Issue 11 T.O.C. – Nevan Carling – “Restoration of an 18th-century Loom”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Eleven. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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Nevan Carling – “Warp & Weft: Weaving Academic Research with Handcraft in the Restoration of a Loom ” 

Looms are more than a means to weave fabric – they are a metaphor of community, of the interdependence of different trades (carpenter, blacksmith, weaver, farmer) in the effort of producing beautiful and functional textiles. A very ancient device, the loom reached a zenith in 18th and 19th-century New England, where roughly a quarter of households owned and employed one to produce vast amounts of fabric: 18 million yards by 1810.  

Author and archaeologist-in-training Nevan Carling takes a look at one particular 18th-century loom, one that had been waiting patiently for years at the Liberty Tool Co. in Maine for someone to show interest. Carling does more than that – in taking on the project of restoring this loom to workable condition, he tracks down the origins of those hewn timbers and rough ironwork to an early settler of a small Maine island.

Piecing together the story as he pieces together the loom itself, Carling learns about the inseparable strands that have linked craftspeople throughout the ages, and the necessity of depending on one another to survive and thrive. The weaver needed the carpenter, the carpenter needed the blacksmith, and all relied on the farmer for their lives and livelihoods. And while this kinship is embodied in the loom metaphorically, Carling also demonstrates the practical side of this antique as he utilizes his new-found weaving skills to produce enough denim to make a pair of blue jeans. 

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