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

10 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

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Stripes on the Warp Beam

Why are stripes appealing? Stripes on the loom look good. I don’t usually wind warps in advance. I like to wind a warp and put it directly on the loom. But, recently, when I wasn’t able to weave, I was able wind warps. Now, one of those warps is beamed, and soon I’ll be weaving some striped plattväv towels.

Striped warp for cottolin and linen towels. Glimakra Ideal.

Narrow stripes wrap around the back beam. Next step is threading heddles. One step closer to weaving towels…

This draft is from one of my favorite Swedish weaving books, Kalasfina Vävar, by Ann-Kristin Hallgren. I changed the colors and modified the stripes, while attempting to keep the attractive appeal of the original stripe design. We will see the full effect when weaving begins. The warp is the first part of the picture. The weft always brings a transformation. The golden bleached linen, in this case, won’t change the warp, but it will create a fresh palette.

Black and white photo shows the color values.

Making a black and white photo is a good way to see the color values.

Faith and truth are partners. Truth becomes clear through faith. Warp and weft. Truth and faith. A fabric of convictions is woven to hand to the next generation. The good news of Jesus Christ is a message of faith and truth. The truth doesn’t change; but it comes alive when woven with faith.

May your convictions be securely woven.

Yours truly,
Karen

6 Comments

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Wavy Twill Rythym

I’m happy when I find my weaving rhythm, and I’m almost there with this scarf. This alpaca yarn is a weaver’s dream. No warp ends are breaking, and the weft compliantly scoots into place. That means I can put most of my attention on other details.

All those "oops" as I learn the treadling at the beginning of the warp.

Getting the kinks out at the start of the warp. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8; 1-3-5-7; 2-4-6-8. I always plan enough warp to be able to practice first. I have plenty of “oops” in the first few inches.

This wavy 8-shaft twill has straight twill threading, which means the pattern is in the treadling. It’s not difficult treadling…once you get the hang of it. But, as usual, it takes practice. It is tricky to find and correct errors because of the subtle curve in the pattern. The more practice I get, the smoother the weaving goes, and the fewer errors I make. There is no shortcut to the kind of confidence that comes from attentive practice.

Alpaca scarf, weaving in the afternoon sun.

Weaving in the afternoon sun. Whimsically weaving a bit of sunlight into the cloth.

Alpaca scarf on the loom. 8-shaft wavy twill.

When weaving rhythm takes off, quality improves, as does weaving enjoyment.

Did you know you are gifted? There are skills and insights that come easier for you than for other people. The gifts that God put in you, that are in your DNA, set you apart. Practice them to gain confidence. Put your attention on using your gifts. You may be surprised how much your gifts bless others. Finding your rhythm is worth the effort it takes. (And, on the subject of DNA, here’s an interesting perspective from Sarah H. Jackson, Textile Artist.)

May you unwrap your gifts.

With you,
Karen

17 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Oooo! Undulating twill. When I was a relatively new weaver, I was delighted to learn I could weave something so complex looking on my four harness loom. Yours is gorgeous and the alpaca yarn must feel so soft and delicious. I love the gentle color of your yarn.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Julia, Yes, this alpaca yarn is amazingly soft; and the natural alpaca color is so soothing to work with. And the undulating twill never gets old. It’s a very satisfying project.

      Karen

  • Lynette says:

    Karen, I enjoy so much reading your posts. It helps me in my weaving skills and gives me neat ideas to try. It also is encouraging to me in my walk with God. I recently got an older Glimakra standard loom I’m having fun getting acquainted with. What is the easiest way to move the beater back (and then forward again) on the notches? Do you use both hands, and put one under he beater and one on the upper cross bar to hoist it back? Mine weaves 52″ so is a rather heavy beater. I don’t want to have to get up to do it, because that is why I’m moving it – to avoid having to get up as often to release the ratchet. Just wondering how to do it with the least amount of body strain.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, It makes me so happy that you find value in what you read here.

      On my smaller Ideal loom, I can “pick up” the beater at the upper crossbar with both hands and move it back or forward a notch. Not so on the Standard. Mine is 47″, and it’s heavy for me, so I move one side at a time. I put one hand under the beater, with my elbow on the breast beam for support. The other hand is on the upper cross bar. I mostly use the front two notches. To move it to the third notch is a bit of a strain for me, so I usually avoid that.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Laura Rider says:

    Hi Karen, Looking forward to seeing the Alpaca scarf when finished…too bad we won’t be able to feel it…soft and cuddly, I’m sure, not to mention beautiful. I’m really curious about the breast beam on the loom, can you tell us about it.
    Happy weaving and thank you,
    Laura

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura, I sure wish you could come over here and feel this soft and cuddly alpaca!

