CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Pete’s Coverlet

My husband, Pete, and I wove together for many years.  I’d do most of the winding on, threading and hand work and he would throw the shuttles.  When we bought a new home in Cotati in 1988, our first purchase was a 60” AVL Production loom.  We figured that the cost for custom drapes would be at  least a third more than the cost of the loom and the thread to weave the fabric.  So, 200 yards later, we had cotton drapes in Bronson Lace for 8 large windows. The next big project was to be double width coverlets.  We experimented with different patterns on the computer and loaded over 1200 bars and pegs to the loom’s dobby system.  After a few samples, that many dobby bars proved to be a hassle.   The next step was to load the pattern to a computerized dobby head. The loom was threaded with 2500+ heddles in 10/2 white cotton.  The pattern would be woven with 3/2 blue cotton and the 10/2 white cotton. Pete started weaving the project.  He wove about 24 inches.  Then cancer and a severe stroke silenced the loom. For 16 years the loom sat idle.  From time to time I would approach the loom and fix worn rubber parts.  I had the loom checked out and  learned that the loom and the computer dobby worked properly. Still, there were too many memories for me to weave on this loom.  I did continue to weave on several other looms.  By December 2013, I finally decided that I needed someone else to weave off the coverlet or else let the dream go. Who to approach?  The only weaver I knew who had production experience on an AVL with double fly shuttles was Sheila O’Hara.  I approached her at the Guild’s Christmas Party and asked if she would consider weaving the coverlet.  We both enjoyed the party.  I left early to pick up my two grandsons at school.  I returned with the boys to my house around 3 P.M.  At 3:30 Sheila was knocking at my door. Sheila did not make any promises.  Since two fly shuttles were needed, the box had to be changed prior to each shot, one for white and then for the blue threads.  So Sheila began- arms flying, feet moving, and shuttles going at warp speed -to the clacking of the computer dobby.  She wove about 3,500 picks at more than 50 picks per inch. The automatic bobbin winder had broken a band, but I had a simple hand winder available.  I wound bobbins, lots of them, over 100+.  Over 5 complete cones of thread were used. Yes, the computer program still worked!  After 438 picks, we looked at the 24” of cloth still on the loom apron.  We determined that the pattern needed to be reversed to agree with the sample.   So, forward 438 picks and reverse 427 picks, forward and reverse.  We worked late that evening and all the next day until 9 P.M. The next day I cut the fabric off the loom and washed and dried it.  I did a quick cleanup of the threads and laid the coverlet lengthwise on a double bed.  I needed to postpone the completing handwork because the following day I expected 32 people for a sit down Thanksgiving style dinner.

The finished overshot pattern

The finished overshot pattern

The finished coverlet

The finished coverlet

Once the guests had gone I went back to the cloth.  I separated the 24” that Pete wove from the balance of the starts and practice runs. What did I end up with?  One large piece 65” by108” and a smaller piece  26” by 108”. In finishing the large piece I used a zigzag stitch on the ends of natural fringe.  On the sides I hand stitched a commercial braid to both sides of the fabric for a finished edge. The smaller piece had a slightly different but compatible pattern.  There was 6” of fringe available so I knotted it macrame style.

The macrame fringe

The macrame fringe

Next I opened the large piece onto my king sized bed.  Then, I addd the smaller piece over the pillows.  The knotting ties the pieces together for a king sized spread. WHAT A GIFT!  WHAT A JOY!!

Click here for the next article