Monday, October 5, 2009

Those who Silently Serve

I'm sorry to report that I have been under the weather in the past few days coping with a muscle spasm in my neck, which in turn triggered the worst migraine I have ever had the displeasure to experience! I sure wish I knew what I did to set this off so I can make a good point of *not* doing it again! Saturday nights in an emergency room are as crazy as you hear about! Then throw full pandemic H1N1 fancy dress code for all attendees into the mix and you have a big bowl of crazy being served out! So now I'm taking things easy as I recover, but I lost quite a few days to this 'little spasm'. No doubt rounds of Doctor visits, tests and referrals will be under way shortly.

All my plans have undergone a big change and so the next planned post is on hold and I bring to you another post whose time has come. "Benches and other seating arrangements in the studio" They really do silently wait to serve! I came to realize that we have talked about looms, tools, yarns, drafts.... but not the benches that hold our bums up. If you are not seated comfortably, or at the right height, then none of what we do would be a happy experience.

I have owned a lot of different looms over the past 14 years; some came with their mated bench, some not. Some benches you can understand why they 'threw the bench in' as it was only fit to be thrown out! A good bench is to be carefully guarded and kept.

One style that many of you know is the standard Leclerc type bench: solid box with a hinged lid and two storage compartments on either end, and all is sitting up on legs that can't be shortened unless you take a leap of faith and cut from the bottom. Besides being very uncomfortable to sit at for any length of time, they had no adjustment possibilities. The link above also shows their newer rocking style bench. I can't comment one way or the other on this as I haven't seen or tried one myself. All looms and their owners have an uneasy marriage of leg length, loom height and and somehow the two must meet! Ideally your knees should be at a 90 degree angle when you sit with your feet resting on the treadles and your forearms should rest on the breast beam if all is at the right height. Sounds simple enough but it seems to be a difficult thing to accomplish. This excellent article by Laura Fry at Syne Mitchell's Weavine makes for a good read. If you own more than one loom, then you have multiple benches to consider as you very quickly find out that dragging one bench around to all looms simply does not work. ( Not unless all your looms are the same!)

You need to have one bench per loom and adjusted for a good fit for you, as the principal weaver, at each one. So why use a bench? I know of some weavers who use the adjustable steno chair. I have tried it and it's actually quite comfortable. I have one in my studio and it normally sit at the desk for when I do paperwork but it's been frequently pulled into active duty!

Let me show you what else I have in my studio that seems to work for me:

I have two of these little stools that were rescued from a dumpster many years ago. They are perhaps too short for many other normal uses, but in the studio they are perfect! I pull up one and sit behind the big loom and pull my tie up cords, or wind on my warp. I also use it at my winding table where I wind pirns and bobbins. It puts me at just the right height. The second holds up my warping centre. Not a permanent set up as this will be reviewed and made into a more secure situation (soon).

The next chair I use is an old Ashford spinners chair I bought from a friend moving overseas. It has taller legs with no side supports which means it fits over the foot beam of my big loom! I pull up the chair and use it for threading. It means it's a 'one trick pony' but the cuteness factor means it earns a spot in the corner of my studio.

Weavers and spinners are usually asked to attend many outdoor events and its best to bring along their own chairs as you can't count on chairs to be there or be comfortable. Many years ago my husband pronounced that 'there's a garage sale down this street' and turned into a long cul-de-sac. Sure enough, there was a garage sale which was in wind down mode at the end of a long day. They had even taken down their signs at this point but welcomed us in to browse what was left. There in a corner were these two folding wooden chairs ... for $5.00. They conveniently fold flat for storage which is welcome in crowded quarters.

So these are now my spare seats if I have company come to visit me in the studio or I need to bring a chair with me to an event. {Connor has spotted one of the sheep I have stashed around the studio and is waiting for it to fall into reach so he can 'kill' it... it might happen you know.}

Okay, that's all the chairs, now lets look at my benches. For my Louet Jane Loom that is set up on a stand, I use this cute little bench made by Woolhouse Tools. It's a basic design and the box has a hinged lid for storage. Unfortunately it's not adjustible for height and there's no open storage to hand. If I find I need more space to lay tools down, I bring out a folding wooden TV table. ( we also got a set of those for $5 at a yard sale. They are tucked away behind the winding station) I put a soft cushion on the bench and it's good to go.

Now at Emmatrude, my big Woolhouse Tools countermarche, I have a commuter bench that was made in 1998 the same time as my loom. I have a full set of 16 treadles under the loom and I wanted to be able to comfortably reach all of them. So having a bench that glides closer is neat. It especially became important after I had my hip replaced in 2001. It does take some getting used to but once you are adjusted, you'd never go back to a normal stationary bench. One small adjustment I have made to accommodate my sciatica is to elevate the rear legs so the bench tips forward by a small amount. This is to alleviate the pressure on the backs of my thighs where I can occasionally get nerve pain from discs in my lower back. Oh, the joys of being older!

