So, I’m not up for much.  But early this spring I bought some real locker-hook canvas–as opposed to my allergenic home-made version–because I had some large projects in mind. It is a stiff 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend leno, heavily starched to keep the mesh from shifting.

I chose the 5 mesh version (five holes to the inch) because it was the smallest I could find.  I have no interest in working with rags, and I can’t imagine using anything but wide rags with the more common 3.75 mesh canvas.  Even then the work would come out sparse and coarse.

My first project was a sample trivet.  I have two hulking rolls of late 1960’s / early 1970’s “Sellgren Ryer” yarn that came to me with my loom: beautifully spun Norwegian wool from same town as my favorite cathedral.  My sample was to tell me a) if I liked the two colorways together b) if the yarn made a goodly-packed pile when worked through the 5 mesh canvas, and c) how quickly does locker-hooking use it up.  Do I actually have enough of this stuff for a rug?

All this I learned and more beside.  The rya yarn actually is a bundle of different grists and coordinating colors of yarns wound side-by-side.  When you’re fishing to hook a loop by feel on the underside of the canvas, it’s really hard to grab all the yarns at once.  Individual strands keep slipping free from the bundle, especially the the lace-weight ones.  I often had to undo my work to retreive them.

The other problem was one I didn’t expect.  As far as I know there is only one U.S. maker of locker hooks (crochet hook with a needle eye at the end of the handle) and they only come in one size.  Mine is aluminum, and what do you know?  It is TOO BIG to pull smoothly through the unforgivingly starch-stabilized 5 mesh canvas, especially when pulling a fat load of yarn.  Struggle, struggle, struggle all the way!  Maybe the steel locker hooks from England are a little skinnier?  I hope so.

All in all it was a most uncooperative trivet.  I chastised it sternly and swore never to touch locker hook to rya yarn again.

Though it did turn out wonderfully dense and spongy:

And no, I do not like the color combination.  It’s not horrible, but after a while I realized that putting these two yarns together manages to make the least of each colorway.  The subtle loden looks drab and the blue looks harsh.  Separately they are lovely.  If I use them (and it won’t be for anything locker hooked!), I’ll pair them with solids to play them up.  Those old large, multi-stranded, un-cut skeins of Paternayan would be about the best match for texture.  At the moment however I have no immediate rugmaking plans and refuse to trawl eBay or Etsy for antique yarn.  That way madness lies.


I was wondering why taking a few en deshabille photos of my looms and looking at other people’s looms in the same condition turned out to be such a refreshing exercise last year.  Here’s what I think.  It’s hard to get a clear look at something you walk around daily, dust around weekly (Ha! Fat chance!), and the very nature of which is to be a means to an end.  When I look at my looms I see cloth or lack of it.  Easier not to look.  But you can’t not see something when you stick it in a rectangle, click the shutter, and pass it around for others to see too.  Somehow it just feels right to look at things squarely on the first day of the year.  A great idea, Meg.

Bergman 8-shaft countermarche:  The ironing hanging on it pretty much tells the story.  My Bergman has not had a warp since we moved to into this house nearly three years ago.  My hips may allow me to weave on it again someday, they may not.  C’est la vie!  (Sorry, feeling French today, I have been watching surrealist cartoons.)  The wooden pieces on the bench are components of a band loom I mean to make.

Spears rigid heddle:  Here is the end of a warp for 3 large napkins in an adaptation of Erika de Ruiter’s “Magic-Step Towels”–only the final border and a little extra are left to weave off.  I was intrigued by the idea that such a complex-looking pattern could be woven on a rigid heddle loom.  Word to the wise: just because you can weave something on a rigid heddle loom doesn’t mean you should.  This was the slowest weaving I’ve done.  Ever.  Eternity napkins.  I should bronze them.

Standing inkle:  20/1 linen band.  I would like to weave a bunch of these in different colors and designs.  I have a plan for using them together, and a lot of this vintage linen thread.

8-shaft table loom:  Fooled you!  The homemade 8-shaft table loom is GONE.  What you see below is a different loom entirely.  A few months ago I sold the old 8-shaft in just the way I had hoped–remodeled into good working order, for much less money than I paid for it, with a clear conscience, to a deserving new weaver!

Pysslingen 4-shaft table loom:  I had decided that if I ever bought another table loom, it would have to be an older Glimåkra because no other kind was worth the trouble.  I did not really think I would find one.  Then I did.  This loom has never been warped or even fully assembled.  It is essentially a brand new 35-year-old loom . . . without heddle sticks.  The original owner stashed them somewhere years ago and wasn’t able to find them when she put the loom up for sale.  Pre-milled lumber doesn’t come in the right size for replacements, and Glimåkra no longer stocks parts for this loom (its successor the Victoria has metal shaft bars), so at the moment I am in heddle stick limbo.  I might get an email telling me that the former owner has found them in her basement the same way she found the reed and cords and heddles a week after I bought her loom, or I might just get help from someone with a table saw.

