The Joy of the Loom Room, (it’s the “Mother of All” for a Spinster!)

Did you know that one of the parts of a spinning wheel is called the ‘mother of all’ ?  This is fitting since my mother Joy, living on the 2nd floor of our farmhouse, has the ‘mother of all’  loom rooms – decked out with her large loom (she used to own a table top loom as well, but has since sold it ) and two different types of spinning wheels.  And decorated in a jolly and charming fashion with her collection of sheep paintings and ornaments, and artwork of various spinners and weavers through the centuries.

Before we bought Blue Belldon, the room was ‘just another bedroom’:

loom room beforeWithout a bed in it, it seems so much bigger, despite the large loom at the window, where Mom/Joy has the best view of any window in the house:

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She liked the ‘original’ (1980s?) wallpaper in there, so we left it, and she put one of her more intricately-patterned rugs there on the floor, to match the navy on the walls.    While this would have been better suited as a blog posting whilst there was still lots of snow on the ground (ie: 5 weeks ago!) and prior to many, many new things being built and done outside, as I’ve been down with that bug for the better part of a month, I’m just going along with this as my next post, as promised.  Mom worked hard through the winter and early spring months to weave a rug for a friend of mine who contributed to the film I’m involved in making, as well as three new gold and grey rugs for our bathroom, to match the barnboard and claw-foot tub. Our store-bought gold ones were already pretty worn after just two years here.  In fact – two years ago exactly this weekend, for me!

mom's rug for Annette

Annette’s ‘slipper mat’ for beside her new guest room bed is in her cream, grey and green colours, and Mom/Joy was good enough to whip that up for her in some thick and cozy-to-the feet off-white wool.  Here she is at work on this first project for 2018:

Then, since she still had a fair bit of ‘warp’ on the loom, she asked if I needed anything downstairs and I noticed she had lots of greys and some gold as well – we don’t buy new wool, of course – just use what we have! Re-use, Re-cycle (she originally bought it all at garage sales anyway!) and UPCYCLE!   So here’s the lovelies she completed to cozy up our bathroom (The one at the base of the sink is just for guests, she’s made us another for everyday ‘farm’ footwear – ’cause Richard runs in there in his boots to wash his hands, mostly!) (as always, click on smaller photos to enlarge – providing you’re here in the proper WORDPRESS domain and not reading this from your email notices! 😉  )

Mom managed to find old wool that exactly matched our bathroom colour scheme, so we are thrilled to have these!  And it’s always great to have her woven AND braided rugs in our part of the house – they are not only of great sentimental value to me, but are farmhouse-cozy AND she can exactly match any colours of a room.  This one’s in my kitchen – but again, just for ‘good’, as it gets too filthy if I keep it down all the time.  I love the pattern in this one, it’s one of her more common ones now:

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Of course, our kitchen colours are blue and burgundy, with a ‘pop’ of yellow here and there, so where else could you ever find a rug so perfect in size AND colours?

Over the years Mom has woven a lot of rugs, placemats and table-runners as well as blankets/shawls for family, friends and even a few custom orders from strangers.  She has an over-stuffed scrapbook of every item, but here are a few of my favourites. (The bottom one is a common-design as she weaves from strips of blue jean material!  Both my sister and I have had several of these latter, because they do tend to wear out quickly due to over-use!)

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Of course, she has also made a copious amount of lap blankets which can also be used as shawls.  She has several of these upstairs, and both my sister and I have a few of these in various rooms, too.  Below is Mom/Joy with our friend Jane at my pioneer show in Ontario a few years ago. Jane is modelling one of Mom’s handmade works:jane and joy2 (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)

You’ve seen photos of last year’s amazing projects – two BRAIDED rugs, one each for my sister and me.  These were in the shapes and colours we each requested as well, and made from 2nd-hand scraps.  On the lounge (which I keep on top of my own braided rug to prevent excess wear and tear from dirty socked feet!) you will see another of Mom’s woven blankets and a cushion her aunt (who taught her to spin and weave!) dyed, spun and wove many years ago:

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Another friend, Anne, may also notice her heirloom bedspread which I also use to cozy-up with on cold nights when I need ALL of me covered up!  Nothing is unused or wasted in this household! Here’s Mom (NOT intentionally dressed to match the rug!) with my sister Jennifer’s custom braided one for their summer house – an old farmhouse that’s been in her hubby’s family for several generations, on the west coast of Newfoundland. It will look well there, and help to brighten the place up, as these pieces made from scraps have been doing for centuries! Mom is so talented – and PATIENT!

