It has been a dream of mine to learn weaving, ever since I was a child. My opportunity came early in 2005, when my sister-in-law let me borrow her countermarche loom. I had a couple friends help me understand the loom and get me started. Those first couple projects were exciting for me.
A few days ago, I read about a good way to secure Texsolv heddles on the open shaft bars on my Swedish type counterbalance and countermarche looms.
The shafts are two separate wooden bars with holes in each end to thread a string from end to end. The reason for the string is to maintain the order of the heddles if any were to accidently fall off the bar.
After adding or subtracting heddles, I would sometimes not tie the security strings back through the holes, mostly due to laziness but I blame it on my arthritis in my fingers.
I have no excuse now with this method. It involves using elastic bands instead of string.
I used a roll of elastic I had in my stash from doll clothes making days. It is about 1/8" wide. I cut two lengths approximately the length of a shaft bar.
I tied a loop at one end of one elastic and kept the other as a guide to cut the rest of the bands.
I put the first one on and adjusted the length so it had to stretch slightly and tied another loop at the other end. I needed to trim a little off the band to make it fit, so I trimmed the same amount off the second elastic.
I marked both ends of my guide so I would be consistent in cutting the other eighteen pieces.
After tying loops on each end of all the remaining elastics, I started putting them on my shafts.
An easy way to thread the elastic through the end holes is to use a bobby pin.
Thread the loop through the end hole.
Wrap the loop around the end of the shaft bar and remove the bobby pin.
With the other bobby pin at the other end, thread it under the strings holding the shafts.
The elastic needs to be against the
heddle loops, so don't go over the
Thread the loop through the hole at the other end and stretch it around the end of the shaft bar.
I keep a few bobby pins in my tool box, for threading the loops if I ever need to change my heddle numbers.
There is no excuse now to not secure the heddles, since I don't have to untie knots any more. The elastic slips on and off with ease.
As Bob and I were installing the additional four shafts and treadles to the Cranbrook, I started dreading the acrobatics needed to tie the treadles to the shafts. I had heard about weavers getting a system that allows them to tie everything up from the back of the loom.
Bob is quite handy in the woodshop, as my regular readers know, so I asked him if he could make something similar.
Here he is holding the completed tie-up pegboard.
This is how it looks attached to the back of the loom. I can sit on the floor or a low stool to tie everything up.
I think the height could be changed if I start having difficulty with it as low as it is, but for now I can manage. Flexibility with arthritis is an on and off thing. Some days are better than others.
This system takes a lot of cording and can become very expensive if Texsolv is used. I did use some of it on mine because I had a tie-up kit I had bought very cheaply. I needed to splice my cording together though, because they were various short lengths.
It isn't ideal, but is working. In the future, I'm planning on adding a system to my 10-shaft counterbalance loom when I get my long project finished. I will look for braided cording from the hardware store for that loom and splice a short length of Texsolv to the end that goes through the pegboard.
This photo is from the front of the loom, showing the routing of the cording at the back of the treadles.
I labeled my pegboard with treadle #1 on the right. The shaft numbers are next to the holes.
Each treadle has two columns of holes corresponding to each shaft. One column is for the upper lamms and the other for the lower lamms. Each hole gets a cord.
Doing the math, that is 10 treadles times 8 shafts for both the upper lamms and the lower lamms for a total of 160 cords. That is a lot of yardage!
The kit I bought had a lot of two-leg pegs. I used them to mark the treadle resting on the floor position. If there isn't something on each cord, the inactive cords will slip out of the holes.
I already had that happen with these pegs, so the legs need to be poked into the hole. If I hadn't already had them, I would have used all arrow pegs.
Before doing the tie-up, the loom needs to be in its locked position. The treadles need to be raised to the weaving position so Bob made me this support bar to put under the them. We used the height the manufacturer specified, but it wasn't high enough. We need to add another block of 2"x4" wood to the bottoms.
It helps to add some weight to the top of the treadles to keep them from rising when pulling the cording taunt. A board with a couple clamps would work also.
The pattern was originally published in the M/A 1993 issue of Handwoven, pg 43.
For the warp, I am using 8/2 cotton, 30 ends per inch in a 15 dent reed. The weft is 3/2 mercerized cotton. If I was going to do this again, I would use a different reed with wider spacing.
I have to be very watchful for doubled threads that are sticking together in the reed. It helps to beat on an open shed, change to the next treadle and then push the beater back.
Here is my start. I was warned that the pegs may need adjusting once I start weaving, as the cords find their position. After about 8" of weaving, I am to that point because my shuttle is starting to slide under threads. It may have to stay like this until Tuesday, my next open studio day. Hopefully someone will come and be able to give me a hand evaluating each shed.
Once the kinks are worked out, I think I am really going to like this loom with all our upgrades.
