Bergman Beginners

July 13, 2008

I am really surprised how many interesting weavers and proto-weavers have been showing up in the comments section looking for information, especially after my Warping My Bergman With Mrs. S-G post of a few weeks ago.  It looks like I should be running an informational website rather than keeping a weblog!  I want to make a disclaimer, though.  I am not any kind of a Bergman guru; just someone who owns and loves a Bergman loom and has figured out (more or less) how to make it work.  I’m not keyed in to the off-line Bergman weaver underground (and I do hope there is one!  Drop by and reassure me if you’re a member!) because I don’t live in the lower Puget Sound area.  Seattle, especially, has a large and active weaving guild.  These looms are built to last.  If a local breed of loom is readily available generally in good shape, I think there will always be some local weavers weaving on it.  Perhaps you can sniff them out!

I learned how little information about the Bergman loom exists on the web two years ago.  I believe that is changing.  Just in the last month several ladies who want to put unused, stored, or recently-acquired Bergman Looms back in commission have visited my blog.  Hooray for loom rescue!  One of these lovely ladies, SpinningLizzy, will be chronicling the process of getting her own Bergman set up to weave.  Right now she’s making some gorgeous towels on her rigid heddle loom.  She is a new-weaver powerhouse!  You should all pay a visit to her blog and admire Beauty:

It’s difficult to respond to your questions in the comments section, since I don’t know where you’re coming from.  I want to ask: Do you know how a countermarche mechanism works?  Is this your first loom?  Have you ever woven before?  Have you ever woven on a countermarche loom?  Have you ever done the tie-up on a countermarche loom from scratch?  I think maybe some of the confusion (and intimidation) around setting up a Bergman loom is a result of the general mystification of countermarche mechanics among weavers.

My own wonderful Scary Weaving Teacher, who has been doing complex weaves for decades, had a hands-thrown-up, cautiously-backing-off attitude toward countermarches.  When I told her I’d bought a countermarche, the first thing she said to me was, “I can’t help you with that.”

I wish I had diagrams of my loom so I could show you exactly what’s goes on with a Bergman, because Deborah in the UK is right, photos are not enough.  There are a few differences between a Bergman and a normal Scandinavian countermarche.  But those will mostly just affect the size of your sheds and how smoothly your weaving goes.  Worry about them later.  Or rather, don’t worry!–check back at my blog because I plan to talk about these things over time.

The first thing is simply to learn the basics of how your loom works, set it up, and start weaving.  For this, the similarities between a Bergman and a Glimåkra are more important than the differences.  The Glimåkra is the behemoth of countermarches and the make for which there is the most information available in English.  Don’t wade through the whole morass of unrelated weaving books at the public library (though that’s fun too), trying to find out how to weave on your obscure 70-year-old countermarche!  You’ll just get bogged down.  Do some pointed research.

Here are the first two resources I would recommend to every Bergman rescuer and new countermarche weaver:

Your first stop should be Joanne Hall’s website: Elkhorn Mountain Weaving,  This Glimåkra dealer has written the definitive English instruction book for tying up a countermarche.  Her diagrams are extremely clear.  She has scanned some pages from her book onto her website, but the scans are fuzzy.  I can’t stress enough how glad you will be if you buy the book rather than trying to make do with what’s online.  Yes, it’s only 34 pages long, it’s spiral-bound, it’s expensive.  But it has a glossary, a sleying chart, knots, and invaluable sections on how to how to evaluate and adjust for tie-up related problems that may occur when you are weaving.  And you can take it with you under the loom.  I find myself opening it up pretty much every time I warp.

Vävstuga,, is another great resource.  Vävstuga also carries Joanne Hall’s book mentioned above.  Becky Ashenden, the co-owner, is the North American maven of Swedish weaving.  She carries a lot of Swedish weaving classics, all for sale in the books section.  One of these has been looking particularly interesting to me, because it seems to be a complete survey of how to weave on a countermarche for beginners: The Swedish Weaving Book: project planning, loom dressing, and finishing.  I can’t vouch for it since I haven’t read it, but Ms. Ashenden thought it was valuable enough to translate it from the Swedish and publish it herself.  It’s exactly the sort of book I wish I’d had at hand when I started puzzling out my loom.

Finally, I’d like to mention a bugaboo of most new Bergman owners: those scary wires.  They make your loom look older and creakier than it is.  Probably they are bent and sticking out in all directions.

Those wires are just the Bergman equivalent of the cords that suspend the lower lamms from the inner ends of the jacks, found on all countermarches.  Margaret Bergman designed her loom with wires instead of cords to cut down on space between the shafts.  If the wires are rusty, take them off the loom clean them up with some Naval Jelly.  Run them through your hands to straighten them out as much as you can.  When you your loom is tied-up and ready to weave, the weight of the lower lamms and treadles will straighten them out the rest of the way.

