June 24, 2008

I always thought I might end up with a website some day, rather than a blog, if only for the reason that I keep having the sorts of ideas that can only be implemented on the internet.  For instance, I can imagine a complete personality profiler made up of answers to either-or questions:  Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise?  Sandals with socks, or sandals without socks?  Serif or sans serif?  I know there are quiz sites but I was imaging something more lengthy and random.

I was also telling my husband I could work out a social site that matches up likely conversation partners according to a list each person submits of their 100 favorite books.  My husband replied that most people don’t have 100 favorite books, even people who like to read.  This is true; people differ in their reasons for reading, their levels of choosiness, and their willingness to consider (or admit) that a book is a “favorite.”  So I would change that to a list of 100 Most Enjoyed Reads.  The situation surrounding the reading of the book can tinge your enjoyment, and that would add an interesting wild card to the matching.  It would also make the lists more likely to include obscure books.

Obviously, the built-in first factor of compatibility would be that everyone using the site was the kind of booky person who believes they would have more in common with a stranger on the internet who can rattle off their 100 favorite books than, say, a hipster stagily reading a copy of Man and Superman at the local coffee shop.

So I got curious.  Do I have 100 Most Enjoyed Reads?  I am list-maker by nature, so I keep a lot of lists of authors I want to remember or recommend to other people, but I have never just tried to make a list of books I loved reading.

Once I started, I realized I needed more parameters.  Further rules for the 100 Most-Enjoyed Reads:  1) Only one book per author.  So, if there is an author you really love, just pick out either your favorite book by that author, or a good specimen of enjoyability.  2)You think you would still enjoy the book if you read it again.  For myself I added: 3) Only fiction and memoirs.

The results were a little embarrassing.  I read more widely than my list suggests.  Apparently, the books I enjoy most intensely tend to be fantasies or speculative fiction or novels marketed for young adults (I do not apologize!).  Not much science fiction made the list, although I do read it.  Neither did much contemporary literary fiction for adults; most of which is in my head and right out again because it feels very flash-in-the-panny.  I tend to get bored with the protagonists’ banal struggles and, well, contemporaneity.  Or, in the case of historical characters, their anachronisms.  I read contemporary literary fiction the way I would watch TV if I watched TV.

We do watch plenty of DVDs though, and . . . *whisper* anime.  (There!  Now I’ve done it!  The most stigmatic genre-admission of them all!)

If you want to see my book list, click right over there to the side.  I’ve added it as a separate page.



We have guests coming Friday, and I have a to-do list for that.  But I don’t want to do to-dos!  I want to weave.

Last night I figured out all my continuing color changes and cut and spliced and wound my yarn into balls.  It is exactly (fingers crossed!) enough for my first scarf on this warp.  Now that my color plans are finished, the weaving gets interesting as I see how it turns out on the loom.

I am so grateful for the comments you have been leaving on my blog.  A weaver whose first weaving lessons were in Nepal has left some fascinating descriptions of decorated Nepali counterbalance looms in the comments section of my last-post-but-one, Speaking of Reeds:

If you love weaving and beautiful looms, have a look!

Namaste, “Nepali looms.”

I received some interesting responses when I posted about my problems winding warps with a warping mill and beaming them on.  Jane, solo warper and owner of international looms, had raddle advice: slit paper towel tubes.  And I was all like, duh! and yet, wow!  One of the things I love about weaving is the way household objects start becoming weaving tools; Jane uses Home Depot painter’s paper to separate her warp.  Cally offered hope of a well-trained husband.  Katherine, a sectional warper, likewise recommends skilled beaming help.  A bit later I found out Charleen has a vertical reel that works fine for her, now that she has learned to overcome her dizziness (though she does wind in quite small bouts).  Dizziness is one thing that has never been a problem for me while warping!  I wonder if this is a hidden advantage of the horizontal reels.  The lengths of warp slide past your eyes up-and-down, rather than side-to-side like scenery whizzing past a moving car.

