Elsewhere on my site, Susan Berlin asked the question, “How can you tell a bench that was made by Mr. Bergman?” I thought the answer deserved a post of its own.

First of all, there were at least two Mr. Bergmans making looms, Margaret Bergman’s husband John and her son Arthur, who eventually took over the family business. Other family members may have worked in their shop at other times, and the Bergmans may have had employees, so I can’t tell you anything about whether a bench was actually made by a Mr Bergman himself, or made in his workshop by someone else. If you know something about the Bergman workshop drop me a line; I would love to hear about it.

I realize this amount of detail sounds ponderous. As if I were discussing real Hepplewhite chairs or something. When in fact The Bench is just a very nice, sturdy little wooden bench with a hinged lid. Mine is from 1936. I know the Bergman looms started to be made out of different woods and had some alterations in design over the next 40 years they were made, so it could be that the later benches were different too. I suspect the basic proportions stayed the same, because the basic proportions of the looms stayed the same. The main feature of my own Bergman Loom bench is that it was made to straddle the 3″x3″ bar to which the treadles hinged at the front of the loom, and that it will also fit completely inside the loom when you’re not weaving (between the two wooden storage boxes for shuttles on the insides of the front “wings”).

So, I can’t tell you how to tell a bench made by Mr. Bergman in general, but I can tell you about mine. It is made of straight-grained fir, with an old looking brown-honey colored varnish, and the measurements in inches are as follows:

22 5/8 tall
35 wide x 11 1/4 deep seat
32 wide x 11 1/4 footprint


The mousehole cutouts in the side panels that form the legs:
5 1/2 wide x 9 5/8 tall

The compartment inside the bench:
30 3/8 x 9 1/4 x 3 1/2 deep



I’m showing the underside so you can see how it’s put together. Prism-shaped pieces of wood reinforce the construction at either end of the bench, as you can see next to the cat’s head.


Ee’s Just a *Wittle* Loom!

September 18, 2008

or, Take the Spear’s Weaving Challenge


Ha!  You were expecting me to come home with another great honking floor loom after this post, weren’t you?

No impulse buys.  Actually I was pretty methodical, as is my wont.  I’d looked at rigid heddle looms before I had the Bergman; last winter I started thinking about them again because I had this fantasy about how fun it would be to show up at my granny’s house with a warped loom a box of pretty yarns, since she’s not likely to travel to my place for a weaving vacation–possible for about $20 and a little ebay vigilance.

I adore rölakan, but it had never occurred to me I might actually find the motivation for some experiments in that direction myself until I considered a separate 2 shaft loom.  I took Betty Davenport’s book out of the library to make sure I wouldn’t be wasting my time using a rigid heddle loom for tapestry.  Her mat with the Brooks Boquet sent me back to the articles about manipulated lace weaves in some of my old (really old) magazines.  My initial reaction to them had been, “Huh.  That’s a labor-intensive way to get ugly lace.”  Through rigid heddle colored glasses they began to look really interesting.

A lot of cheap rigid heddle looms find their way onto ebay.  Of the four brands that look passably functional, Spears seemed the least toylike.  I think I spent more like $30 than $20, but it was still a great deal, if for nothing more than the fact that it came in it’s pristine 1956 box.

With all the trimmings.

And had never been used!


I could try. . .

I could try. . .

I got it in June when I still busy with the merino scarf warp, so I didn’t do anything with it.  While I was nursing my treadlefoot, I decided to take this as a challenge:

3 hours!  Never!

First I hunted out some of that Yarn Relatives Give Me–mystery handspun I thought might be silk.  I did burn tests, but I still couldn’t tell much more than that it wasn’t synthetic, which was good enough for me.  I tried it to see if it would go through the heddle eyes, and it did, so I wound a warp the fastest way I could think of.

This actually worked!  I felt pretty clever to think of it.  I guess it says something about my warping reel that I would rather use an ironing board for a short warp.

