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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A shortage of hand woven dish towels!


My first loom was a 36” LeClerc Fanny, the sweetest little counterbalance loom in the universe, and I learned to weave using my aunt’s old Marguerite Davidson pattern book. I still have the book; she and my uncle wrote charming little notes to each other about their weaving in the book.

I wove some beautiful, soft as butter fabric on that loom, made a lovely shirt, sold it for too little money, back in the neophyte days. The loom was not very practical for yardage fabric and we went on to 44” looms for fabric. My little Fanny kept busy with place mats and dishtowels, and that sort of labor intensive, small profit products neophytes are prone to. Eventually that Fanny went onto a creel and wove rugs to the end of our weaving days.

When I wove towels, I wove them as yardage, not as individual towels.  I fulled my yardage, cut 40” towels, hemmed them and put them on the towel shelf in the booth. If I found a weaving error, or came up short, that piece became a house towel. They still dried dishes. We have a drawer and a half of house towels; our heirs and assigns will be tossing them.


A Shaker towel, about thirty years old. Raggedy, but serviceable.


A checkerboard towel I wove twelve or so years ago. Good shape.


A twill towel Beth wove maybe fifteen years ago.

But friends? They didn't have a drawer and a half of house towels; maybe only a dozen or so they’d been gifted. At her house one day Linda held up a towel and said to me, through the face sized hole, “You know you’re not forgiven for giving this up.” From all around, I heard “My towels are wearing out.” As if twenty years were not enough.

Former weavers don’t let friends down. I borrowed my daughter Beth’s little 8 harness Harrisville. It had close to a full towel warp that she put on in probably 1998. She wove for us before she was married, which was 2000, but her looms collected dust from the day she met Bill, in 1998.

Her loom was threaded for an undulating twill on six harnesses.I simply could not pick up any rhythm or speed on the pattern. I was the weaver now; I’d thread up something else. It took me a month, I’m sure, and I threaded up an eight harness checkerboard I used to weave on another LeClerc loom I had in the old days. Beth’s Harrisville is nice, but really cramped; just not enough room to comfortably make a thirty treadle sequence down there. My LeClerc’s were so nice.



The undulating twill pattern.


Undulating twill off the loom.


In the "fulling machine."
Thank God I did not live a century ago.


After the washer and dryer. I think it resembles flying geese.


I moaned to my sister that I needed to take time to reconstruct that Shaker plain weave/twill variation I used to weave by the yard; I was through with all this six and eight harness nonsense and ready for a sturdy little workhorse of a pattern and towel. “Well, if you still had the bible,” she said.

I was off like a shot to rummage in the book case. The bible, where we wrote down every pattern we wanted to make again, because we learned bread and butter is weaving what we sold, not selling what we wove. At least not until we introduced the new stuff next season.

The bible was there, right beside Marguerite. I tore down the loom another time and threaded again, for another month, plus the week I went to Ann’s. I simply don’t have the time I used to have, when I did this for a living.




The Shaker towel!


Rethreading the loom, one more time.


I took a dozen butter yellow Shaker towels off the loom last weekend, plus one short house towel and I’ll finish off the warp with a lovely teal. I've given away the half dozen yellow checkerboards I wove, and half the Shaker towels, with the other six earmarked. In fact, tomorrow I’m mailing off a couple to a customer from twenty years ago who recently tracked me down and sent pictures of her poor, dear jackets we wove.  A story for another day.



Hot off the loom Shaker towels.


The next towel weft.

When Beth’s loom is empty I’ll warp up again for another round of Shaker towels. I know more chief bottle washers who might like a couple of towels that will outlast them. If I don’t already know your address, don’t be surprised by an email asking for it.

I've also asked the universe to find me an old 36” Fanny at a good price. Wouldn't that be nice!


A 1951 LeClerc Fanny counterbalance, four harness, six treadles.
About the vintage I bought from my Aunt Laura in nineteen eighty something.

36 comments:

  1. I didn't understand half of your looming terminology, but I do understand that you worked your Fanny off.

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  2. The checkerboard towel is definitely my favorite. It is in great condition!

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  3. I am not sure if the handwoven towels I have come from you all (either from you or from a Yankee Peddler festival), but I do have a large bag that you did make and I still use all the time!

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  4. Hari OM
    Dad looked at me very pointedly when I was resettling and said, "mum's wheel and loom are through the room..." then admitted sadly when I shrugged that he had hoped at least on one of the daughters would pick up where she left off.... I admire it greatly; to look at. Love the Undulating...

    ...and for the love of Pete - how is Toby hanging on - not by a thread surely??? YAM xx

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    1. Hahaha! I never noticed the kitty there until I read your comment, Yam!

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  5. I lived with a weaver for four months once year, between university years, and I wish I had been around more when she did her weaving (she did it while I was at my summer job). I still have the placemats, purse and runners she gave me or sold me, and I treasure them. She became a friend, not just my boarding house landlady, and passed away years ago, but her handwork sees daily use and looks like new.

    Your work is lovely. And I am still chuckling at joeh's comment!