      The breast beam has an aluminum guard on it. What you see at the front of the breast beam is the fabric protector, aka “belly board.” It is a thin piece of wood that slips in at sides of the front of the breast beam, and protects the fabric from abrasion as it rounds the breast beam. As the weaver, I can lean right onto the breast beam without rubbing the fabric.

      Karen

  • Nanette says:

    Would you explain how you are using the tape/ribbon as a measuring device? I REALLY need to improve my system! Enjoying your posts very much. Nanette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nanette, Thanks for asking.

      I use twill tape, but grosgrain ribbon works, too. I mark the beginning and end measurement of the project onto the tape with a fine tip Sharpie. If there are hems, I include markings for that, too. I like to write the total # of inches or cm on the tape so I can reuse it without measuring it. I mark a line on the tape at the midway point, and if it’s a long project, I mark the 1/4 and 3/4 points on the tape. When you have an inch or two woven, line up the starting line and pin the tape to the woven fabric using two straight pins. Leapfrog the pins as you advance the warp.

      I hope that makes sense.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

      • Nanette says:

        Very professional! If I can find some tape on hand I will use this idea for the baby blanket I just started. You are very kind to answer all the questions people ask of you–and still get so much done! Nanette

  • Margaret says:

    New reader of your blog here, thanks for your interesting projects! Are you willing to share your draft for this turned undulating twill? I fiddled around on the weaving software and couldn’t quite get mine to look like yours. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Margaret, Welcome! It’s great to have you.

      Many of my drafts start from ideas in Swedish weaving books, and I write the draft out with pencil and graph paper. This one came from “The Big Book of Weaving,” by Laila Lundell. I don’t have the book in front of me right now, so I’m sorry I can’t tell you the page number. The project in the book has “Wavy Twill” in the title.

      Thanks for your interest,
      Karen

  • Missie Hills says:

    Yes! I’m always telling people that everyone has a gift. You just have to find it. Then when you do, you should respect it by putting in the hours to develop it into something great.

    • Karen says:

      Missie, Good point. It does take hours and hours to develop a gift. Sometimes we think if we are gifted at something we shouldn’t have to work at it. But success comes when effort and time are invested in the gift.

      Karen

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Quality Rug Warp

After a few weeks of having to refrain from weaving, I am thankful that there was warp to weave one more rug. The quality of warp thread matters because it is the core of the rug. Never underestimate the value of good, strong warp thread for weaving rag rugs.

Rosepath rag rug almost complete!

First hem is going around the cloth beam. Weaving is almost complete!

I like to use 12/6 cotton from Bockens. This rug warp is a six-strand thread with high twist. The smooth, nearly-unbreakable thread enables me to ratchet up the tension on the warp. That high tension helps produce sturdy, tightly packed rugs with tidy selvedges. Knowing you are making a rug that will last is a very satisfying and enjoyable weaving experience.

Cutting off never gets old!

Cutting off never gets old.

Rosepath rag rug just finished. Karen Isenhower

Ta da! Hems are folded under for the picture. As soon as the hems are stitched, this rosepath rag rug will have its Etsy photoshoot.

With finishing nearly complete, this rag rug will be enjoyed on the floor of someone’s home. Most people aren’t aware of the structural elements of a rag rug, but they do notice quality in the finished work. People, too, have an inner core–the heart. The heart matters. The strength of our inward framework determines our outward attitudes and actions. Since true quality is found in a life that serves others, most everything comes down to a matter of the heart.

May your quality of life be noticeable.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Barbara says:

    It’s amazing how a bunch of leftovers can be combined into something so beautiful. I’m so glad you are back to weaving again.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Barbara, it’s good to be back in the saddle. I’ve seen you turn leftovers from the refrigerator into a beautiful meal. Now, that’s amazing! 🙂

      Karen

  • Martha says:

    Beautiful rug! Have you tried linen rug warp or poly/cotton rug warp in your work. Both of them are supposed to last far longer than cotton.

