Archive for 2009

Loom tidbits and more

Holly asked about the sanding block for metal cleanup (I think, not the one for wood).  I just found it with Google under Bridge City Tools.  Specifically, it is called Sandflex Hand Block and comes in fine, medium and coarse or as a set of all 3.  There you go!

Over the weekend I was able to contact one of the previous owners of Mother Mary’s Loom.  The loom came with a copy of the Macomber catalog with their name and address on it.  A simple directory lookup gave me the phone number to try in North Bend, Washington. Very nice folks; the husband had obviously been quite fond of the loom and had made an effort to find out about it when they bought it.

The loom, built for Mother Mary in 1954,  had originally resided at Mt. Angel Seminary near Salem, Oregon.  There it had been used to weave priest’s vestments, etc.  At some point it was sold to a weaver in Puyallup, Washington.  This lady’s husband was the one who made the bench that came with the loom.  It’s a very pretty bench with some beautiful figured maple on the top.  She apparently developed some health issues that caused her to give up weaving, and she sold the loom to the folks in North Bend around the year 2000.  She has since moved to Florida and they lost track of her, so I can’t follow up that lead any further.  The folks in North Bend traded it to someone in Olympia (for a harp!) due to lack of space, and the fact that she had become fond of Leclerc looms and that is what she is using now.  The fellow in Port Orchard obtained the loom, 2-3 years ago, from the gal in Olympia also through a trade arranged through Craig’s List.

So there we have it.  I am owner number 5 since it left the Mt. Angel Seminary.

On another topic, we were very excited to see a tow truck show up next door and take away the dead car and the equally dead John Deere farm machinery (not a tractor; not sure what it was…).  They already hauled off the stock feeding stations.  They say the concrete blocks are next, and the fence will happen this year.  Keeping our fingers crossed!

bye bye John Deere thingy

bye bye John Deere thingy

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Loom Restoration Project

I have to admit I was a little crestfallen when I first saw the loom in Port Orchard.  It was more dilapidated and rustier than I had expected.  However, Rick’s attitude was “nothing that can’t be fixed, let’s load it up and get a move on…” so off we went.

I am fortunate to be married to a man who is a professional woodworker and all-around handy guy, and who thought it would be “fun and interesting” to help me restore the loom (his words, not mine!), and learn more about how they work in the process.

Warning: this is a long post that may be totally boring if you aren’t interested in looms.

At home in the workshop:

in the shop

It was dirty and just about anything on it that could rust, had done so.  We decided it was best to just take it all apart, clean it up and then put it back together.  This meant removing the front and back beams, pedals and the jack mechanisms.



Rust on the steel parts of the lower jacks

Rust on the steel parts of the lower jacks



Over the course of the next 2 days, Rick worked on the frame and jack mechanisms.  All the bolt heads were rusted so he removed and replaced them, in the course of which he found that two of the bolts were broken off inside the frame.  We think the loom must have been dropped at some point, probably during a move, as wood was split as well.  But he managed to get the broken pieces of bolt out and put it all back together again with new bolts and brass screws.  Much sturdier now!  Also one of the treadles had a piece of wood splitting away on the bottom, but he glued that back together again no problem.  He went over the frame with a sanding sponge, which cleaned off the dirt and grime and made the original varnish finish smooth and nice looking.  The upper and lower jack mechanisms had a lot of rust to be sanded off, plus the chains and S-hooks were all rusted, but these were items that are readily available at the local hardware store so we were able to replace it all with new shiny metal.

Meanwhile I worked on the rusted heddle bars, all 24 of them.  These fit into the harnesses or shafts, across the top and bottom and are what the heddles slide on (the heddles are what you thread each individual thread through, so they are raised with the harness they are threaded onto).  We developed a method for removing the rust:  first a sanding with a rough grit paper to remove the worst of it, then burnish with a wonderful little sanding sponge that is meant for cleaning metal (he got it years ago from Bridge City Tools).  Final cleanup with Tri-Flow (a rust remover and lubricant) and steel wool or fine grit paper.

