A Visit From the Loom Mechanics

Earlier this week, Doug and Laura Fry visited with me for a couple of days on their way home to British Columbia.  They are, without a doubt, two of the most capable people I’ve met.  (I’ve noticed that the Canadians in general tend to be surprisingly handy.  I have a theory that it’s the harsh winters; weeds out the others.)

No sooner had Doug sat down for a bit of brunch, than he’d discovered one of the legs on my dinette table was wobbly.  (It’s an old maple set from the 1950‘s, previously owned by my Grandmother Mitchell, and has seen hard use in the family.)  Before I could finish apologizing for the table, he’d flipped it over, diagnosed the problem, and was in the process of repairing it with wood clamps and glue, strengthening the rest of the table in the process.

The next day, they descended on my AVL loom like a NASCAR pit crew, tweaking the loom for efficiency and helping me re-build my fly-shuttle array to be more ergonomic.  I wish I’d gotten pictures of that.  There was one moment where they were both working on either end of the loom–it was very picturesque–and I was too darned shy to ask if I could take a photo and blog the moment.  (If I’m going to blog regularly; I should get over that.)

Together we took off the old flyshuttle assembly and installed the new system.  What’s up there now are a temporary cords for me to test-drive and tweak until I’ve got the lengths set right for my particular wingspan.  When I’ve figured that out, I’ll cut cords from braided cord to the right length and be set up.

New Fly Shuttle Assembly

My AVL is an older model, between 20-30 years old; Doug walked around it with me and gave me a laundry list of tweaks to do as homework.  Some are improvements that AVL’s added to their modern looms, some are hacks that Doug and others in the weaving world have developed.  The list covered two pages of notes, and most of them things that either reduce wear or make the loom more easily configurable.

After we got the temporary flyshuttle rig installed, Laura gave me a demo of how to throw with it.  The trick is to launch it with a good snap and then to catch the shuttle at the other end by leaving a bit of slack in the cord that the shuttle hits and breaks against.  If this sounds slow, it isn’t.  Watching Laura work a flyshuttle is an awe-inspiring moment.  She becomes a part of the loom, and the loom goes fast.  I could believe 100 picks a minute–easy.  Heck I could believe more.

I…am not so fast.  But with the new arrangement, I’m getting it.  I’ve been practicing an hour or so a day since they left.  The flyshuttle is beginning to feel right in my hand, and I’ve almost got the catch working.  I put on nine yards of test warp.  I think by the end I’ll have it.

I have a history of letting looms settle into my life before I get comfortable with them.  In the first WeaveCast, I describe the two-year time out I gave my Baby Wolf before I learned to weave.  The AVL Production Dobby Loom is waaay more complicated, and I confess, I’ve been intimidated by its size and all the moving parts.  For example, you have to disassemble the loom part-way to thread the darn thing.  How crazy is that?  But at long last, and with help from a SWAT team of weaving, I think it and I are starting to come to an understanding.

Which is good, because I have this blanket project I need to get done before the end of the year…

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