Tools Day: Reeds

Eventually, I would like to have a metric reed (or two) in every possible size. Until then, I will be happy with what I have, while I gradually add to my supply, as needed, one reed at a time.

I prefer metric reeds (dents per 10 centimeters) over imperial reeds (dents per inch). For one thing, the math is easier for project planning. And because there are smaller increments between sizes, there are more sett choices with metric reeds. It could be my imagination, but it often seems that the metric reed yields a Goldilocks “just right” sett.

Assortment of weaving reeds.

Supply of reeds. Some purchased new, some second-hand purchases, and some received as gifts. All but one have been used on my looms. The reeds usually reside in my weaving supply closet.

My selection of reeds vary in length, from 70 cm (27″) to 120 cm (47″), to fit the weaving widths of my looms. But Glimåkra countermarch looms have beaters that are open on the sides, so I can use any length reed in any loom.

Beginning cotton warp with M's and O's.

Reed with 120 cm weaving width is being used on this 100 cm Glimåkra Ideal. This is a 22.5 dents/inch reed, sleyed two ends per dent. Notice that the warp is high in the reed? That’s because the front tie-on bar is going over the breast beam.

My all-around favorite reeds are those made by Glimåkra because they are lightweight and easy to handle, …and they come in metric sizes. (Of course, you need to choose reeds that work with your loom.)

Taqueté in Tencel on eight shafts.

This 120 cm reed is a perfect fit for the weaving width of the 120 cm Glimåkra Standard loom. This is a 50/10 metric reed, giving a Goldilocks “just right” sett for this 8/2 tencel taqueté.

I put together a reed conversion chart so that we can see our options at a glance. You never know when a new project will “require” a new metric reed!

Weaving reed metric/imperial conversion chart.

May your next project have a Goldilocks “just right” sett.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Awesome, Karen!
    I’ve recently purchased a loom made in Japan which has a metric reed. It is taking me a while to convert my calculating mind from Imperial to Metric measuring. Your conversion chart will be a tremendous help. Thank you.

  • Thanks for the conversion chart. It will be helpful. I hope you don’t mind that I printed it out to hang on my studio bulletin board.
    Jeny

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, I’m glad the chart is helpful for you! Please put it where you can use it. That’s what it’s there for.

      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for putting this together, Karen! My first loom was made in Hungary, purchased when we were posted there with the military. It came with two reeds, one of which is 65/10 cm and the other (which I’ve not used yet) I think is about 23.6/10 cm. I was ripping my hair out in December, looking for some conversion charts to assist in calculating sett for a handspun scarf. I, too, would like to print out your chart to hang on my studio bulletin board.

    I was thinking this morning, just before sitting at the computer interestingly enough, that I’d like to get more metric reeds for this loom. As the reed holder is a bit of an oddball width here in North America, my choices seem limited. I must explore options further.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, I searched online for a reed conversion chart, so I could link to it, and I couldn’t find one that was as complete as I wanted. So I decided to put a spreadsheet together to do the math, and create my own chart.

      Please use the reed conversion chart however it serves you best.

      Suppliers for metric reeds in the US are quite limited, as imperial reeds are usually the American favorites.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Shirley says:

    thanks, Karen. your chart is just what I need.
    I have Metric reeds,but also like to use patterns from Handwoven magazine.
    So your printed out chart will also hang in my loomroom.

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Tools Day: Double-Bobbin Shuttle

The first time I wove fabric that required a doubled weft I did not use a double-bobbin shuttle. I didn’t own one. I used a regular boat shuttle and sent it across twice, going around the outer warp end. Those first thick and thin towels came out beautifully. So I know it can be done.

Weaving with a double-bobbin shuttle. Tips.

Square pattern peeks through from below. Double-bobbin shuttle carries the doubled tencel weft for this kuvikas fabric.

The first time I used a double-bobbin shuttle I wondered if it was worth it. It was awkward and clumsy in my hands. Since that rocky introduction a few years ago, I have woven many meters with my double-bobbin shuttles. They have become cherished tools and efficient accomplices to some of my favorite fabric-making endeavors!