Heddle bars, clean (above) and rusty (below)

Heddle bars, clean (above) and rusty (below)

The heddles themselves must be the original ones.  I called and talked to Eddie at Macomber and they are lighter weight than the inserted-eye heddles they provide now, and they pre-date the flat steel heddles that they used for a while before changing to the inserted-eye ones.

Original heddles, lightweight inserted-eye and plain wire

Original heddles, lightweight inserted-eye and plain wire

There are about 800 of the inserted-eye heddles (with solder around the eye) and about 400 of the plain wire ones.  I found this out when I went to put them back onto the heddles bars and into the frames.  They too needed to be cleaned up, with some rust at the tops and bottoms where they slide on the bars.  I wound up using naval jelly, brushing it on liberally and then rinsing it off, drying them thoroughly, then spraying with clear silicone spray per the recommendation of Eddie at Macomber.

I also went over the 16 treadles with the sanding sponge, then put a coat of Profin on them.  Now they are pretty clean and new looking.

Reassembly of the loom:

Lower jacks all cleaned up and re-installed

Lower jacks all cleaned up and re-installed

Easier than sitting on the floor!

Easier than sitting on the floor!

Yesterday I went to work on the sectional beam, which was (you guessed it) dirty and rusty.  I went over all the wood with the sanding sponge to clean it up, then worked down the rust on all 84 of the metal spikes that divide the sections (21 on each of 4 fins).  Grrr.  This one is a pain.

Rusty and clean sectional dividers

Rusty and clean sectional dividers

The cord on the sectional beam is shot so I have ordered a replacement kit from Macomber, along with new cloth aprons for the front and back beams.  Also the reed it came with is rusty and in my opinion, not salvageable, and somewhere along the way it lost most of the hooks that are used to connect the treadles to the lamms (see picture above, they are the crosspieces below the lower jacks) – there were only 8 hooks, and Eddie said they usually send 6 per harness, which would be 72. Fortunately, still available from Macomber.

So it won’t be all ready to go for another week or so, but we are getting there.  A labor of love.  It’s going to be worth it.

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Mother Mary’s Loom

After spending a fair bit of time and effort cleaning up and trying out the Herald loom that is for sale up at our guild meeting room, I decided it just wasn’t what I was looking for, mainly because it turns out the brake mechanism isn’t original and I couldn’t get it to work properly (this is the mechanism that allows you to release the warp beam at the back to advance the warp).  Also, I am used to my Macomber loom here at home, which is so rock solid and sturdy.  So then I got to thinking, maybe I should just look for a smaller Macomber to keep up at the guild room as a “second loom.”

A friend had recently sent me the link for a Craig’s List search tool that lets you search all Craig’s lists within a specified mile radius of your zip code:  Search Tempest.  I was looking for a 32″ or 40″ Macomber.  There weren’t many, in fact the nearest one I found was in Colorado.  I was starting to promote a “vacation” trip to Colorado when all of a sudden a new one came up in Port Orchard, near Bremerton in western Washington.  It was a 40″ weaving width with 12 shafts (twelve!!) and 16 treadles, both a plain and sectional warp beam, a bench, a 72-spool rack and some other nice features.  Our “fearless leader” at the guild told me to GO FOR IT so I did.

The Macomber Loom company has been in business since 1936 and is still making looms back in York, Maine.  Don’t bother trying to find their website, because they don’t have one.  The closest thing you can get, and it is a good one, is the blog of a fiber artist in York, ME who is a big fan of their looms, and is also a sales rep for the company.  She lives practically next door to the workshop, and visits them frequently.  She has posted a lot of useful information and maintenance tips on her blog:  Macomber Looms and Me.  In fact, I think I will add this to my links in the sidebar.

But you can also call them directly to order parts, etc.  (207-363-2808).  They have records of just about every loom they ever made, because they are all identified with a model and serial number on a metal plate on the side of the loom.  So I called them to find out about B5-1046 before we went to Port Orchard.  Eddie there told me it was built in October 1954, the original buyer was “Mother Mary” (no record of location, though), and verified all of its original specifications – 40-inch, 12 harness, 16 treadle, sectional and plain beam, warp separator, etc.

