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!


  1. Hi Deb! Here from Bella Creations. Beautiful crafts here on your blog! Helene

  2. Hi Debbi
    I have a 1945 33" Sabina loom that I am almost done restoring. It came with some of the original paperwork. They were made in 3 sizes (yours is the largest) and in rising shed and counterbalance styles and marketed as rug looms. (Mine is counterbalance). It came with a cherry ratchet and paul in the middle of the sectional warp beam. Photos I've seen of others have a metal ratchet and pawl. I don't know if the earlier ones had wooden ones or if at one time someone replaced the metal ones on mine with wood. Mine looked original. I would love to get a hold of a set of metal ones, but to have them custom made would cost a fortune. It was nice to find someone else that has one of these unusual little looms.
    Take care,

    1. I bought a Sabina folding loom so I can learn to weave (I have never done this) it came with no instructions can you help me please. thanks

    2. I bought a Sabina folding loom so I can learn to weave (I have never done this) it came with no instructions can you help me please. thanks

  3. Hi, C.M.!
    I'm so sorry I'm so late getting back to you! Thanks so much for telling me about your Sabina. Mine does have the metal ratchet and pawl in the sectional warp beam. I haven't seen enough Sabina's to know whether it was a later development or had anything to do with the period of time they were being manufactured during the war when metal would have been harder to acquire.

    My Sabina is a true joy to weave on as I'm sure yours will be - I bet it's restored by now.

    Happy weaving!

  4. Hi Debbi,
    Just came across your post about the Sabina Loom. We have recently acquired a 33" Sabina. I know next to nothing about weaving and I am trying to find some directions on how to warp & operate the Sabina as well as some clue as to how to hook up the chains and peddles. I've found someone over the internet who has some documentation and some scant directions but nothing detailed. Wondering if you have any advice for a beginner.
    Rhondi Schmidt in San Francisco

    1. Hi, Rhondi! I'm so sorry to be so late getting back to you. You've probably figured out all about the Sabina by now! The first thing I'd suggest is getting on a site called Ravelry and joining a group called Warped Weavers. You'll find more information there than can imagine! There are several Sabina owners there besides me. As far as documentation goes, there doesn't seem to be much around anywhere. I'd get a copy of Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler. There are some good weaving DVD's put out by Interweave Press as well. Once you get the hang of weaving, it's easier to know what the Sabina's parts are meant to do.

  5. Thank you for this. I just got my loom in pieces and tried to figure out on my own how to assemble it. I got it most of the way on my own merit but had to look at pictures online to figure out how the warp and cloth beams were suspended on one piece of wood by putting it through the main frame. That had me stumped until I found these pictures. After a bit of wrastling, it stands complete, ready to warp. Will the ratchet affect the cloth?

  6. I'm trying to tie up the foot pedals to the bars below the shafts. The bars tilt depending on which pedal they are tied to. How did you address this?

  7. Do you still have the Sabina ?? I'm attempting to use mine for the first time and I can get the shafts to move together, can only get one to move at a time !! I think something is stuck but can't figure it out.

  8. Looks like I am late to the party but have a 45in Sabina folding loom that we have moved around the country over the last 42 years. I have never found any particularly good resource to help me with this but found a local weaving guild helpful. Not sure where I go from here with my loom . Find comments interesting!