in the studio (gratuitous lamb photo) Ann has the best living room decor!! Everyone enjoys when she shares and brings one of her bottle lambs to the studio.

  29-31 Our loom is getting more finicky to put the warp on the loom. 06 2016

32 They are adjusting heddles and leveling harnesses before threading the next warp. 7-4-16 (you can see the wall is gone so its easier to warp the loom. (Well relatively easier))

 33-34 You can see the treadle patter and more of the classroom. Aug 2016.

 35-36 Overshot is a weave structure with a distinctive 45-degree angle to the pattern. It is starting to show that the tension is not even and there are problems with the loom.

 37-38 The weavers are having to argue with the loom to stay square and get the correct angle. Weaving has become slower. 2018

By this point in its life, it was not keeping tension well and I think there were problems with the brake. A grant request was put in to acquire a more functional user friendly new 100 inch loom from Leclerc (an old Canadian company that has made looms since the beginning of the 1900’s). We wanted a 100-inch loom that was easier to warp, kept tension and did not have brake slippage. Therefore, we put in our grant request and were thrilled when it was accepted. <Weavers Celebrating!!>

The next project the executive undertook was what to do with the old loom. It had been repaired as much as was possible but really was now well beyond its working life so sending it off to another guild to fight with was not an option. They reached out to other provincial guilds and found a few had the same model of loom and could use parts of our old one to refurbish theirs. So the loom was mostly dispersed to upgrade other old looms.

 29-40 The new floor is put in as we prepare for the new loom. July 2019

We cleared the area for the new loom at the end of the classroom. With great excitement we awaited the arrival of the wonderful new loom! And we waited,  and waited, and waited…..

And now I will be horrible and make you wait till next week so you too will find out if it was worth the wait!

in the mean time keep felting! (i am still busy with data analysis of the guild library survey, which is actually lots of fun but keeping me from felting at the moment. i hope to have my part handed off to Ann soon so i can rejoin you in fiber fun!)

About Jan

Realy im not 12, i am just sivearly dislexic. i can spin, weave, felt, garden, Draw, Paint, and do layout but i realy cant spell. if you read out louwd i do make more sence.
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23 Responses to A Long Wait for a Large Loom

  1. JudithBoag says:

    That’s truly a wonderful and amazing story. Thank you so much!

    • Jan says:

      thanks i the history of the loom with the guild is interesting with all the pairs of weavers that have created blankets and coverlets over many years. i am sorry i didnt get photos of the binders of samples. i will try to do that if i can get into the guild again soon. i hope you enjoy the next part too!

  2. Hi Jan, I really enjoyed reading this very interesting history and can’t wait for the sequel ☺. My youngest also has severe dyslexia and struggles with the written word. Like you, he is an artist to the very core. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jan says:

      I am glad you are enjoying the loom saga! there is a bit more to come. i have always found books tomes of wisdom, a bit hard to extract the info from but worth the struggle. i suspect your son and I see the world a bit diferntly than most, which is not a bad thing. we offten come up with much more intersting solutions to problems. Dislexics tend to think more three dimentionaly. we make much more resonable choices for letter combinations than the traditional english verions. we will also always look vary uthfull when we type on line. (my on line gameing frends were shure i was 12 for quite a while, untill thay figured out i was marryed and had a huge vocabulary)

      Oh let your son know i was told by my grade 5 teacher that i should drop out of school as soon as i could, get marryed and let some man take care of me. i egnored her and got a B.A. from the University of Toronto. (then the RMT which was a colloge certification of 2200 hours) i was able to do that becouse of help from my parrents, teachers that understood content was more important than spelling, my many frends and spellcheckers and those horrid fonnex flash cards that fallowed me all the way to grade 12. thay did a prity good job i am at least mostly fonetic! Say hi to your son from me! and i hope you will enjoy the next part of the loom saga!

  3. Karen Lane says:

    Wow, the old loom did well to withstand all those moves Jan! Looking forward to the next instalment.

