Yarn Samples and a Book

August 16, 2008

A while ago I made a little resolution that I will always plan and wind the warp for my next project while my current project is still on the loom.  Once my warp is wound, it feels like the job of warping is half done–an illusion, I know.  I play a lot of little tricks like that on myself.  It’s surprising I haven’t gotten wise to them!

I may not be half done when I’ve wound the warp, but with the reeling and beaming problems I’ve had in the past, those are the parts of warping that intimidate me.  Like an omelet: that moment when you decide it’s time to turn it over or it will burn, and it all comes apart if you haven’t got the heat and the pan and the filling right (I tend to overfill).  Once you’ve turned it over, successfully or unsuccessfully, setting the table and serving it up is easy.  So far I actually like threading and sleying.  They take longer but there’s no stress involved.  Winding and beaming are easier to face if I don’t have to face them both at the same time.

That said, I only just finished the second scarf on my navy merino scarf warp, but I have been spending a lot of time planning my next project.  First a sample warp, for which I have the thread, but then I get to buy some!

So, I finally placed an order to Vävstuga, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

There is something so neat and potential-filled about sample cards.  When I took them out of the package, these gave me the same feeling as the oil pastel sticks lined up in a box of Cray-Pas when I was a kid.  Unfortunately, when I tried to start using them to compare colors, I realized that they were not very functional.  In tight rows you can’t use the samples as swatches.  Not only to the colors confuse each other through juxtaposition, 3 square centimeters simply isn’t enough color for my eyes to make sense of.  They are okay for matching.  If I can find a piece of clothing or a book jacket with the color that interests me, I can hold it up to the cards and find the nearest color; but since the match isn’t exact, I can’t dependably take that piece of clothing and hold it against another thread sample to see if it goes.

I’m not quite at the point of cutting the cards into strips and making a cardboard window to separate the colors.

Vävstuga’s regular Bockens sample book had been backordered a long time with no guarantee as to when more would arrive, which is why I bought the separate sample cards.  Does anyone know if the proper Bockens sample book gives you more yarn in a more useful configuration?

The other thing in my package:

I had been thinking of buying The Praktisk Vävbok for a long time.  Seeing it advertised over and over again in my 80’s copies of Väv must have pushed me over.  It is a nicely made book, a clean facsimile (all in Swedish) of one published in 1899.  I enjoy the homey assumption that weavers want to use their cloth for everyday home sewing.  The drafts are named to purpose like “Children’s Clothing,” or “Upholstery,” or “English Hand-towel Material.”  Another good thing about the book is that most of the patterns are for 8 shafts, probably because it is an old book which assumes that you are using a counterbalance–there are smaller sections for fewer shafts, but none for more than 8.  This focus is uncommon in Scandinavian weaving books.  Usually more space is given over to either 4-shaft patterns or 10-and-upwards.

Which brings me to my problem.  Most of the patterns are traditional 8-shaft plain and fancy twills.  I already have the same or similar patterns scattered through my other Scandinavian weaving books or in Edward Worst.  They are are all very Swedish looking–small all-over patterns familiar from old table linens.  It’s nice seeing them in one place, laid out compactly with a spot black-and-white photograph of the cloth right next to the draft, but for a reference book I would really want something more exhaustive with better photos, like Helene Bress’ The Weaving Book, which I have been missing ever since I left it behind at the public library where we used to live (and which I probably shouldn’t even mention here, for fear of driving the price up even further!).

Still, I like the fact that The Praktisk Vävbook features the 8-shaft versions of these twills.  It’s not too big, pleasant to hold, and it has the further advantage of not making my nose stuff up and my my throat and eyes itch.  I got most of my old Scandinavian weaving books as a lot on ebay, from a weaver’s estate.  They had been sitting in a shed or something for a long time and grown musty.  Which is bad enough.  But the real problem was that the over-zealous ebay dealer though it would be a good idea to mask the mustiness by putting them in a sealed container with a chemical air freshener for several days (I know this because I asked her).  I aired them in the sun repeatedly, but the reek is tenacious.

And now a little cord update:  I looked into the smaller size of Texsolv tie-up cord Susan told me about after the Texsolv post, but according to the nice people at Woolhouse Tools, the smaller cord is a really, really small gauge, and not strong enough for lamm or treadle tie-up.  The buttonholes have the same 12 mm spacing as the regular cord, which won’t help with fine adjustments.  The Woolhouse people suggested I loop the cord back through itself to adjust in smaller increments.  I know what they’re talking about, but I don’t think it can help with a Bergman loom because of the way the cords go to cup hooks rather than through holes in the lamms.  I will fiddle with the cords and the pegs some more when I do my next tie-up.  There may be some configuration of Texsolv and peg I haven’t thought of.

