Quiet Friday: Countermarch Back Savers

After back surgery, I wondered how-in-the-world I would be able to tie up my countermarch looms. After a four-week ban on bending over, I was eager to weave, but not eager to do anything that might strain or injure my back.

Two simple maneuvers made it possible for me to tie up the lamms and the treadles on both of my Glimäkra countermarch looms:

  1. Remove the lamms. Treadle cords are added while sitting in a comfortable position.
  2. Detach the treadles. Bring treadles closer to the front of the loom for attaching treadle cords.

And two important practices kept me from over-reaching and overdoing it:

  1. Sit on a low stool instead of the back of the loom or the floor.
  2. Take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and walk around.

Tools:

  • Low stool for sitting
  • Rolling cart (IKEA cart) or small table
  • Plank of wood, longer than the loom is wide (one plank of warping trapeze, 1″ x 5″)
  • Treadle cords, Texsolv pins, other tie-up supplies
  • Length of cord to hold treadle up (Texsolv cord that’s used for hanging the reed for sleying)

The 120 cm (47″) Standard loom has open space in the loom, making it easy to get within arm’s reach of most things; but the challenge increases with the number of shafts–eight for this tie up.

Alpaca warp, ready for countermarch tie-up without back strain.

Beamed, threaded, sleyed, tied on. Waiting for the final step of tying up lamms and treadles.

  • Lamms are removed, 2 at a time, and placed on the cart to add the treadle cords, all the while sitting on a comfortable stool.

Countermarch tie-up without back strain.

  • After all 8 lower lamms have the treadle cords added, the lamms are reinserted in the loom, 2 at a time.

Countermarch tie-up without back strain.

  • Treadle rod is removed to detach the treadles. Wood plank keeps the treadles from sliding back while treadle cords are attached at the front of the loom.

Trick to make countermarch tie-up easier on the back.

  • Cord acts as a sling to hold the treadle up to a comfortable height.

Tips for making countermarch tie-ups more back friendly.

  • The raised treadle helps with visibility, and enables the use of both hands, especially helpful for the “Vavstuga method” of tying up treadles with knitting needles (I use sharpened dowels). After treadles are tied up, re-attach the treadles at the back of the loom.

Hints for making countermarch tie-up more back friendly.

 

The 100 cm (39″) Ideal loom requires more reaching. Tying lamms to the shafts is a challenge for short arms, like mine. With four shafts, and only three treadles for this tie up, the rest of the process isn’t difficult.

Threaded for striped towels. Glimakra Ideal.

Threaded for striped towels. Glimäkra Ideal has smaller spaces in which to work than in the Standard loom.

  • Upper lamms are placed on the cart. I hold the weaving draft in my lap as I add the treadle cords to the lamms.

IKEA cart as tie-up helper.

  • Lower lamms are removed as the pin is pulled out. After the treadle cords are added, the lamms are reinserted.

Removing lamms to make countermarch tie-up back friendly.

  • Detached treadles lay on the floor. They easily pivot up at the front of the loom for attaching treadle cords.

Tips for making countermarch tie-ups less straining on the back.

  • Everything is tied up and ready to weave!

All tied up and ready to weave!

May you stay healthy to live long and weave.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Patty says:

    Thank you so much! As an aging weaver I’m definitely going to try this.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Patty, I guess we are all aging. Some of us are further along. 🙂 We have to constantly find ways to adjust how we do things. I plan to weave long into elder-hood.

      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Wow. What a great idea. Thank you for sharing. That solves so many problems…

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing, Karen, and happy to have you back weaving!

  • Lynette says:

    I love all your clear pictures because I think I’m a visual learner. You inspired me to make a trapeze, and it wasn’t that hard (with a little help from my husband and his saw). It had its debut performance a few days ago, and for the first time in 13 years of weaving, the warp beamed on so tightly and smoothly – no more “yank and crank” or tangles! I will use it all the time. I’d love to see a video of your warping mill use sometime. The Big Book of Weaving recommends doing some kind of figure eight at the top peg, but Vavstuga just goes on one side of the peg and back on the other with no figure eight. How have you found the best way to be? Hope you recover quickly!

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Lynette, That makes me so happy to know that you have had a great warping experience! That’s worth celebrating!

      I love your suggestion of making a warping reel video. Now I’m going to have to go look at The Big Book of Weaving to see what it says… I don’t do a figure 8 at the top peg, but maybe I should try that and see if it makes a difference.

      Your encouragement has put a big smile on my face today.
      Karen

  • Jane says:

    It’s wonderful that someone with back problems is still determined to tie up a countermarche loom. In July, I took my countermarche (Varapapuu) loom (eight shafts) down in order to free up space in what is, actually, a rather small house.

    As the months went by, I got grumpier and grumpier and then finally realised that I missed my loom!

    Notwithstanding the small house and the space issues, I am now in the process of rebuilding my loom. These looms are not easy to set up, but they certainly give good results.

    I keep hoping that Vavstuga will come up with some sort of e-learning course for those of us who don’t live in the USA.

