I could go on and on about this dastardly stretch of cold that’s keeping me from my unheated workshop, but I won’t. As a wiser man once told me, “We can bitch about the weather, but nobody’s gonna listen.” Frankly, the calming sounds of Lady Jack carefully warping her thoroughly modern Leclerc Nilus Loom remind me of how she got started weaving. It was a jealousy thing, really.
I had recently completed a welding class at Forsyth Tech in Winston-Salem NC and the bug bit me hard. I bought a MIG machine and proceeded to make and create objects d’ art, all the while laughing off second-degree burns. My spare time went from motorcycle riding and antique hunting to corralling pools of molten steel. Lady Jack was left reading and keeping the first aid kit well stocked and close at hand. I think she got bored. ‘Long about that time, my mom Louise Miles, a very avid and talented weaver, upgraded to yet another loom and offered us “Grandpa’s loom”. Being antique aficionados, we gladly accepted.
You see, Grandpa’s loom is a very unique piece. My Grandpa Pyles was an antique collector, or as he saw himself, a junk man. Many moons ago, he got wind of an estate sale “up on the mountain” and this old loom followed him home. According to him, the elderly lady that owned it had passed on and there was still weaving in progress on the beam. Being a natural born mechanical engineer, well, he probably would have been an engineer had not that pesky depression forced him to drop out of school in the 8th grade and go to work to help feed the family. (Folks, this was a guy that built houses by himself that he designed on napkins at the kitchen table… for fun… after returning home from working all the livelong day on the B&O Railroad.) Needless to say, the age, relatively complex nature and completely hand hewn timber construction of this barn frame loom fascinated him. Everything is mortise and tenon and old leather belts suspend the moving parts. The builders etched a valiant attempt at Roman numerals on the top post. They read MDIIIXL. Having been force fed Latin in Jr. high, I know this isn’t a valid number. We assume they meant for I to be 100; best guess 1840. For many years it alternated between his basement and the Mineral County, WV history museum.
Grandpa never really knew what to do with it, but mom sure did. When she retired, mom moved the loom from Keyser WV to Harwood MD and Weezy commenced to weevin’. But as her knowledge progressed, the looms required for more intricate projects soon demanded the space occupied by ol’ MDIIIXL. Well, we had a large basement, an interest in antiques and a bored weaver in the wings. Again, the loom moved, this time to Lewisville NC. We set it up downstairs and for a while Lady Jack looked at it, circled it, spoke to it on occasion and even caressed it ever so often with Murphy’s Oil Soap. Then one day, she decided to dive in.
So here we are, the loom again having moved. This time back north to Narrows VA. Lady Jack has found a new calling, thanks to Grandpa’s loom. I’m sure he’s looking down with a smile as she toils away, often frustrated always happy, warping, beating, cloth-balling, reed slaying and denting the dents with the occasional barrage of F-bombs that would make a sailor swoon. Still, no matter how many strings she breaks or patterns she misreads, I can tell she loves what she’s doing and that’s really all that matters.