Warping my Bergman With Mrs. S-G

July 1, 2008


I wish I could have met Mrs. S-G, the original owner of my loom.  She was a fine weaver, a good designer, and extremely productive.  At some point in her life she became acquainted with Margaret Bergman and jumped into weaving with both feet.  Imagine you are a homemaker in the 1930’s (it’s still the Depression, remember).  Imagine what a self-defined person you would have to be to end up raising sheep, owning half a dozen looms or more, and running a popular weaving school within the next two decades.  Further, imagine the difficulties that you might face as a middle-aged family woman in the 1950’s who has decided to register and commute into the city for a textile class at the state university–perhaps having never taken a college course in your life!

I have only a few of Mrs. S-G’s papers and class materials, but they are enough to show me what an extraordinary person she was.  I get the impression she saw herself as an apostle of Margaret Bergman, carrying the Great Weaver’s teachings to the opposite outlying area of the region.  Everything I have read about Margaret Bergman suggests she was a extremely inspirational and generous woman.  Her students held her in awe.

Among the books, magazines, and papers that came to me with Mrs. S-G’s loom were some mimeographed copies of her warping hand-out.  She wrote it to help her students remember the way she taught them to warp in class, so it is hard to puzzle out on its own.

I was only able to understand the hand-out after putting it together with a typescript of instructions the Bergmans provided with their looms in 1969.  Unfortunately, these instructions didn’t come to me with my loom.  I didn’t even know they existed until I was deep in tie-up-adjustment perplexity!  I was so shy of “bothering” experienced weavers with my obscure problems, that I was pretty desperate by the time I contacted the same weaving guild Mrs. Bergman helped form in 1938.  It was a slim chance, but I hoped someone living in the area of the Bergman workshop might still be weaving on a Bergman loom, or at least be able to point me to a museum or archive with Bergman resources.

This was the first time I saw how small the weaving world is.  The guild member who received my email happened to be related to the Bergman family herself.  She was lovely.  It took her only a day to provide the typescript!

I can’t say the typescript of, “Getting Acquainted With Your Bergman Loom,” and “Warping Your Bergman Loom” made everything clear.  It bears the mark of a weaver who has explained a particular thing so many times that she’s developed her own short-hand terminology for addressing beginners.  To my ear, it also seems to be written by someone for whom English was a second language.  (I know a bit of Swedish and I can hear echoes of it in the rhythm and syntax, if I’m not imagining things.)   Like Mrs. S-G’s warping instructions, the Bergman directions really need to be accompanied by illustrations–or by the demonstrations of the teacher herself!

My point in all this?  Well, mainly that what you are about to see is my implementation (with a few extra tips) of Mrs. S-G’s method of warping a Bergman loom, but also of her teacher’s, Margaret Bergman’s.


1.  Wind your warp from 2 or more cones/spools at once.  You only need to make a cross at one end of the warp, but I am paranoid (you will see why in a few more steps) so I make crosses at both ends.

2.  Put a lease stick into each each side of your cross, and tie the lease sticks together at the ends with about 2” of space between them.

3.  Pick up loops of warp and pre-sley your reed with the grouped warp threads, working out how many dents to skip according to the number of cones/spools you were winding from.  (This calculation always sounds a lot more complicated when it’s written down, so I’m not going to try to explain it.  A picture in a good weaving book is worth a thousand words in this case).

My husband points out that “pre-sleying” makes it sound as if you are only going to have to sley your reed once, and you are getting it over with first thing.  Sadly, no.  Pre-sleying is when you use your reed as a raddle.  I have found I like to do this on a chair with arms, over my lap.

Traditionally the reed is propped up on edge using reedholders, on a table.  Two pairs of steel office-supply-store bookends will also (sort of) do the job.  Thread a stick through the loops of warp as you bring them through the reed, so they don’t pull back out again.  Here I’m using using IKEA bag clips instead.  Much easier to manage.


4.  Next you’ll prepare the loom.  Take your beater off the loom.  Lift your treadle assembly out of its peg-holes and put it aside on the floor somewhere.  Take off your breast beam and put it aside, too.  Lift the cloth beam to its upper position in the angled groves (first removing the cotter pins, if they are securing it).  Push the L-shaped wires clear through the holes in the front of the jack box to secure all the jacks.

