Behind the loom sits a large steel creel, with 336 steel pegs, for holding bobbins of thread. The creel belonged to the Rosselin Silk Mill in Willimantic, which closed in 1995, and does not match the Knightly loom in size. Strands of thread would unwind from creels into looms, where they would become the warp threads. Each warp thread passed through an separate eyelet in one of the loom’s heddles, or vertical wires. This loom has four sets of heddles, called harnesses. Once the weaver put in the warp, she then operated the machine, which wove in the weft threads. The weft threads were carried by flying shuttles, which resembled small boats with steel points at each end. Flying shuttles moved about 60 miles per hour, and sometimes they came loose and flew out of the loom, striking workers and causing serious injuries. Weavers, who were mostly women, also suffered hearing loss, from the constant, deafening clacking of the looms.
A photograph on the wall behind you shows a weaver standing next to two looms, around 1890 in a factory in Bridgeport, CT. The looms were very close together, which made navigating the factory floor hazardous. The worker has her hair pinned up for safety. She rolled up her sleeves. Her skirt was short by the standards of the time, reaching a bit below mid-calf, so that she won’t trip on the hem, and it won’t drag on the oily floor. Her leather belt held her tools, and it protected her if she had to lean against a moving machine to reach something.
To your right is a large wooden loom called a jacquard loom. It used coded punch cards to weave threads of multiple colors into intricate patterns. On your left is a big wooden drum. Rough cut wooden spools, made from white birch, were placed in the drum with a mixture of sand and sawdust. The drum was rotated, tumbling the spools until they were smooth. Beyond the spool tumbler, is another loom, manufactured here in Connecticut by the Atwood Company of Stonington, in 1875.
This audible exhibit is made possible through the generosity of Connecticut Humanities, the Willimantic Lions Club, the Rose and Leo Pageau Trust, and and CRIS Access of CRIS Radio.