Sunday, July 24, 2016

Megan Karlen - our spring work study student - in her own words.

Guaranteed to make you smile.

100% guaranteed to make you smile: go to Marshfield
School of Weaving and take a seat at an 18th century barn loom.

Maybe it’s because I grew up wanting to cut the ropes that separated me from every early-American period room I toured with my very historically-based parents. Ok, maybe. But I had friends visit MSW while I was there and without exception, each person was fascinated with the weaving barn and totally excited when I suggested they sit at the loom and feel what it was like to weave.
 When I got to the school, Kate took me straight to a wall of dyed fibers and told me to pick colors for my warp. And then, she led me upstairs to a weaver’s paradise: a barn loft with magnificent looms and all the tools of the trade. I was now not only in the same room as the antique items I’ve always wanted to touch, I was now expected (happily) to learn how to use them!  
 Kate brought me to a gigantic warping board and taught me how to wind a warp with multiple colors threaded through a skarne. She taught me complicated “cross”: under/over/under/over, thumb in, palm up, put the cross on, loop around the beginning peg and repeat. Winding the warp is a dance with the threads.
 Back at the loom: I beam on. Let it be known that I came to MSW with some weaving experience but beaming on a barn loom is crazy-fun. You end up with curtains of warp threads hanging off weights and winding onto tree-trunk-sized back beams. You are climbing in and out of a 200-year-old hand-crafted loom the size of a four-poster bed. Seriously, fun.
 Master weavers Kate and Justin tutored me on how to speed-thread heddles (lol, ok, ok! I’m still working on it!) And, in the home stretch, I sley the reed, attach the harnesses, tie up the treadles, learn a bunch of new knots and finally, finally, I get to climb onto the built-in slanted wooden bench and begin to weave.
 Everything leading up to this moment is historical, manual, seemingly complicated but oddly simple, but nothing prepares you for the moment that you actually get to feel the loom in action.
 The slant of the bench leans you forward onto the breast beam, your feet feel like they are on a walk as you press each treadle in the order of the pattern, you create a rhythm with your feet and your hands as you let fly the shuttle through the sheds. The beater bar actually bounces as it packs your weft into place.

The whole action is fluid and fascinating. History literally comes alive as this dance transports you back in time.

The Marshfield School of Weaving in April.

A view of the studio.
Hand-dyed yarn for a warp faced stair runner.

Another view of the studio.

The counting chain on the carpet warp.

Beaming on.

The lashing knot.

Carpet on loom.


  1. Perfectly described! You took all the words out of my mouth.

  2. I want to go here so much, Megan!!

  3. hello there, i am looking for a loom where i cam weave large carpets, do you know where i may but one? thank you for your time and kindness