You might also like

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The further adventure of the Union loom

The Union loom we purchased because its owner needed the money had a history before it reached us, which did not diminish when we gave it back. We were contacted by the husband of the owner. We weren't hard to find, we were the only business in the Yellow Pages under the heading of Weaving. The husband said his wife wanted to sell her Union loom, and we agreed to take a look and give some advice on condition and price.

We found the house and met the husband and wife in the drive. The young woman was clearly holding back her emotions, not happy about selling the loom. She grew up in upstate New York. Two spinster Shaker sisters lived near her parents’ summer home, and wove and sold rugs for a living. She was fourteen when they introduced her to the art of weaving, and she spent the next several summers working happily with the women.

She grew up, moved on, and some years later was startled to learn the old sisters had passed away and left her the loom.  The gift delighted her, and she made room for it everywhere she lived over the next several years. There always were rugs for her homes and gifts for her friends, from the loom. But, now money was necessary; we were weavers, could we buy the loom from her?

Union looms are utilitarian looms, not high in the price structure. At the time a very good Union loom, fetched two hundred dollars at the very top of the market. People found them in relative’s homes and thought they had a valuable antique, but in truth they had a sturdy, well made tool that could be found in a quarter of the farm houses from the Atlantic to the Great Plains.

Although they have not been in production now for over a century, Unions were built to perform and to last. That it had increased four times in value from its final selling price was a tribute to the Union Loom Company. We paid her two hundred dollars for her Union loom, and on the way home decided to give it to Beth.

When Beth lived upstairs in the Whitcomb duplex Shelly and James, and Bekka the baby lived downstairs. Bekka was an irrepressible little girl, who often disappeared up the back steps to Aunt Beth’s house. Eventually Beth pulled the 24 rusty warping nails from the base of the loom to forestall that potential baby trap. It’s the only change that happened to the loom, and in retrospect I’m sorry we couldn't return them with the loom.

Beth eventually bought two four harness Newcomb Studio rug looms. They filled much of her dining room; the Union was folded up and pushed against a wall. Then one day the husband called us. His wife missed her loom dreadfully, and had saved enough money to repurchase it. Would we sell? We loaded the loom back in the truck and appeared in the same drive at the appointed day and time. No one was home. After perhaps half an hour we unloaded the loom, left it very close to the garage door, and left, hoping nothing would happen to it. 

I sent an invoice in the mail. No check came. I left a phone message some weeks later. And more months on I sent a note, reminding the woman she had not paid for the loom. Eventually I wrote the invoice off to bad debts. It wasn't the first bad debt, it wouldn't be the last. Cost of doing business.

At least five years went by, the loom long forgotten, and an envelope came in the mail from the young woman. In it, two hundred dollars plus fifty for “interest and your kind patience.”

Her note explained the day she was to get her loom back, on the way home to meet us in her drive, she was in a terrible auto accident. Her husband already was home, to help with the unloading and moving, and received the call to come to the hospital at once.  He came home late and the loom in his headlights was just the last part of an awful day.

She was all those years mending her bones, learning to walk again, eventually finding another job, and finally saving two hundred dollars to pay for the loom. She was so grateful we still had it. She never mentioned the missing warping nails.

Bekka, when she scampered up back steps.


  1. What a wonderful tale. Tears here - and awe at the women who learned to walk again, and remembered past kindness.
    I hope, so very much, that she had many, many productive weaving years ahead of her.

  2. I think you could write a novel just following that loom from the two sisters on.

  3. now you have me wanting to start weaving

  4. Such a cute picture of Bekka in younger days.

    I loved the story of the loom. It is interesting why she didn't write earlier along the way to tell you the circumstances, but I'm sure she wanted to pay for it along with the explanation.


  5. Hari Om
    Astounding, heart-warming...YAM xx

  6. A lovely story of the loom and its travels, although sad to hear about the young woman's accident and long recovery. Glad she made it and got back to weaving.
    Becka looks cute!

  7. Kindness and patience trumps all.

  8. What a wonderful (sad? happy?) story.
    Like Linda Star, it inspires me - not to weave, but as Joeh suggests, to write.

  9. you have so many wonderful stories.

  10. What a great story. You are so kind, and that child is adorable in that photo.

  11. Oh my, would make a great book, have you considered writing it?

  12. What a lovely, heart-warming story Joanne.

  13. I LOVE knowing the stories behind the objects. Couldn't you just feel those spinster sister's careful hands on that loom? I often touch the headboard of our bed and think of what stories it could tell. I found it against a wall up in the attic after I purchased the house. It has a story, I know.

  14. Incredible story, Joanne. Truth can be stranger than fiction. And you tell it well.

    What a sweet baby Bekka!

  15. What a nice story. It all ended well. You seem to be familiar with every kind of looms there are in North America!

  16. That poor young woman. I'm glad you could write it off and not go into an angry tirade that would have made her feel worse.