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Today I want to go over barn loom terminology since there has been a great deal of discussion, debate and disagreement over it in the last 20 years or so.
Gene Valk, an accomplished master weaver, historian, instructor and author was very outspoken in terms of historic weaving looms, compiling a glossary of loom terms specifically for the old looms, before her passing in 2008.
She distinctly took exception to calling the old looms ” barn looms ” explaining that they had nothing to do with barns and the term was misleading.
Susan ” Rabbit ” Goody, founder and owner/operator of THISTLE HILL WEAVERS in Cherry Valley, N.Y is a well known historian as well as a weaver. She has done extensive research on the old looms and uses a term that I have come to deeply appreciate when describing the 18th and 19th century looms.
She calls them ” loom frames “. I appreciate this because almost always, an old loom comes without the working parts or ” gears . “
If you refer to the picture accompanying the previous post here, you can see exactly what a ” loom frame ” entails and does not. A loom frame is not a working loom but is the foundation for one, and with the addition of the treadles, harnesses and heddles/ tie-ups, can be brought back to working order fairly easily.
Once restored, the question still remains, what do we call it?
I personally prefer barn loom simply because that’s how they were introduced to me. Certainly, when they were made and used by their original owners they were only referred to as ” looms. ” There was no need to distinguish between it and another style since at the time, they were the ONLY style.
With the development of power looms the distinction was made by calling the new loom what it was….a power loom .
Many descriptions have been offered in place of barn loom. These include barn FRAME loom, timber frame loom, mortise and tenon loom, timber PEG loom and so on.
I have tried them out and found for my purposes, barn loom rolls easily from my tongue, describes the loom, most people are familiar with what I’m referring to and generally works for me. I have met resistance however, and do know others who refer to them differently.
Being introduced to the loom 20 years ago as barn loom has not impeded my understanding of them, and in short order I realized that the term was meant to describe their construction. I like to reason that if I can make the distinction so can others once it has been explained. Therefore, I find no insult, harm or disadvantage to calling them ” barn loom. “
You however, may feel differently.
As for being historically accurate, the accurate name, historically is …..loom, if we go back to what the original makers and owners/ weavers called them.
July 1988 Vol 9 – Finding the thread: Restoration of a Professional Weaver’s Loom by Rabbit Goody ( pdf )
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