Risqué Loom Dressing

December 24, 2008


I put that pesky warp for the Summer and Winter samples on the loom.  I may never weave the baby blankets, and it may be wasted effort, but at least it is short.  One might even say ridiculously brief.  At around 57″ it is the equivalent of dressing my loom in a 9″ mini skirt.


So, I have been asking myself: if I love the snow this much, how come I live somewhere that usually doesn’t have a winter, just a cold-ish season between the two squelchy ones?  Good question!

I never thought view from my kitchen window would be able to compete with Jane’s for wintriness, but here are my dead sunflowers wearing little conical hats!


I have only two problems with this weather.  The first is a phenomenon that has been mentioned by a lot of other Pacific Northwestern bloggers, but which bears repeating because it is just so weird.  There are no routines to deal with snow here.  Instead, white stuff falling from the sky prompts an immediate crisis mentality–and not the kind of crisis where people pull together, but the kind where they peek out of their windows at the burning house across the street.  I doubt the city or county even owns a snow plow.  (If they do, we haven’t seen it.)  There isn’t even any guy-with-a-truck-who-will-take-your-money plowing going on!  Taking a cue from the city streets and local businesses, nobody shovels their sidewalk.  Come on, it’s been out there nearly a week!  The School For the Blind shoveled, but that’s about it.  People stay inside Hoping It Will Just Go Away until they can’t stand it anymore or run out of Keystone Light, then rush out to drive like absolute doofuses on the slick, uncleared roads.

This makes great conversation for everyone who has lived in the mountains or in New England.  We get to shake our heads over the wimpiness of the infrastructure and the supposed “outdoorsiness” of the natives.

My other problem is the quality of the snow.  Because of the strange mix of weather systems in play where we live, heavy snow is almost always followed by freezing rain.  This is cruel to the temperate zone trees and shrubs, and has mostly (along with the doofussy drivers and lack of shoveling) kept me indoors.  With layers of ice like frosting between the layers of a cake,  it’s not the kind of snow it’s fun to play in.

But none of this is really a complaint.  Ever since I woke up yesterday morning and thought, “I get to thread today!” I have been wondering why snowy weather is the perfect weather for weaving.  Obviously loom dressing and weaving lend themselves really well to large chunks of time without distractions, and you can set those aside without any guilt when the weather has you housebound.  But I have also noticed that the reflected light from the snow has filled my normally dark apartment with a clear, diffuse light.  Point-source light casts confusing shadows when I am dealing with ranks of Texsolv cords and heddles.  Crawling under the loom and threading were so much easier with the snow-light!

Another thing I noticed was that I was moving my whole body getting around the loom.  Warping takes about the same degree and variety of effort as gardening.  I don’t know of any other way to get that sort of physical activity indoors.  It’s the perfect antidote to the “I have been sitting in this chair too long and I am not up to cleaning the bathroom” syndrome.  Especially since, as with gardening, I get the satisfaction of making something.

No wonder weaving as has persisted so strongly as a home craft in the Nordic countries, where the winters are long and snowy and the traditional houses tend to be short on windows.

Yesterday afternoon I was trying to finish threading before the daylight disappeared.  I just made it!


Now I am going to go sley.



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.

Yarn Samples and a Book

August 16, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other thing in my package:

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

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

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

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

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


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.



My Bergman loom came with a 4 1/2” high, 15 dent reed made by the Andrews Co.  When I started looking for a second reed, I discovered that the 4 1/2” height is not standard.  (I’m guessing the Bergmans ordered their reeds in bulk from a mill supplier.)  I looked around the internet for the Andrews Company of Spartanburg SC, to see if they were still in existence, or if some of their reeds were still floating around . . . but no.  Then I looked into suppliers of modern-day industrial reeds.  Too complicated and expensive for a private buyer.

“But why,” you may ask, “not use a 5″ reed and let your beater top rest higher?”

This is what the owner of a weaving store suggested.  Her Glimåkra reeds were discounted because she was selling her business.  She was so certain about the adjustability of ALL beater tops, that against my better judgement I took home a reed.  Surely the 1/2″ difference was so small it wouldn’t matter?  It did.  There really is such a thing as a non-adjustable beater top.

“But several handweaving suppliers offer custom-made reeds. . .”

I had my reservations about those custom handweaving reeds because the bars looked too wide.  Unlike Glimåkra reeds, which have duct tape wrapping the bars, the custom reeds’ are covered with wide, hard strips of plastic.  My sheds were already making contact with the narrow lower bar of my Andrews reed.  The last thing I needed was a reed that interfered with my already tiny sheds!

In the end I went ahead and ordered a custom reed from a Large Well-Known Weaving Supply Company.  It took a LONG time to arrive.  Far longer than they had warned was possible with custom reed orders.  Longer still.  Several long times.  Finally it came packed in nothing but a flimsy cardboard wrapping.  Naturally, it was bent!  I was allowed to return it because UPS would refund them the cost.  I was just as glad to be rid of it.  Even if it hadn’t been bent, it looked really poor.