I also got an out-of-the-blue comment from a seasoned Bergman Loom owner.  One of my hopes for this blog has been that new Bergman owners will find it and be spared some of the trouble I had with mine in the beginning, but I was surprised to hear from a veteran.

The lady was kind enough enough to measure her loom and send pictures.  I asked her to do this because I have long suspected that my incurably narrow sheds are due to my loom being shorter in the castle and/or breast beam than later Bergman looms.  There are not many pictures of Bergman looms on the internet–none full-figure–but I do have an magazine article from the 1940’s with a grainy photo of half a dozen set up in a library meeting room for a guild exposition.  It was very hard to see, but I pored over it, and it seemed to me the castles were taller than mine.

This lady’s loom was made in the 1970’s, shortly before the Bergmans closed up shop.  Her castle and breast beam are nearly the same height as mine (in fact my breast beam is 1/2 inch taller), but my upper and lower lamms are set 2” closer together.

Bingo!  When the upper and lower banks of lamms on a countermarche are attached to the loom too close together, your sheds are small.  Why?  Well, when you push on the treadle, the rising lower lamms and the falling upper lamms quickly crash into each other.  At that point, you can’t push the treadle any farther, so that’s as big as your shed gets.  Ditto the sinking shafts and the rising upper lamms: crash!  The best you can do is to adjust the cord lengths for all the moving parts for maximum non-crashing movement.

This is why Glimåkra looms are so hugely tall (aside from needing somewhere to hang the beater).  The more vertical space in which your shafts and lamms and treadles have free play, the bigger your sheds can be.

. . . as I understand it after crawling around my loom for months, trying to maximize my sheds.  Not that I have ever woven on a full size Scandinavian countermarche.  I’ve just thought a whole lot about loom design.  There is no better education in simple mechanics than pinpointing the shortcomings of your own machine. 

The Bergman loom was designed low and compact in order to be quite strong, yet fold easily when warped.  This has wonderful advantages.  You don’t have to take it apart to get it through a doorway, just fold in the wings.  But there are sacrifices you will make with a smaller loom.  If the height of your countermarche loom affects the size of your sheds, the depth of the loom affects their quality.  A Bergman loom may be decently deep for a countermarche, but not for a Scandinavian-style countermarche.

Deeper looms allow for more inches of stretched warp from back beam to breast beam.  This means (how do I describe this; it’s all so visual!) more total elasticity, therefore less stress on your threads while weaving.  For instance, pull on an 80” inch piece of string, then a 20” piece of string: there is more “give” in the 80” piece.  Now picture each of these two pieces of string stretched across a brick and tacked to the floor at both ends.  The 80” inch string approaches the floor from the top of the brick at a gently inclined angle, whereas the 20” string is very sharply inclined.  On a short looms the sharp incline of the warp from the lowered shafts to the fell line contributes to bad sheds.  This is because the thread angle produced by each separate lowered shaft will be quite different from its neighbor’s.  The steep angle magnifies all the discrepancies.  Your shuttle will try to sneak under the high threads when it’s supposed to glide over them.  Here’s an old picture I borrowed for a good cause.  Thank you, Ulla Cyrus.

You can get good sheds with a Bergman (I’m taking this on good faith from Mrs. S-G), but it will take a lot of fiddling.

My Texsolv tie-up is a problem in this department.  A person can only fiddle with Texsolv so much, because it only allows adjustments in 1 cm increments.  I would really appreciate being able make finer adjustments than that.  I decided to make a fresh start with the Texsolv because my loom’s tie-up had been Frankensteined.  The cords it came with were ancient, all lengths, several thicknesses–none of which fit through the holes in the lamms.   I wrapped the ends with masking tape and worried them through for my first warp, but it was hellish.  The rest of the cords were clearly on their last legs, er, strands.  The heddles were so many sizes, I couldn’t even guess which size was correct.  I think someone had simply grabbed a bunch of assorted heddles and cords belonging to various looms from what remained of Mrs. S-G’s weaving school supplies.

