The Woods and Woodland Woolworks

October 22, 2008

 

Der Mann and I left town for a long weekend in Oregon.  In the car I suddenly realized that, not counting obligatory family visits, this was our first vacation in about two years.  (Maybe I shouldn’t count the two-years-ago vacation, since we were location scouting for Der Mann’s last job hunt.  Which means our last vacation was . . . ?)  Anyway, after 8 years of marriage it has finally dawned on us that we are not very good at vacations.  It’s not that we are workaholics or anything like that.  It’s just, we are never quite able to get past the knowledge that even as we are spending mucho $$ on gas, state park yurts, campsites, and hotel rooms; hauling a rice cooker and an ice chest around, we are at the very same time spending $23 a night on perfectly good lodgings with a stove, groceries, and our own bed.  Which stands vacant while we load coins into showers and stop to organize the dirty dishes in the back of our minivan.

This awareness seems to counteract the happy-go-lucky spirit of a vacation, which I’ve been told is a thing many people find relaxing.

This vacation worked out better because we stayed in a cabin on a farm.  A second-career farm couple has opened their 40 acres to visitors.  It’s nestled into a cranny between forested hills off the Alsea Valley, which is about at the halfway point when you cross the Coastal Range from the Willamette Valley to the ocean.  We ended up there because we’d been through the Alsea Valley a few years ago, and thought it was one of the most beautiful places we’d seen.  Here are pictures from a walk we took at the county park just outside the town of Alsea.  There were a lot of spawning salmon.

The owners of Leaping Lamb Farm keep 30 to 40 hair sheep, which they sell for grass-fed lamb.  In the barn there are HUGE bags of wool, left over from the wool sheep they have pretty much phased out.  Apparently they can’t get enough money for the wool to justify hauling it away.  (“Make me an offer!” S told me when she found out I weave.)  There are also all the other animals you’d expect: horses, a burro, chickens, geese, a peacock, dogs and cats.  S takes you around to do the chores if you want to, and is a friendly font of information on all subjects farmy and rural Oregon-y.  Her generosity comes of having learned everything the hard way herself, since she and her husband bought the drippy 125-year-old farm straight out of southwestern suburbia 5 years ago.

The guest cabin was a big, fully finished kit cabin decorated with Pendleton blankets and southwest-style woven rugs.  The floors were wide pine boards.  It was very nice to hang around there.  No itchy bedspreads or pictures you want to turn to the wall.  The best part was the full kitchen.  The only housekeeping stuff we had to bring was food.

I looked at the Pendleton woolen things a lot.  I’ve been on tours of both the mills (Washougal is better), but I didn’t think much about the products.  By gosh, those are some excellent blankets.  I’d like to furnish my linen closet with a few, when I have a linen closet, because I can’t see myself ever weaving anything that wide and fine or felting anything that thickly.  I had the disorienting experience of staring at a Pendleton pillow that I would have once seen as simply a pillow, and thinking, “That’s a broken twill.”  Weaving does things you.

Like, it makes you take a big side trip on the way home, even though that means you’ll face 1 1/2 hours of Portland rush hour traffic.

Meet Woodland Woolworks, a mail order company which also happens to run the ONLY real weaving supply store within a hundred-fifty miles of where I live:

(This is where I’d put a picture of their warehouse, if I hadn’t been rushing inside as soon as we got there, and Der Mann hadn’t been peeling out on the gravel on our way to beat some of the traffic as we left at closing time.)

You’d think there’d be a weaving store in Portland, but nope.  Woodland Woolworks is tucked away by some grain elevators in the middle of a small town called Carlton.  Past Hillsboro, sort of by Newberg.  I was there for the warping reels.  Since they carry almost every kind, I was hoping they would have some on display.  I wanted to get a sense of which were well or poorly constructed, weight, finish, collapability etc.