Tips for Weaving with a Double-Bobbin Shuttle (and a short video demonstration)

  • Practice. Make sure you allow extra warp length for practicing. You will probably need it at first. Have fun and laugh, and refrain from throwing the shuttle across the room.
  • Winding Equal Bobbins. Wind the first quill. Lay it close to the bobbin winder where you can see it easily. As you wind the second quill, attempt to match it in size to the first one. (Winding two quills with equal amounts of thread is no small challenge.)
Winding equal quills for a double-bobbin shuttle.

Visibility of the first wound quill is key for judging how much thread to wind on the second quill.

Winding quills for double bobbin shuttles.

Knowing when to stop is the trick. The ideal is for both quills to become empty at the same time. This only happens in your dreams. But sometimes you can get pretty close.

  • Sending the Shuttle. Sending the double-bobbin shuttle through the shed is the same as sending a regular boat shuttle across. The best release is done with a flick of the forefinger so the shuttle speeds across. Then, the doubled weft naturally snugs the selvedge, and the two threads are neatly aligned across the shed. With a slower, more timid shuttle send-off, the quills unwind unequally.
Weaving with a double-bobbin shuttle.

Holding the shuttle palm up, the forefinger launches the shuttle to glide quickly through the shed.

Results of timid shuttle send-off.

Timid or sluggish shuttle send-off lays unequal lengths of threads in the shed.

How to tips for weaving with a double-bobbin shuttle.

Deliberate send-off of the shuttle helps the threads to lay across the shed in equal lengths.

  • Receiving the Shuttle. Receiving the shuttle can be the awkward and clumsy part at first. Especially if you are trying to practice a quicker send-off. I catch the shuttle as for any boat shuttle, palm up. And then, if needed, I fold my two bottom fingers around the threads, guiding them to fall equally across the shed.
Using a double-bobbin shuttle. Tips.

After catching the shuttle, I gently close my fingers around the two threads, as needed, to guide them to fall evenly across the warp.

  • Weave. Enjoy the process.
Shuttle shadows. Karen Isenhower

Shuttle shadows.

May your practice produce perfection. (Well, maybe not perfection, but at least improvement.)

Happy weaving,
Karen

2 Comments

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    I have a stupid question. Why do you need to weave with two threads? Why not use one larger one?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, That’s a very smart question! It seems like it would make sense to weave with a larger thread instead of two thinner ones. Certainly easier. But two thinner threads have a way of laying better than one thicker thread, and fill the space better. Many drafts with a ground weave and pattern use a doubled weft for the pattern. Part of the difference is seen in wet finishing, too. The combined threads blossom out more than a single thread would.

      Thanks for asking!
      Karen

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Tools Day: Swedish Weaving Draft

Cooks have recipes, builders have blueprints, and handweavers have weaving drafts. There are a few different formats, but all drafts carry the same essential information. There is the tie-up box, the threading pattern, and the treadling sequence. Finally, there’s the drawdown, a graphic representation of how all the threads intersect.

The two formats I see most often are the typical American draft (e.g., Handwoven), and the Swedish draft (e.g., VÄV Magasinet). Many American drafts assume jack looms; whereas, Swedish drafts usually assume counterbalance or countermarch looms. However, any loom can weave from any draft.

As Madelyn van der Hoogt says in The Complete Book of Drafting, “Any tie-up can be used for any type of loom. Discover from the tie-up which shafts must be up and which down for each shed, and do to the loom whatever is required to get them there.”

All the draft formats have this in common: The tie-up box is the starting point. The threading pattern and treadling sequence begin at that point, and go out from there.

The Swedish draft makes perfect sense (remember, of course, I weave on Swedish countermarch looms). I picture the draft as if it is lying flat in front of me.

Becky Ashenden says in the forward to Weave Structures the Swedish Way, “With this orientation of tie-up, treadling, and threading, the draft has a direct relationship to the weaving of the fabric. The tie-up’s location in the lower right-hand corner of the draft allows all other information to match as closely as possible the physical aspects of the loom.”

Here is a comparison of the Swedish and American draft formats:

Swedish Draft

Reading a Swedish draft.

Swedish draft, with a weft drawdown.

