Lessons From My Early Warps

October 14, 2008

Just what I needed this morning: an injection of weaverly enthusiasm from fellow Bergman loom owner Deborah in the UK!  This is her first blog entry since her hip operation in August, and I was blown away to see that she’s already made CLOTH!  It took me right back to the very first piece of CLOTH I made on my very own loom.  Just remembering, I got excited butterflies in my stomach and a peculiar urge to take yarn and dining room chairs outside. . .

Another UK blog I’ve been enjoying is Weave4Fun, which I found through Jane the Shuttle Pilot.  This delightful weaver’s sense of humor and a-typical profile give him a great perspective.  His enthusiasm is infectious, too.

Anyway, both of these blogs, not to mention that of good queen Spinninglizzy, Renaissance woman extraordinaire (who has lovingly spruced up two looms, made a place for her Bergman, and is now preparing to spin her own tie-up cord), has been making me think about where I would be with my weaving right now if I hadn’t started this, you know, thing.  With the words.  On the internet.

It’s solipsistic to write about blogging.  So I’ll put it off and respond to some of the interesting things that have been coming up for Deborah as she weaves her first warp.

Interestingly, Deborah’s Bergman is in about the same age bracket as mine and she mentions a lot of the same things I noticed in my first efforts.  Like Deborah, my loom came with a rusty reed.  I started out using only four of the shafts.  I had to make a lot of adjustments, and I had trouble figuring out exactly how those adjustments were affecting my sheds.  I’d run chasing after one problem, and then another would pop up.  And yes: some treadles were just bugaboos!  No matter how much I tweaked things, it was as if one particular treadle was laboring under a curse of messy-sheddedness.  I now have a little better idea how to improve things, but it’s still a problem.  On my recent scarf warp it was the dreaded treadle 9.  I wonder: does anyone else have an unlucky treadle?

I de-rusted my 15 dent reed by running folded up bits of fine sandpaper through every dent, then polishing off the rust dust with bits of flannel, likewise poked through every dent.  I think there might have been some super-fine steel wool involved as well.  It took a long time but it was effective. That was before I’d heard about using Naval Jelly (a rust-removing cleaner), which is what I am going to try next time it needs it.  Or emery boards.  I really liked using emery boards to clean out the slots on my rigid heddle loom.  You can buy a big package quite cheaply.

Moral: Stainless steel was invented for a reason.

Deborah found Leigh’s excellent information on adjusting countermarche sheds.  I came across those entries myself a few months ago.  I’ve been meaning to go back to them.

http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com/2007/07/warping-glimakra-adjusting-shed.html

You can see from Leigh’s pictures why it is more important to get the bottom threads even.  Since your shuttle rests on the bottom threads as you throw it, it’s more likely that it will slide under a sticking-up bottom thread, than that it will catch down a low-hanging top thread.

The sensible way Leigh fixes her sheds–making a list of which shafts are causing the sticking-up threads, and tightening the cords that run from the lamms controlling those shafts to the treadles–doesn’t work quite so well with a Bergman, because there is so little margin for adjustment on the smaller loom.  I remember seeming to move from over-correction to over-correction.  One buttonhole of Texsolv can be (usually is) too much.  I talked about this at length in an earlier post.  These days I can get my sheds to be tolerable if not perfect.

There’s not much more I can add except: make the most of your lamms.  Especially on a Bergman where they are truncated.  Lamms are levers.  You get more leverage (and the capacity to open larger sheds) the farther out your treadles are tied to them: that is to say, if you are using 8 treadles, leave treadles 1 and 2 idle, and tie up treadles 3-10.  And when you need fewer than 8 treadles?  Books will tell you to weave on the exact middle treadles, but I think you can fudge a little.  You don’t want to twist to reach your leg across the center line of your body, but it’s actually okay–for example–to work just two treadles with your left foot, and four with your right.  The nice thing is you can rearrange your tie-up according to your treadling plan so that you’re not overworking either leg too heinously.

Be aware that the reduced leverage on treadles 1 and 2 can really mess you up if you overuse them.  You’ll be tempted to tie them up for tabby (as I did on my recent scarf warp) because with plain weave the smaller sheds produced by treadles 1 and 2 don’t matter so much.  I’ll never do that again!  My left leg had to work so hard on the tabby that I strained my left SI joint.

This isn’t to say treadles 9 and 10 are the best, because they are the farthest from the hinge.  In my experience, although they make for the least effortful lifting and biggest possible sheds, they’re somewhat more finicky to adjust.

Moral: A treadle on the right is worth two on the left.

Now, this will sound bizarre, but another thing that can improve your sheds is to weave on more shafts.  I don’t know why; I think it is partially a matter of distribution of weight/effort.  But a lot of the fits I had with sheds and balance when I was weaving on four shafts just melted away when I started weaving on six and upwards.  One of those Bergman things?

Moral:  More is more.

“Where’s that treadle?  Why is it so skinny?”  I still glance at my feet for the tough ones until really I get in the swing: then I can tell just from looking at the web whether I’ve opened the right shed, which makes me bold enough to trust my muscle memory.  Based on when she was born I would guess Mrs Bergman had dainty feet that had been crammed into narrow boots most of her life.  Bergman treadles are narrow and close.  I treadle in socks, but I plan on getting some leather ballet slippers to stave off plantar fasciitis.  I’ve heard from a couple of weavers who like Acorn house slippers.

Moral: Do not judge a loom until you have treadled a mile in your moccasins.

Deborah has Ann Dixon’s 4-shaft pattern book, which I hear is very good.  She’d also like to find a good book of eight shaft patterns.  Visit her with your recommendations.  Mine would be the Praktisk Vävbok.  The diagrams are so clear, the Swedish text isn’t really a barrier.  I also own Carol Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.  While it’s more diverse (and has some gems) I’m not fond of it; I find the format awkward and unattractive.  Many of the patterns require more than 10 treadles.  Worse, the texts introducing the weave structures are unnecessarily complicated.  I end up understanding less after reading them.  Sharon Alderman’s Mastering Weave Structures is fantastic, if you’d like to comprehend what you’re weaving and maybe start designing your own drafts for as many shafts as you wish.  Though it’s not intended as a pattern book it has quite a few patterns in it.

Moral: A good eight-shaft pattern book is hard to find.

 

mysterious

mysterious

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.

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.