This is a continuation of turning my four-shaft loom into an eight-shaft loom.
The rolls of Texsolv cording and the heddles I ordered arrived in the mail over the weekend. I was able to start cutting the cording after Bob helped me put the jacks, lower lamms and treadles on the loom.
I measured each piece and tried it on the loom before cutting all of them. The cording is expensive, so I didn't want to waste any, since I was cutting four to eight pieces of each length.
Each end of the cut cording needs to be melted so it won't unravel over time. I use a candle so I don't have to use the lighter over and over.
Working from the top of the loom, the short pieces that form a "v" at the center of the loom were attached to the jacks.
I am adding a long piece at the bottom of the "v" that extends to the lower lamms.
We had to take the lamms back off because we realized we forgot to add the hooks for the other end of the cord. Bob needed to use the drill press.
Next were the cords from the outer ends of the jacks to the four new shafts. The cording works quite easily because of the evenly spaced holes. One end is threaded through the screw eye and the other end goes through the last loop on the cord and is then pulled tight.
Bob was helping to prepare the shafts for assembly. They are a simple design, with metal pegs in each end.
There is a short metal rod and longer rod and another short metal tube.
The heddles come in bundles of 100, with each end tied off with twist ties, so they don't become tangled.
The ends of the heddles are slipped over the top and bottom shaft bars before joining the ends with the metal rods.
The two rod ends are held together and the metal tube is then slid over the joint toward the bottom shaft bar.
While the heddles were still in a group, I snipped the loops at the top and bottom so they can freely move on the shaft bars. Keeping them together would make it harder to thread the loom.
They should be clipped only after installing them. If I found I had ordered the wrong size, I wouldn't be able to return clipped heddles. The heddles were very tight on the bars until I took off the twist ties and spread them out.
Since I usually thread my looms from the center to the edges, I separated and counted half to each end of the bars.
Having just had cataract surgery the day before, this was about all I could do today. Hopefully I can get more done tomorrow.
About a year and a half ago, my daughter Carolyn and I took a trip down to Midland, Michigan to pick up an old four shaft Bexell Cranbrook countermarche loom. When we got it home and put together, I realized I could expand it to eight shafts, which means more design options for weaving.
Bob and I went and got some hardwood and he cut all the new parts. We have been working on them for quite some time, while weaving on some other four shaft projects on the loom. Yesterday, the twelve yard rug warp was completed, so it is now time to get serious about the expansion.
Hanging in the basement workshop after varnishing them are the new shaft bars, and upper and lower lamms. The jacks are on the box on the workbench.
The treadles still needed some cutting, so Bob worked on that today.
One of the original treadles is on top of one of the new ones. Bob still needs to cut away a little bit of the new ones and cut some grooves for the treadle locking mechanism.
Unfortunately, the raw wood had some water drip off the roof onto them, so they will need to dry a while before I can put some finish on them.
The locking grooves on the originals look like this.
Bob had to chisel them into the new ones. I went down to the basement and checked them and can now sand the spots that got wet. The varnishing will have to wait for another day.
These are all maple, like the originals. I'm really proud of the nice job Bob does on them. It isn't as easy working on hardwood as it is making something with a soft wood like pine.
The treadles hang at the back of the loom and are separated by the upright boards to the right of the chains. This photo is from the left side of the loom.
This is what the separators look like from the front of the loom. Towards the bottoms of them are notches, allowing the treadle to swing to one side and lock in the down position.
It is a nice feature for beginning weavers so they don't lose their place in weaving a pattern, and also for children, because it is hard for a small person to hold a treadle down and throw a shuttle at the same time. It also allows any weaver to weave while standing.
Shaft bars, lamms, and jacks are on the dining room table with a coat of paste wax drying, getting ready for buffing. I did get them buffed and they are all ready for installing.
This is a view of the loom showing the jacks at the top of the loom and the chains that connect to the shafts. The gap is where the new ones go. After I get some measurements, I will need to go to the hardware store and purchase the chain.
I will also need chains between the lamms and the treadles. I will price it out and then research a little to see if I could use a cording called Texsolv instead. A lot will depend on the amount of weight the cording can take.
That is all for today. I'm sure I have several more days before the treadles will be done and everything put together. I will be ready to put a new warp on the loom soon though.
I made our cat Graycie a toy mouse several months ago with a scrap of wool fabric I had left over after making Teddy bears. She loves it and plays with it every day. She always seems to know exactly where it is, even when we can't seem to find it.
Here is the pattern and instructions, and below will be photos of the steps. Click on the words below for a PDF pattern to print.
A while ago, my friend Erin gave me her first loom when she decided to purchase a new one. Since she didn't have room for two, her Leicester Dryad countermarche loom moved to my studio.