56″ warp wound: 23 minutes


And here I am ready to beam:

Warp through slots, attached to back beam and beamed on: 30 more minutes

Heddle Eyes threaded: 20 more minutes

Tied on and ready to weave: 30 more minutes

Total: 1 hour 43 minutes

This is where I had to stop counting.  I could have spent eternity trying to weave this warp, which I’m now pretty sure was just a shiny, malevolent cotton.  It beamed through the 9-10 epi heddle all right, but when I started trying to weave it I could see that the journey had turned it to sticky lint.  There was not even the suggestion of a shed.  Furthermore the slubs would not go through the heddle eyes without catching and pulling.  Yes, they fit, but I would have to tug on each individual thread when I advanced the warp.

After watching this whole process on a Sunday afternoon, Der Mann was full of horrified sympathy when I told him I would have to discard the warp.  His reaction surprised me, because after the kinds of re-do’s and problems I’m used to on my countermarche, 3 hours (if you count the time I spent moving stuff, stash diving, burning things, and taking breaks) and a little crap yarn wasted was no big deal.  I just thought of it as cheap tuition for an important lesson: namely, that the yarn doesn’t just have to go through the heddle eyes, it has to glide through the heddle eyes.  I guess this is the kind of thing that makes weavers look patient to the point of insanity to non-weavers.  (Which is how knitters look to me.)

A few days later I re-warped the rigid heddle loom with wool and started weaving a scarf.  I also took the navy merino of the regular loom last weekend.  Very gingerly treadling got me to the end of the warp without aggravating my back.  After considering Jane’s comment, I think part of the problem may have been the placement of my tabby treadles, which is something I can change for my next project.  One scarf is already in the mail to my cousin!  I’ve got a lot of fringe to tie on the others.

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.

Swedish Serendipity

July 17, 2008

I was a slow taker when it came to the internet.  I can boast that I was able to get clear through college (in 1999) without ever having had to do an internet citation, the same way my aunt can boast she graduated without ever having typed a paper on anything but a typewriter in the early 80’s.

For some things though, it’s perfect.  Like weaving.  You would think with my love of the obscure I would have got a lot more excited about the possibilities of a worldwide public forum a lot sooner.

I’m excited because Margaret Bergman’s great-niece in Sweden found my blog last week!  She sent me a link to an exhibit called Snilleriket that is open this summer.  The exhibit celebrates the local geniuses of a particular lake district in Northwestern Sweden.  On the website you can click on one of the faces in the bar at the top of the page to see a summary of the person’s achievements.  The only woman in the bunch?  Margaret Bergman.

I do think Bergman looms are on the cusp of a little renaissance.  I’m willing to take this Swedish serendipity as proof–although the looms and the wonderful history attached to them are enough by themselves to spark it.

I was curious what the Swedish take on Margaret Bergman would be, so I translated her profile on the Snilleriket website into English.  I haven’t taken it too far from a transliteration, because that’s what I always prefer when a translator isn’t sure of her idioms–and I’m not sure of much in Swedish.  Please forgive any translation mistakes.  I’ll be glad if you can offer corrections.


The Lady from Rörön Becomes a Genius in the Art of Weaving, Honored and the Recipient of Awards in America


Margareta Olofson was born in 1872 in Rörön south of Sventavik.  Her mother was clever at weaving, and Margareta divided timely modern interest with powerful talent.  Yet when she applied for a weaving course in Östersund she wasn’t accepted.  You see, the extensive admissions examination showed that she was more skillful than the teacher!

In 1901 she emigrated to the Seattle area in the USA to be reunited with her betrothed, John Bergman.  There she became Margaret Bergman and mother to six children, but little by little she worked on John, who was a carpenter, to build a loom.  In this way she entered into a successful career.

The rumors of her skill spread.  She gained standing.  She developed her own patterns.  She invited people over to tell them about and show them her weaving.  She was asked to hold courses around the western USA and Canada.  The culmination, perhaps, was that at 67 years of age she was asked to hold a course for teachers at the United States’ foremost craft school, Penland in North Carolina on the east coast.

In the course of her travels, the need arose for a loom that could be disassembled without the need to take off the warp. So she designed the Bergman Suitcase Loom.  It was little, it could fold when it was set up to weave, and it adapted well for demonstrations.  Her husband John made a little model that was sent with Margaret Bergman’s 1932 patent application.  The larger loom in the picture is her personal loom, and at the same time an example of her other invention, the Double-Folding Bergman Floor Loom.  It was patented in 1936 and manufactured by her son Arthur.  These looms were even manufactured and sold in Sweden by Margaret’s Brother Johan C. Iwald.