I use these furniture discs where it's runner one side and carpet fibre the other. They are about a quarter of an inch in height and this is all I need to make a huge difference in the time I spend sitting there. The ideal situation is to have an angled bench custom made like Lynnette's. Lucky lady!
The camera makes the legs on my bench look like they are angled inwards but trust me, they are straight. So here's the bench bare, and then with my cushion. Please note the legs and box height. The box is set up quite high as the loom is quite large.

Now, this past July I saw an ad for a loom bench for sale and called right away. I bought a used Woolhouse Tools commuter bench from the Kalamalka Weavers Guild of Vernon, BC. I picked it up from Lynnette's home when we were there in September. I can recall sitting on this bench many years ago weaving projects on the guild loom and it was sold me on the benefits of a sliding bench in the first place. So this old timer has come to stay at my studio. I don't know how old it is but it predates my bench and carries the older logo that builder John Low used.

I cleaned it up well. It had the 'patina' of many years of use and weavers who sat there. Spilt drinks, and marks, and years of hands touching it. Spilt liquids had caused the metal bars to rust and discolour the wood there they sit and the rubber bumpers had gone to hard little rocks. I stripped it down to bare bones and then oiled every part, wiped dry and then reassembled. Now this bench is adjusted for my Louet Spring 'Lilibet' and it making her debut here:

Notice the height adjustment on the legs! This demonstrates why one bench does not fit all your looms. Those rubber bumpers are not the right size but it seems that they aren't making them anymore. I replaced both sets on both benches and wonder what I'll do in another ten years time? You may have several looms and methods for sitting at them, but only one bum! Make sure it's comfortable while it's there. Give a thought to those who silently serve.


Life Looms Large said...

Thanks for the bench tour! As one who will be in a cramped airline seat for hours tomorrow, I fully appreciate the comfort of an ergonomic chair!

I secretly covet one of those benches that slides. Two of my local weaving friends have them and swear by them. Maybe I should put one on my Christmas list!!

I have a tiny stool that my mother made in my studio. It was always kicking around my house with no use until I started weaving. Then I found it to be the perfect height for those low to the ground tasks. Plus it's cute to boot!

Take care of that back and neck! My neck/upper back are my weak point and I'm too familiar with neck pain turning into a whopping headache. Hope you're feeling much better very soon!


Sunrise Lodge Fiber Studio said...

What a fabulous article! Thank you so much for sharing:) I have a little bench at my Compact that was made by a woman woodworker. Allthough it is not supposed to rock, it does.....and I love the thing. It's funny because I've never really given it much thought before:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great post. I would love one of those sliding benches too. (My wish list growing at a rapid pace :)) I find a lot of my 'bottom' loom time is spent on the 2 step stool from IKEA. Perfect for winding, tieing on etc. with the added bonus of being a 2 step ladder to get at yarns on the top of my shelves. It's a win win.
I do hope you recover and back to your looms soon.
Shirley Treasure

kitkatknit said...

I have two of the folding wooden chairs and always throw them in the back of the truck when we spin on the river in case someone forgets their chair. One session of spinning sitting on the squeeky things usually has them remembering the next time.

I too weave on my loom (Mighty Wolf) from an office chair. It's just the right height to get in rhythm while treadling.

Delighted Hands said...

Great post for a migraine sufferer! I appreciated all the info and advice very much.

charlotte said...

I really hope you get well soon. Thank you for showing the benches, the sliding bench looks perfect, and I also like the ones with storage room underneath. I have only one loom and bench (which accurately fits into the hall), but I wish we had room for a studio, and one more loom. Take care!

Peg in South Carolina said...

I guess I should be glad I have only one loom to deal with!! It's a big Leclerc and the non-adjustable big Leclerc bench works just fine for me. But I will I will keep in mind the slanting should I start having problems.
I am so sorry about the headache and even more about the Saturday night emergency room. Emergency rooms are the absolute absolute absolute pits. The only sensible way to be brought in is via an ambulance....... And I'm not kidding you either!

Susan said...

Thank you everyone for your well wishes. I still have the neck spasms but it's nothing like it was. Busy trying to find a Dr who's taking new patients.

Peg: I did go in an ambulance! I managed to scoop a line up but once in, more extreme patients take precedence. I just would have appreciated more pain medication along with the wait :) As it is, I managed to sleep most of the time as they put me in isolation. One perk to being though of as contagious!