Katy Elliott

A daily design journal about new england life, home decorating resources, and renovating a 257-year-old house in Marblehead, MA.

Installing Cellulose Blow-In Insulation

Posted on | August 29, 2011 | 12 Comments

Yay, we got cellulose insulation in one wall! Yup, only one. Last week we attempted to blow-in cellulose insulation into three walls of the main part of the house—the back extension we’re waiting on till we get a new heating system and ducting.

Everything was going smoothly. First, they did the wall facing the sidewalk. Then in the afternoon they drilled tested holes in the front part of the house. From our office on the third floor we could hear them yelling, “Brick!” over and over. What?! Our house is built of bricks?

After further investigation we discovered the front and inner wall of the house are lined with bricks. Referred to as “brick nogging” the walls cavity between the framed timbers were mortared with bricks. Bricks were used as a wind barrier and an early version of insulation. Benefits also include fire-proofing, “thermal mass” making temperature fluctuations less rapid, and a way to block pests. (inspectapedia.com)

So what do we do? Nothing. The only solution would be to remove all clapboards and the bricks so we could blow-in insulation. This process would be incredibly labor intensive and probably NOT worth it.

With the one wall done I hope the house feels a bit warmer this winter. I’ve already notice the house is quieter and less street noise. But I do think once we get our fireplaces properly sealed, interior shutters installed and a new heating system the house will be just fine.

Holes drilled to blow-in insulation.

Testing the front of the house for insulation.

Hole drilled for blow-in insulation

Cellulose blow-in insulation

Brick noggin - 1838 Peter Augustus Jay HouseAn example of brick nogging at Peter Augustus Jay House in Rye, New York via flickr.

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Mill Tour of Brahms Mount in Maine

Posted on | August 24, 2011 | 20 Comments

Sample closet of herringbone blankets and throws.

Maine has a long textile history dating back to the 1800’s, “when almost every family spun fine yarns from local flax and wool”. In the mid-1800’s textile mills popped up along the Saco, Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers. As I kid I can remember buying fabric with my Mom at the Cascade Woolen Mill outlet in Oakland. The mill was built in the 1880s and closed in the 1990s. Countless other mills in Maine have shared the same fate.

Brahms Mount has long captured my attention. Back in 2009 I wrote a short piece about the redesign of their website, the next day I got an e-mail from David Kaufman asking if he could call to thank me. We chatted for a few minutes as he explained he recently purchased the company and was working with the former owners to continue the tradition of creating heirloom quality blankets. I was completely blown away by his enthusiasm.

27-years-ago Claudia Brahms and Noel Mount purchased and renovated two historic buildings overlooking the Kennebec river in Hallowell, Maine. They came in search of open air and a large workspace to “make a mess”. “Antique shuttle looms, the backbone of Maine’s textile tradition, were readily available to equip the mill.” The couple trained artisans and designed a collection of heirloom quality linen and cotton blankets. Since the purchase in 2009, Claudia has continued on as the lead designer and Noel manages the manufacturing aspect of the business.

In late July, my mom and I headed up to Hallowell for a mill tour. Greeted by the charismatic David in flip flops and shorts (he was leaving for vacation in an hour), he introduced us to Claudia Brahms (founder and lead designer) working in her studio. We headed just a few steps from their offices to the mill. Antique shuttle looms banged moving up and down while hundreds of white fiber strands neatly found their way into the warper. Amidst this chaos David whirled us in and around the antique shuttle looms explaining the process and allowing me to snap as many photos as I liked.

We headed upstairs to watch artisans twisting fridge on their signature cotton herringbone throws. We followed David who has the energy of 20-year-old stopping every few steps to touch little bits of fiber. It’s hard not notice his passion. It’s not a pitch. Everything about this man is a pleasure. He’ll talk fiber construction with as much ease as his plans to grow the company and expand product lines. An infectious passion fills the mill as I absorb how each process meticulously handled by “artisans more than fifty times” becomes a beautiful blanket.

Maine has a long tradition of making things. Brahms Mount has built upon this creating simple and familiar textures adapted from classic designs. Brahms Mount is the only weaver of linen blankets in North America. They use the best linen and get their cotton out the Carolinas. Once you actually touch a Brahms Mount piece, you’ll be captivated. The hand and drape is out this world. The colors and design, timeless.

I believe in supporting American-based companies and artisans who continue local traditions. To me it makes a difference to know artisans who love their craft made the blankets that I will cover my family with every night. To me that is worth investing in and spending a bit more for. Below photos from my mill visit. To learn more about Brahms Mount visit brahmsmount.com.

Brahms Mount
19 Central Street
Hallowell, Maine

A sample of the Herringbone blanket I ordered in white/misty blue.

Herringbone and ticking stripe blankets.

A Creel that holds up to 600 combs to make the weft. Learn more about this process and view a video on their blog.

All 600 combs are hand thread into the warper. The warp is the vertical fiber in a textile. Watch a video from the Brahms Mount team explaining this process.

The warper with the creel in the background.

Brahms Mount team working on the warp.

Bobbins being thread.

John Smith “Master Weaver” oversees the antique shuttle looms.

100% cotton herringbone throw in melon on the loom. Are you drooling? Gorgeous, right?

Bobbins for weft.

The warp threaded on the loom.

100% cotton rib weave in white on loom. One of my favorites!

A detail of the weft on the loom.

David showing me a cotton herringbone throw with their signature fringe.

I ordered a 50% cotton and 50% linen ombre day blanket.

I picked up two 100% linen body towels in a ticking stripe.

Brahms Mount from Maine Office of Tourism on Vimeo.

Related Posts:
Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk, Maine
Handmade Products from Maine at Common Ground
Making Wildflower Bouquets

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