Happy winding, warping, and weaving in 2012!

My Le Clerc Warping Reel

March 15, 2010

Have I ever told you about the six years I spent fighting mold in a rented stucco farmhouse between two creeks?  Every spring and fall the water table crept into the cellar.  I became an unofficial expert on the kinds of grey-green mold that grow on furniture and wood floors, and the kinds of mildew that grow on window frames and plaster.  At any rate, I became an expert on how ineradicable they are!  Spores are viable for upward of a decade, and–according to my friend who is a chemist–nothing really kills them but bleach or formaldehyde.  If it is humid enough for them, they will grow.  Truthfully?  Even bleach doesn’t hold back a patch of household mold for long.

Sometimes it’s convenient to be a human mold detector.  I can trust my sense of smell completely.  If there is even a tiny amount of mold on something, my mold-sensitized nose will pick up on it.  On the downside, if I walk into a musty antique store or garage, what to others is just an unpleasant odor gives me itchy eyes and a tight, choking cough that lasts for hours.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that my new-used Le Clerc warping reel arrived moldy.  I should have known better, since my old no-brand reel was another Ebay disappointment.  That one wasn’t moldy, but it had design problems.

When you have a piece of equipment you don’t like, it teaches you a lot about what you would like.  Actually, there are inherent problems in using any warping reel to achieve a consistently tensioned warp.  With a warping reel, unlike a warping board, individual warp threads accumulate on two different planes, because the pegs are perpendicular to the body of the reel.  Each new thread has a little farther to go than the last thread did to get its place as the top thread on the peg.

Some reel designs magnify the tension problems, others smooth them.  This makes a bad reel a bad bargain.  How do you tell which reels are the best?  Its mostly a matter of how the cross bars that hold the pegs attach to the body of the reel.  But it is hard to see details online, because the product photography is very low resolution.  It’s also hard to find out how much a given warping reel holds. When manufacturers state a reel’s capacity, they are assuming you will pack it tightly and make a lot of small bouts.  I don’t do that.  It’s a big pain, and I’d lose any advantage a warping reel has over a warping board.  Based on my old reel, which resembles a Louet warping reel / yarn blocker, I assume a 16 yard reel will comfortably hold 12 or 14 yards, or even less.  A 20 yard reel will hold 16 or 18.

After peering at a lot of blurry photos I decided that a Woolhouse (rare), Ashford or a Le Clerc would be a good used reel for me.  A Glimåkra would have been my first choice, but they are expensive.  The Le Clerc holds more warp than the Ashford.

Then one day I happened to find an older Le Clerc reel on an ebay auction that was ending in a few minutes for a very good price. There was no time to ask the seller about mold.  Usually, I won’t bid on ANYTHING made of wood without asking the seller where it has been stored.  Old weaving equipment is often banished to damp basements, sheds, and garages.  I also take note of the sellers location.  If they are in a humid area with mild winters, I’m wary.

I bid, I bought, I regretted.  The warping reel arrived from Tennessee smelling faintly of mold.  It was covered with a fine layer of that sitting-in-storage, ground-in, house-dust-of-ages kind of gunge, which always makes it hard to tell visually what is mold growing on the wood itself, what is mold growing on the gunge, and what is just gunge.  The metal axle was rusty.

I let the reel sit in the entry-way for a month.  Should I should try to clean it up, or just get rid of it before the mold could spread?  I decided to risk a cleaning.  Der Mann kindly de-rusted the axle with Naval Jelly.  It wouldn’t have been good to use bleach on the wooden parts–any residue could transfer to the warps and discolor them.  Besides, I am allergic to it  (another legacy of the moldy farmhouse).  On a sunny day I washed everything outside with a rag dampened in sudsy hot water.  I did a lot of rubbing before I rinsed and dried it.

This is never a great way to treat an old piece of varnished wood, but at least the gunge is gone.  As long as I’m careful to store it in a dry place with good air circulation, maybe it will be okay?

I hope so, because I like it!  Here it is with its first warp.

I don’t know if the current Le Clerc warping reels are made as nicely, but I can certainly recommend the older ones.  Judging by the the logo and the opaque brownish-yellow varnish, mine is from the fifties or sixties.  It is a beautifully joined tool.  If you make crosses at both ends of your warp, the circumference is almost exactly 2 yards.  You can move the peg holders anywhere you like for odd-number-yard warps. The design is simple.  Gravity holds the axle slotted into the heavy butcher-block base. The body of the reel slots onto the axle, where it rests on a nylon ring to reduce friction.  If you remove the adjustable peg holders, It folds to about 3″ wide.  The lumber is all top notch: unblemished Canadian maple.

