Friday, January 3, 2014

Busy Hands - The Barn Frame Loom

In March 1917 Alice Miner received a note from CE Hamilton, Manager of Heart's Delight Farm. He had recently fetched objects she purchased in Beekmantown and he listed them off in the note: "One red high chair (one arm off), One Rag Carpet, One high spinning Wheel (no belt), One low spinning wheel, One straight back rattan chair"... etc. The second page lists more acquisitions including: "One loom (one old board missing)"... This loom is a large Barn Frame Loom that now resides at The Alice T. Miner Museum in Chazy, NY.

The Barn Frame Loom in the Weaving Room

This is a miniature Barn Frame Loom with similar construction to the loom at The Alice

A Barn Frame Loom is constructed of large beams with mortise and tenon joints and dowels as fasteners. The construction is like that of a barn, which gives the loom its name. In our case the bench is built right into the loom and slightly tilted for comfort in the same way as the bench on the right of the miniature loom shown above. The machine is made in a way that keeps constructing and deconstructing relatively simple - in order to be taken apart and set aside when space was needed. Our Barn Frame Loom has been taken apart, stored and reassembled twice in the last eight years to make room for changing exhibits in the Weaving Room - its usual home.

Mortise and tenon joints - the only nails in our 
loom were those used to affix the replaced seat bench

Here in the museum there is space for this lovely, large work horse of a loom. And today would be a good day to sit at its replaced bench board and get some work done to stay warm! As I mentioned, this loom gets its name from the type of construction methods used to create it - like a miniature barn frame - and not because it may have been placed in the barn for use. Although it is large it would have been a very necessary tool for early homesteaders and afforded an honored place when weaving work needed to be done.

The bench can be seen at left - when constructed and placed in the museum in 1924 they managed to find an appropriately old strong board to serve as the weaver's seat

lovely details such as using a branch to hold tension on the threads

The three photos above were taken during one of the disassembly 
campaigns and show the solid construction of the loom

Another note in the archives indicates two names of women who may have once owned the loom - Mrs. Olive Culver and Mrs. Louisa Stilwell. The only information I found on either woman indicated them both as being born around 1830 in Beekmantown. Perhaps the loom was sold by later family members who no longer had a use for such a large machine in their home. The note also shows numbers next to various objects that were later crossed out - perhaps the purchase price? If so, it would indicate that Alice paid $60 for the Barn Frame Loom back in 1916 or 1917.

Museum legend talks about a friend of Alice wanting to contribute something to her museum. The woman had no appropriate antiques, but she did know how to weave. She sat down at the loom and wove a large rug that was then used in the Weaving Room for many years... Now in its old age it is safely stored away in the museum collection storage. The Barn Frame Loom serves as a handsome center piece to the museum Weaving Room. We are currently closed for tours, but come get acquainted with the loom in the spring!

1 comment:

  1. Very cool. My ancestors were weavers from Paisley, Scotland. I need to bring my mom up & see this!