Unfortunately Woodland Woolworks doesn’t keep any reels on hand, just orders them as needed.  I wasn’t too disappointed because I was soon in a yarn and book frenzy.  The yarn store where we used to live carried a few odds and ends of weaving and spinning stuff, but there is a world of difference between that, and a place with cones lined up on all the walls, and shelves with most of the weaving books I’ve heard of.

The weaving room is one of three retail areas.  You have to walk through their packing room and office to get from one area to another.  Downstairs were knitting yarn, roving, and spindles.  Upstairs there were spinning wheels and accessories as well as weaving stuff.  And out on the enclosed loading dock?  Discounted knitting yarn and second-hand supplies of all sorts!

I was circumspect.  Now I kind of regret it.  If only I’d known about this place when I was looking for a rigid heddle loom or an 8-dent reed!  Der Mann went downtown for coffee while I raced from room to room, figuring out what was where so I could budget my dwindling 2 hours.

I started out with the books.  It is soooo much easier to tell if you want a weaving book or not when you can leaf through it.  You can tell a lot just by the sorts of pictures and drafts a book has, how many, and the amount (and tone) of the text.  I wrote down the titles of the books I’d like to own so I can order them when I’m ready to part with the cash.

That meant yarn came last.  I’d have bought more if I weren’t so rushed.  Woodland Woolworks’ unmercerized 8/2 cotton seemed surprisingly firm and smooth.  8/2 is chunkier than I prefer for kitchen linens, but I think I’ll really like this stuff when it’s woven up.  I had decided the best strategy was to buy a color I wouldn’t have known I liked unless I’d met it in person.  You can’t tell from the picture, but never did a color yell “1967” so loudly (in a good way) as this one.  It’s called “Old Gold,” which is completely inaccurate.  I would call it, “Willow-Bud Green on Acid, As Seen Through Rose-Colored Glasses.”  Or maybe just “Dusty Chartreuse.”

Another cone struck my fancy because it is exactly the color of unbleached linen.  There are a lot of hideous beiges.  You can never tell what you’re going to get with beige.  I think I’ll make some mock two-tone linen towels.

I also bought some lovely line linen.  They have very little Bockens in stock, just two small cubbies, but they did have a blue 16/2 I really liked.

The upshot is, I’ll have to go back.  There were a ton of different cellulose fibers, chinese silk (loved the silk noil, particularly!), and Jaegerspun.  Zephyr is on my wish list, and since it’s pricey I’d much rather not order it blind.  Also, a HUGE selection of UKI mercerized, if I ever go that direction.

But perhaps the best part of my visit was getting to weave on a Glimåkra countermarche.  I have never seen one of these looms outside of pictures. Woodland Woolworks has a 36″ Ideal (which is Glimåkra’s “compact” loom) set up for towels and . . . my goodness.  It was like meeting a movie star on the beach in their sweat pants holding a plastic bag of dog poo.  I tend to sigh over the big Scandinavian looms, especially when my own gives me trouble.  “Ooh, back-hinged treadles.  Ooh, so tall.  Ooh, hanging beater, I faint with longing at the thought of your featherlight touch.”

And yet something was very wrong with this loom!  It opened wonderfully big sheds compared to my Bergman, but I started wondering if they had got the wrong treadle assembly on it, because I got absolutely NO good from those sheds; they were trapped behind the beater!  That is to say, when I pushed the hanging beater back–even when it was hanging from the forward-most notch–it hit the shafts immediately.  There was almost no space between the fell and the beater.  I could barely squeeze the little Schacht shuttle through.  I pushed back he jack box, which slides freely on top of the castle, but that didn’t help because the treadles still pulled the bottoms of the shafts way forward.  Basically, adjusting the position of the jack box just put the shafts on a slant.  I fiddled with where the fell line was, but you need it within about 2″ of the center point of the beater’s arc, or the reed doesn’t hit it squarely.

I couldn’t see any way to adjust this Glimåkra that would give more room for the shuttle.  True, I only spent about 20 minutes with it, but I had been expecting better things.  I was also kind of surprised at the coarse grain and coarse final sanding of the wood.  Without its stage makeup, the Ideal just looked big and rough.