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Mom’s favourite spinning wheel is called the ‘Wee Peggy’. She modeled as a pioneer for publicity for my pioneer arts and crafts show in Ontario with that little wheel. Note the ‘cotton’-like fuzz in her lap, which she is spinning into wool (manned by the pedal her foot is on).

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The hardest part about spinning is trying to get a consistent thickness throughout. It’s tricky, because it tends to be thick and ‘open’ in places, and tight and thinner in others. I know, because (also for publicity for my show, which had up to 40 completely different environmental/all-natural and/or pioneer-based artisans and ran 3 different years in Ontario) I’ve TRIED!  It’s very tricky:

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The parts of the more common type of spinning wheel are below. This is where you’ll see the amusing “mother of all” part!

spin wheel parts

Mom hasn’t ever actually spun on her big wheel, below, which Richard and I gave her a few Christmases ago, though it IS the more traditional type.  We didn’t really expect her to, as she prefers her Wee Peggy and doesn’t do that much spinning any more. However, it is a lovely antique that many who appreciate our history just enjoy having as a show piece.  And in Mom’s Loom Room, it certainly is THAT!

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Mom also posed for the pioneer show with her big loom, and did great demonstrations most of both days each year explaining the entire process from sheep (or alpaca, dog, etc!) to finished product. Hanging from the front of her loom (below) is one of my favourite pieces – a wall-hung ‘pocket’ with my name threaded in, used for sticking all manner of items you want handy, but hidden!

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Here are the parts of a loom like Mom/Joy’s, just to show you how involved the process of weaving actually is!

parts of loom

Thus is the end of the winter blog postings, and definitely late, I admit!  But prepare to be inundated with all manner of outdoor topics now, starting hopefully next week, and hopefully on a more regular basis (shooting for at least every two weeks this year!)   Cammie’s kids are due soon, Richard’s using Chevy more in the woods now because the winter was just too hard even for the ‘pros’ to get their horses in and out, our basement grow-op did much better this year compared to last so I’ll be sharing some tips I discovered on that, AND the new composting system we’re working on as Richard went and took a course!  We have  some visitors coming mid-June who’ll be helping ’round the farm, the chickens are over-due, but Richard’s finished the coop and they should be coming soon, and we’ve done a lot of work on both the cross-country course for me to offer schooling sessions to eventers and the wedding site for Richard’s niece Carriann to marry her “Beast” Matt at the end of July – Rural Revivals bridal decor I’ve been updating with a lick of paint and a touch of new colour!

But to end the spinning/weaving theme about Mom/Joy, enjoy the following poem I wrote about her for a magazine article about Fibre Artists in New Brunswick. Though they said poetry was accepted, I’ve yet to SEE a poem in their hard copy of the mag, and whilst the editor told me my work would appear in the online version (with a variety of photos of Mom at work on her lovely pieces) it has been over a year, and no online versions have appeared, so I’m goin’ public with this now.  Sorry about the formatting, it was obviously done for submission.

The Joyful Spinster

A fibre artist who learned all

From an aunt whom she admired

(And it was from this aunt

That her talents were acquired,

 

For she always modestly proclaims

She really has no skill or art

Certainly none “come naturally”;

Though she’s dedicated in her heart!)

 

While many say to sell her work,

This artist, Joy, gives it away

Though she’s a widow in north N.B.

A  “Joyful Spinster”s  what we say

 

When we describe her fibre work

From wool her aunt helped dye

From natural things like nuts and veg

Right from the sheep, they’d try!

 

 

 

She’s often game to play dress-up

For shows, in full costume

And demonstrates her craft

Both on her wheel  and on her loom.

 

And though her aunt has passed on now,

Joy keeps her practice going

And especially likes to get involved

When New Brunswick skies are snowing!

 

Because she’s moved here just this year,

From Ontario, green and milder

The winters offer time for art

(And pursuits a wee bit wilder!)