Margaret Bergamn passed away in 1948.  The year before, she was honored for her outstanding contribution to the circulation and development of the weaving arts in the United States by the National Weaver’s Congress in Salem, Oregon.  The special quotation of her philosophy that expresses Margaret Bergman’s gladness in life and at the same time a message to all weavers (and others):

”Öppna din hand och dela med dig av vad kan. Av en knuten näve kommer inget gott.”


“Open your hand and share what you can.  From a clenched fist comes nothing good.”


In the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Margaret Bergman has her own exhibit. In the plexiglass case to the left stands the model that accompanied the patent application in 1932.

Folded up, Margaret Bergman’s loom doesn’t take up any more space than a piano.


*translator’s note:  The Bergmans cleared and settled a farm in what was then a very remote location on the Western Kitsap Peninsula.  Many of her early students came to her by boat.


There is one other little biographical article about Mrs. Bergman on the web that I know about, with some different but equally interesting information.  You can find it by visiting the profile of the Kitsap Weaver’s Guild on the the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds website:


The link for the History of the Kitsap Weaver’s Guild will lead you to the Bergman article.


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.



We have guests coming Friday, and I have a to-do list for that.  But I don’t want to do to-dos!  I want to weave.

Last night I figured out all my continuing color changes and cut and spliced and wound my yarn into balls.  It is exactly (fingers crossed!) enough for my first scarf on this warp.  Now that my color plans are finished, the weaving gets interesting as I see how it turns out on the loom.

I am so grateful for the comments you have been leaving on my blog.  A weaver whose first weaving lessons were in Nepal has left some fascinating descriptions of decorated Nepali counterbalance looms in the comments section of my last-post-but-one, Speaking of Reeds:


If you love weaving and beautiful looms, have a look!

Namaste, “Nepali looms.”

Speaking of Reeds

June 13, 2008


I bought this at an imports store that is trying to make a go of it in a small, mostly-abandoned 40’s shopping district near our place.  What is it?  Why, it’s a weaving hanger-upper!

Only, I am going to make it a weaving hanger-downer–maybe with a heavy knobbed rod at the top to balance it out–because this way round, the design looks wrong for Western textiles:

It’s really interesting to me how just reversing the curves of the scrollwork, something can look Western or Eastern.  I’ll bet art historians have written about it:  The flame and the lotus, versus the acanthus and the rose.

Der Mann and I were taking a walk when I spotted a box of what looked like weaving equipment on the sidewalk.  I got him to hold my tea mug while I pawed through.  There were a lot of wooden hangers like this one (but not so nice), bamboo hangers, and a bunch of small Thai reeds.  Most of the reeds had unevenly split and spaced rattan tines(?) and very coarse decorative carving, so I figured they had been made for the tourist trade rather than actual use.  One older reed looked functional.  The dents were very small and even, it had a black patina of soot, and the carving was much finer.  Curious, I went inside to ask the proprietor if she knew what sort of loom it would be used with.  I couldn’t imagine how it would fit into a piece of weaving equipment, with all that bumpy carving on top, so I was thinking it belonged to some sort of backstrap loom.

The lady said no, these reeds went with the big Thai looms.  She looked for a picture in her books but couldn’t find one.  I had noticed while we were talking that the old reed had been broken clean across the carved top and mended with glue, so I put it back in the box.  It cost a bit too much for a (broken) curiosity.

At home I started looking for pictures of traditional Thai looms on the internet–still a little skeptical as to whether such narrow, highly decorated reeds were typical fare.  I know Thai silk weaving can be very sophisticated, so I was picturing very elaborately constructed traditional looms.

This says a lot about weaving!  All you need, when you get right down to it, is a frame to hold your cloth and warp beams apart at tension, string, and sticks.  The elaborations are optional.  This picture is the best I could find, but there were other looms without even the pulleys to balance the shafts, just a loop of string over a large bamboo pole tied to the upper frame.  Still others had horses that were simply short sticks tied with string.

The reed seems to be the part of the loom that gets decorated.  This one has nice scalloping but I saw another that had figurative carving like the one at the shop.  And when I thought about it, yes, that makes sense.  The beater/reed is the part of the loom you handle.  The part that takes the most skill to make.  It’s traditional in the West as well.  Only we put our reeds in separting beaters, and decorate the beaters.  Or used to.

