Hands up if you know what a warping frame is.
Harold N. Walters
“Me! Me!” said the Lady of Shalott.
That’s a lie, eh b’ys? While I’m sure the Lady of Shalott could have identified a warping frame, she didn’t wave her hand for attention because long ago she perished in a Tennyson poem.
Dearest Duck knows what a warping frame is and now so do I.
“Harry, my handyman honey,” she said one day, “I want you to build me a warping frame.”
“A what,” said I.
She handed me a sheaf of diagrams, hustled me into the basement and bolted the door.
“Follow the plans,” she said, her voice receding.
I ripped a couple of pieces of two-by-fours and hammered together a four-foot square frame. I drilled half-inch holes a foot or so apart around the perimeter of said frame. I sawed off six-inch lengths of doweling and jammed them in the holes.
I built a warping frame. Picture it. A four-foot square with pegs sticking up like tole-pins around its edge.
“Bless your heart,” said Dearest Duck on seeing the frame. “I never doubted you. Come up to the kitchen and I’ll pour you a cup of Tension Tamer and fetch you a few cookies,” she said, in a manner akin to a dog trainer saying, “Rover, treats!”
Before suppertime Dearest Duck was “putting on” a warp. She’d leaned the warping frame against a wall — I’d failed to figure out legs — and commenced to wrap a bale or so of cotton around the pegs in a bewildering zig-zag fashion.
Once the cotton had been strung on the frame, Dearest Duck immediately began to remove it, to unwind it into loops and chains the size of hawser rope.
Then with the warp bundled in her arms Dearest Duck said, “Help me thread my loom.”
Ah, loom. Hands up … ah, never mind.
I neglected to mention the loom that had arrived unassembled in our house a week earlier, the assembling of which placed great strain on our well-weathered marriage. Assembling this contraption required wrenches and screwdrivers, levers and small pulleys, a carpenter’s level and volleys of sulphurous expletives.
Threading the wrap onto the loom proved to be as intricate as re-wiring a brain. The thousands of strings comprising the wrap had to be strung through or hooked to a dozen or more connected contraptions — reeds, heddles, treadles, beater — until the cotton web on the loom appeared more complicated than the ropes on a fully-rigged schooner.
As I climbed painfully back to my knees after being belly-down tightening a final do-dad, Dearest Duck patted my thinning locks — far fewer than the strings of warp — and said, “Good Rover,” or words equally rewarding.
Time to speak again about the Lady of Shalott, the ill-fated damsel in Tennyson’s poem.
For reasons uncertain, Lady S was barred up in a castle tower somewhere upriver from fabled Camelot, somewhere handy to fields of barley and rye.
Those were medieval days. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in a castle tower, not even Facebook to peruse.
Hands up if you know the only thing Lady S could use to pass the time.
OK, I’ll tell. Her loom!
Day after day after day, Lady S plied warp and weft and other weaving things. All she saw of the outside world was images reflected in her mirror. She longed for … well, let it be said she was a maiden unsullied — unless an unmentioned earlier sullying had led to her being barred in the tower in the first place.
As The Fates would have it, one day Lady S spied a bodacious knight hieing horsey-back down the road to Camelot.
“Oh, Lancelot, Lancelot,” she prob’ly sighed.
Slamming the beater-bar on her loom one last time, Lady S jumped up from her stool and, poisoned with her secluded life, said, “I’m sick of this shadowy existence.”
She raced down the tower stairs and with the might of a yearning, unsullied maiden, broke the door’s lock, leaped into a rowboat and shuffed off for Camelot hoping — I s’pose — to be sullied by Lancelot.
Lady S, doomed by Fate’s curse, perished unsullied, unless … never mind.
Of a quiet evening, sipping Tension Tamer and watching Dearest Duck warp and weft like Lady S I can’t help thinking of Camelot with a bridge across the river.
And me, Sir Lancelot, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading.
— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at email@example.com