Guaranteed to make you smile.
100% guaranteed to make you smile: go to Marshfield
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
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
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
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
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.