This would be a lot easier with a trained monkey.  Smaller fingers.  Fits under the loom.


Monday I got back to the loom after about a month away from it.  After two “full days,” weaving (four hours is a full day of weaving for me; more than that and my brain is jelly) I am wondering whether I will look like the weaver’s version of these ladies if I keep it up a few more years.

What do you get when you combine large spatulate feet with skinny treadles for a day? Treadle Foot.  I think I need to try some leather ballet slippers.

Shuttle Finger is a more complicated problem.  A few months ago I injured the base knuckle of my right index finger.  While I was sleeping.  So, I don’t know exactly what I did to it or how, except that it ached badly for two days days, then got (mostly) better.  It hurts with protracted activity.  Like, typing.  Or worse, putting the final controlling flick on a thrown shuttle.  I should probably give it a break.  I’m hoping it’s tendonitis. When I had that in my heel it took about a year to get better, but at least it did.

Breast Beam Elbow is what you get from keeping your arms constantly crooked, managing your second shuttle.

Interestingly, I also seem to have textile brain.  After walking der Mann to work, limping home on my treadle foot, I took a short cut through the baseball fields and saw a long folding table with a plastic container on top.  There was a hand lettered sign taped to the side of the table:


It took me a good 10 seconds.  Enough time to go through the whole process of visualizing who would be be using the smocking area during little league games and what might be in the plastic container.

Oh.  Sand and butts.  No it wasn’t a misspelt sign, it was just me and something about how the letters were spaced.

Bergman Tie-Up Tips

August 3, 2008

I’ve been outpaced.  One of the ladies who has come to my blog for information about setting up her Bergman loom is already at the stage of crawling around under her loom (for 2 days!) trying to figure out the tie-up.  This is no joke with a Bergman!  There is is a bracing cross-bar with a sharp edge (on mine at least) about six inches off the floor, between the back of the loom and the lamms. You have to sit parallel to it, twist sideways, and lean over it when you’re doing anything with lamms.  And you can’t sit up straight under your warp.  So: duck, twist, reach!  My heart and back muscles go out to you, Deborah.

The good news is that you won’t have to spend as much time down there in the future, once you’ve got an idea of pretty much where everything should hang, and have adjusted the default length of your tie-up cords accordingly.  A really short footstool (mine is about 8 inches tall) and/or an arrangement of firm cushions helps too.  (The other good news is that if you are under 5 feet tall this may be just the loom for you.)

Deborah’s Bergman loom has a very interesting history, and she has a very interesting history.  Fortunately for us she’s started a blog, here.  She’s been up against a lot, since her loom was shipped from overseas years ago and was in the “Can this bundle of sticks possibly be a working loom?” category for quite a while.  It’s missing a back beam, so she’s tied a temporary one on in order to do her tie-up, which seems to me the essence of weaverliness!

Deborah 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 them.


Important Points On Bergman Tie-Up

First important point:  You need a real warp on your loom.  At least 4 inches wide.  Wider, if you want to be able to evaluate your sheds, because it’s impossible to assess bad sheds when you can just hand your shuttle from one side of your warp to the other.  That’s why I did the warping post first.  You can try out your cord and your knots and learn the mechanics of your loom without a warp, but you need a tensionable warp to get a feel for how your lamms and shafts are going to behave when they’re hooked up to your treadles, how that affects your sheds, and to start making adjustments.  My first Bergman warp was a 4-shaft twill band.

Second important point:  Not all Bergman looms are the same.  Mine is one of the early ones, from the 30’s.  Later the Bergmans made a change in the placement of the lamms to improve the function of their looms.  The document “Getting Acquainted With Your Bergman Loom,” which I’m adding as a separate page (look to the side and you’ll find it), pertains to the tie-up of the later-style looms, as it dates from 1969.

I know this because I tried following these instructions exactly, but they didn’t work because my loom doesn’t have the same measurements as the looms the instructions were written for.  I’ve made a diagram to show you the lamm slant that has worked best for me after trial and error.  If your lamms are set the same distance from the floor and the same distance apart as mine, you will find this a good starting place.

Third important point:  Don’t be afraid to fiddle with your tie-up.  As you start weaving see how things go and make adjustments.  If you are using a traditional cord tie-up, this means that the cords suspending the shafts, lower lamm wires, and upper lamms will be loops, therefore doubled.  You can make fine adjustments by giving the knotted end of loop an extra twist around the cup hook on either end of the jack.  In most places these doubled cords will be attached to the loom with a simple Lark’s Head knot, which will also admit a little adjustment by twisting.