Have a look at this:  http://www.firesidelooms.com/services.html#carvings


10.   This kind of loom is only getting more and more popular.  You’ll never find another this cheap.

9.  You’ll be more productive, because it will prevent you from tying up your main loom with super time-consuming warps.

8.  You’ll learn more, because you’ll be willing to try more time-consuming weaves.

7.  It’s small (for a loom).  You can put it . . . somewhere when you’re not using it.

6.  If you decide you don’t really need it, you can sell it on eBay.

5.  Maybe you’ll even turn a profit.  It’s an investment.

4.  You can warp it up and loan it to your favorite relative who has expressed an interest in weaving.

3. Lots of people have 2 {3, 4, 5…} looms.

2. You’ll use up all that cruddy yarn you’ve been given.

1.  It’s old!  It’s cute!  If you don’t buy it, some unappreciative schmuck will stick it in their closet for 40 years!


May 22, 2008

or, How it Happened, conclusion


Picture yourself driving on the highway on a calm night in early November of 2006.  A minivan speeds up alongside you.  Perhaps the van’s faulty rear dome light is still on, revealing a strange bulk of varnished wood.  What are those people hauling?  Is it some kind of salvaged cabinetry?  It certainly looks old; it’s that old fir the color of buckwheat honey.  There are funny long sticks hanging off it though, bundled with cords.  Then you catch a glimpse of a wooden lever.  Could that be . . . a loom?

The Craig’s list ad was less than a day old when my husband spotted it.  I phoned immediately, but I was already one of many callers.  A guy traveling abroad had begged her to hold it for him until he got back, and a pair of ladies had come to look at it that very afternoon.

“Oh shoot,” I thought.  “I’m too late.  She’s just waiting for them to come back with the money.”

The funny thing was that the seller still wanted to talk with me about her loom, especially after I told her how beautiful I thought it was.  She told me it had belonged to her weaving-teacher grandmother.  Then she said some more about the weavers who had come by that afternoon.  Their only reluctance had been about the price, since the joints “might need work.”

So, why was this lady willing to spend fifteen minutes telling me about her grandmother’s loom when I was only a standby?  I would have thought it was a hard sell, but that didn’t make sense with the number of calls she was getting.  And if it were a hard sell she certainly wouldn’t be telling me a professional weaver had been shoving her loom around and finding it wanting in the joints!

And yet the first thing she’d said to me was, “I’d really like to sell it for the full price.”

I’m a bit dim.  Suddenly it clicked: this woman hadn’t just been talking about the money, she’d been talking about wanting someone to value her grandmother’s loom as much as she did.  She wanted them to know what they were getting, and to see immediately that it was worth the price she’d set! 

“I know you have to be fair and first come, first serve, and all,” I said, “But could I possibly see it, just in case?”

Der Mann and I left as soon as we had bolted some dinner and filled up the gas tank.  It took about two hours to get down to the city, where we found ourselves in a neighborhood of lovely early 20th century walk-up apartment buildings.  Wow.  We had been apartment hunting just a year ago, so I knew the market.  I couldn’t even imagine the rent on a place like this.

The lady who answered the door was in a mild tizzy.  Her grandmother had given her the loom when she was a young woman in the 1970’s.  In fact, she had given each of her grandchildren a loom from her weaving school, but the others had sold theirs years ago.  It was a guilt-loom.  A beloved guilt-loom.  We found out the loom lady worked in the arts sector, and had always meant to weave again.  (Since weaving rya in the 70’s, she hadn’t really.)  Now she figured her beaded jewelry was enough of a creative outlet.  Selling the loom was her first step toward downsizing for a move.  Her niece was there for moral support.  The atmosphere was tense and hurried.

Extreme tact was required.

I didn’t have to pretend to love the loom.  In fact, I was trembling with excitement as soon as I saw it.  It was in beautiful condition.  The loom lady pushed heavily on it a couple of times to show me the play in the joints–which was minimal, and only affected the side-to-side axis, not front-to-back.  “It’s fine as long as people don’t keep pushing on it all day!” I didn’t say.  In my head it was already mine.

