Sonja learns to weave: Prologue

I did it! I signed up for a weaving class in November at Custom Handweavers in Mountain View. Wednesday & Friday evenings and Saturday mornings for there weeks. Now how did I get that idea? Weaving?

Recently, I received a shipment of furniture and books from Germany, also containing my little loom from Middle School craft class. Inside was an old journal with weaving projects. I am also working on little knitting and crochet projects to whittle down my stash of leftover yarn. I thought I could probably use my collection of fall-colored Cascade Superwash 220 to weave a tapestry as artwork for my friends house in Guerneville. Then I started thinking about weaving a poncho. But neither project was easily done on the small loom.

Flashback to the mid-90s. I was visiting my Tante Regina in her flat in Gross-Krotzenburg. She started telling me about a relative in Soltau, who had just retired from his weaving business and started selling the looms because he had not been able to find a successor to buy the business. Tante Regina and I were both remarking how, had we known just a few months before, we both would have been willing to buy the business from him.

Flashback to the late 80s. My mom, dad and I were visiting this relative’s weaving business. I especially remember one huge loon were a man was handweaving a wool carpet from Heidschnucken-Wolle. Heidschnucken are moorland sheep with white bodies and black heads and legs from Northern Germany. I also remember many other handweaving looms of all sizes on which some women from the village were weaving table linens and other fine things. If you ever visit my house, I will show you some handwoven linen dishcloth from my relative.

Back to the present. 15 years ago I missed becoming a weaver, but instead continued on with physics. But I still enjoy very much making things from strings, mostly knitting and crochet. Come think of it, those two techniques to make clothing are actually fairly complex techniques to invent. Basic weaving, after making felts, is probably the simplest technique to make garments. Even leather and fur is more challenging. In any case, with knitting and crochet I felt I was at the limits of learning new techniques short of starting to design my own pieces. Show me a pattern, I can make it. But weaving on a floor loom? There is something I had not done yet.

About the same time this weaving idea started moving about my brain, I checked out the local Craigslist for looms. To my surprise, at any given time there were about half a dozen floor looms for sale in the Bay Area. The one I ended up buying was located just behind the Varian building in the Barron Park neighborhood of Palo Alto. This loom has a special history. It was one of the early looms Jim Ahrens from Oakland started building between 1947 and 1950. The exact age is unknown, but probably this particular loom was made between 1947 – 1970. Jim Ahrens went on to later found AVL in Chico, one of the major loom manufacturers. He was also the first one to invent a computerized (Apple!) dobby loom. The best part is that the frame of the loom contains beams made out of birdseye maple, the very same wood that was used as veneer on two of my harps!

I just like old stuff with history to it. I like to learn the old crafts, how to make things. I like history, period. And this love of where I, we, came from leads me to learn a new skill. On November 10, 2010, I will take my first weaving lesson.

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One Response to Sonja learns to weave: Prologue

  1. Jill Lee-Jones says:

    Hi…I was wondering if you still have your Ahrens loom. I recently purchased one and am trying to get more info on it. Anything you can add would be appreciated. Thanks!

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