So I am now the proud owner of Mother Mary’s loom, and in the next posts will show you how we spent this last week bringing the old girl back to life.


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Blogging is lagging behind the actual living of life, this week.  It’s been a busy one.  I will try to catch up over the weekend!

A week ago we went down to Vancouver, WA towing the new cargo trailer with cabinets for our friends’ living room remodel.  Rick spent much of the weekend installing cabinets and trimming out windows and doors:


Here’s a shot from before the remodel – quite a difference, eh?


Meanwhile, I went off to Portland, OR on both Saturday and Sunday to visit the Sock Summit at the Oregon Convention Center.  A lot of my Seattle friends were there, and one from Omak too!  This thing was huge and featured many famous names in the worlds of knitting, spinning and dyeing including some who rarely, if ever, come to conferences of this size (Barbara Walker, Meg Swansen, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, Anna Zilboorg).  I had not pre-registered and did not take any classes, but just wandered happily around the marketplace with 150 vendors, many of whom were small dye houses with beautiful and unusual yarns and spinning fibers.  I also attended the Luminary Panel at the end of the day on Sunday, which was a not-to-be-missed opportunity to hear commentary and reminiscences from nine fabulous women who have certainly been inspirations to me over the past 25 years.

Brier Rose

Brier Rose

Sock Summit Market - tip of the iceberg

Sock Summit Market - tip of the iceberg

The Sanguine Gryphon

The Sanguine Gryphon

Too big to take pictures of really!

On the way home on Monday, being blessed with an empty cargo trailer, we stopped in Port Orchard where I bought a new (old, actually) loom which I found on Craig’s List last week.  More on this in a later post!

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We have been moving along with the perennial beds out back.  Last week it was very hot (over 100) so it was difficult to get much done – outside by 7 am or earlier, work as fast as possible, give up by 9:30 or 10:00.  We had an 18-yard dump truck load of compost mulch delivered:

18 yds of compostthen proceeded to cart some of it over to the new planting bed in back with the tractor, and spread it out.  I went up to Wild Hearts Nursery near Winthrop and picked up some plants to make a start on the new perennial borders.  I had to plant something!  So they look a little lonely and forelorn, but hopefully all will survive and be nice big vigorous plants next year.  We have a couple of varieties of lavender, black-eyed susans and some other types of daisies, gaillardia, perennial geraniums, and some succulents around the rocks.

perennial bed Aug 2009

Our social event of the week was a big fund-raising dinner for Methow Conservancy on Wednesday night.  This event happens every 3 years and is hosted by Jim and Gaye Pigott and the Mocassin Lake Foundation.  This year they held it at the Shafer Museum up in Winthrop, our local historical museum and a pretty interesting place.  We had a nice time talking to old friends and meeting new folks too.

Best of the West 2009Off to Vancouver, WA today to install cabinets at our friends’  house.  I will also go by the Sock Summit at the Oregon Convention Center.  More on this next week!

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Yesterday we went up to the vegetable garden for a while, to weed and prune and harvest.  I pruned the tomato plants back a lot, as they were sprawling all over the place and in a tangled mess.  We came home with beets, chard, carrots, small narrow green (mystery) peppers, yellow crook-neck squash, lettuce, Walla Walla sweet onions, two kinds of potatoes, and a whole lot of green cherry tomatoes that I couldn’t bear to throw away (they were on the pruned-off branches).

So dinner last night was mostly vegetables, with a modest portion of left-over steak for a bit of protein.  I cooked the beets, cut them in wedges and added a simple vinaigrette while they were still warm (olive oil, red and balsamic vinegars, salt & pepper).  We will eat these for a couple of days, delicious as a side vegetable or addition to a green salad.  We had a couple of the freshly dug red potatoes – it still amazes me how something so humble as a potato can taste that much better when it is fresh!