You wouldn’t think so, but restringing the loom with Texsolv was a huge job, as well as expensive.   My advice?  If you don’t have to go the Texolv route, don’t–at least not until you have woven 3 or 4 warps.  Unfortunately Bergmans take less kindly to Texsolv cords than most looms.  As well as the difficulty making fine adjustments, the usual benefits of Texsolv aren’t available to Bergman owners.  Because there are only 6 holes in the treadles of an 8-shaft Bergman loom, you must must make old-fashioned treadle loops.  This means no going-through-the-treadle-hole-anchoring-underneath.  No cool Vävstuga knitting needle tie-up.  Just a messy loop-through-a-loop secured with an arrow peg.

Another inconvenience: the holes in Bergman lamms are small.  Unless you take a drill to them (Please don’t!), it will be a real pain to get a Texsolv cord through.  You will spend a lot of time with a candle, melting and shaping the ends of all 80 tie up cords to severe 1” points.

That said, my Texsolv tie-up is a big improvement over the one my loom came with.  I even replaced the wires that went from the inner jacks to the lower lamms.  None of the several lengths of wire that came with the loom were the right length–more Frankensteining.  Since Texsolv is slippery, this seems to work okay, although it adds a little bulk between the shafts.

If I had it to do over again I might look harder for some linen tie-up cord.  Did you know dense, non-stretchy cord is really hard to find?  Some sources I consulted recommended linen drapery cord–the kind that goes around the pulleys on fancy fitted drapes, or that you use to string roman blinds.  In the 21st century?  Pff, doesn’t exist for normal mortals!  Though I suppose a person could try asking a seamstress or an upholsterer who sews custom drapes.  Pretty much all non-stretchy cord is synthetic now, and you really need the friction of a natural-fiber cord to make the treadle tie-up knots and Bergman twist-around-a-cuphook adjustments hold properly.  I recently discovered that Earth Guild carries seine twine.**  I bought some and it is very sturdy but not thick enough enough for the treadle tie-up.  I wonder if there are any linen carpet warps heavy enough and highly twisted enough to work for that?

I would still buy Texsolv heddles, though.  The string heddles were a pleasure to thread, and easier on my eyes than shiny Texsolv, but really needed to be replaced.  Personally, I knew I was not going to make a heddle block and tie 900 new string heddles, so Texsolv was just dandy!

Let me wind up with a testament to the power of the Internet. While I was composing this I heard from a brand new weaver who just yesterday bought a lovely older Bergman like mine.  It’s really exhilarating to have something to offer!  I had been wondering if there is any point in talking countermarche shop at such length (Like dreams, eccentric looms are always most interesting to their owners.), but now I think I will go ahead make this the first in a series of related posts, with excursions back to my current project and whatnot.  A sort of Rough Guide to Bergman Weaverland.  Maybe it will even entertain some armchair travelers.


**Sorry, I meant to say Earth Guild carries hawser twine.  “Seine twine” was stuck in my head because the old books say to use linen seine twine for heddles.  It seems to be a marine product. I see Camilla Valley Farm sells it in cotton and cotton/poly for tapestry and rug warps.  It looks a little lighter-weight than my hawser twine.

Speaking of Reeds

June 13, 2008


I bought this at an imports store that is trying to make a go of it in a small, mostly-abandoned 40’s shopping district near our place.  What is it?  Why, it’s a weaving hanger-upper!

Only, I am going to make it a weaving hanger-downer–maybe with a heavy knobbed rod at the top to balance it out–because this way round, the design looks wrong for Western textiles:

It’s really interesting to me how just reversing the curves of the scrollwork, something can look Western or Eastern.  I’ll bet art historians have written about it:  The flame and the lotus, versus the acanthus and the rose.