5.  Now for some Bergman magic:  Lift your whole jack box down from the top of the castle and set it in the recessed area designed to support it at thigh level.  If your shafts/ heddle sticks are currently suspended from the jacks at this step, you will first use heavy twine or shoelaces to tie them together in a bundle, top and bottom, on each side, and let them come along for the ride (the wires that will attach the inner jacks to the lower lamms can come too).

6.  Put the beater back on the loom.  Tie the uprights of the beater loosely to the uprights of the loom; leave enough slack that when you pull the beater back toward you, it is cradled in position a few inches past the vertical: That is, it is leaning toward the front of the loom.

7.  Put your pre-sleyed reed in the beater and center it.  Replace your breast beam on the loom.  Flop your chained warp over the top of the breast beam.  Work your lease sticks back from the reed and tie the nearest stick of the pair very loosely to your warp beam on either side.

When everything has been done in the previous steps, your loom will look like this (with the exception of my beater, which is leaning the wrong way, and the white cord I keep tied to my castle, which isn’t holding anything at the moment).

8.  Now, if you have have two back beams like me, make sure you are using the one in the top position (the other should be stored out of the way).  Unwind the warp beam rod from the warp beam.  The lashings that hold this to the warp beam should be reeling out from the underside of the warp beam.  Take the rod and lacings over the back beam.  From the underside of the back beam, bring them forward to the reed.

Here is how this will look from the inside-back of the loom.

I have a piece of black elastic securing the lever of my warp beam ratchet to the nearest corbel.  That way the ratchet doesn’t lose contact with the pawls during the following steps.

9.  The object is to get all those loops you pre-sleyed through the reed spread out on the warp beam rod.  Likely, you will have to free the rod from the lashings and let them dangle off the back beam.  On my warp beam rod, I have marked the three places my lashings naturally rest with a pencil, so I know where they’re supposed to go when I thread them on again.

Place the warp beam rod through the loops the IKEA bag clips (or stick) are holding, remove the IKEA clips (or stick), and replace the lashings, making sure everything is centered and square.  Wind the warp beam a little to get some tension on the lacing, bringing the warp beam rod level with the back beam.  Keep winding until all the lacing has been taken up, and the warp reaches the warp beam.  Now it’s time to transfer the cross.

10.  Carefully free the lease sticks from the warp beam and transfer the cross to the other side of the reed.  You will need an extra lease stick, and you will want to see pictures of how this is done.  Several older books show the method; it’s often called “transferring the lease.”  Here is the description in the Bergman instructions:

Now transfer the lease sticks and the cross to the back side of the reed.  To do this, use a third stick as a substitute for the stick that is to be removed . . . Untie the lease sticks and lift the one nearest to the reed, inserting the third stick in the space where this lease stick is.  The lease stick should then be removed and the spare stick raised close to the reed to get a shed behind the reed to put the lease stick into.  Insert the lease stick in this shed and remove the spare stick.  Raise the second lease stick and insert the spare before removing it.  Raise the spare stick (which is in front of the reed) and insert the lease stick behind the reed in the same shed.  Remove the spare, tie the lease sticks together again. . .

It’s not as hard as it sounds, though if you drop the sticks you can lose the cross.  (That’s why I make an extra cross when I’m winding my warp.)  Here is where your lease sticks will rest after you’ve transferred your cross to the back of the reed:

 11.  With a piece of string at each corner, tie the paired lease sticks to the loom, so they can rest slightly hammocked in the space between the castle and the back beam.

12.  While you wind your warp onto your warp beam, you will stand to the side of the loom, one hand on the warp beam, one hand holding the warp at tension over the center of breast beam.  Surprisingly, this works!  I’m not sure how it’s done with a wide, multi-chain warp, but it was fine for this 13” wide warp for wool scarves.  Use paper, or put in beaming sticks to separate the layers of warp on the warp beam as you go.  They’re easy to grab if you keep them in the storage box at the top of the loom.

