Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Sabina Weaves Again

It took me two days, which is actually something of a record for me, to warp the Budget Bamboo Shawl onto the newly restored Sabina loom.  The shawl project was featured in the November/December 2009 issue of Handwoven magazine.  Made from Aunt Lydia's Bamboo Crochet Thread, it's an inexpensive project with a beautiful hand and and elegant look.  I had measured out about a third of the warp and  sleyed it into the 36" Schacht Standard 4-harness loom. For some reason - probably my dislike of warping - I abandoned the project. I forgot to knot the sleyed warp. I should know better.

When the kittens came to live with us, they quickly found the unprotected warp.  One morning I woke to find all of it on the floor below the loom. Bad kitties! I thought about trashing the warp, but decided to carefully stabilize it and put it aside. I brought it out again to warp onto the Sabina. It took a little combing and straightening to get the tangles out, but I got it successfully warped onto the Sabina along with the rest of the threads.

Lace Shawl warped onto the Sabina
Once I got going, threading and tying up the loom really didn't take all that long.  The lace is a  rhythmic pattern that's easy to learn.  The only downside is that every other thread must thread into the first harness, so you can group no more than two threads at a time to thread.  In, for example, a twill, you can group four threads at a time.

I have to admit, I was tentative throwing the first shots to spread the warp. I guess I was afraid the old loom would shatter into pieces or something. The fishing swivels we used for connecting the tie-up cords to the harness cords did have some problems.  The one controlling the first harness - the one with half of the warp threads, did break.  I don't know if it was under too much pressure or if it was weak, but break it did.  It's rather dramatic when you have a harness raised and you hear a POP and it suddenly drops.  But we replaced the swivel and, thus far, the new one seems to be working okay.

Starting the Shawl
The shawl is woven in blocks of Atwater-Bronson lace, a loom-controlled openwork weave. The designer planned alternating blocks of lace, but liked the center and two border blocks in lace, separated by tabby blocks so much that she wove the entire shawl that way. I chose to weave four repeats that way, four repeats of the lace/tabby blocks reversed, and then weave the shawl in the original configuration until the end when I'll repeat the reverse/original border.

There are a few things I've noticed with the Sabina. The weaving area between the beater and the breast beam is much larger than I'm accustomed to, so I have to reach further to throw the shuttle.  Interesting! However, I don't have to wind the cloth off quite as often. The beater can accomodate a 45" reed, so it's much larger and being made of cherry, much heavier than I'm accustomed to. I have to be careful not to pack the weft down too hard.

But it is wonderful to see the old girl weaving again. I wonder what she thinks, back to doing what she was meant to do.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Loom Comes Alive

The Newly Restored Sabina and Me

Sabina Loom Before Restoration
Late in December we were given a 45" Sabina Folding Loom.  We knew nothing about Sabina looms and really didn't need a third floor loom!  But George cannot resist a restoration challenge, so we took it in and he started to work.  In working with it, it became apparent that the loom had been stored for at least part of its life in a barn, maybe?  Maybe a garage.  Anyway, the metal was so rusted that none of it could be used.  The wood was dry and rough. Holes were filled with insect nests.

Sabina looms are insteresting.  As nearly as we can figure out, the looms were built in a small workshop in Wilmington, Ohio from the 1930's to 1949.  They do fold, although not the way modern looms fold. Side beams pivot on the castle.  The warp beam, sectional warp beam and back beam are on one side of the side beams and the cloth beam and breast beam are on the other.  Diagonal wooden rods brace the side beams in a horizontal position for weaving.  The beater assembly and treadle assembly both remove and can be stacked against the castle. Pieces lock in place with screen door hooks.

Sabinas are rising shed looms, but don't use the jack mechanism that most modern rising shed looms use. Instead of the treadle causing a scissor mechanism to raise the harness or harnesses, the Sabinas use a system of pullies and chains to raise the harnesses from above.  This causes many people, myself included, to think they're counterbalance or countermarche looms.

An internet search didn't turn up many clues about the Sabina or its provenance. They are around and there are usually a few for sale on eBay or other sales sites at any given time.  But trying to find plans, instructions or even contemporary photos of them isn't as easy as one would hope.  Eventually, George did track down information about the owners of the company.  He even found a Google maps photo of  the house and workshop which are apparently still intact. He's gotten in touch with another man who is restoring a Sabina and they've compared notes. He's found very little, though, in the way of documentation.  After having restored various antique spinning wheels, he's accustomed to letting the wood talk to him.  The Sabina didn't fail.

Sabina before dismantling
He started by carefully photographing the loom as he took it apart. The photographs would serve as the guide to reassembly. The rusted metal bolts and chain were removed and measured for replacement. The old reed and heddles were discarded and new ones ordered.  Each piece was sanded smooth and received a coat of our favorite finishing wax.  As soon as he put a coat of Ashford spinning wheel wax on it, the wood came to life.  It's a beautifully aged cherry. He used brass hardware in places that shouldn't receive much stress. Steel hardware was used where strength is critical.  The steel was ink-dyed to blend with the cherry wood and brass hardware.

After a wrestle with our consciences, we chose to use Texsolv loom cord to replace the metal chains used to raise the harnesses. The Texsolv cord is by no means period, but it should be easier on the cherry pulley wheels and should be much lighter and quieter in operation. I've become a fan of using the Texsolv cord for apron cords. They came standard on my Schacht Baby Wolf loom. After rescuing Calliope from almost hanging herself in the tie-up cords on the older Schacht Standard loom, I've decided to replace the old cording there with Texsolv cord as well.

We ordered a new 15-dent reed and 400 new inserted-eye heddles as well as the Texsolv cord from Woolery.  I'll probably order at least 400 more heddles and at least one more reed.  She can use the Schacht reeds, but they look kind of silly in a beater meant to accomodate a 45" reed.

Warping the Restored Sabina
I have a project all picked out to weave as a gift for my friend who gave us the loom. At only 17.5 inches wide, it will look silly in a 45" loom, but that's not important.  What's important is seeing the old girl back to doing what she was designed to do.

I can hardly wait!