 

 

 

From giving time to Africans

Where some orphans she has taught,

Joy now weaves for refugees.

Much warmth those Syrians sought!

 

She made them shawls and blankets

Weaving daily on her loom

Despite having just had surgery

She toiled in her “Loom Room”

 

 

 

She wove them many blankets

Like the two that you see here

She hopes they’ll keep them cozy

All throughout the seasons’ year.

 

 

 

She also weaves so many rugs

But just for fam-i-ly and friends

Some are patterned out of wool

The others – blue jean ends!

 

 

 

 

When asked at some occasional shows,

Joy HAS done custom work

But never charges near enough

For her, it’s just a perk

 

When someone well-appreciates

The time a weaver spends

Making such lovely items

For her fam-i-ly and friends!

Joy’s loom has been to many shows-

But she’s just there to ‘demonstrate’

“I don’t like to sell my work;

I’m not good enough!” she’ll state.

 

But whether she’s inside a tent

Or as a pioneer in village halls

The Joyful Spinster weaves away

Wherever her heart calls.

 

She makes displays for children

To show them ‘the old ways’

And brightens up her loom

With signs ‘bout  ‘olden days’.

 

With dedication foremost,

Joy will even weave in LOFTS

Because, she says, her ancestors

Came from lowly Scottish crofts:

 

And now, the Joyful Spinster

Tries her hand at rugs of braid

To recycle scraps and remnants

From clothing others made!

 

To pass those long cold winters

In New Brunswick’s mountain range

Joy’s adapting well to this,

As she adjusts to ‘winds of change’.

 

For here, at Blue Bell Corner

With views that go for miles

Whatever crafting Joy will do

Will be met with happy smiles!

 

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A Twist of the Fist : Making the Grade on Your Braid

‘Old Braided Rug’ – Poem by Linda Winchell
I found an old hand-made braided rug
At a thrift store the other day.
It was quite a dirty sight to see
With some of its edges frayed.

I bought it up and rushed it home
To give it a much-needed bath.
And when it was cleaned, there t'was seen
Braided memories of someone's past.

One braided rope weaved into another:
A child's pajamas, or perhaps a robe? 
Then an old flour bag, 'Velvet Flour', 
Was the logo in this rug twas sewed.

Then what looked to be a small center piece 
Remnants of someone's wedding gown?
I think they placed it there on purpose
Sort of like this rug's jeweled crown.

Memories of someone's life
Braided into this useful little rug.
To place in front of a sink or bed
Giving where ever placed, a hug.

Does anyone still make them?
These puzzles of someone else's past...
This braided rug's now mine to treasure
To be enjoyed as long as it will last.

Well, yes, Linda – someone DOES still make them.  I’ve made a few smallish ones myself, years ago, and the easy way – from strips of old woolen rugs, and just one-sided.  But my mother, not only a spinner and weaver of rugs, etc. has now turned her hand(s) to braiding rugs.

Joy is a terrific braider.  When she was young, her own hair was in ‘pigtails’, which we still have in a box from when she finally got them cut off, pre-teens.  And until I was old enough to become “Chip”  ( early teens – see post from two weeks ago: “Hill-billy Hootenanny”) with my hair boyishly cut by the one and only Shirley Robinson (no one else dared do it EXACTLY as I asked – which was essentially like all the boys my age in the early 1970s) I, too, had a pair of two long braids, expertly twisted up each morning by my mother. She would French braid the part near my scalp, then quickly do regular braiding until near the ends.  These went along with my grandfather’s nick-name for me, “Annie Oakley”, esp. when I mounted my steed ‘Sugar’.  (Gail Davis, as Annie, DID wear pigtails, although the real Annie Oakley seemed to prefer to wear her long, thick tresses DOWN.)

tomboy on sugar

Once I gave up both rocking horses and hobby horses, (age about 14 – yes, seriously) and gave up riding Western (had my first pony from age 10-13, but Western horses are rarely braided) I then had to become an expert braider, as show and “3-day event” horses (the dressage portion at least and sometimes the stadium jumping portion) are always braided neatly, and often the braids are SEWN or rug-hooked in with yarn, and sometimes, if they are dark manes, wrapped with white medical tape to make them ‘pop’ out and show the line of the horse’s neck better. Here I am with some of my darker-maned geldings, with the white tape wrapped around the braided knot.  For the forelock, like my mother Joy had to do on my own ‘plaits’, you must first FRENCH braid before braiding regularly to keep it tightly pulled:

My sister Jennifer’s husband, Boyd, is from the west side of Newfoundland, and he inherited an old family farm there, (in whose orchard he proposed over a decade ago).  They, like us, are turning the farm into a renovated cozy home – for them, their summer home only- and Jennifer asked Mom to please BRAID her a rug with her bright ‘newfie’ colours.  Jen and I are lucky enough to both have a number of Mom’s beautifully-designed and custom-requested-coloured loom-woven rugs scattered about our homes, but Jennifer wanted a good braided one.    I had one of my great-grandmother’s making for years, until after all my travels with it, it essentially dilapidated beyond repair.  But Jennifer had never had a hand-made one.  If you have been faithfully reading this blog since before Christmas, you’ll have seen Mom/Joy at work on this particular rug, which she finished a few weeks ago:

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She and Jennifer chose most of those fabrics from 2nd hand stores in St. John’s when Mom was last out there in the fall, so none of them are sentimental or familial, as described in the poem above.  But they DO match the colour scheme Jennifer requested, and they are of various textures and material, so it was quite a challenge for Mom.  Jennifer ALSO requested that it be neither circular NOR oval – ??? so THAT was another challenge with which Mom had to try and contend, cutting out the middle part several times in order to shape it to those specifications.  Here is the lovely, cozy result, and I’m sure Jennifer and Boyd will enjoy it, as well as son Sydney, for many decades to come, as it is equally the same on one side as the other (the real trick in making a braided rug from rags!).  I ‘made’ Joy get in her jammies and ‘sleep’ on the rug, as a special photo for Sydney to show him that we want to think of him enjoying it the same way in his cozy farmhouse.  We did NOT specifically plan for the model to ‘match’ the colours of the rug, but she does indeed!

I guess she felt badly for us, or just enjoyed making this one so much, that she has then offered to do one for Richard’s and my own ‘meeting room’, as we call our livingroom-cum-diningroom-cum- musicroom-cum-communitymeeting room! (It’s held 18 people around the fireplace at one meeting!)  This one has fabrics she and I picked out to go with the earthenware dishes (my ‘good’ set) I so love -the Nut-tree Franciscan.

nut-tree-franciscan

She’s already got a good start on this, although I hope it doesn’t keep her indoors too much as the warmer weather begins to settle upon us!  Here are the beginnings, and I did ask for an oval shape, so hopefully it won’t be such a challenge for her:

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Here are just a fraction of the various fabrics we’ve chosen, from which she may then apply her artistic skills in co-ordinating each long braid:

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All but one of these were purchased by the bagful, or at least armful, at 2nd hand stores and charity shops.  The one piece that WASN’T, Mom picked out herself and I thought it had too much white in it, so she promptly went and tea-dyed it and now it’s much less ‘flashy’.  Good old primitive technique I use all the time for my prim-dollies and stuffed animals, (and even my mother’s bridal veil when I also wore it in 1988)  but I didn’t expect Mom to just run to the sink and do this on the only brand-NEW piece of material! Yay, Joy!

When I braided my small rugs with the wool blankets, I used the good old homesteader’s bible that’s been in our home since the  1970s when it was first published – the Reader’s Digest’s BACK TO BASICS “A Practical Guide to Old-fashioned Self-Sufficiency”.

However, Mom was guided more by several online sites, and then just trial and error experimentation.  Here are a few links if you’re interested in doing this fairly simple technique for having a rug that could incorporate either your chosen room/accent colours OR some sentimental pieces of clothing from loved ones – OR both…

http://pioneerthinking.com/learning-how-to-make-braided-rugs

http://www.littlehouseliving.com/how-to-make-rag-rugs

http://inhabitat.com/diy-learn-how-to-make-a-beautiful-braided-rug-from-old-fabric/

Life is always spiraling around us.  Why not boldly say so with something you see each day, and have it add comfort and cheer to your room as well?

sprial poem

And P.S. – watch for an upcoming link to all of Joy’s fibre artwork, with photos of her in situ,  in the spring/summer edition of Created Here, a New Brunswick online magazine!