Barn Frame Looms in Early America


This is my first barn frame loom.  When I brought  it home it was missing a number of important pieces that I eventually replaced in order to be able to use it. This particular loom can be viewed both front and back @

My first barn frame loomRestored Barn Frame LoomWhile spinning wheels were used to turn hand processed fiber into yarn, barn frame looms were used to weave the yarn into textiles.

My  interest and experience lies in the equipment used by housewives as they turned the raw materials readily available to them into cloth.  Some cloth was plain and strictly utilitarian, other cloth was beautiful and added to the decor of the home. All cloth  was woven on the rather large and  heavy  looms.

Known as barn frame looms, the looms were constructed with the same mortise and tennon joinery used for barns. There were no  nails or screws in that time, and though wooden pegs were sometimes  used to add strength to a join, many looms were simply secured with wedges in the spaces were the mortise and tennon came together. This had the effect of tightening up the fit and when done  properly removed any tendancy for the loom to shift or wobble as the weaver used  the beater to fashion the cloth.

While spinning wheels were often built by woodworkers and sold to the  public, looms were made on demand and were one-of-a- kind. Often a husband, father, brother or uncle would take on the building of a loom, following a design seen in the “old” country. Many looms we see today from the 18th & 19th centuries bear distinct features of a particular nationality that make them recognizeable as such.Immigrants from Germany, Holland, Ireland and Scotland built looms here in their new home, that resembled those once used by their grandmothers in the old country.

I often am frustrated by people who have some knowledge of American history  and feel compelled to argue with  me regarding the time that spinning and weaving ceased to be done in the home here in America.

The truth is, that cloth could be imported from many exotic places for those who could afford to buy it. This was true but for the time of the Revolution, when we could not obtain imported goods due to our war with England. Once the  Revolution was over, trade with other countries once again opened up, and goods became available for those who could afford to buy them.

That said, there were circumstances where hand spinning of fiber and handweaving of homespun continued unabated welll into the present day albeit for different reasons.

Barn frame looms were used by many people, both professional and home weavers, to produce many types of cloth including linen( made from flax) , wool ( fleece from sheep ) and cotton ( grown in the South ).

When a loom was to be used mainly for linen, it was built differently than those that were to be multipurpose looms.

Linen looms were often smaller than other looms, though not always. They required a great deal of tension on the warp, so were fitted with an extra beam that would allow for higher tensioning of the warp.

If the threads to be woven were of a fine weight and thickness, the loom often had a cloth beam that was not solid, but allowed for the passage of the cloth through the center ( as opposed to around the breast beam ) . This made it possible for the weaver to avoid rubbing against the fragile cloth as it was being woven, avoiding undue wear.

This feature was unnecessary with wool which was much sturdier, so many looms had solid breast beams and rubbing against the cloth as woven had little effect.


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