But the fun thing was a vegetable saute.  I used one of the yellow squash cut into chunks, a small sweet onion, 4 of the little peppers (which turned out to have some heat to them, although they are not jalapeno – we got the plants from someone and I don’t know what they are).  Also chard stalks cut into large dice, and some of the green cherry tomatoes.  Seasonings were dried basil, fresh garlic, salt & pepper.  It was delicious!  The peppers gave it a little heat but not too much.  The green tomatoes were hot but not bursting, a little acidic,  juicy and somewhat sweet.  They really added a lot of interest to the mix and were pretty to boot.

green tomatoes

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Dye Days in Preston

Last weekend I went over to the coast for a fiber dyeing workshop out in Preston.  The goal was to create a notebook of dye samples using Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s dyes (“Mother MacKenzie’s Miracle Dyes”).  These are professional quality acid dyes used to dye protein fibers – “acid” means they require a slightly acidic solution to work, not that they are acidic themselves.  Once in solution, they have no demonstrated health risks and require only common household vinegar and no other additive chemicals to work.  So these are the dyes I have been using myself, but faced with bottles of stock solution of the 9 basic colors, it is often hard to figure out how to get started in creating the colors I want for a particular project.

The idea was for each workshop participant to choose a selection of 3 of the 9 colors and then dye 36 samples with ratios of each color varying in increments of 10%.  This would show the range of colors possible using those 3 dyes, and as a bonus each of those colors seem to work well with each other, so it makes it easy to set up a palette for a dye project.

The leader of the workshop was extremely organized and had our workstations set up with fiber ready to dye, the stock solutions all mixed up, and any other tools we needed besides the bowl we each brought to mix colors in.  We had a chart that showed the 36 combinations and how much dye to measure out for colors A, B and C for each combination (plus water and vinegar) for the amount of fiber in each bundle.

dye sample skeinsThe fiber bundles contained 12 strands each of Cascade 220 (a basic wool knitting yarn), a laceweight wool/silk and a fine spun silk.  Each type of fiber takes up the dye a little differently.

Here we are spending the first day measuring out dye, water and vinegar, immersing our little bundles and mushing them around, wrapping them in plastic wrap ready to be steamed (the heat sets the dye).

dyeing the samplesAfter the bundles were steamed and cooled, we had to unwrap them and rinse them 3 times, then hang them to dry.

dye samples dryingYou think that was a repetitive task?  But wait, there’s more!  The next day we spent taking apart each bundle and tying 3 strands (one wool, one silk/wool and one spun silk) of each color onto 10 pre-printed cards.

dye samples pagesThis was a task that did not get finished.  I have some here at home that I am still working on, but eventually we will all get the finished cards with everyone’s samples.

Its was a great group of women, some of whom I have known for years, so as we sat there muttering “2.7 cc’s cyan, 0.5 cc’s magenta, 3.6 cc’s prime yellow” or the equivalent, we also enjoyed wide ranging conversations and lots of laughter.  Plus delicious potluck lunches.  And cookies.

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garden bounty

We are co-gardening vegetables this year at the home of some neighbors up the road, since we don’t have a vegetable garden spot developed here yet.  So far we have been harvesting a lot of Swiss chard, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, Walla Walla sweet onions, beets and squash – the peas didn’t do spectacularly well.  When I bring the produce home, I have a great little stainless sink set up in the back yard to do the rough washing and trimming.  It’s so nice not having to do that first messy job in the kitchen!  Eventually, we will build it into a permanent base with the water hooked up and some kind of drain (now it just runs into a bucket).

outdoor sink

The last couple of days have seen things move forward with our plans for some borders around the perimeter of the lawn.  We have had a big pile of dirt and some rocks out there for over a year, without a clear idea of what to do with it.  Our friends from the coast came over, he is a landscape architect and knows exactly what to do!  We went to work with the tractor, shovels and rakes and got the first border laid out.  Rick and I still need to move more dirt over to fill on some other areas, but we are on our way.  We also went up to Wild Hearts Nursery near Winthrop yesterday and got some ideas of what kinds of shrubs and perennials to start planting in the new borders.  Very exciting!

moving the dirtTom & Rick

tractor girl

tractor girl

Rick is getting pretty good with that tractor – you should have seen him move those big rocks into place.

immovable object

Here’s my Sitting Rock set into place, with Chris’s contribution to the garden ambience – the classical and the primitive female forms:

still life with rock

There is supposed to be a 6-foot solid fence going in across the back some time this year (the owner of the farm next door is doing it, not us) – so that will make a huge difference in what we see from the deck and the back yard.

