EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

April 30, 2013

Restoring the old loom at Whittier's Birthplace

HAVERHILL — It was out of alignment and needed a few new parts. But to one member of a local handweavers guild, all it really needed to spring back to life was some expert and loving care.

The old barn frame loom that John Greenleaf Whittier’s mother used to weave blankets, shawls and other items that made winter on the homestead tolerable is working once again after sitting for decades as an artifact from Haverhill’s past.

Gus Reusch, curator of the birthplace, says he never thought the loom would ever actually be used again and that having it in working condition will add a new dimension to visitor tours. He wants to learn how to use the loom and put on weaving demonstrations for visitors.

“There’s nothing better than to have it working again,” Reusch said. “The women brought it back to life and didn’t ask for a thing in return.”

Terry Anderson of Haverhill had seen the loom years ago on a visit to the Birthplace of Haverhill’s most famous poet, J.G. Whittier.

“It wasn’t working at the time, although it was mostly put together,” said Anderson, who has been weaving for over 20 years.

Gus showed her some Whittier treasures, including linen towels he is nearly certain were made on the old loom by Whittier’s mother, Abigail Whittier. “She used linen made from flax they grew on the homestead,” Reusch said.

Three years ago Anderson joined a then relatively new NOBO (North of Boston) Handweavers Guild. Its members would get together for meetings and talk about the items they made on their own home looms, such as wool throws. They also talked about their own looms, some of which were the same kind of barn loom that Whittier’s family used centuries ago, and have guest speakers.

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