Upstairs Coryell Museum has an antique loom that could have been used for weaving material such as clothing, blankets, wall hangings and rugs or mats for the home. The old loom has a very interesting history. Bill Herridge was volunteering at the museum about 1980 when he received this most surprising acquisition. An older man in a pickup pulled up in front of the museum, which was then located at the old Graham building. He began to unload a strange pile of heavy wood with hundreds of strings attached. Bill asked the gentleman, “What is this?” and the man said it was a loom.
The gentleman said that he thought it should be in Coryell County as his grandfather (or maybe great-grandfather) had made it for his grandmother with trees cut down from where the square is located now. The gentleman said it was made in Coryell County in the 1880’s. Bill accepted the loom, thanked the man, who then immediately got in his truck and started back home to Tennessee. He had driven to Texas just to deliver the loom. The trees had been cut down around the square by 1880 so it could have been built anywhere between 1857 and 1880.
According to ehow.com weaving is the act of interlacing fibers to form a piece of cloth. A loom is a frame or machine on which cloth is made from many threads. Carole Metty, a Gatesville resident who has been a weaver since 1977, explained it very simply to me. She told me that if I had ever made potholders for my mother on a little metal loom, then I had done simple weaving. Carole has 7 looms ranging in size from a large floor loom to small looms that would fit on your lap. Her floor loom has dozens of threads attached front to back and this is called the warp. The warp is threaded thru individual string holders that can be raised and lowered, the levers operated by foot treadles. A thread wound on a bobbin is passed over and under the warp threads to create the material.
Carole explained that the cost of any woven item is controlled by the cost of the labor and materials. Materials such as cotton and wool are less expensive than silk or linen. A weaver making a silk and wool scarf might spend about $50 on thread and charge $50 for her labor.
Weaving is an extremely old process that the ancient Egyptians depicted in their drawings in 8,000-7,000 B.C. Baskets and fishing nets were some of the earliest items woven and these were made from grasses or pliable twigs.
The earliest proof of weavers using looms dates from the tomb of Meketra in 1950 B.C. or 3,962 years ago!! The first simple looms were likely just four sticks lashed together forming a square on which strings were tied vertically, and then the weaver interlaced the strings horizontally with their fingers to form cloth. Depending on the size of the string a variety of weight of material could be made. Small string the size of a mere thread would produce a lightweight shirt or dress fabric. Thicker heavier thread would make material suitable for pants or a sail for a ship and large thread would make a rug, or heavy warm blanket. Weavers could vary the tightness of their cloth, and when weaving tightly they could make a nearly waterproof sail or tent. When they wove loosely they would create a material like burlap or tow sacking.
Come by the museum and see our antique loom upstairs near the pioneer displays. It is only a block from where the wood was originally grown.