I suspect the hurriedness and tenseness was because now that she’d started process of loom-excision, she wanted to finish it quickly, like ripping off a band-aid.  It was just my great luck that clearly she wanted to sell her loom to ME.  NOW.  I slowed myself down to check carefully for all the components.  They were all there . . . and then some.  What was that extra ratcheted beam in the castle?  An extra warp beam?  It must be.

Everything was very orderly.  She had even counted up all the string heddles and bagged them in labeled groups.  It was sad in a way–as if I would be hauling off not just her grandmother’s loom but her actual grandmother, and she wanted to make sure the old lady had packed her toothbrush and plenty of hankies.  Yes, loom lady, I’ll take good care of granny!  I hope she could tell.

We went back to the kitchen.  Der Mann had gotten as much cash as the ATM allowed, and I was writing a check for the rest.  About five large plastic storage boxes of yarn and unidentified wooden objects were sitting on the dining room table.

“For another $100 you can have all the yarn and shuttles and things if you like.”

I don’t know if she had even been planning to sell them until that moment.  It might have been a last minute kindness, or a last minute clean sweep.  Can you faint from bliss?  There was also a box of books I didn’t even have time to look at, and an umbrella swift in pieces.  The swift was the piéce de résistance: she said it had been her grandmother’s grandmother’s swift in Sweden, which meant it was probably at least 150 years old.  All it needed was restringing.  I didn’t count the shuttles but there were a lot.

The loom lady said she had spun and dyed some of the wool with her grandmother, who had also raised sheep.  Then she lifted up a huge jar stuffed with scraps of cloth and pushed them them away from the rest of the stuff.  “Oh, and these are just her samples of things she wove.  You wouldn’t want them.  They wouldn’t mean anything to you.”

I so wanted to snatch up the jar saying, “YES!  I WOULD!”  I glimpsed all kinds of fine linens through the sides of the jar.  Sweet little rosepath borders.  Wool suitings.  But I already had an embarrassment of riches, and the fraught emotional atmosphere demanded my restraint.  It still drives me a little crazy though; I couldn’t tell if she really wanted to keep the samples, or if she really just thought they were were worthless, given they had been treated that way, stuffed willy-nilly in that old jar.  Maybe she didn’t know it’s possible to find out how to weave something just from looking at it?

Anyway, if I’d said I wanted the samples, I was afraid it would all disappear, as if I were the greedy man in a fairy tale who asks the magical being for just one thing too many.  “What!  You’d take my grandmother’s samples?  Well then you’ll have no loom!”

Amid the tying up and dismantling and reciept making and minivan loading I learned some more of its history.

Margaret Bergman, a Swedish farmwife on the Puget Sound, began teaching local women to weave in the late 1920’s.  She designed, patented, and had her family begin manufacturing a clever folding countermarche so her students could have their own looms.  One of her students was the loom lady’s grandmother, Mrs. S-G.  Mrs. S-G also took a textile course at the University, and started her own weaving school in turn on Lake Sammamish in the 1930’s or ’40’s.  Loom Lady was very proud to tell me that Jack Lenor Larsen (at the time I had never heard of him!) had learned to weave on this very loom; apparently when he was at the U of W he went out to Mrs. S-G’s place for lessons.  All of the 8? 10? looms she eventually acquired for her school were ordered from her old teacher Margaret Bergman–she believed there was no better loom.

When Mrs. S-G was past running a weaving school she broke up her studio.  The loom lady was her only grandchild who had wanted to weave.  When the young loom lady moved to San Francisco in the 1970’s, her dad made a special packing crate to ship her the loom.

My loom went to San Francisco with the flower children.

And came back North to it’s home town again, part of the general migration.

There wasn’t room for the custom packing crate in the car, so we’d have to make another trip for that.  It started to rain.  It was about 11 when we got home, but I didn’t want to wait to unload.  We carried everything inside. When we were done I crawled around the living room with a towel, drying every side of every piece of wood to make sure I hadn’t missed any of the raindrops.  It felt like we’d just completed a heist, and I had gotten away with something both terrifying and amazing.

Little Big Loom

May 15, 2008

or, How it Happened, Part III


Toward the end of my class, it struck me: I would soon be loomless!  Just when I had discovered weaving yarn on eBay!