My friend Marcia comes to my open studio every Tuesday, and I told her I would give her the loom if she wanted to help me get it working again. We spent last week working on putting Texsolv onto the loom, since I had stripped off all the cording.
Marcia purchased metal rod for the front and back aprons, so one of the first things we did was to replace the thin dowel in the apron hems.
We got all the Texsolv cording measured and installed. In order to get everything functioning and tied up correctly, we needed a warp on the loom. We made a quick one yard test warp.
Countermarche and counterbalance looms need to be tied up from the top down after a warp is wound on the loom and threaded.
We tied a basic four shaft, six treadle tie-up and Marcia played around with the treadling. Her sample is quite colorful.
Our biggest job was ahead of us. There are two hinges on the loom. This one pictured is ok, but the one on the other side was not secure because a big chunk of the wood cracked at the screw holes and one of the screws was missing.
We had to unscrew the top three screws on both hinges so we could access the underside of the board to make the repairs.
The break goes through all three screw holes, with the piece completely broken off at the left hand hole.
We raided Bob's workshop for drill bits, wood glue, drywall screws and various other tools plus toothpicks from the kitchen.
This is the underside of the side board showing the broken piece. I pre-drilled three holes between the three hinge screw holes and countersunk the holes. The drywall screws worked well to draw the glued broken piece up tight.
Marcia finished attaching the piece.
As badly broken as it was, the repair looks pretty good.
We added toothpicks and glue, broken off in the screw holes, to give a better grip for the hinge screws. They went in without any problems.
Another problem we needed to take care of was to drill two more holes in the treadles. The tie-up cords were not able to connect directly under the lamms. They were pulling toward the front of the loom, making the shafts hit the beater and the lamms bump each other. I'm not sure why the loom was made that way, but the two additional holes made everything line up correctly.
We used pointed dowels through the correct holes in the Texsolv cord. One is visible under the treadle. We may need to do some slight adjustments once Marcia winds her next warp. We couldn't test our changes since we needed to remove the remainder of the warp to do the repairs.
The tie-up looks pretty good. This is taken from the side, showing the upper and lower lamms and the treadles.
This is the connecting point for the upper and lower lamms.
The last thing we fixed was the missing beater stop peg. Bob had some dowel the correct size in the workshop, so it was a quick fix, with Marcia doing a little sanding until it fit in the hole firmly.
All in all, I think we make a good team working on repairs.
Next week's project will be having Marcia wind a warp for her first handwoven dishtowels.
I recently read about a method to test whether different yarns would work well together in a project. I have quite a few cones of wool yarns of varying weights, thicknesses, types, and blends, and thought it would be a good idea to see what happens to them after washing.
I cut off a little more than a yard of each yarn, and sorted them into four bundles by size. After folding each bundle in half to the length of the shortest piece, I cut the bundle in half. A knot at the cut end gave me a measuring point. I laid them all out on my striped tablecloth and cut them all the same length, again to the length of the shortest piece.
Leaving four of the bundles as my control groups, I washed the other four as I would if I was wet finishing a project.
After straightening out the washed bundles next to the control bundles, I was able to see the difference in shrinkage. I will now be able to make a more educated guess on which yarns will combine successfully.
Click on the photo for an enlarged view and more detail.
A striped wool blanket has been on my mind. I will avoid the yarns that shrunk the most, since I don't want a seersucker stripe!
I will keep my test and control bundles in my wool cupboard for future reference.
I recently finished three dish towels on Julie, my Swedish counterbalance loom. The design was a six shaft, combination of plain weave and 3/1 twill stripes. I liked how they turned out, the weaving went quickly, and it was a single shuttle weave for the most part. I decided to wind another warp in different colors and rather than thread the six shafts all over again, to tie them to the old warp.
I wound each stripe of 30 or 40 threads separately, tying the cross on each bout, and placing a tight choke tie about 12" - 18" from the cross. I threaded them onto lease sticks at the front of the loom.
I left the previous towels on the loom and attached my tarp clamp temple to the edges to support them when I started to snip threads. I clipped and tied one thread at a time and tied with an overhand knot.
I don't think I saved any time, but it was easier on my eyes, neck and shoulders than threading six shafts of texsolv heddles. Everything was right in front of me. The knots slipped through the reed and heddle eyes with only a little gentle coaxing.
These are the two towels after taking them off the loom and wet finishing them. I wove them each with a different color red.
I used the lashing on method after winding on my second warp. I am becoming a fan of this method, which I learned from Milissa Ellison Dewey in one of her Facebook weaving group posts. It is fast, easy, and gives a nice even tension to the warp. I wish I had a link to post here, but can't find anything.
Below the dark blue line is the finish of the first towel in these colors. It was woven in a light gray.
I like the look of cross stripes, but can add a fair amount of extra time to my weaving and usually requiring a second shuttle.