Lots of thunder and lightning over here yesterday afternoon.  It came right over us at one point and we all sat out on the deck and watched the show.  A couple of fires started up the road from us, so there were fire crews coming up soon after, and helicopters with water buckets, and evidently some smoke jumpers dropped in as well.  It seems to be under control today, although there is still a little smoke visible.

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To Market

I signed up for a space at the Methow Valley Farmers Market this year.  It’s held in Twisp from 9-12 each Saturday morning, April through October.  To qualify, you must raise the food (if you are selling produce, etc) or make the products (crafts) yourself and live in the valley more or less full-time.  People who have been doing it for years, and attend at least half of the annual markets, can eventually qualify for a permanent spot, but most of us must show up before 7:00 am on Saturday and hope to get a spot.

I had intentions to do this every other weekend, but between not having enough things to sell and/or having other things to do (visitors, trips to the Coast, etc) I hadn’t made it until last weekend.  I had 9 of my rag rugs, the overshot table runners, and some spinning batts that I carded up from a Corriedale fleece a month or so ago.  Oh, and one shawl.  The rest are on consignment up in Winthrop at the Ashford Gallery, along with some of my rugs.

KT at market

I didn’t sell a single thing, but wasn’t really bummed out.  It was actually a lot of fun, and many people stopped and admired and got into conversations with me.  I think if I did it consistently, it would be more successful in terms of sales.  It was almost worth getting up at 5 am (at least it is light out this time of year, at 5 am!).

Some of my fellow guild members were also present:

K&K at market

And we came home with some mighty fine apricots, cherries and raspberries.

The Methow Valley Inn in Twisp is now displaying some of my rugs for sale – one hung on the wall and the rest nearby rolled up in a little barrel.  I just took those by last weekend after the market.  So now my inventory is down again!  Got to keep weaving…

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We had a 4-day, 3-night visit to The Coast last weekend, a busy and sociable visit.  On the way over on Friday, we had dinner with old friends from Seattle who have built a new home at Suncadia, a planned development and resort near Roslyn on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass.  Their home is beautiful, particularly the tile work in the kitchen and bathrooms which they did themselves – it’s very individualistic and professional looking.

On Saturday we shopped for the dinner I was cooking that evening, which was a joint birthday celebration for Rick and his sister (they are 4 years and 4 days apart in age).  Here they are after having done justice to the roast lamb and accompaniments, including a lot of veggies from our own garden this year:

Kathy's 65th bday

Sunday was for knitting (for me anyway) with a group of friends who meet once a month.  I haven’t made it for the last 2 months, so it was great to see everyone.  Sarah had finished a beautiful Aran cardigan which she designed herself:

Sarah's Aran 2

Later that day I delivered 2 of my rag rugs to someone who had ordered them for her kitchen and then we dashed to the ferry to Bainbridge Island to have dinner with our friends who have just come up for summer break from southern California.  They keep a sailboat at the Eagle Harbor marina and live aboard when they are up in the Northwest.

Monday was for errands and business meetings, then lunch at Seattle’s Uwajimaya and a bit of book shopping at Kinokuniya Bookstore (Japan’s largest bookstore chain specializing in Asian language books).   I found a book I was looking for with interesting, rather free-form clothing that could be adaptable to handwoven fabrics – of course it is all in Japanese, but the schematics are good and it includes the patterns in an insert.

Then we were off homeward in the afternoon, arriving about 7 pm, back in the valley again.  Always glad to be home!

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