Have Ewe Any Wool?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fantastic Fiber Retreat - Part II

We didn't just spin and weave our way through the weekend - we also enjoyed several other attractions of the region. We trekked out to go shopping, try some wine, explore the countryside, and visit an Amish weaver's studio.

I had never seen an Amish bicycle before last weekend. This particular bicycle was parked by the door of the restaurant. I found it's construction to be quite unusual - there are no pedals and no seats. You have to stand on the platform between the wheels and "ride" it like a foot-powered scooter - standing on one foot and pushing off the ground with the other. It's amazing to watch...but VERY difficult to ride up hill. The one brave soul I saw "riding" one uphill had to finally get off the bicycle and push it up the hill.

Breakfast Saturday morning was huge! All kinds of goodies to choose from! They even had scrapple (which I haven't had for years!) and fried corn meal mush. Yum! Now that I've been reminded about how good it tastes, I'll have to go dig out the recipe for corn meal mush that I got from the Smith's in Ohio. I definitely need to make some - it's so good with butter and syrup! As you can see, we were well fed!

Our first task after breakfast was to try out a lace pattern. We were given a small piece of the pattern so we could practice reading charts. Once we got through the "practice piece"...or got tired of knitting, Tina provided us with the full pattern. It's perfect for a doily or you can make a placemat or table runner by repeating the same pattern multiple times. Once we'd tired of that, it was back to spinning and/or "tuning" our spinning wheels.

On the left, Dave it trying to "tune" Cyndy's wheel.

In the early afternoon, several of us traveled to Intercourse, PA to visit the studio of an Amish weaver, Stoltzfus Custom Weavers. The young man was very personable and genuinely enjoyed telling us about the loom and demonstrated its operation. There's something magic that happens when you get a group of fiber folks together- the enthusiasm is contagious! The weaver graciously allowed me to photograph the loom and various points of interest in the loom room. The Amish do not like their photographs taken, so out of courtesy, I did not take any photos of the weaver in action.

The loom itself was absolutely fascinating! It was built by the weaver's father and the young man has carried on the family weaving tradition. The loom is air powered. The weaver stands on a platform with pedals. The weaver then gently touches one of the pedals and raises one of the heddles. The shuttle is then sent between the threads.

It should be noted that the Amish do not use electricity. However, they do use generators and gas. Based on the large propane tanks in the farmyard, I'll make an educated guess and say that the "air powered loom" is driven by propane.

Another fascinating aspect of the loom is that it is a continuous warp. The loom is only warped one time. The spool rack you see here has spools on BOTH sides that feed the warp on the loom. There is a sandpaper like roller that helps keep the thread tight as it feeds. The weaver must check for spools that are nearly out and replace it with a fresh spool when there are just a few yards left. The use of a continuous warp was an ingenious idea - what a time saver!

The warp threads come from BOTH sides of the spool rack.

The rugs they weave are similar to "rag rugs". They purchase barrels of selvedges from textile mills and use these fabric strips for the weft of the rugs. The rugs then vary in texture and color depending on the fiber content of the selvedges. What a great way to be green!

The selvedges are wrapped around the shuttles. The weaver then raises one of the heddles by pressing on the foot control to activate the air hose and then passes the shuttle between the threads. It was absolutely fascinating to watch the weaver in action. Although the loom is air powered, there's still a lot of manual work that must be done as well. The other catch is that you have to stand the entire time you're weaving.

This shows the "rug-in-progress". I just love the color!

The studio mainly produces rugs, placemats, hot pads, and mug rugs. I bought a couple of purple placemats (I couldn't resist the color!!!), 4 blue placemats, and a hot pad that I intend to use as a mug rug. The prices were very reasonable as well. Some of the others bought rugs or other Amish made items they had for sale - like cake testers and brooms. They also carried the decorative tin stars and wooden benches. This is definitely a "must stop" if you're ever in the area.

More tomorrow...


  • At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was first time I saw Amish bike, but I have seen (and tried) something similar.



  • At 7:11 AM, Blogger Lizardknits said…

    WOW! What a wonderful weekend you had.


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