I expect there is a lot difference between the weaving experience on the Glimåkra Ideal, which is designed for compactness, and the Standard.  And of course there is a lot of difference between fiddling with a loom in a weaving store and owning one.  Still, I was able to leave with the pleasant feeling that, “Hey, I have a pretty good loom!  Warts and all, I wouldn’t trade it for a big lunk like that.”  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a bigger, better Scandinavian countermarche than the Ideal in addition to the Bergman some far-off day, but for a compact countermarche I doubt I could have done better.  My loom is almost as deep as the Ideal, for all it is so much smaller.

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

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9 Responses to “The Woods and Woodland Woolworks”

  1. Sheila Says:

    Sure am glad I came to visit (brought Nanny Granny with me, hope you don’t mind). The photos are lovely, and now I’m thinking of a road trip to Woodland Woolworks too… btw I have a Glimakra Standard and I’m puzzled by your experience with the Ideal. Still, I’m glad it reinforced your love for “the one you’re with”.


  2. Beautiful woodland scenery! Looks like something from a painting. Particularly love the last photo — almost expected to see you open your arms and start singing “The hills are alive…”

    I’ve oogled the wares of Woodland Woolworks so many times, but always hoped to see them in person — I hear they have a lot of spinning wheels in stock.

    So very glad to hear that our Bergmans can hold their own! Actually, I’m still clinging to the hope of large sheds on mine — according to a woman who works at the Weaving Works who used to own a Bergman years ago…


  3. Oh, I forgot to say: I hope the movie star washed his hand before he shook yours! (tee hee)

  4. Taueret Says:

    you are so lucky to have a shop like that in the same continent! We are the same with vacations- we just like being at home.

  5. Dot Says:

    Know what you mean about holidays – I love time to be at home and do the things I want to do.

    My Toika Norjaana countermarch loom is very similar dimensions to the Glimarka Ideal. I wouldn’t try weaving where the beater hits the fell at right angles. I am sure this is why you didn’t like the loom. It’s just wrong for my loom.

    I normally weave in the range 4″ to 8″ from the breast beam. This gives a good, wide shed, and a good beater swing. I wonder why the staff at the Woodland Woolworks didn’t give more help?

  6. deborahbee Says:

    What amazing country, your photos are beautiful. It makes a change from weaving. We have recently been in the New Forest and the autumn colours are magical. I felt quite anxious reading your post that you might desert the Bergman clan. I am much relieved that for ther present youy remain faithful!!!!

  7. Suzan Says:

    Oh! beautiful creek shots. I’ve gotten Woodland’s catalogues for years – there’s nothing like being present when you look for yarns though, is there. You’ve picked out probably my most favorite color combinations with that old gold and blue. When I left my home in Michigan and moved out to Colorado years and years ago I had to find somthing that I loved about the prairie lands in winter. It was that old gold of the grasslands and the unholy blue of the skies. (BTW I’ve put a little package together for you and am mailing it this week – at last.)

  8. trapunto Says:

    The office staff at Woodland Woolworks weren’t necessarily weavers, but I’m sure they would have helped me if I’d asked. Unfortunately I didn’t want to spend too much time on the loom, since I had so little time there overall. It’s interesting to hear your thoughts on beater angle, Dot. Does the slant give a top-side and bottom-side to your cloth?

    I have to say, SpinningLizzy, I have never met a movie star on a beach! I read a book where the main character was squinting at picture of a movie star walking their dog in a magazine, when they realized she was holding a dog poo bag. It was a seminal moment for the character, realizing that even movie stars have to pick up dog poo. Unfortunately I can’t remember what the book was!

    Thank you, Suzan! I’ll look forward to it.

  9. Dot Says:

    Hi Trapunto, I just called by again:) You ask if the cloth has a top and bottom side, no I have never seen this.

    Not in plain weave nor in twills & satin, not in fine cotton nor in wool rugs.

    I love my loom.


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