The fact that your beater is inclined a little toward the warp beam will help you catch tangles.  If it pulls toward the castle, you know something is impeding the smooth flow of the warp through the reed.

13.  When the loops at the final end of the warp approach your reed, cut them and let the ends pull through.

14.  Take your beater and breast beam off the loom again.  Now, VERY CAREFULLY, dispensing warp if you need to, untie the four strings holding your paired lease sticks between the castle and the back beam.  Hang the lease sticks SECURELY from the cup hooks on the underside of the storage box that tops the castle by string loops or what-have-you, like so:

15.  Lift the jack box back up to the top of the castle.

16.  Untie your bundled shafts (or put them on, if they were detached), arrange your heddles on your heddle sticks, and sit inside the front of the loom to thread.

The bench will fit inside the loom, but you will probably prefer to sit on something lower.  Adjust the height of the shafts and the hanging lease sticks to suit you.  With my Texsolv tie up, I like to hook the shafts from the button-holes of the chain cord in ascending height, front to back, which makes it easy to keep track of which shaft is which.  Go ahead and fetch your treadles back to the loom.  Let the treadle assembly rest in in its storage position right in front of the lowered jack box, pegs in holes (this is shown in the second to last photo).  The beam has rounded edges and makes a good surface to rest your forearms on while threading.


17.  When the heddles are threaded and the threads are secured in bundles, tie the lease sticks a few inches from the back beam.  (Yes, the Bergman instructions expect you to leave the lease sticks in while weaving.  I have woven with and without, and I think it may improve the sheds a bit to leave the lease sticks in, but I’m still not sure about that.  It’s certainly useful when you have to fix broken warp ends.)

18.  Bring your beater back to the loom.  Don’t put it on the pivot bolt, put it on the floor just in front of the bolt and tie it to the uprights on either side.  No slack, this time.

19.  Sley the reed.  You will find it is at a good height for this with the beater resting on the floor.

20.  Let the cloth beam down to its lowest position.  Insert the cotter pins (dangling from strings nearby) into the hidden holes to secure it there.

21.  Put the beater up on the pivot bolt.  Make sure your washers are in position to keep the bottoms of the beater-uprights from getting chewed by the head of the bolt.

22.  Bring your apron and apron rod up around your breast beam from the underside and tie on your warp.

23.  Once you have tied on, adjust the hanging-height of your shafts so that the warp passes directly through the center of the eyes of your heddles, or a very little higher.

Now you are ready to tie up the lamms and treadles!


A final note:  If you want to preserve the tie-up you used for your last warp, as I did in this case, you can leave it in place and still follow the steps above.  Just be sure to detach the lamms from the jacks and the shafts, and let them rest on the floor before you lower the jack box, or the jack box will be an unmanageable weight.   Here is how it will look under the loom if you preserve your tie-up.  You can still move your treadles up to the resting position for threading.



19 Responses to “Warping my Bergman With Mrs. S-G”

  1. Ahoy Trapunto!

    Whew! Simply reading those instructions nearly caused me to burst an aneurysm. Although I must say, a loom that gorgeous deserves every moment spent at it no matter what the process.

    Am finally back at home, and glad to be here. Was completely reminded that a fan of hot, humid, sticky weather I am not. Not no way, not no how.

    Loved your book list, btw. Two good friends of mine and myself used to choose our favorite books of the past year and swap lists for good summer reading. I love peeking in on what captivates others.

    One of my all time favorites is “Stranger in a Strange Land.” OK and a scrillion others . . . will definitely put a list together. You’ve inspired me!

    Just had to drop by for a cuppa in your charming carport.

    Cheers, and warp like an Egyptian,

    Jane <- – who just scored 120 pounds of assorted linen and cotton . . . stay tuned.

  2. Yippee!!! What a fantastic post with really helpful step-by-step explanations! I’m sure it will save me many hours when I finally get to do this on my loom. I have the feeling my loom was used in school setting — I wonder if it could have been Mrs. S-G’s school? I haven’t created a warp yet (so I don’t know if it will work), but I purchased some small roundish orange clips from the hardware store to use to clip the cross together rather than tying with string. Thanks so much for this post.