It’s always delightful to hear from a Bergman beginner!  Keep stopping by!


11 Responses to “Bergman Beginners”

  1. Cally Says:

    I’m surprised that you are encountering countermarche-fear. I barged in to buying one because it seemed like such a brilliant technology, and didn’t meet any discouragement on this side of the pond. The one thing I have had to do (even though I recite it like a mantra whenever I change the tie-up) is stick a label to the lower lam saying “lower lam pulls shaft UP” – it’s part of my idiot-resistant weaving plan…

  2. Trapunto Says:

    Yes, funny how hard that is to remember!

    I have a theory that countermarche fear may have something to do with the craft-weaving craze that went with the 60’s and 70’s (and to a lesser extent the 40’s and 50’s) here. There was an explosion of jack looms, and not much else. Everyone was weaving on them. I have also noticed, looking around the web, that Toika and Louet looms are much more commonly distributed in the UK than they are here. Glimåkra has cornered the market on large countermarches in the U.S. But there is a feeling that since a Glimåkra requires such a huge investment of money and space (Louets are pricey too), “countermarches” are only for serious production weavers. People who want a smaller floor looms often go for a Schacht or a LeClerc jack looms, or whatever older loom they can find used–which usually happens to be a jack loom from one of the North American manufacturers.

  3. […] my Bergman Beginners post I strongly recommend using the original wires that came with your loom, if you have them, because […]

  4. Laura Says:

    Oh dear…my Bergman didn’t come with wires! Should I replace all the texsolv cords? I noticed regular cord is much more precise for tying shafts and such at equal height.

  5. trapunto Says:

    Finding cord is a problem. I believe Texsolv can be made to work pretty well for the lower lamms (though not perfectly in my case). The upper lamms seem to be a bit more touchy.
    There’s some more talk about it here:

  6. Meredith Says:

    Hi, I am new to Bergmans and weaving. I am going to go look at a 25inch Bergman in a few days and have a few questions. I guess first is how do I know when the loom was made, where is it written on the loom? Should I avoid earlier or later models, I was reading here about lamms that are not properly sized? DO they all fold??fold with warp in place? I asked the lady about this and she said hers didn’t. If they do , will I need any specific tools? It is a few hours from my house and I have a little car. They are beautiful looms from what I have seen , but should I be scared?
    Thanks for your help

    • trapunto Says:

      Meredith, I’m the author of this blog, I’m going to get in touch with you via email. Unless this is a table loom, I’m pretty sure it will fold The full name of the loom Mrs. Bergman patented is “The Bergman Folding Loom” All looms of this type fold with a warp on (she may just not know how to do it), and at 25″ I’m pretty sure it will fit in a small car. The biggest thing when looking at a loom you’ve driven a distance to see is to relax and not get confused by the seller’s explanations. You can come back if something feels wrong that you can’t put your finger on in the confusion. It’s worth the extra time and gas to go home and give yourself a little time to think (Learned this the hard way with my table loom!), don’t worry, this won’t be your last chance. Be cautious, but not scared, and know the worth of what you’re looking at. I will get more specific in the email, which I am going to start writing right now.

  7. weavespin Says:

    I have an 8-shaft Bergman with all the original wires and heddles, and most of the original cords. However, as I treadle, the wires jump off their hooks, which as you can imagine is very frustrating. For this reason, I’m contemplating replacing the wires with Texsolv — but if there’s another solution to the ‘jump off’ problem, I’d love to know it. Thanks for any suggestions.

    • trapunto Says:

      How frustrating! It sounds like it could be a symptom of balance problems, which happened to me when I wove with fewer than 8 shafts, and also when I wove unbalanced drafts. If that is your situation, it might be something connected to just this particular project which will solve itself when you move on to the next.

      For now, I’m thinking you might try wrapping some very thin rubber bands around the free ends of the hooks after the wires. Or spearing tiny bits of rubber from a cut up rubber washer on the hook ends, or maybe plugs of thick craft foam made with a hole punch, or bits of cork. I’m trying to imagine things that would be the right texture….

      It would be a pity to have to restring your whole loom! I really regretted replacing my wires and normal cords with texsolv. I found it caused more problems than it solved.

      Good luck,

      • weavespin Says:

        The loom has a universal tie-up, and I’ve only woven a four-shaft 2/2 twill. What a good idea — using rubber bands! How come the obvious and simple doesn’t pop up for me first thing! I’ll try your suggestion(s) before I do anything else — and I bet it will work. For sure, the wires popping off are frustrating, but apart from that, the loom is wonderful. I think you’ve probably saved me a lot of further frustration! Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: