When I was a child I made a dollhouse, a beautiful ornate wooden mansion that I constructed from a kit with considerable help from my parents. I don't remember doing any hammering myself, but I remember painting and painstakingly gluing on every tiny shingle. So when I noticed Zion playing with a dollhouse at a friend's house, I thought to ask my parents if they still had the thing. My mom checked the basement and said they had it but it was huge. I said it can't possibly be that big. She said to take a look next time I came over.
So last week when I brought the boys for a play date, my mother urged me to look at the dollhouse in the basement. It was bigger than I thought, so big in fact that we'd have to remove shelving to find a place for it. Also the furniture has disappeared. Well, I certainly couldn't afford new furniture for a dollhouse that's half the size of my real house. Dejected, I started back towards the basement stairs.
That's when I saw it.
"Mooom!" I yelled from the basement, my voice filled with childlike excitement, "Forget the dollhouse! I want to take my loom!"
I thought they had sold it. They had asked me if they could sell it. Indeed, when I came up the stairs with an armful of loom parts under my arm my mother asked me, "Didn't we sell that?" No, all this time it had been hauled up in a corner of the basement. Not getting in the way, but not making cloth for anybody either.
You might be asking yourself: why do your parents have a barely used table loom in their basement? The answer is because they love me. When I was in fourth grade I was part of a Waldorf-style experiment in the public school (described in a book by my former teacher in which he erroneously called me by a different name.) I really took to weaving that year, so much so that my parents bought me a little loom that I could use at home. We paid some fiber-crafty neighbor to teach me how to set the thing up. In reality, though, we just paid her to set it up. Because while the process of weaving is meditative for a meticulous 9-year-old, the process of stringing a warp onto a loom requires a complicated number of steps that challenges my brainpower even now.
And so I wove a few tapestries all those years ago, enough to fill up one warp stringing, and then I never picked it up again. A poor mostly-new loom sat in my parents' basement collecting dust. Thankfully not mold, though. My parents' basement is remarkably dry.
So last week I piled the big loom and all its accessories into the back of Dan's station wagon. (Actually, my mother who just had knee surgery did it for me, because she won't let a pregnant lady lift things.) On the way home my excitement started to temper with a bit of worry. Would Dan raise his eyebrows at the enormous piece of equipment I was bringing home? I thought of saying something like: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is I brought this loom home! The bad news is I brought this loom home."
Thankfully Dan has a soft spot for pioneer crafts, and he didn't protest the loom's entrance into the house. We put it in the middle of the living room and admired it for a moment. Then Harvey started asking when he could start weaving.
Excitement is a virtue in our house, clearly. Patience is something we're still working on.
There were two problems we had to tackle before weaving. The first was that we couldn't permanently store a loom in the middle of the living room. After some negotiations between me and Dan (who was running out the door at the time and therefore not at his hard-line best) he agreed I could remove the door-side table with the promise that we would find a smaller table to hold the lamp and the dog leash. Then later Dan volunteered to make such a table himself. Doesn't sound like much of a negotiation really.
Then again, Dan brings a lot of potted plants into the house, so I guess I've built up a credit.
The second problem was stringing the warp. I looked up a few videos online but there was nothing posted for my particular model and every method looked more confusing than the next. After careful examination of the machine, I decided to wing it and try to figure it out myself. In what is probably an unapproved warp stringing method I cut approximately 200 strings of similar length and tied them in groups of 4 to the front and back of the loom, stringing each through the little holes. The process took me three hours on Saturday night.
I just want to emphasize that. Not three hours during the day while I was playing with the kids and serving snacks, the way I might say it took three hours to cook a turkey. This took three UNINTERRUPTED hours after the kids went to sleep. I considered it an act of love for my oldest son.
And it was completely worth it. Because Harvey's joy at loom weaving? Incredible.
After we wove a few rounds together, Harvey felt confident enough to try it by himself the following day. He banged the beater so hard that the picture on the wall next to him shook crooked, but his weaving looked nice and tight.
Here's our work together so far. It's slow going, because I have to be on hand to untangle the shuttle thread and because Zion can't find a productive role in the process. But we'll probably get some fabric ready for Christmas. Harvey says the first thing he wants to make is a present. For PowPow.
My favorite thing about the loom as a teaching tool is that a child can't really break it. The worst they could do is bend the metal strips, and even then there are extras. The rest of the loom is made up of wood and string, bits that connect together in ways that are obvious and replaceable. Unlike my computerized sewing machine that is breakable and therefore attracts scolding, this is a truly child-friendly adult tool. Plus merely touching the wood makes you a gentler person, if the Waldorf method is to be believed. All mocking aside, it certainly makes me happier than an end table.