I am not a proponent of calling errors a "design element", but I did make an error that I decided I could incorporate into the design. I intended on using a double white line evenly spaced, but accidently did a triple line, so I changed my design to alternate two and three. It isn't an error any longer!
I decided on a two pick white stripe because it is easier to overlap the ends and creates no build-up on the edges.
I measured a few pieces a bit longer that twice the width and unplied one end on each of them. The bundle is lying across the towel.
I use a stick shuttle to push the weft piece through, so both ends hang out from the edges, and then beat.
Changing to the next shed, I push both ends in until they overlap. One end is already unplied. I check for a good overlap length, allowing for my angle, and trim to the correct length and then unply the other end and overlap in the shed and beat. Once I determine the proper length of the piece of weft, I cut the remainder of them and unply the ends ahead of time.
The overlap is hardly visible. (Click on the photo to make it bigger.)
This is a great technique for weaving rag rugs if the plan is for only two passes and it saves on trying to tuck the ends in at each edge.
I use the same method when doing a single pass of rag when doing rugs, but cut the strip half the thickness and a little more than twice the width of the rug. I wrap the rag around the outer selvedge threads and overlap in the same shed, somewhere away from the edges.
I'm really liking the look of this towel, and think my goof was a good one.
I’m trying to get some projects wrapped up before leaving on our train trip next week. I’ve been dyeing some yarn with black walnut. In the first photo, on the right, is how it looks straight out of the pot and on the left is after it’s been rinsed. The skein on the right is from my friend Mark Maier's sheep, and the rinsed skein is some rug wool I purchased quite a while ago.
These are both rinsed skeins. Considering how dark the skeins were before rinsing, they lost a considerable amount of color.
The dye bath was made from husks that had already turned black, and the liquid was very dark. I simmered the husks for a while and then let it sit for a couple days before straining the solids from the liquid.
Yesterday, I heated the liquid and then added hot washed wool yarn and simmered it for a while. Then I let it soak overnight and rinsed and dried it today.
I don't have enough time right now to do any more dyeing, even though there is a lot of color still left in the pot. Doing a gradation experiment or trying some different mordants would have been interesting. I'm wondering if adding a mordant such as alum would have made the yarn darker.
Perhaps next year I will do some experimenting with it again. I read that a darker dye can be obtained from the green husks or the the nuts without the husks.
For a little over a year, I have been working my way through this book with my 10-shaft Swedish counterbalance loom.
I started out with four shafts and a coarse yarn, making a table runner.
Moving on, I skipped over trying a 5-shaft weave because it sounded a bit more complicated than I was ready to tackle. Six shafts was next on my list.
This was fun to search handweaving.net for a six shaft pattern. I chose #49712.
My friend Julie gave me the counterbalance loom I have been working on, since she had owned it for a long time and never used it. I asked her what she wanted for it and she told me to weave her something. When I got to the time to try eight shafts, I decided to make her a Teddy bear.
It was back to choosing patterns again. I wasn't going to weave for a single bear, so chose several patterns to pick from.
Jenny MacPokebeary joined Julie's family, and she loves the clothes and tartan Julie made for her.
I'm in the process of making other bears with the above fabrics.
I was finally ready to try five shafts, and that brings me to my frustration over the last few days. I chose a fairly simple pattern I found in a Handwoven magazine
from Nov/Dec 2009.
My problem was with the
tie-up of the counterbalance loom. Four shafts are pretty straightforward, but
when more than four are used, some additional maneuvering around needs to be
All the tie-ups
start at the top when hooking up a counterbalance loom, with the pulleys, shaft
levelers, the height of the shafts and beater, lamms, and last of all, the
On page 218 of The Big
Book of Weaving, the author gave instructions to hang five shafts with four
horses and four pulleys. I think I tried it with various adjustments about
three times, which meant getting under the loom and disconnecting all the
treadles and lamms each time, leveling the shafts again, and doing all the
tie-up again. Nothing was working well enough to get a good shed.
In the book, under the
first instructions, she mentioned switching to the eight-shaft pulleys if the
first way didn't work. I wish I had tried the second way first, because
Here is a side view of the shafts, horses and the two 8-shaft pulleys. Each pulley unit uses four horses. The first horse connects to shaft 1 & 2, the second to 2 &3,
the third to 3 & 4, the fourth to 4 & 5. The other pulley unit
connects in a mirror image of the first one.
Right side horses
connected to the shafts.
Left side horses. Note
the mirror image to the right side.
A test gave me pretty
good sheds so I wove a little scrap yarn.
I'm a happy weaver now!
This warp will become place mats or a runner.
Warp and weft is 8/2
cotton in black, navy, red and white. It is sett two per dent in a 12
dent reed for 24 ends per inch (epi).