Der Mann and I were taking a walk when I spotted a box of what looked like weaving equipment on the sidewalk.  I got him to hold my tea mug while I pawed through.  There were a lot of wooden hangers like this one (but not so nice), bamboo hangers, and a bunch of small Thai reeds.  Most of the reeds had unevenly split and spaced rattan tines(?) and very coarse decorative carving, so I figured they had been made for the tourist trade rather than actual use.  One older reed looked functional.  The dents were very small and even, it had a black patina of soot, and the carving was much finer.  Curious, I went inside to ask the proprietor if she knew what sort of loom it would be used with.  I couldn’t imagine how it would fit into a piece of weaving equipment, with all that bumpy carving on top, so I was thinking it belonged to some sort of backstrap loom.

The lady said no, these reeds went with the big Thai looms.  She looked for a picture in her books but couldn’t find one.  I had noticed while we were talking that the old reed had been broken clean across the carved top and mended with glue, so I put it back in the box.  It cost a bit too much for a (broken) curiosity.

At home I started looking for pictures of traditional Thai looms on the internet–still a little skeptical as to whether such narrow, highly decorated reeds were typical fare.  I know Thai silk weaving can be very sophisticated, so I was picturing very elaborately constructed traditional looms.

This says a lot about weaving!  All you need, when you get right down to it, is a frame to hold your cloth and warp beams apart at tension, string, and sticks.  The elaborations are optional.  This picture is the best I could find, but there were other looms without even the pulleys to balance the shafts, just a loop of string over a large bamboo pole tied to the upper frame.  Still others had horses that were simply short sticks tied with string.

The reed seems to be the part of the loom that gets decorated.  This one has nice scalloping but I saw another that had figurative carving like the one at the shop.  And when I thought about it, yes, that makes sense.  The beater/reed is the part of the loom you handle.  The part that takes the most skill to make.  It’s traditional in the West as well.  Only we put our reeds in separting beaters, and decorate the beaters.  Or used to.

Have a look at this:


10.   This kind of loom is only getting more and more popular.  You’ll never find another this cheap.

9.  You’ll be more productive, because it will prevent you from tying up your main loom with super time-consuming warps.

8.  You’ll learn more, because you’ll be willing to try more time-consuming weaves.

7.  It’s small (for a loom).  You can put it . . . somewhere when you’re not using it.

6.  If you decide you don’t really need it, you can sell it on eBay.

5.  Maybe you’ll even turn a profit.  It’s an investment.

4.  You can warp it up and loan it to your favorite relative who has expressed an interest in weaving.

3. Lots of people have 2 {3, 4, 5…} looms.

2. You’ll use up all that cruddy yarn you’ve been given.

1.  It’s old!  It’s cute!  If you don’t buy it, some unappreciative schmuck will stick it in their closet for 40 years!


My Bergman loom came with a 4 1/2” high, 15 dent reed made by the Andrews Co.  When I started looking for a second reed, I discovered that the 4 1/2” height is not standard.  (I’m guessing the Bergmans ordered their reeds in bulk from a mill supplier.)  I looked around the internet for the Andrews Company of Spartanburg SC, to see if they were still in existence, or if some of their reeds were still floating around . . . but no.  Then I looked into suppliers of modern-day industrial reeds.  Too complicated and expensive for a private buyer.

“But why,” you may ask, “not use a 5″ reed and let your beater top rest higher?”

This is what the owner of a weaving store suggested.  Her Glimåkra reeds were discounted because she was selling her business.  She was so certain about the adjustability of ALL beater tops, that against my better judgement I took home a reed.  Surely the 1/2″ difference was so small it wouldn’t matter?  It did.  There really is such a thing as a non-adjustable beater top.

“But several handweaving suppliers offer custom-made reeds. . .”

I had my reservations about those custom handweaving reeds because the bars looked too wide.  Unlike Glimåkra reeds, which have duct tape wrapping the bars, the custom reeds’ are covered with wide, hard strips of plastic.  My sheds were already making contact with the narrow lower bar of my Andrews reed.  The last thing I needed was a reed that interfered with my already tiny sheds!