  • Weft drawdown (filled-in squares show lowered warp threads, weft passing over)
  • Tie-up is in lower right corner, and uses black squares to designate shafts that sink / white squares for shafts that rise
  • Threading is below the drawdown
  • Shafts are numbered from back of the loom to front, with the first shaft the furthest from the weaver seated at the loom
  • Treadling sequence is on the right, and reads from bottom to top
  • Treadles are numbered from right to left
  • For a “sinking shed” loom (countermarch or counterbalance loom), use the black squares to tie up sinking shafts
  • For a “rising shed loom” (jack loom), use the white squares to tie up rising shafts

American Draft

Reading weaving drafts.

American draft, with a warp drawdown.

  • Warp drawdown (filled-in squares show raised warp threads, weft passing under)
  • Tie-up is in upper right corner, and uses numerals to designate shafts that rise / white squares for shafts that sink
  • Threading is above the drawdown
  • Shafts are numbered from front of loom to the back, with the first shaft the closest to the weaver seated at the loom
  • Treadling sequence is on the right, and reads from top to bottom
  • Treadles are numbered from left to right
  • For a “sinking shed” loom (countermarch or counterbalance loom), use the white squares to tie up sinking shafts
  • For a “rising shed loom” (jack loom), use the squares with numerals to tie up rising shafts

Similarities between Swedish and American Drafts

  • Threading reads right to left
  • Squares in the tie-up box represent treadle cords that attach treadles to corresponding shafts
Weaving draft in place for weaving mug rugs.

Draft is hanging at the corner of the loom. The fabric logically grows in the same direction as the sequence of weft picks as seen on the treadling draft.

Resources
Getzmann, Ulla, and Becky Ashenden. Weave Structures the Swedish Way. Shelburne, MA: Väv Stuga Press, 2006.
Hoogt, Madelyn Van der. The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers. Coupeville, WA: Shuttle-Craft Books, 1993.

May you flourish at your loom.

All the best,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for this comparison of the two ways to write drafts, this will make translation much easier.

    One question. You say, “For a “rising shed loom” (jack loom), use the white squares (or numerals) to tie up rising shafts”. Do you mean this to apply to the American way of writing the draft?

    Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      Julia, Thank you for asking this question. I need to edit what I wrote and make a correction.

      The American way of writing the draft usually has numerals for the rising shafts. For a jack loom, use the squares with numerals to tie up rising shafts. The white squares, in this case, are used to tie up sinking shafts.

      Thanks for helping me clarify!

      Karen

  • Thanks Karen, a good blog to explain the differences quite clearly. I prefer the swedish way (and yes I have a a Glimåkra floor loom, but it just makes sense to me. Sometimes I get them mixed up but I think it’s good to know both methods. It’s a bit like preferring to beam the warp from the front or the back – you just tend to find what works for you. Thank you again.
    Blessings,
    Alison

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison, I get them mixed up, too. I am so accustomed to the Swedish format that I have to go back and review my notes if I want to “translate” an American draft.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    Thanks for the comparison post. It will be good to refer new weaver’s to it, so they know there is more than one way for patterns to be written.

    Here is a bit of additional information for American weaver’s used to jack loom drafts. Many own the book, A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite Davison. It was published back when counterbalance looms were the norm. Her drafts are written in the American way, with threading and tie-up at the top. Her tie-up is written for a sinking shed, so marked boxes go down. If someone owns a jack loom, in order to see the pattern while weaving, they should tie up the blank squares instead of the x’s. I think other older drafts, such as Atwater, Bertha Hayes, and others also tie up for counterbalanced looms.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, I’m glad you mentioned this! It’s important for a weaver to understand the format of a draft and how to interpret it.

      My first project on a floor loom was from Davison’s book. My instructor carefully pointed out the author’s note that tells that the drafts are written for counterbalance looms.

      Thank you so much for adding this important information for weavers used to drafts written for jack looms.

      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Karen, I’m new to all of this, and I’m not able to perceive what you are referring to as black and white squares. Are those the empty squares? So you would tie up all of those, vs one black thread?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, Empty or white? It’s a matter of perception. Yes, in a draft written for sinking shed looms, such as a Swedish draft, you would tie up the empty squares if you are using a jack loom. I don’t think of the squares as “empty,” because for my countermarch loom, I tie up the black squares to the shafts that sink, and I tie up those “white” squares to the shafts that rise.

