Ancient loom at state fair dismantled for repairs, restoration

lbonner@newsobserver.comOctober 27, 2013 

For decades, an ancient loom at the Village of Yesteryear was pushed into a corner and entombed in its own closet when the N.C. State Fair ended. There it would sit for a year until it was again time for a weaver to show curious visitors how to make table runners.

Sunday night, the loom was dismantled, its wooden pegs, rope and metal pieces photographed before a trip to the mountains for restoration.

According to Village records, the loom dates back to the mid-1700s. It was donated by a Haywood County family. In fact, the loom was used to weave a wedding coverlet in 1757.

“It’s a showpiece of the Village,” said Anne Allison, a weaver from McDowell County.

The loom hasn’t been dismantled at least since 1960, when it was first displayed at the fair, she said.

Though the loom works, it is showing its age. Pieces are chipped or show water damage. Some of the joints don’t fit together like they should. And a small metal plate, which looks like it’s already been patched at least once, no longer fits in its spot on the machine.

The loom’s condition means that Allison must make a lot of adjustments as she works to keep lines in patterns straight.

Still, it’s an honor to work on the loom, she said, and to touch wood that was smoothed by hands more than two centuries ago.

“These looms were made to be used,” she said. “They were very well-constructed, very well-made.”

Cabinet maker and iron worker Jason Lonon of McDowell County will be responsible for solving the loom’s mysteries – meaning he’ll have to find wood to match the original and piece it all together again.

As Lonon and volunteers dismantled the frame, wood crumbs sprinkled the floor from the rotten spot on the top of the loom.

Some pieces slid apart easily, but one side of a beam could be separated from the frame only with encouragement from a rubber mallet.

Lonon said he’ll decide as he works what to patch and what to replace.

He doesn’t know how long the restoration will take, but it’s not a project he’ll work on full-time. He only has until the fair opens next year, though, to finish.

Bonner: 919-829-4821

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