  3. Stef Says:

    Whew! That’s an involved process! I didn’t see the part of the process where the cats become interested and you have to untangle them from the warp and lamms…or the part where you have to break for a sip of tea (or stiff drink). 😉

    I didn’t realize that your loom had the solid pieces between the castle and front beam. What a sturdy loom you have – no wonder your loom’s had such a long, beautiful life!

  4. trapunto Says:

    I have wondered what people with cats do, Stef! A loom has many of the features of a giant cat toy: scratching posts, perches, lounging hammocks, and dangling string toys…

    You’re welcome, SpinningLizzy. More to come, I hope. Your Beauty could very well be my loom’s sister. A fun thing about the Bergmans is how they seem to cluster around the area where they were made, like a big extended family–even though they are so well suited for travel. I’m actually sort of sorry to have taken mine this far from the old stomping grounds.

    Glad you’re back, Jane. Heinlein is a gap in my SF education I’ve been meaning to fill. Do you think you’ll post that list?

  5. Overwhelming! I am saving this for a closer read. I love, love, love your loom. It is gorgeous!

  6. Suzan Says:

    That IS one beautiful loom. I’ve only used lease sticks a couple of times and prefer to thread the reed right out of my hand. Even for large pieces and have oftimes silently chastised myself for not getting the hang of how “real weavers” do it! Ah well. Cats are a pain in the a** around a loom. I lock Miss May out of the room. What are you planning to weave Trapunto??

  7. Suzan Says:

    I forgot to add how wonderful it is that you know some of the history of your loom’s former mistress! That’s really fascinating.

  8. Margareta Says:

    I’m happy you got a Bergman loom and I’m also happy to see all the beautiful pictures of your loom.
    I’m from Sweden and Margaret Bergman was my great aunt. I spent every summer in my childhood in the house were Margaret Bergman was born and lived, until she left for America.
    I very much want to get mail-contact with you. I have so many questions. Who is the guild member you were in contact with? I want to contact her too. She must be related to me, if she is related to Margaret Bergman.

    Hope to hear from you!

  9. Deanna Says:

    I have a four shaft Bergman in my garage. It is not in great shape and I got it a couple of months ago. I love the design of her looms. Unfortunately mine does not fold in the front, I would like to get a folding 8 shaft one some day. My summer goal was to dismantle the loom and clean it up, redo the tie-ups with texolve–but the summer is getting away without my getting anything done. Thanks for the step by step on the warping.

  10. trapunto Says:

    I’m so happy we got in touch, Marareta!

    Deanna, thanks for dropping by my blog, and congratulations on your loom. You know, I never fold my loom up except when I move it. Since I have to allow enough space to move around it when it’s unfolded for warping or weaving anyway, (and it’s already taken over my living room!) I don’t gain that much usable space by folding it between weaving sessions.

    SpinningLizzy, who made one of the comments above, is also a new Bergman owner. She and I having been talking about appropriate tie-up materials. You might want to check out the post I did a few weeks back: “Countermarche Nitty-Gritty.” Near the end there is section about my experience with Texsolv on a Bergman, which is has not been entirely positive.

    Maybe your summer goal will be easier to reach if you make it a little easier on yourself. Unless your current tie-up is really messed up, in terms of being a hack-job replacement tie-up or falling apart, you are probably going to find it works better than regular Texsolv. I’d say give it a try! There is no reason to replace a working tie-up before you start weaving. For cleaning, I’m guessing there is no need to dismantle your loom beyond removing the heddle sticks and unhooking the lamms so you can get to them with some damp rags. You’re probably closer to a try-out warp than you think! Best of luck! Stop by any time and share your Bergman loom experiences. I am learning too, and I love it that there are other Bergman-owning folk to pool my informational resources with!