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  6. Amazed the towels could last for all those years! Would be fun to watch you weaving one!

    betty

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  7. Anyone who ever owned a cotton dish towel from the Ewe Tree is spoiled rotten. Yes, I do have the one with the huge hole in it. It will never be thrown away, just assume another life in another part of the house. e.g. rag bag. The more these towels are washed the better they dry. On a very personal note, when I had my mastectomy for breast cancer, I asked a dear friend to work her spiritual powers and impregnate one of Joanne's finest efforts with healing powers. The OR nurses worried that handling it would destroy its healing powers.My surgeon said, if that is what she wants just do it. They were happy to know that handling the towel could not change it's healing properties. I am a 10 year survivor and i owe it in part to my medical care but most importantly to my friend Joanne. No, this one is not in the kitchen drawer and if ever needed again, I will have it at the ready. I am so happy that she is back at a loom..Let's all keep our eyes open for her 36" leclerc Fanny at a good price. "If I were a rich man, tra, la, la" i would get it for her. I will start looking. This special friend needs her special loom. you are just beginning to know the Joanne on this blog as a different person. Wait until she tells you about having a Harley Davidson!!!!!!

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  8. I love the cat perched on the back of the chair! When I was a kid, our next-door neighbour (also my surrogate grandmother) used to weave. I loved her work and still have some of it!

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  9. This post was as foreign and as fascinating as having someone explain cold fusion.
    I guess I came to the party late, but I had no idea that weaving was another of your many talents.
    I'm deeply impressed by your expertise!

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  10. You take me back years! My loom was a Northern Irish linen loom...with reeds acquired over the years. I'm trying tio remember the American pattern book I had...was it Margaret Dickinsin? She had all the traditional American patterns whoever it was and I remember making curtians for the house in snail trail. Happy days!

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  11. I saw a loon in New Hampshire once on a lake. I probably know more about loons than looms and I don't know that much about the birds. Your post was still an interesting story. To know something you hand crafted is still around 20+ years later has to be a good feeling.

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  12. Don't lean back on that chair! Seriously, most of this is like a foreign language to me. But the tea towels are really special.

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  13. It would have been tough years ago, but mass produced stuff just doesn't look or feel the same as the hand loomed stuff my gran had material that her mum had made the only time I've come across the real stuff.
    Merle..............

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  14. They are glorious. And I would have been edging Toby out so I could lean over your shoulder. To marvel.

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  15. Your artistic talents are impressive. I had no idea you had a background in weaving. What a wonderful talent to have -- barbara

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  16. What a fantastic post, Joanne!!! It is so nice, too, to have a cat nearby! Your header is gorgeous!

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  17. I am always amazed by the number of people I meet from the US who are weavers. It is quite a rare skill here in the UK Joanne - Margaret from Thousand Flower (on my side bar) called to stay the night last September and brought me a mat of her weaving - it is lovely. I think this skill is probably passed down from the old settler days when folk had to weave their own things. I am very envious.

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  18. Didn't understand a blooming word! But I know a good tea towel when I see one!
    Jane x

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  19. Today's tea towels are pathetic at drying....is it possible to place an order for half a dozen tea towels and dishcloths?..

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    1. If it is possible to place an order can you contact me at ournest@live.ca

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  20. Those Shaker towels are so beautiful Joan!
    When we visit my parents, we stop at a cooperative where people sell their weaving, knitting, etc. It is mostly weaving though. I often get a few things. The largest piece I bought was a full blanket, half cotton and half wool. Here you will laugh at me - It has only been used a few times for visitors, I am afraid of washing it.
    This year I bought a 100% linen dish towel for my friend Edith. It is very large (I first thought it was a small tablecloth but was told it will shrink a fair bit), it is in its natural color and rather rough in texture. It will be perfect after a few years or use!

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  21. My God they're gorgeous, I'm impressed, no wonder your friends have been bugging you. Hope you find the loom you're looking for.

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  22. That must have been a lot of fun weaving those gorgeous towels. When I was in India in 2012, I bought a 9x6 foot silk rug that had been woven by a family in Kashmir. Simply gorgeous, because it shimmers in the light.

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  23. reading this for me is probably what other people experience when they read my 'work' posts. so how does one get on the list?

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  24. Dear Joanne, never have been a weaver or watched or weaver work, I missed exactly what you were doing and how. But what I didn't miss was your expertise and your great love of weaving and making patterns and producing lovely artifacts. I'm so impressed! Peace.

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  25. We had some dear freinds that spent hours together weaving beautiful gifts. Sad but they are both gone now he died of cnacer and two days later she died of a broken heart.

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  26. Never tried my hand at weaving, too old and arthritic now .......

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  27. I love the yellow Shaker towels. The color is beautiful. I don't think I've ever owned anything handwoven, so I haven't been spoiled.

    Love,
    Janie

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  28. "eight harness checkerboard", "thirty treadle sequence"; I'm not entirely sure what those mean, but I like the thought of dish towels lasting thirty years!
    Are the shaker towels for drying dishes or hand&body towels? They are very nice. What size are the dish towels? My current shop bought ones are 55cm x 70cm, an excellent size, but new ones I buy aren't woven as closely as they used to be and don't last as long.
    Would you be willing to make some and ship to Australia? I would pay you of course.

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  29. The terms used and work description left me in awe. And the photos of the towels that will outlast Obama and his handiwork---awesome.
    My sister lives in OH, down in Columbus. I'm sending her this post. She is a super quilter and loves the detail of the product.
    Superb.

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  30. towels nowadays have no absorbency what so ever, although I recently got some store bought what were called bar towels that had some strips of terry cloth I believe in them and they are pretty good and I remember some towels called tea towels that I think are all cotton and they are pretty good, but I am absolutely sure that your towels are superior to any I have ever seen or used. They look marvelous and I am so glad that you are keeping the craft and art of these techniques alive. Anything that will last thirty years is worth more than a gold nugget for sure. The undulating twill is beautiful, as are all of them. Does the washing of them make them more even, like the blocking of needle point ?

    My grandmother has one of those wringer washers I can still remember the clothes being fed through the rollers.

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