TAC Book Club: The Book of Looms
As I my eyes grazed over the many book spines of the TAC library, they stopped at a book that was at the far end of the shelf, almost hidden, tucked away towards the wall. I read the words “The Book of Looms: A History of the Handloom from Ancient Times to Present by Eric Broudy.” As I pulled it from it’s wedged position, I immediately felt a tingle in my stomach that told me I had landed on something special.
I had been feeling pretty bummed about the world— after reading such heartbreaking headlines in the news about how horrible we all can be to each other sometimes, I needed something to bring me back to humanity. This book turned out to do just that.
I cracked The Book of Looms open, quickly scanned from page to page, and saw what one would expect: looms galore. From two-bar horizontal and vertical looms, to chilkat, to Ainu, to backstrap, to treadle (and more), each loom is grouped in sections according to function and similarity. Included are black and white photos of people from all over the world, maps, paintings, diagrams, and fabric samples, indicating that this book was as much about the histories and cultural ties associated with the looms as it was about the loom as a tool.
The Book of Looms was published in 1979, so the photos are dated but intriguing and informative nonetheless (I personally find charm in reproductions of older photos). My favorite section was the introduction in the “Origins” chapter where author retells legends from different cultures on how the process of weaving was discovered: an African story tells of watching a spider whereas a Chinese story tells of watching a caterpillar.
Without a doubt, it’s Broudy’s attentive research and thorough insight that made flipping through The Book of Looms a truly rewarding experience for me. With hard evidence that the loom has played a major role in practically every culture since the beginning of time, I left the book with the humbling realization that no matter our different value systems, lifestyle choices or what-have-you, we all arrived at the same solutions for making cloth in one way or another— ahhh, faith in humanity (somewhat) restored!