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.
I've also asked the universe to find me an old 36” Fanny at a good price. Wouldn't that be 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.
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.
A 1951 LeClerc Fanny counterbalance, four harness, six treadles.
About the vintage I bought from my Aunt Laura in nineteen eighty something.