The Sleying Chair and My New Reed

June 8, 2008


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.


10 Responses to “The Sleying Chair and My New Reed”

  1. Jane Says:

    Reeds are one of those thangs that it would be nice if standardized. Yes, for many looms there is some amount of wiggle room, but for many there is not and one size certainly does *not* fit all.

    Am so delighted for you that you did find one, and that those sley bells are now ringing (hey! puns are a sign of intelligence! :p)

    Have a new project on the loom myself but am mucho busy this week, so won’t get a lot of weaving done.

    Looking forward to seeing you work your loom magic!


  2. Picture-wise you are doing better than I. I get more like one out of 20-30 that I want to keep! But then I experiment with all sorts of settings and positions as well. Digital cameras are great fun!

  3. Kimmen Says:

    Ah, yes. I have lots of reeds. All std sizes, that I happily interchange on looms. Until I went and grabbed one for my second hand Mountain Loom. No fit. Must be 4.5″ high. Fortunately, my weaving teacher had told me about Gowdey Reed. They build reeds for industry, and guess what- they will happily build one for for an individual to any measurement you give them. It arrives in a couple of weeks, and they are extremely reasonable. I am a very happy customer of theirs. File them away for future reference.

    Am enjoying your blog.


  4. trapunto Says:

    What wonderful information! I went to find the Gowdey Reed Company website, but it doesn’t appear to be functioning. I hope they are doing okay. I would really like them to stay in business.

    Here’s the URL:

  5. Kimmen Says:

    You are right! their web site does not seem to be working. their phone is (401) 723-6114- I hope they are still in business- I just got a reed from them about 2 months ago.


  6. Susan Berlin Says:

    On my Bergman loom, the beater bar is held in place by a pin — and yes, the hole for the pin means that only a 4.5 inch reed will fit. But if you really wanted to get a 5 inch reed in, couldn’t you drill another hole for the pin?


  7. Susan Berlin Says:

    If anyone is still looking, the Gowdey reed website is now up and running:


  8. trapunto Says:

    Thanks for stopping by Susan. It’s good to know the Gowdey website is up! Unfortunately my 1936 Bergman beater bar has no room to rise; some Bergmans are like that. Gravity and friction hold the beater bar in place on top of the reed. The pegs that slot through to hold it in place are so short and tapered, that if I put a taller reed than 4.75″, there is simply not enough peg sticking up to hold on to the bar, and no room to drill for a pin.

  9. […] The Sleying Chair and My New Reed […]

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