  11. Deborah Says:

    Not sure whether this will get to anyone. I am a Bergman owner in UK. Its old ,unused and needs reopair, Can anyone help me with a drawing of the jacks and how the at present rusty old wires connect to what. My great great aunt was a weaver in US..marjery fulleylove, and when she died it was shipped back here.I’ve learnt masses from Warping My Bergman but photos don’t show me what I need

  12. Deborah Says:

    An exhausting day trying to write my first post and join Weavering, which I may or may not have done.My loom cord arrives tomorrow, and you have been a huge inspiration. I don’t know whether this will enable you to read my blog but eventually I will get it and the Bergman sorted Deb

  13. trapunto Says:

    Charleen is a busy woman, so don’t worry if it’s a few day’s wait before you show up on the WeaveRing. I’ll look forward to reading your post, Deb.

  14. deborahbee Says:

    Here I am back on my favourite post! I am buzzing in my head and unable to sleep dreaming about tie-ups. I have spent the last 2 days under my Bergman. Some good things and some driving me crazy. If you have a minute, though its an imposition could you give some guidance on:
    1)Can I replace my rusty wires from jacks to lamms with cord (not investing in Tex-solv until reassured loom works)I bought some wire but its really hard to make the loops and difficult to juggle with the length.
    2.Should lamms be horizontal or on a slope, and should they all be at same height to each other or is the correct function more important?
    3 Should shafts/upper/lower lamms ever touch or be tied up to work without crashing? At present I have a lower lamm which rises through the upper lamms.
    4 Is there a recognised differential between the raised shaft and the lowered shafts.or rather between rising heddles and lower ones.
    Not sure of protocol on blogs, aware this is not really a comment. But I love your pages, you have a great writing style. Very immediate. Once I get this old lady working I will spend more time with Mrs bergman, I find the history fascinating.

  15. trapunto Says:

    I’m writing a post with measurements and pictures to answer your questions, Deborah. They’re very good questions and the answers are a bit complicated. I know what you mean about dreaming loom logistics! That happened to me when I was figuring out my Bergman, too! I’ll try to hurry the post so as not to keep you in suspense.
    In the mean time, quick answers:
    1 String replacing wires: yes, but you need to do some special stuff to make it work.
    2. Lamm slope: very precise angles and very important to whether you tear your hair out or not when you’re weaving. I’ll give the secret code in my post.
    3. Lamm contact: in theory you don’t want them to touch, in practice (if you have one of the older Bergmans like me, and it sounds like you do) they may touch or even shuffle a little, depending on the pattern you’re weaving
    4. Recognized differential between raised and lowered shafts: Just as much as you can get! I think you’re talking about what determines the shed size. Don’t start buying any tall shuttles. I think you’re going to find stick or old-fashioned low-profile Swedish shuttles (resembling damask shuttles) work best for your Bergman.

  16. […] asked some questions in the comments section of my post, Warping My Bergman with Mrs. S-G.  In the course of this general overview I’ll try to answer […]

  17. Jacquelynne Says:

    Thanks for the great discription WITH PICTURES of warping the Bergman. I have a chance to purchase a 60″ 12 harness Bergman. Although I am familiar with weaving, I have never seen a Bergman, and the pictures are invaluable!

  18. Kathleen DuBois Says:

    This is a terrific article. My 12-shaft Bergman countermarche loom is my favorite! Well, until this week that is. I haven’t used it for several years and have just finished warping an afghan and tieing up the treadles. And oops! I seem to have forgotten something….If I want to raise shaft 9, do I tie the long cord to upper lam 10 or upper lam 8? The pattern is a 9-shaft twill (almost) using 9 treadles with four shafts lifted on each treadle. Any help is GREATLY appreciated.

    • trapunto Says:

      Hi Kathleen, congrats on getting back to your Bergman! If you are counting your lamms starting at the front of the loom, to raise shaft 9, you would thread a cord from the 9th lower lamm to the treadle. If you wanted shaft 9 to sink, you would thread the cord from the 9th upper lamm to the treadle. The number of the shaft you want to move is always the same number as the lamm you thread, whether it is an upper or lower lamm. Does that make sense?

      I recommend a trip to the library, if you don’t have a copy of Joanne Hall’s Tying Up the Countermarche Loom to consult. See if they’ve got that or any other books that cover countermarche tie up. A diagram is always much easier to follow than words, I find.

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