    Love your article in Handwoven magazine – lovely.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, That’s a good discussion point. I have used linen rug warp for a wool rug. It’s great for that; and I think it would work well for rag rugs, but it raises the expense considerably. I’m not sure I’d find buyers for that.
      I haven’t tried poly/cotton rug warp. Some of the comparisons may be against the popular 8/4 cotton rug warp, which will certainly have a shorter life.
      It would take a lot to wear out the 12/6 cotton in a rug.

      I’m glad you saw the Handwoven article! Thanks for the compliment.

      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    Wonderful to hear you are back at the loom! Take care of yourself so you can weave on and on and on………….

  • Sandra says:

    I live in Calgary, Alberta. Our closest weaving supply shop just closed this past summer. Where would you suggest the best place would be to order 12/6 rug warp cotton? Would like to buy Canadian..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandra from Calgary, Welcome!
      It is disappointing to see weaving shops close…

      I’m sorry, I am not familiar with Canadian sources. I usually purchase Bockens 12/6 cotton from GlimakraUSA.com or Vavstuga.com, both in the USA.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Plain Rosepath

This is a stash-busting rug, using leftover cut strips from previous rugs. Like my other rag rugs, I start with a plan. Then, I get out my fabric and make my color selections. It’s plain rosepath, without tabby picks in between, perfect for a stash buster. Snip, snip, snip. Fabric snippets are taped to my idea sheet. These are my blueprints–weaving draft, treadling order, and idea sheet with fabric snippets. I am weaving!

Rosepath rag rug on the loom.

Without tabby picks the rosepath pattern takes on a compressed form.

I can, and do, make adjustments at the loom. But I keep one question in mind. Will my choices along the way fit with the overall design of the rug? My idea sheet serves as a guiding compass. It’s a reminder of the big picture that forms a cohesive design.

Idea sheet for rag rug design.

Idea sheet hangs from the beater clip on the Glimakra Ideal loom. The treadling pattern, penciled on graph paper, and fabric snippets provide a quick reference while weaving.

Guiding principles shape our lives and enable us to make wise decisions. A compass sets the course. Use a true compass. Live in a way that pleases God. This is a valid compass for all choices and decisions. The Grand Weaver has the comprehensive design. Amazingly, He weaves our leftover fabric strips into his design, and uses them to make something useful and beautiful.

May you see your part in the overall design.

Happy weaving,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Linda de Roy Landry says:

    Karen,
    I do enjoy and look forward to reading all of you postings. Though we have not met in person, I think of you as a kindred spirit as we seem to think alike in more ways than one. Thank you for sharing and blending your faith and knowledge of weaving. It always adds a ray of light to my day and some inspiration to my weaving.
    Kind and warm regards, Linda

  • JANET PELL says:

    Dear Linda, I want to thank you for your blog, I dont make many comments but I wanted you to know that I am brightened and inspired so much by you.
    Im English and live in Italy, in the 11 years I have lived here I have only met one other weaver, I am a self taught weaver and love it, but its a lonely trek, so wanted you know how your encouragement lifts my days.

    • Karen says:

      Janet, It blesses me tremendously to know that my words and pictures reach someone like you. Good for you for pressing on, even without the camaraderie of other weavers. I’m so glad you are coming here. Make yourself at home. 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Jane Smith says:

    Yes, I agree with Janet. Like her, I am pretty much a self-taught weaver who travels a lonely path. Blogs like these remind me of something that I think CS Lewis said: “We read to know we are not alone”. I am English, living in South Africa.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane, You make me so happy! I love the thought of connecting weavers to a community. And it’s great to hear someone quote one of my favorite authors!

      Thank you for encouraging me today.

      Karen

  • Jane Smith says:

    I really like the idea of “connecting weavers to a community”, Karen, and this blog certainly helps to do that.

    In fact, you’ve got me thinking!

  • Sandra says:

    Karen, your words and connections to weaving ( and weavers! ) is indeed inspiring. Also a self taught beginner weaver living in Alberta Canada, though I too travelled far as my husband and I moved when the military needed us to. I have found many ways to learn this artform, but I would much rather read your words and follow your journey by reading old and new posts, than join groups on Ravelry.com for inspiration. You are a great teacher and I will try to be a better “listener” … so much thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandra,
      You have encouraged me more than you know. It’s exactly for you, and others like you, that I write. I truly cherish the connection we have as weavers and long-distance friends.

      Your friend,
      Karen

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