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Loom Stories: Part Four | by Hillary Bird of Wabi Sabi Textile Co.

August 11, 2015

Hillary Bird of Wabi Sabi Textile Co

A couple of weeks ago, we heard from Hillary about her Rigid Heddle Loom. Well, she’s back today with a peek at her largest table loom!  Take it away, Hillary:

Hi, friends! Hillary Bird from Wabi Sabi Textile Company reporting this week on my biggest table loom..

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Table Loom

Before I tell you about the loom itself, let me share with you why I was so thrilled to find it:
I’ve been a fiber freak my whole life. When I began sewing at a young age, I discovered my love for all things pretty and, more importantly, soft. As I got older, I learned that fabric was either woven or knit (with a few exceptions.. lace, crochet, etc.) and I was fascinated by the how much the construction contributed to the look and feel of a garment. I started investigating different kinds of fabric as closely as possible, trying to see what made them each so unique.

My gears quickly shifted more toward creating garments from scratch, so I purchased a rigid heddle loom (shown in previous post) to try my hand at creating a variety of fabrics. One thing my rigid heddle loom couldn’t offer, though, was the ability to easily weave twill. This was disappointing to me because I’ve always wanted to make my own denim, which is twill woven, so I set out to find a loom that could get the job done!

I found this gem trolling none other than Craigslist. Seriously people, check your local CL often – I can’t stress it enough! This was another case (like with my Tate table loom) where the woman I bought it from had it for at least 20 years without ever using it, so she was happy to hand it off to an excited, young weaver.

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Table Loom

Although this giant loom stands on the ground, it is considered a table loom (as opposed to a floor loom) because it is operated by hand levers rather than foot treadles. It has 4-harnesses, which allows you to easily switch between four different sheds, making patterned cloth as easy to weave as tabby.

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Table Loom

I’m a visual learner, so when I bought the loom already warped I was excited to be able to teach myself how it was done by example. After tightening a few things up, I was ready to see what project the original owner had warped.. and it was a twill! I decided to use some scrap yarn to play around and really get a feel for the pattern before attempting it myself.

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Table Loom
Each wooden lever at the top of the loom lifts a particular set of warp threads (determined by the way it’s warped), which you can easily pass your shuttle through. None of that “over, under, over, under”.. just “through”!

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Table Loom

A heavy reed then packs your last row into place. So simple! Move the lever to open the next shed, pass the shuttle through, pull the reed down and repeat. Next thing you know, a beautiful pattern appears! Mine is very wonky, but like I said this is just a “test” for me 😉

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Table Loom
The woven fabric is rolled onto the cloth beam by way of these awesome wooden gears – one of my favorite parts of the loom. If you know me, you know I love interesting wood!

And those that know me (personally, or by reading this series!) also know my love of a good story and all things vintage. Now that you know how this beauty works, let me fill you in on the amazing woman behind the contraption..

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Gallagher Table Loom

Catharine Gallagher apprenticed under renowned Japanese weaver Kay Sekimachi in the 60’s, which gave her the confidence and skills needed to open her own textile arts studio in Santa Cruz circa 1970. There she created commissioned woven wall hangings, produced a line of hand spun, hand dyed yarns, taught different textile arts and won the Artistic Excellence Award at the National Weavers’ Conference – four years in a row!! Catharine and her husband also ran a furniture manufacturing company where they designed and built looms and spinning wheels, among other functional objects.

As if Catharine wasn’t already cool enough, in 1979 her family moved into a 6,000 square foot historic mill owner’s house in Washington. They restored the home to all it’s 1920’s glory and offered it to the public as a B&B, with each room named after celebrities from the period (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bessy Smith, Isadora Duncan, to name a few). The house was also frequently used to host theme parties, theatrical events and concerts. The cherry on top is the the Gallagher family basically pioneered the concept of overnight murder mystery parties. That’s the life, isn’t it!?

Wabi Sabi Textile Co - Gallagher Table Loom

So I guess I’ll just have to make do playing with a piece of her history, attempting to weave my most favorite fabrics, while I restore my turn of the century mansion into an overnight murder mystery event space/textile mill..
A girl can dream, right? But in all seriousness, this loom is definitely making my dreams come true 🙂 … just not the part where I steal Catharine Gallagher’s awesome life.
Tune in next week when I wrap up this series talking about my Crane loom from Lost Pond Looms.. everyone has been asking about it, so get excited!

Thanks for reading! 🙂
xx Hillary

To see more of Hillary’s fiber adventures, swing by her website + Instagram feed:

Wabi Sabi Textile Co Website

Wabi Sabi Textile Co on Instagram

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