Of course you weaver folk guessed correctly about my letter opener. I’ve been using it to weave a pick-up band. I don’t have a band loom, and there were a couple of false starts before I worked out a shedding and tensioning arrangement that suited me.

My first mistake was a vintage bead loom. This belonged to my aunts when they were children, but they never used it, probably because the impenetrable instructions made it look like work, which it was.  I used it once to bead a cuff bracelet. I was good at things like that as a kid. I had a strange talent for completing self-imposed projects I had come to hate. (The hideous printed-yardage-kit rag doll plus accessories and the dolls house come to mind.)

I didn’t exactly hate beading–I just found the end result rather frail and useless. It didn’t justify the finicky work.  I didn’t know how to tack the finished web of beads to leather (didn’t know where you even got craft leather at the age of eleven), and wasn’t much interested in Indian jewelry or belts or hatbands in the first place. But I loved the little loom! I had a notion I could weave cloth bands on it, if only I had some directions. I clearly remember finding some Scandinavian needlepoint patterns in an ancient copy of Workbasket magazine around that time, and thinking “If I knew how to weave, I could weave sewing trim or narrow tapestries with motifs like that!” Much more exciting than seed beads, to me.

I kept the loom all these years not for band weaving, but because it was too cute to get rid of and no one else in the family was likely to want it. As I was contemplating the problem of tensioning my current band warp, I took it out and had a look at it.

It is too small to use with the Beka rigid heddle I bought from Earth Guild, so I made a continuous string heddle, like this–

–and prepared to beam my warp. I meant to treat the the wire spacers on the back beam as a kind of raddle, then cover the breast and back beams up with little rolls of card to keep the wire spacers from catching the threads while I was wove. But the spacers (intended for fine bead thread) are too close. My linen and cotton warp dragged and caught, and inevitably popped right out of them. I might have managed to carry out my plan with a single ply of embroidery floss or something equally fine, but even so, the loom is really too short to allow much of a shed or much room to ply the pick-up stick. Nix on that.

I threaded the heddle, sighed, got out my backstrap sling. I don’t like the whole tied-to-a-doorknob thing much, besides which the doorknobs around here–where they remain–are a hundred years old. They have been taken out and put back in the wrong doors, with the wrong screws, in stripped holes. They are rickety. Tie the warp to a doorknob, and I was liable to pull the knob right off and find myself locked in.

I looked around for something else to tie myself to. The newel post is a part of a modern prefabricated stair-and-banister kit someone put in when they ripped out the original staircase. I don’t like it much, but it is great for weaving. All the little turned bobbles allowed me to attach my warp at whatever height I wished.

I had used internet resources to learn how one does this kind of work. They made it sound really complicated, and I spent a lot of time earnestly trying to comprehend the whole process before I had begun it, which didn’t work. Happily, once I understood the threading principle (ground, ground, pattern–regardless of holes and slots) and had the loom in my hands, it wasn’t that hard to figure out pick-up technique.

I soon saw why clever folk put a second set of holes in their traditional rigid heddle tape looms. From what I read it is strictly a Norwegian innovation, though it is such an improvement on regular tape looms, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t taken up elsewhere!

Speckled background bands are a pain but doable with a normal rigid heddle. (That’s when you let the unused pattern warps go up and down as they please to make specks in the plain weave ground when they are not skipping up to make part of the design, as shown in this nice article on the Weaver’s Hand site, and this older entry on knotted pile weaver Sarah Lamb’s blog.) But I didn’t want to make speckled background bands. I wanted monochrome backgrounds as shown in the second part of Sarah Lamb’s tutorial–which means you have to pick out all the pattern warps from the all ground warps all the time, not just select and lift the few you especially want on top.

With a second set of holes in the heddle, to carry the pattern warps just a tad over the ground warps, the pattern warps are always easy to see and pick out, even when they happen to be on the bottom side of the shed. You can see how this double-holed Norwegian loom is threaded in a 2008 article in Weavezine (“Scandinavian Tape Looms”, by Grace Hatton), which I have to admit I only really understood after I had tried weaving with an normal rigid heddle and found it unnecessarily difficult! I unpicked the bit of weaving you see here, plus a little more, and decided to make myself a new loom.

to be continued….

Can you guess what I’m making with this? If you’ve been reading Dot’s Fibre to Fabric blog, you probably can.