My story ends happily a year later.  The moral: LeClerc reeds are not really 5 inches high.  Their actual measurements are 4 3/4 inches.

The other moral:  Earth Guild is great!

Here I am pre-sleying my new LeClerc reed.  I’ve had it a few weeks, but I wasn’t able to try it in my beater until I’d cut the blue-and-white runner off the loom.  It’s tight in the grooves (I can’t adjust it side-to-side without taking my beater apart and prying it clear out), and the beater top rests 3/16” above of its proper place, but it’s secure enough to weave with.  I hear LeClerc started using molded plastic pieces on their reed bars about a year ago.  Their plastic is less bulky than the plastic on the custom reed, but if I ever find an old tape-wrapped LeClerc reed, I’ll certainly buy it.  I suspect it will fit more smoothly into my beater.

The IKEA clips are great for pre-sleying.  Because they are made to accommodate a gathered plastic bag, they don’t pinch the yarn tightly enough distress it.  You can see how the ends of my rocking chair arms keep the reed from sliding against my body.  I can easily pick everything up and put it on the floor if I need to get up.

Today I have been trying to take pictures as I beam on and start threading.  I’m naturally disinclined to photography–maybe because I get one passable shot for every 7–but we’ll see how it goes.


I have a confession to make.  Even though I am looking forward to working with some color at the end of my warp, I have been dawdling about getting there.  I don’t really want to be finished, because that means it’s time to get out the warping reel and get frustrated.

Generous readers: help! 

Part of my problem is that I have not found a satisfactory way to beam on.  My old weaving books show Swedish högskola girls in 1940’s wedge sandals and handwoven aprons working in teams of four.  If I had some Swedish high school students I’d use them!  My husband helped me with the last warp, and it was not good for our relationship.  He turned the warp beam while I tried to hold one half of the warp in each hand, put in sticks, shake the threads, and give orders at the same time:  “Stop.  No, go back one notch  Okay.  No.  Wait!  Okay, now.  Nooooo!”

It doesn’t help matters that my warping reel makes one side of the warp ever-so-slightly longer than the other as it climbs the pegs.  I have to compensate for the lopsided tension by combing it as I beam.


I’d like a better reel, but I’m afraid the tension problem is endemic to them.  My current reel is similar to the Louet yarn-blocker/warping reel.  It lacks those separate cross-pieces that carry the pegs on Schacht and most other horizontal reels.A Schacht horizontal reel

Yet even with better-positioned pegs, isn’t there is always going to be a tension discrepancy as the plane of the wound warp transfers from the horizontal barrel of the reel to the perpendicularity of the pegs?

Any fellow reelers out there?  I would love to hear your take on this problem.  What sort of reel do you use?  Can you wind an evenly tensioned warp with it?

As for the beaming, I beamed my first few warps by myself when I was warping Swedish-style.  (That’s the back-to-front threading method where you sley the reed twice, using it as a raddle the first time).  The tension wasn’t too bad, and frankly I can’t remember how I managed it!  I was using 15-dent reed, so that might have helped–the friction as the yarn pulled through.

But then I bought a bendy quarter-inch Glimåkra raddle.  I tried it on both the front and the back beams with poor results and some bad ol’ times with my beaming partner.  Fortunately, they were forgiving warps.  (Fortunately, I have a forgiving spouse.)

I’m about to wind a new warp.  It’s fine wool–not too wide, but long.  And you know, I’m afraid the original owner of my loom was right.  In a handwritten note with her warping instructions, Mrs. S-G declared to her granddaughter, “This is the way I warped a loom. . .This is the simplest and best way to warp no matter what anyone says about it.  I can put a 45” warp on a loom with no one helping, which I preferred to do.”

So I’ve given in.  My loom is Swedish.  Designed by a Swede, built by Swedes.  Okay!  I’ll dress it like a Swede, for Pete’s sake!  I’ll follow your directions to the letter Mrs. S-G.  Unfortunately you don’t say how you kept your tension.

On Bergman looms the main warp beam rests in the castle, a little higher up than the back beam.  If I’d thought logically about this fact, I’d have known a raddle wasn’t the way to go.  But I wasn’t thinking logically.  I was thinking that I didn’t want to sley the whole warp twice.  After struggling to lay my warps in an open raddle without accidentally lifting a piece of them out again or knocking the rod out of the loops and onto the floor, I’m not going to mind the extra sleying so much.  I now have a rocking chair with arms that are perfect for propping a reed across my lap.  And great plans for some bag clips from IKEA.

The tension problem remains.  I don’t have enough floor to drag the warp across it under weights as Elkhorn Mountain Weaving recommends.  I don’t have a warping trapeze like the Vävstuga folks.  If I were a homeowner, I would hang chains from the ceiling and suspend my warps over a wooden closet-rod.  For now I guess I’ll try the milk jug trick.  It’s just that my beam is so low, I’ll be rehooking them every 12 inches.

Advice is welcome!  Wish me luck.