little loom

When I was a little girl I was given a little loom and would work with it for hours. Now it belongs to my children, and we all weave pretty little things with it.

title="loom © elisa rathje 2012

I’ve begun to learn to spin my own yarn, on a wheel and on the drop spindle, and I made off with the loom to try weaving the stuff. I fell over when I saw how beautifully the slubby yarn weaves, subtle variations in shade and tremendous variations in thickness. I’ve heard that slubby yarn is the most expensive, because once you know how to spin it is difficult to reproduce those textures, like trying to draw in the charming hand of a child. My spinning is distinctly charming, yet. Lumpy. My weaving is very basic, but I absolutely adore it.

I wove every bit of our homespun yarn, and will need to card some of the fleece I bought, ambitiously, to continue. It is such a little loom, there isn’t so much you can make with the narrow pieces, but it is such a pleasure and makes me think of my mother and her family, in Canada and in Finland, sharing looms to make rag rugs and beautiful weavings. Now I’m acutely inspired to weave on a larger scale. If I can just find a friendly person with a loom. I dream about it! Entrancing process.

spinning wheels

Spinning yarn is one of those simple and miraculous transformations that I’ve watched but not fully understood until I tried it myself. I had the opportunity quite unexpectedly one afternoon when I stopped in at Birkeland Brothers with my children. My tall girl and I made pictures to show you our spontaneous study in spinning, led by our kind, patient, and aptly named teacher, Pearl, who you simply have to meet and take a class with if you haven’t already. She showed us around a spinning wheel.
spinning lesson © elisa rathje 2011
We each had a go, drafting out the wool and moving pinchy fingers along to bring the twist up, but not too far. Treadling the wheel is just like taking a little walk. Pearl had my little one walking it while she held the twist for her, very smart. And it seems that I can now set my tall girl to yarn production! Isn’t that what people have children for? We are very much in love with the process.
spinning lesson © elisa rathje 2011
To think we might now spin our own yarn! I have a fleece waiting at our little country cottage in England for just this sort of bravery.
spinning lesson © elisa rathje 2011


p>We used to live just round the corner from Birkelands, we’d peek in the back to see the amazing antique carding machine turning, and choose yarns for all sort of knitting, water felting, needle felting, crochet and weaving projects. Also yarn for imaginary projects made up to justify buying gorgeous yarn simply because it is so gorgeous.


p>spinning lesson © elisa rathje 2011


p>Birkeland Brothers Wool has been running since 1939, now into the fourth generation working with the carding machine brought over from Norway. An extraordinary history.

Our impromptu short about spinning wheels. Thanks Pearl! Such a thrill.

(update: We are so glad that we had a chance to do this before Birkeland’s on Main closed. Very sad to see it go.)