A Queen of Shreds and Patches

November 8, 2009

Can you guess what I’m making with this? If you’ve been reading Dot’s Fibre to Fabric blog, you probably can.


Last year Granny was cleaning out her sewing drawers and found yet another stash of sewing/knitting notions that had belonged to her mother. Great Granny was such a pack rat, it took Granny about a year to clean out her small house after she died, and she’s still finding pockets of Great Granny’s stuff that she hasn’t had time to sort and disperse–things that weren’t valuable, but were somehow so infused with Great Granny that she couldn’t bring herself to throw them out. I have happily taken some of them, like the collection of bobby pins and various kinds of toothed 1920’s-1940’s metal clips that Great Granny used to set her hair for pin-curls and marcel waves every morning. It was amazing to watch how nimbly she did this; it was her signature hairstyle most of her life. The way it fell in place when she combed it out was sheer magic. Now I use the clips to hold back the layers when I cut Der Mann’s hair. For a long time they smelled of her.

This particular stash had some knitting markers and gauges, a celluloid tracing wheel that belonged to my Granny’s granny, Nanny, and this handmade copper letter opener. Granny didn’t know anything about it except that her mother had always kept it in her desk. It seemed the sort of thing someone might have made for her when she was a girl in rural Idaho, but Granny couldn’t say for sure that her mother had been its first owner. As Granny was telling me this I was turning it around in my hands, and found the initial at the end of the handle.


Great Granny’s name was Kathleen, so it was definitely hers. In normal light the embedded copper is nearly the same color as the wood. I’m not surprised no one spotted it. I can imagine one of the old coots who came to her father’s general store making it, or her mother sending it to her at boarding school, or picking it out for her in a souvenir shop someplace like Yellowstone in the 1910’s. I’ll never know.

I love this tool. Aside from loving the look of it and the way it’s put together, with the little copper wedges holding the blade into the handle and the braided copper wires binding it, it is almost perfectly balanced, and I like the way it fits in my hand. As soon as I held it I knew immediately what I was going to do with it.

But that’s not the only project I’ve got going. I’ve also warped up the Spear’s rigid heddle loom for another scarf out of scraps of Great Granny yarn, padded with a bit of Goodwill yarn from the same era. Perhaps you remember the three scarves I made last year for my aunts and mom? I’m not sure who this one is for. Maybe one of my sisters. The urge just came on me to use up ridiculously small scraps of yarn. Maybe because it’s autumn. Waste not, want not. The past. Family. Dissolution. Time.


When I had the warp on I the loom I remembered something about weaving on the Spear’s. It turns me into a moaning hunchback. If your rigid heddle loom doesn’t have blocks, that means you will be holding up the heddle with either your left or right hand, at arm’s length, against the tensioned threads, for every other pass of the shuttle.

I knew I would regret it if I put off making heddle blocks any longer. Milled 1x2s are the wrong size to make proper attached blocks, which need to be a true 1/2 inch thick for this loom, so I made some free-standing ones. (Again the scraps!) They don’t hold the “down” shed in place as attached blocks would, but that doesn’t really matter: the Spear’s heddle holds the down shed by itself if you just let it dangle. It is heavy enough for that because you can’t weave at very tight tension anyway on a Spears, due to the bolt-and-wingnut mechanism it uses for advancing and securing the warp.

I was going to tell you about the hellish spring-summer-fall that accounts for my blog silence, but it isn’t over and I’m not in the mood. Maybe later? I’ll leave you with a genuine out-the-window picture. Yes, that is is a Fisher Price McDonald’s playset circa 1978. It was buried four feet underground. If plastic could talk…


Season of Shreds and Patches


6 Responses to “A Queen of Shreds and Patches”

  1. fibresofbeing Says:

    Good to see you posting, and hope the hellish period is past.
    The paper knife is beautiful. Do you have an inkle loom?

  2. How neat to find the embedded initial, and what a marvelous treasure to find! Inkle/tablet weaving beater? Can’t wait to see!

    I love the way you reuse the smallest scraps and make them into things of beauty — the frugality of that is so appealing to me. The problem I have with saving things to reuse is the curse of clutter — I can never find them again when I want them!

    Nice work with the heddle blocks. If they move around too much for you, try clamping or taping them to the loom. Better yet, try clamping the loom to a table so you don’t have to deal with it shifting — it will help your back.

    Gosh, the playset looks to be in great condition. Are all those pots dug out as well? You could open a nursery — your land seems to grow plastic in abundance.

    • trapunto Says:

      My loom did come with clamps, and I started using them shortly after the picture was taken. As for the heddle blocks, I was going to put down one of those grippy mats they sell to line drawers (bought as a a projected component of a projected cat scratching post), then waffled over opening the package and getting it linty. I’m ashamed that so many of my make-do’s come about from not wanting to dig through a cupboard!

      I do seem to be very good at growing plastic. The pots are all from stuff I planted, though.

  3. Dot Says:

    I do like your great granny’s letter opener, I think the nicest things to inherit are small things that you can use. Will you have some woven bands to show us?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I have a Bergman folding contermarche loom that I traded garden work for.
    But it needs a new home for a token amount, even if someone just needed it for parts.
    Any takers, any ideas on how to find it a new home?

    • trapunto Says:

      This is an older blog entry written by me, Trapunto of The Straight of the Goods, not a thread on a forum, so other Bergman owners aren’t likely to drop in here. I do try to help people with Bergman-related questions, though. As to finding a new owner for your loom, Read the comments on this other part of my blog:

      Good for you to wanting to find a home for it! Some weaver is going to be very happy.

      The most effective way to advertise a loom is through your local craigslist (be sure to include pictures), or the website of a local weaving guild. If you live in the Northwest, the very best place to advertise is through the classified section of the Association of Northwest Weavers’ Guilds:

      The ANWG site also has contact information for local weaving guilds in the Northwest.

      If you live in New England or other points East, the Spinners’ and Weavers’ Housecleaning Pages is how a lot of people sell their looms:


      Include the weaving width of the loom and how many shafts it has in your ad.

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