    • Jan says:

      Yes, they were build pritty ruggedly but eventualy all that asembling, disassembling reasableing over years did take a tole. all the weaving over that long a time can put ware on a loom. there have been a few changes in the design to the loom since the old one was made! i am shure will spot the upgrades. i hope you enjoy the next instalment!

    • Karen Lane says:

      I’m sure I will do!

  4. annielynrosie says:

    Fascinating story and photos – thank you Jan. Don’t keep us waiting too long for the ending though!

    • Jan says:

      Thanks! i am glad your are enjoying the saga! next part will be next week. i will then let you know how the first weaving gose but that may be a while with the evils of covid interfearing with fun!! but i will try to get shots of the first set up and first weaving teams to use the new loom.

  5. Thanks for writing this fascinating history.

    • Jan says:

      Thanks Lynn, its quite cool to be in a (relitivly) old guild. it is a bit odd feeling to remember parts of what is now history to the guild though. at the begining of the guild allmost all the members had boys names!! Mrs Bill or Mrs Ted!!
      i hope you will enjoy the next pat of the loom saga!

  6. ruthlane says:

    Great story Jan! I enjoyed reading the history of your guild and the tales of the traveling loom. I look forward to the next installment.

    • Jan says:

      Thanks Ruth! it is fun to remember all the hands that have worked on the old loom and how many other hands i have not met will work on the new one. i hope you will enjoy the new loom next week!

  7. Lindsay Wilkinson Artwork says:

    It’s lovely that you’ve catalogued the history of your guild and that huge loom. It would be nice to think there’s a long-term home for you all but I suppose change is the one constant …….

    • Jan says:

      THanks Lindsay! we finaly have a pourpos build studio and hopefull will stay here for an extended period of time. (i have boxed up and moved the library too many times.) if we ever move again i hope it will be to our own building! it was hard on the equipment and the members doing all the lifting.

  8. Leonor says:

    Oh no, a cliffhanger ending! 😀

    I’m super envious of your guild space and looms. I wish I had something similar near me (well, I might have, I just haven’t found out yet – I moved to Edinburgh just before Covid hit!)

    I’m super happy the old loom got to serve as parts for another one. It’s a great way to recycle. It always breaks my heart when I see such beautiful equipment being destroyed because no one wants it…

    • Jan says:

      Dear Leonor, Edinburgh!! i bet you have a guild nearby and i bet its much older than ours!!
      if not you could always start one! its a grate way to meet people, share info and equipment, and get insperation! i hope it will be a fiber arts guild, they have a broder scope and there is more cross polination of ideas and teckneeks!

      i was also vary glad that pices of the old loom went to other looms to upgrade them. we have a cuple members who are wood worksers who i think have the parts that didnt get reused so me may see shuttles or some cool wood turned itume from the bits that were left!

      i hope you will enjoy seeing the new loom next week

    • Leonor says:

      There is indeed a guild here, and funnily enough I know one of the members through a completely different (internet) avenue! I just don’t know if they’re (quite literally) as resourceful as yours is. The London Guild, of which I used to be a member, definitely doesn’t have a 100″ loom… Once Covid ends I’ll be sure to find out 🙂

  9. A great telling Jan. I am glad we are out of the closet.

  10. Jan says:

    but some of those closets hold such exciting memorys!!! dont you rembber the first closet on chappel street that if You i and Mary were in the closet working on the books we all had to exit the coloset if we wanted to trade places? or the extatic joy of finaly getting a larger closet with a window for the first time in the librarys hisory? or when we moved upstairs and were finaly out of the closet only to find that people kept putting things in front of the library cabinets so we had to move stuff befor we could work on the library! we now have light and heat and airconditioning and only seldom find stuff parked in front of the library cabinets now so we are doing Much better!!

  11. Wow, that’s quite some history of the loom and guild. Thanks for sharing it. I look forward to seeing the new one.

    • Jan says:

      Thanks Marilyn, it is vary big and vary new!!! i hope i will be able to get shots of the first warp that will be going on it!

  12. Pingback: A Long Wait for a Large Loom  Part 2 | feltingandfiberstudio

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