Replacing Wires With Cord

In my Bergman Beginners post I strongly recommend using the original wires that came with your loom, if you have them, because the Bergman loom was designed to work best with wires.  The wires suspend the lower lamms from the inner jacks.  You can sand them or treat them with a rust remover if necessary.  They don’t need to be perfectly straight.  If you must replace them with cord, you will want to do something like this:

Originally, I had tried it without the rings like this:

Just a Texsolv loop over a single slack cord connecting the inner jacks.  It didn’t work at all!  For some reason (partly because Texsolv is bumpy), it was necessary that the cord replacing the wire NOT have the possibility of back and forth play indicated by the arrows, in order to have each of the pair of jacks do their fair share in evenly lifting and lowering.

The rings should be strong, because a lot of pressure will be put on them.  Mine are plastic rings from the drapery section of the fabric store, meant for Roman blinds.  I chose the smaller size (just shy of 1/2″) because I could picture the larger size stretching out into ovals.  These have worked fine so far.

The only thing you need to remember when you are replacing the inner-jack-to-lower-lamm wires with cord, is that the cord has to be thin enough to slip between the shafts without causing them to pack together and produce friction.


Shaft, Lamm, and Treadle Height

Your shafts will always hang with the center of the eyes of the heddles at the same height as the top of your breast beam.  If you’ve suspended them at this height, and they still hang too low, the only correction you can make is to get (or tie) shorter heddles.  Mine are 9.5 inches long, and I kind of wish I’d tried out some that were even shorter.

Most of the time my loom works best when the top of the tips of the upper lams are 23 1/4 inches off the floor.

In theory, the lower lamms are are suspended parallel to the floor.  In practice, mine tilt down a hair.

The top of the tips my treadles are 6 1/4 inches off the floor, which means I can’t use a piece of lumber to keep the height and tension even when I’m tying the lamm-to-treadle cords, as described in the “Getting Acquainted With Your Bergman Loom” instructions.  It’s a good trick if you’re treadles work okay for you when they’re that low.  I’ve learned to eye-ball mine instead.

The big, big, thing about all this is that ALL your shafts, ALL your upper lamms, ALL your lower lamms, and all your treadles are exactly the same height.  I haven’t been able to achieve this military precision with Texsolv, as I described earlier in the Texsolv post.  Maybe that’s why Athena hasn’t yet blessed me with perfect sheds.  I think the idea is that once you’ve achieved military precision, and your sheds still aren’t even, you can tell where you need to make adjustments.

It’s all about making adjustments!  For instance, I like to tie my left hand treadles up a little tighter getting gradually looser as I go to the right.  It’s too complicated to describe why I do this mechanically (It has to do with the way the lamms behave), but I discovered my preference as I wove.


A Further Note About Tying up Bergman Treadles

If your loom has 8 shafts, you may have noticed that your treadles only have 4 holes, for 4 treadle loops.  After you have put all the lamm-to-treadle cords through your lamms for your pattern, you will tie 2 adjacent cords onto each loop with a Snitch Knot.  It goes like this:

It’s hard to tie a snitch knot if your treadle loops are too short, so watch out for that if you are making them from scratch.

With Texsolv, you’ll make loops in the lamm-to-treadle cords and secure them with arrow pegs.  Unfortunately, these are a lot harder to adjust than the snitch knots.


If Shafts, Lamms, and Treadles Make Contact

I described this in the Texsolv post.  The only thing I can say is that if your loom is like mine, yes your upper and lower lamms will probably want to run into each other, and possibly the shafts and the upper lamms.  (The treadles and the lower lamms haven’t been a difficulty for me.)  Joanne Hall talks about how to correct for this at the end of her book, Tying Up the Countermarch Loom.  The only problem is that with a Bergman (the ones like mine at least) there simply isn’t much margin for correction, because it is short in the castle.  If you’re weaving a pattern that allows your upper and lower lamms to shuffle between each other a little without sticking, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  But if you have to reach out and unstick them with every 4th change of shed–as I did with my first big project–Something Is Very Wrong.  You shouldn’t have to lose your rhythm, monkeying with your lamms!  Treadling smoothly helps.

You will figure out what works best as you start weaving.  Your sheds will never be spacious, but that’s okay if you can get them clear.  You will probably want to use old-fashioned Swedish shuttles with paper quills, the low profile kind.  That was the only kind my loom’s original owner, Mrs. S-G used, and they were Margaret Bergman’s regular type of shuttle as well.  Actually, I adore all the skinny old shuttles that came to me with my loom!  My very favorites are a pair of beautifully weighted maple ones that I’m sure were Mrs. S-G’s favorites too, since they are more worn than all the others, and she took the trouble to write her initials on them.  My treasures!  They are only a little over 3/4″ tall.