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Union No. 36


Follow my adventures in natural dyes

Union No. 36

Megan Roach

I recently purchased a new loom.  Yes another loom to add to my collection and yes I may have an addiction to acquiring looms.  It is often a temptation that I resist when my weaver’s guild sends out an email showing off a loom for sale, but this one I could not pass up.  

I like the idea of breathing new life into a  loom that has sat dormant in a corner of a basement for decades.  Looms are fascinating machines that haven’t changed much over time.  A simple foot powered pulley system allows for the change of sheds, and the beams and wheels allow control over the perfect tension. They are sturdy, made of wood and metal accents, and they last a long time.

My new loom is a Union No. 36 rug loom from the mid 1930s.  The Union No.36 was built in Boonvile New York out of an abandoned high school that was converted into Union Speciality Works in 1911.  The Union loom was made to be efficient and economical, perfect for the housewife that wanted to make a little extra money.  A union loom could be purchased for $39.95 and that included 10 yards of warp already wound up on the wheel!

The user manual for this loom was fascinating.  A few pages discussed overall set up of the loom followed by a couple pages discussing color and patterns, but the most interesting part of the manual was the last half that discussed the process of creating your own weaving business.  

I enjoy learning about the personal history of a loom as well as the history of its production.  This loom was bought by a mother of six children in the mid 1930s.  She used the loom to make ends meet and to save money while her husband was at work.  She made rugs for neighbors and friends who would bring their old rags to her to weave.   I love the idea of  contributing your own rags and sheets to a weaver and getting a rug made of the rags, it just makes the rug and the connection to the weaver more personal.  My loom was later passed to the daughter of the original owner, and the person that I bought the loom from.  For a decade or so she made and sold denim rugs that were made on the loom with her sister, and then the loom was put in a corner of a basement with little to no use.  

This brings us to the loom’s new chapter with me!  I bought this loom less than a week before my collection release, and I have to say that I have the best studio mates/business partners/ friends around because Jake and Elyse  helped me bring this loom to its studio home.  Not only did they help me move this loom, but they helped me completely dismantle it in a basement and reassemble it in the studio.  I’m sure there would have been pictures of the process if we hadn’t been excited to get the loom put back together so we could get back to work on our collections that were due in a few days!

This loom is now a part of my growing fleet of looms.  It only has two harnesses and two pedals but it has a sectional warping beam perfect for very long warps (it currently has a baby warp on it of  only 10 yards). I’m excited to start offering naturally dyed rag rugs made on this loom and be a part of the next chapter of women who have used this loom to create beautiful rugs.