I did a lot of research and checked around the internet, where I found a nice page of advice for new weavers that offered several good reasons for starting out with a floor loom rather than a table loom.  When I started checking prices, it seemed that a decent 8-shaft table loom was so expensive, I might as well look for a floor loom: they were both so far out of my price range.  And as long as I was looking for a mythical loom, why not look for the kind I wanted?

I wanted a countermarche.

The decision-making process went something like this:  Van Gogh.  Andrew Carnegie.  Wood.  Sweden.  My perversity.  Tension.

First, I had somehow got these images in my head, and others like them:


I didn’t have any rosy ideas about 19th century textile production.  These particular weavers were miserable folk!  But I did like the way they looked at their looms.  I liked to think of a time when handweaving was still a viable form of industry, as when . . .


. . . Andrew Carnegie was a boy.  Barely.  He was born at the end of that era.  My favorite 19th century philanthropist emigrated when he was 13; his father was an agitator against the mills that were already destroying his livelihood as a handweaver.  I saw their narrow house in Dunfermline, Scotland.  Next door is a “Carnegie Museum” chock full of the awards he was so fond of receiving for his generosity–the man was a monumental egotist!–and not much else.  It was fascinating: I could see the course of his life in the contrast between the cramped little room where his father worked, and the praise-hungry steel magnate’s museum.  The huge drive that propelled him from one to the other.  It was like the story of the transition to the modern era in miniature.

What really got me, though, was the hole in the ceiling.  Mrs. Carnegie would sit in the upstairs room winding bobbins, which she tossed to her husband through a hole in the floor.  The weaving room was empty, no loom or anything else, but the hole in the ceiling was still there.  It was so easy to imagine the rest.

Neither Van Gogh’s miserable dagloners nor William Carnegie probably used countermarch looms.  Counterbalance and draw looms?  But this brings me to the third facet of my decision-making process.  Their looms were huge.  I was greedy for wood.

Wood!  I wanted a loom with as much wood as possible, preferably a tree’s worth or two.  Big.  Stable, unlike our living situation and finances.  Too big for our rental!  Too big for any house we were ever likely to own!  In fact, what I really wanted was a loom I could convert into a house if necessary.  This was impossible, so I decided to go for the same kind of loom as the biggest looms currently available, which are countermarches.

Incidentally, I’m a Svenskaphile.  I love the cohesive aesthetic I found in Sweden.  A Swedish-style loom sounded just dandy, and when I started understanding the countermarche system a little better, I thought it might suit me in other ways as well.  It is more time-consuming to tie up countermarche treadles (perversity), and it produces a cloth that is more uniform on both faces (tension).

The tension thing–with the shafts pulling the warp both up and down, so that none of the threads get stretched out any more than the others–said “better cloth” to me.  Now, I doubt it.  But I am a  sucker for the idea of consistency and quality, and of having to go to more trouble to produce better results.  Plus I really liked the way the words “wider sheds” kept coming up.  “Yeah, those big sheds!  Bring ’em on!”  (Please take note for purposes of future irony.) 

Does anyone remember checking the housecleaning pages and guild ads during their own loom search?  All those beautiful, well-kept (too big) looms on the other side of the country?  Or in some cases, in another country?  I found an old Cranbrook used by nuns in the midwest, and a gorgeous hand-made Glimåkra look-alike (“pick-up only!”) on an island.  The fact that everything cost three times as much as I could afford did a lot to temper my disappointment.

The nearest I came was a Louet, but I just couldn’t do it.  Somebody else bought it before I could change my mind and beggar us.

I set my sights back on a table loom.  No luck.  Weavers don’t get rid of their 8-shaft table looms!  Again, I adjusted my expectations.  I was about to bid on a 4-shaft Woolhouse Tools table loom in Canada, when my husband said, “Hey, come look at this.”  He’d come across a strange ad on Craig’s list for a make of loom I had never heard of.

The more I looked at the blurry pictures the more I knew I WANTED THIS LOOM.  It was just so bizarre.  It folded, back and front, and when it was folded, it looked like nothing so much as an old parlour organ.  Wood a-plenty, but not a big loom.  Not like anything I had ever seen.


To be continued. . .