Last year Granny was cleaning out her sewing drawers and found yet another stash of sewing/knitting notions that had belonged to her mother. Great Granny was such a pack rat, it took Granny about a year to clean out her small house after she died, and she’s still finding pockets of Great Granny’s stuff that she hasn’t had time to sort and disperse–things that weren’t valuable, but were somehow so infused with Great Granny that she couldn’t bring herself to throw them out. I have happily taken some of them, like the collection of bobby pins and various kinds of toothed 1920’s-1940’s metal clips that Great Granny used to set her hair for pin-curls and marcel waves every morning. It was amazing to watch how nimbly she did this; it was her signature hairstyle most of her life. The way it fell in place when she combed it out was sheer magic. Now I use the clips to hold back the layers when I cut Der Mann’s hair. For a long time they smelled of her.

This particular stash had some knitting markers and gauges, a celluloid tracing wheel that belonged to my Granny’s granny, Nanny, and this handmade copper letter opener. Granny didn’t know anything about it except that her mother had always kept it in her desk. It seemed the sort of thing someone might have made for her when she was a girl in rural Idaho, but Granny couldn’t say for sure that her mother had been its first owner. As Granny was telling me this I was turning it around in my hands, and found the initial at the end of the handle.


Great Granny’s name was Kathleen, so it was definitely hers. In normal light the embedded copper is nearly the same color as the wood. I’m not surprised no one spotted it. I can imagine one of the old coots who came to her father’s general store making it, or her mother sending it to her at boarding school, or picking it out for her in a souvenir shop someplace like Yellowstone in the 1910’s. I’ll never know.

I love this tool. Aside from loving the look of it and the way it’s put together, with the little copper wedges holding the blade into the handle and the braided copper wires binding it, it is almost perfectly balanced, and I like the way it fits in my hand. As soon as I held it I knew immediately what I was going to do with it.

But that’s not the only project I’ve got going. I’ve also warped up the Spear’s rigid heddle loom for another scarf out of scraps of Great Granny yarn, padded with a bit of Goodwill yarn from the same era. Perhaps you remember the three scarves I made last year for my aunts and mom? I’m not sure who this one is for. Maybe one of my sisters. The urge just came on me to use up ridiculously small scraps of yarn. Maybe because it’s autumn. Waste not, want not. The past. Family. Dissolution. Time.


When I had the warp on I the loom I remembered something about weaving on the Spear’s. It turns me into a moaning hunchback. If your rigid heddle loom doesn’t have blocks, that means you will be holding up the heddle with either your left or right hand, at arm’s length, against the tensioned threads, for every other pass of the shuttle.

I knew I would regret it if I put off making heddle blocks any longer. Milled 1x2s are the wrong size to make proper attached blocks, which need to be a true 1/2 inch thick for this loom, so I made some free-standing ones. (Again the scraps!) They don’t hold the “down” shed in place as attached blocks would, but that doesn’t really matter: the Spear’s heddle holds the down shed by itself if you just let it dangle. It is heavy enough for that because you can’t weave at very tight tension anyway on a Spears, due to the bolt-and-wingnut mechanism it uses for advancing and securing the warp.

I was going to tell you about the hellish spring-summer-fall that accounts for my blog silence, but it isn’t over and I’m not in the mood. Maybe later? I’ll leave you with a genuine out-the-window picture. Yes, that is is a Fisher Price McDonald’s playset circa 1978. It was buried four feet underground. If plastic could talk…


Season of Shreds and Patches

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.

Sparkly Nest

November 12, 2008

A few weeks ago I was admiring Suzan’s collection of spindles on her blog.  I have been wanting to try spinning with a spindle, so I asked if she had any advice about a starter spindle.  Suzan said a CD spindle is a good one for a beginner, and kindly offered to send me the rubber gasket needed to fit the CD’s to the dowel.

Today, this arrived in the mail.


Methinks that is a very big box for a little rubber gasket.

When I opened it up, I felt suddenly. . .


. . . as though I were twirling through sparkly multicolored vapors . . . yes, strangely uplifted!

Transformed, even?

A complete CD spindle with instructions rested in a nest of sparkly roving–soft natural colors mixed beautifully with orchid and citron.


And under that, even more wonderful fluff!


I am an innocent when it comes to wool preparation, but I read in my Woodland Woolworks catalog that new spinners should start with a not-too-slippery longish-staple carded fiber, so I read the directions and started with the least slippery roving in the box.  It was so fun! 

Spindle spinning is anti-weaving.  Or maybe, if it is like any part of weaving, it is like throwing the shuttle.  Rhythm and alertness and consistency and accumulation. 

I already begin to get a sense that achieving consistent yarn with a drop spindle is to be done more than it is to be talked about.


In the mean time, good thing I know how to take my lumps!

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.

Bergman Beginners

July 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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