ALLEGAN, MI -- We all do it...some of us each and every day. Go to the store, buy clothes, towels, rugs, sheets, or some type of assembled fabric. Question is...has it ever occurred how they're made? Looms are something that have been around for thousands of years...it's used to produce a weave to make something with yarn. Just last week I heard a reading at church about Jobe of how the "shuttle" was thrown back and forth to produce the cloth or weave. Hand looms have come a long way these days, but they still use shuttles and they still create articles of woven material.
This particular story is about Deb and Joe Leverence who came over from the east side of Michigan a few years ago. They fell in love with Allegan and decided to buy a dilapidated, condemned building in the Allegan's old mill district. They renovated and refurbished all three floors! They live there and they started a studio to conduct and teach weaving on looms. Everything we wear is either woven or knit. The fun thing about the Baker Allegan Studios, as it's called, is you can watch the weaving process or you can do-it-yourself. No experience is necessary to come in a weave a towel or rug...simply pay for what you make and you'll know it's well made because you literally hand-crafted it yourself.
Automated machines can weave at least 600 to 800 threads per inch, the hand looms are far more coarse. A fine weave is considered about 48 threads per inch, 18 for towels, and something really coarse would be about eight threads for a rug. It's really something to see a loom is progress weaving a material in to a pattern...like a rug or an article of clothing. There are foot pedals like an organ, and there's a shuttle that gets thrown from left to right and right to left that carries the weaving thread with each pass. To watch Deb go full speed on her on eof here newer looms is almost like watching a pianist or organist playing the best of Bach or Beethoven...it truly is an art form!
As an example, blue jeans are woven. Normally they are a two two twill. That means two threads each time go over, and two threads go under. Denim is said to be one of the strongest clothes. "Even after weaving for 25 years you sit down at a loom and you start throwing the shuttle and you watch that design develop in front of you. I still after 25 years am excited about that process" says Deb.
In addition to Joe and Deb living on the third floor of their renovated building, the main floor also hosts the work of several local artists from around the area. It's a great place to visit and spend some time looking at artwork, socializing, or learning how to weave on a loom as you make a towel or rug to take home that day.