In the end I went ahead and ordered a custom reed from a Large Well-Known Weaving Supply Company.  It took a LONG time to arrive.  Far longer than they had warned was possible with custom reed orders.  Longer still.  Several long times.  Finally it came packed in nothing but a flimsy cardboard wrapping.  Naturally, it was bent!  I was allowed to return it because UPS would refund them the cost.  I was just as glad to be rid of it.  Even if it hadn’t been bent, it looked really poor.

My story ends happily a year later.  The moral: LeClerc reeds are not really 5 inches high.  Their actual measurements are 4 3/4 inches.

The other moral:  Earth Guild is great!

Here I am pre-sleying my new LeClerc reed.  I’ve had it a few weeks, but I wasn’t able to try it in my beater until I’d cut the blue-and-white runner off the loom.  It’s tight in the grooves (I can’t adjust it side-to-side without taking my beater apart and prying it clear out), and the beater top rests 3/16” above of its proper place, but it’s secure enough to weave with.  I hear LeClerc started using molded plastic pieces on their reed bars about a year ago.  Their plastic is less bulky than the plastic on the custom reed, but if I ever find an old tape-wrapped LeClerc reed, I’ll certainly buy it.  I suspect it will fit more smoothly into my beater.

The IKEA clips are great for pre-sleying.  Because they are made to accommodate a gathered plastic bag, they don’t pinch the yarn tightly enough distress it.  You can see how the ends of my rocking chair arms keep the reed from sliding against my body.  I can easily pick everything up and put it on the floor if I need to get up.

Today I have been trying to take pictures as I beam on and start threading.  I’m naturally disinclined to photography–maybe because I get one passable shot for every 7–but we’ll see how it goes.


Before this, my last project was the “mock Welsh tapestry” I designed in doubleweave for a class.  When I cut it off the loom I swore the next thing I wove would be huge and obscenely simple.  I didn’t quite achieve huge, but I think I’ve got obscenely simple in the bag.

I got bored!  I didn’t think I could get bored weaving!

You’re looking at an 80” x 14 1/2” runner in 4/4 twill.  It isn’t intended for the table shown here, but for a much bigger rectangular table that has been living in the car port since we moved.

The threading switches directions in the center with a herringbone skip.  I also reversed the treadling at the half-way mark, so you get this sort of thing going on with the twill lines in the middle: ><

I planned the project around the weft yarn.  When I first discovered eBay yarn I trawled for bargains by fiber.  This is a cotton/rayon knitting yarn.  My reasoning at the time:  It’s probably got That Blue I Like That You Never See (somewhere between cyan and cadet blue), it’s cheap, there’s a lot of it, and cool!, it’s Italian.

Unfortunately the seller’s pictures didn’t show me that this is a chained (more like knitted?) yarn–the kind that wants to unchain really badly.  I decided I to go ahead and use it because I liked the colors.  Every three quills, I cut my loose ends down to the web and applied a tiny drip of fray check to keep them from unraveling.  Dried fray check has a nasty texture, but is fairly easy to control.  Which is to say, I can feel where the ends are if I run my hands over the thing, but it’s not as if there are stiff places in the cloth.

(I’ve since gotten over eBay yarn.  Yarn hunting that way is really time consuming–and cut-throat!–but it taught me a lot about what exists.  Old yarns they don’t make any more.  Scandinavian yarn.  Japanese yarn.  Fine threads.  Mill ends!  It was also a course in brands.  Sellers would proudly advertise their “Silk City” this or that–or some other distributor–I’d be puzzled, and then I would set out on the internet to discover why it was worth mentioning.)

As for the fringe . . . I don’t care for fringe on household linens, but the sett here was too wide (15 epi) for a nicely hemable header, so I tried some 4-strand flat braids instead.  Yeah, not too attractive with those wavy ends.

At least it shows off my good china.  I bought this mid-century German porcelain for myself when I was 17 and anticipating a life of refined-yet-Bohemian spinsterhood.  (My husband and I had a secret wedding, so no wedding china.)  I’m still not tired of it, possibly because it has been in a box in the closet since then, waiting patiently for the day when we are grown up, and have elegant friends, and throw formal dinner parties for them in the car port.

Um.  Still waiting.