    One thing that is worth mentioning, perhaps, is that these big looms are not sample looms. The lady who sold me my loom advised not to keep changing the tie-up. This alone means that you don’t sit for too long under the loom.

    Jane (Pretoria, South Africa)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane,
      I can see why you would miss your loom. I’m glad you are finding a way to make the loom fit in your home.

      I love the variety of weaving that countermarch looms are good for. I think I would have a hard time leaving the tie-up alone. But I think long warps are good, too. Then, you get to do a lot of weaving between tie-ups!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • geraldine powell says:

    I just found your blog and love it. I’ve had back surgeries and fusion and love your ideas. But, I don’t understand how you use the sharpened dowels to tie up the treadles. I studied the photos and couldn’t see them.
    I do see that you use little beads with holes. Where can one get these?

    I have not woven for about twenty years, but I have come into possession of an enormous countermarch loom and am planning to figure it out and get weaving again. I hope to learn a lot.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Geraldine, I’m happy you found your way here! Welcome!

      What you are seeing is the Vavstuga Tie-up System. You can find it at this link: Vävstuga Tie-up System. I use sharpened dowels in place of the knitting needles.

      I’m excited for you! The countermarch loom will give you a wonderful weaving experience!

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Warping Back to Front with Confidence

“Put on many short warps.” This was the best piece of advice I received as a new weaver! Repeated practice of the back-to-front warping steps accelerated my confidence at the loom. If I can get it on the loom, surely I can weave it, right? When you are comfortable dressing the loom, you start feeling like a “real” handweaver. And before you know it, you are planning, designing, and weaving. And having the time of your life!

Tips for Preparing the Warp for Beaming

  • Wind the warp with two (or more) threads, separated by your fingers to keep them from twisting. This virtually eliminates tangles during the warping process.
  • Wind multiple bouts, when needed. The rule of thumb I use is to stay under 200 ends or 10 inches. Smaller bouts equalize the tension across the width of the warp.
  • Tie tight choke ties about every yard or meter along the warp before chaining it. This keeps the warp ends from shifting.
  • Keep the warp under constant, even tension. Threads can get into trouble if you let them relax.

Warping Back to Front

1 Lay warp chains across the breast beam, and through the beater, with the lease cross of each warp chain on the other side of the beater.

Warp chains ready for warping the loom back to front.

2 Raise the shafts out of the way, and place support sticks over the beater and the back beam to hold the lease sticks and the pre-sley reed. Thread the lease sticks through the cross of each chain. Lease sticks in the picture are being tied together.

Tying lease sticks during warping process. B2F warping explained.

3 Use tape measure and reed hook to mark the starting dent for pre-sleying the reed.

Pre-sleying the reed in back to front warping.

4 Divide warp into sections corresponding to the cords on the back tie-on bar. Insert the tie-on bar through the loops that form at the end of the warp.

Insert tie-on bar while warping back to front.

5 Install the warping trapeze at the front of the loom, or use another method to extend the warp and weight it. Texsolv cord is connected to the end of each warp chain to extend the length. (This is a 3.5 meter warp–not long enough to go over the trapeze cross bar.) Weights are suspended from the texsolv cords with S-hooks.

Adjusting the warp on the warping trapeze.

6 Transfer the lease sticks from in front of the reed to behind the reed. This is a gutsy way of transferring lease sticks. (Please don’t try this method unless you read about it first in Becky Ashenden’s book, noted below.)

Transferring lease sticks like this takes guts!

7 Straighten out each warp end from the reed to the back tie-on bar.

Winding on a new warp. Back to front warping pics.

8 Place the reed in the beater. Center the reed in the beater.

Placing the reed in the beater.

9 Remove choke ties between the beater and the trapeze cross bar, but do not remove choke ties from the very end of the warp. Starting at the reed, separate each warp bout in the middle.

Warping trapeze in use for warping Glimakra Standard.

10 After sliding lease sticks toward the reed, wind the warp onto the beam. Place a warping slat on each flat side of the warp beam for one revolution. (Octagonal beam uses eight sticks.) Advance weight at the front of the loom as needed. After two additional revolutions of the beam, add warping slats for one revolution again. Continue this pattern as beaming progresses.

Warping slats during beaming. Beaming tutorial.

11 Tie beater back to allow a little more warp to be wound on.

Finishing up beaming the warp.

12 Tie lease sticks to the back beam. Do not forget this step!

Tie the lease sticks to the back beam before cutting the ends.

If you missed step 12, do it now, or you will be yelling for help as you try to hold the cut ends with one hand while trying to keep the lease sticks from slipping out with your other hand. I speak from experience.

13 Loop the end of the warp chain around your hand, and then remove the remaining choke ties. Cut the loop.

Cutting ends after beaming the warp.

14 Remove a group of warp threads from the reed and tie in a loose slipknot. Continue across the warp. Remove the reed.

New warp of 16/2 cotton for monksbelt on weft rep.

15 Use the threading draft to count the warp ends into threading groups, tying each grouping with a slipknot.

Grouping warp ends before threading.

