Sunday, July 19, 2015

Back to the Salt Mines

Mongo with the old 1-yard sectional warp beam.
   After a hiatus of several months, I'm once again throwing a shuttle. There was a good reason for not weaving: I "broke" my loom.
   When I bought Mongo, my big 16-shaft Macomber, it came with two plain warp beams. Now, having two warp beams is nice, but having a sectional warp beam is even better, especially for the long warps I normally weave. I bought a used (well-used, it turned out) 1-yard sectional warp beam, just after we brought Mongo home, installed the sectional warp beam (removing both plain warp beams in the process), and got to work. It was a pretty good warp beam, considering that it was probably older than I am, and I run quite a bit of warp through it during the nearly two years it was on the loom.
   Unfortunately, in early April, like the wonderful one-hoss shay, it finally fell into pieces...about four yards before the end of a warp. My only indications that it was failing were the metallic sounds of the steel section pins hitting the floor. As it occasionally shed pins in the past, I didn't worry until I found that every time I pulled the beater toward me, the entire beam would lurch and advance. Not good. I ended up jury-rigging a couple of weights to counteract the pull of tensioning, and wove off the warp, getting up to removing the weights, advancing the warp, then weighting the beam again. It was a struggle, but I finished the warp, cut off the cloth, then surveyed the damage. Most of the steel section pins were on the floor behind the loom, and the wood friction brake drum was as smooth as a piece of glass. My big sectional warp beam was done.
   One of the great advantages of owning a loom that is still in production: I called Macomber to order a brand-new warp beam. Large pieces for a loom tend to be semi-custom orders, I could pick and choose exactly what I wanted--the smaller, 3/4-yard sectional, with a steel friction brake. Ed (the owner of Macomber Looms) said it wasn't any problem, but he was waiting on his foundry to produce "spiders"--the steel spindle at the opposite end of the beam. He thought he'd have them in by the end of the following week, and he would call me.
Mongo, with the new sectional warp
beam and one of theold plain beams.
   The "following week" turned out to be six weeks later. Occasionally, that's the problem with fiber arts equipment. Nearly all the manufacturers are very small businesses, and their vendors push them to the bottom of the list of work orders because their orders tend to be very small.
   About 10 days after Ed got the spiders, the UPS man dragged a very large crate onto my front porch: I had my new warp beam. We carefully unpacked it, carried it upstairs, and I reconfigured the back of Mongo into exactly the configuration I've always wanted: sectional warp beam (the beam I use the most) on top, controlled by the friction brake, with the plain, ratchet-brake beam on the bottom for when I weave with supplemental warps. I also adjusted the brake so a slight tap releases the friction brake, but pushing it all the way down releases both beams to advance both warps together. All in all, it's a pretty slick set-up.
   With all the preparations and travel in June, I didn't have the opportunity to dress Mongo until the beginning of July, but when I did, I put on 18 yards of natural 8/2 cotton to weave the linsey-woolsey I've been promising myself for the past year. I spun the weft from a Nebo-Rock merino hogget in 2013, and dyed half of the yarn with indigo and the other half with marigolds last summer, specifically for this cloth. The striped indigo was the first piece, and I ended up with nearly 8 yards on the loom. Right now, I'm weaving off the plain yellow cloth. Once wet-finished, the striped will be turned into a late 18th-century short gown, with a petticoat/skirt from the yellow.
My marigold-striped indigo linsey-woolsey.