16 Adjust the loom for threading. For this Glimåkra Standard loom, I move the countermarch assembly to the back of the loom, put the bench in the “playhouse,” and lower the shafts for threading.

Bench "in" the loom for threading. Glimakra Standard.

For more thorough instructions about warping your loom, please consult these excellent resources:

  • Dress Your Loom The Vävstuga Way, A Bench-Side Photo Guide, by Becky Ashenden
  • Learning to Warp Your Loom, by Joanne Hall
  • The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell

May you find yourself beaming, inside and out.

Resurrection blessings,
Karen

7 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    Wow, thar’s amazing. Pre-sleying the reed from within the loom with it horizontal, is a wonderful idea. I’ve been carrying my chained warps to the dining room table, weighting with brick and sleying with the reed supported in an upright position. It works, but your method is much, much kinder to both warp and weaver. Thanks for a another good tutorial.

    May your Easter Sunday be brightened by the assurance our Lord is truly Risen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna,

      I learned this pre-sleying method at Vavstuga. It makes so much sense!

      Thank you for the wonderful Easter greeting. And may the risen Lord fill you with all joy in believing.
      Karen

  • Hugh S. Myers says:

    An excellent tutorial indeed!! The only thing that occurs to me is that you could eliminate the flat ‘warp’ sticks on the warp beam with a pair of flanges set to the correct width. I took the necessary leap of faith when I started using mine on my AVL…while I did miss the clatter when each stick rolled off, I did not miss the unnecessary step in the process. Just a thought…

    • Karen says:

      Hugh, Thanks for your input! Very interesting! I have only heard of using flanges, but have never actually seen them being used. It’s good to hear of your positive experience.
      I need to do a little research…

      Karen

  • linda says:

    Hi Karen. I did leave a note before, but somehow I didn’t post it. Your back to front is beautiful to see. I’m the front to back girl have been for 30+ years. I’ll tell you about it some time, Beckey knows how it’s done she managed to do it Jeanettas way for 4 years even tho’ she’d sneak in her way now and then. Have a great day, PL&J, linda

  • Hans Gundesen says:

    Hi. Could you help me. I’m a relative of Becky Ashenden. Would you have an email adress of hers?

    My wife and I did visit with her and her parrents some almost 30 years ago.

    yours

    Hans Gundesen

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Tools Day: Texsolv Secrets

I am upgrading my “baby loom” from four shafts to six shafts. My woodworker husband fashioned the new pieces for this 100 cm / 39″ Glimakra Ideal countermarch loom. Since I need to add new Texsolv cords to the two new pairs of shafts and accompanying horizontal jacks, I decided to replace the thirty-year-old cords that are on the original pieces at the same time.

Tips for preparing Texsolv cord.

Measuring, marking, and cutting Texsolv cord for new six-shaft shaft holders. Tools, from top to bottom: Cord threader, rotary cutter, black Sharpie, Thread Zapp II.

Tools:

  • Spool of Texsolv cord
  • Rotary cutter with sharp blade, and cutting mat; or, sharp scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Cordless thread zapper (I got my Thread Zap II at Hobby Lobby)
  • Cord threader (Steve made mine; GlimakraUSA carries a similar one)
Adding new Texsolv cord to updated countermarch loom. Texsolv tips.

Upgrade to six shafts from four meant adding two pairs of shaft bars, two upper lamms, and two lower lamms, plus expanding the jacks at the top of the loom. New Texsolv cord was measured, marked, and cut the same for all six shafts. The cords seen on the lower shaft bars connect to the center hole in the upper (shorter) lamms when the loom is tied up.

Top of Glimakra Ideal horizontal countermarch.

Viewed from above, the horizontal countermarch now has 8-shaft capability. Steve guessed I might eventually want a total of eight shafts, and decided to get the hard part out of the way now. The six jacks in use are connected via a long center Texsolv cord to the lower lamms below when the loom is tied up. The outer ends of the jacks in view have cords that connect to the top shaft bars. Countermarch is a nifty mechanism. Simple, really.

Texsolv Tips:

  • Measure length of Texsolv cord. “Measure twice; cut once.”
  • Cut with very sharp blade on the “line” between holes. A sharp blade reduces the cord’s tendency to fray apart when cut.
  • Use thread zapper tool to melt the cut ends. Roll melted end between fingers to form a firm tip at the cut end.
  • Especially for countermarch looms: This one tip greatly simplifies countermarch loom tie-ups because it eliminates guessing about getting everything even. Use permanent marker to make consistent marks on like cords, to enable even tie-ups; e.g., with the marker, put a mark on the second hole from the top, and on four holes (alternate with unmarked holes) near the bottom end of shaft-to-lamm cord, so that when you attach shafts to lamms, all the cords can be precisely aligned. (All my cords are measured and marked. I keep one of each marked cord in a labeled Baggie as a sample to make it easy to replace or add any cord.)
  • Use threader, if needed, to thread cord through holes in the loom parts.

Quiet Friday: Cutest Loom Ever is a look back to the first renovation this little old loom experienced.

May you find new ways to do old things.

Getting ready,
Karen

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