      I hope that makes sense.
      Karen

  • Randi says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m a new weaver and have a counterbalance loom. I’ve ordered the book you mentioned.

    I also really enjoy your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Randi, You are welcome! I wanted this kind of information when I was starting out, so I’m hoping it is useful for others. The Getzmann/Ashenden book does a great job of explaining the whole drafting concept and procedure. So does the Van der Hoogt book, for that matter. You can’t have too many weaving books! 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I’m sure it will be very helpful to many of those seeking to expand our repertoire.

    A friend recently sent me some drafts written in the Swedish manner and, while I figured out most of it, I misinterpreted how the shafts are numbered in relation to the weaver. I’ll have to go back to my Fiberworks entry and edit it or I’ll mess up my weaving.

    I have two looms, one a computer controlled dobby that uses a programme in the American style. My other loom is a four shaft counterbalance that I brought home from Europe, so I’m somewhat used to reversing the tie-up when I weave with it. My first project ended up upside down on the loom!

    • Karen says:

      Sandy, You are going to become an expert on reading different formats of weaving drafts! Bravo! I’m guessing that just about every weaver has accidentally woven a fabric upside down. I know I have.

      The thing about reversing the order of the shafts and the treadles is that it usually doesn’t really matter all that much. As long as you are consistent, most things will come out just fine, even if they are upside down.

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Sue Seymour says:

    I have learned – the hard way – to read the Intro material in any new book I purchase so as to learn which way the author is writing drafts, treadling, and tie-up. It seems there is always a new wrinkle. Even though I have a Swedish countermarche loom, I prefer the American way of drafting, which is what I learned way back when there were only three weaving books available, Mary Black, Mary Atwater, and the Davison book.

    • Karen says:

      Sue, Yes, read the intro material. It’s not unusual for you to prefer the American way of drafting. I’m sure it’s second nature for you. And those three books should still be in every weaver’s library.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Tools Day: Leveling String

Thirty-five years ago, I took a beginner rigid heddle loom class. Our teacher taught us to use strips of toilet paper (or fat scrap yarn) as weft at the beginning of the weaving to space the warp. After several inches of weaving, the warp ends would fall into alignment. Unless fringe is planned, that beginning warp goes to waste, not to mention the unsightly aspect of the throwaway weft. Here comes the leveling string to the rescue! This piece of 12/6 cotton seine twine is just what we need to get off to a good start with every project we put on the loom. The leveling string levels out the warp ends, and delivers a nice, flat weaving surface. It is superb to be able to weave fabric right from the very beginning of the warp!

The use of a leveling string is also described in my three favorite books that detail how to warp a loom:

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

Tools:

  • Front tie-on bar with a hole at each end (Joanne Hall writes, “If there are no holes in your bar, replace the cord with a thin stick.” I have not tried this, but I trust anything Joanne says!)
  • 12/6 cotton seine twine, the length of front tie-on bar, plus about 20 inches (I like to have plenty of string to tie the knots on the ends)

Steps:

1. Tie on warp in small bundles, about 1″ each, with half of the bundle’s ends going over, and half going under, the front tie-on bar (as seen in Step 3 pictures). Tie the ends together with a bow knot or other tie-on knot. (TIP – If you do not tie the knots too tight, it is easier to get even tension across the warp, and it is easier to tighten the leveling string in Step 4.)

2. Tie one end of the leveling string to one end of the front tie-on bar, using a slip knot with half bow.

Tying the leveling string. Tutorial pics.

Tying the leveling string. Step-by-step.

Leveling string - tying it on.

Tying on the leveling string. How to.

How to tie the leveling string.

3. Thread the leveling string over and under the tie-on bundles, going over the raised ends and under the lowered ends.

Threading the leveling string through the warp. Tutorial pics.

Leveling string going through the warp.

Tying the second end of the leveling string.

4. Tighten the leveling string while tapping it in with the beater.

Tightening the leveling string.

5. Tie the end of the leveling string to the end of the front tie-on bar, using a slip knot with half bow, as before.

How to tie the second end of the leveling string.

How to tie the leveling string.

Finishing the knot for the leveling string.

Why I use a leveling string.

6. Weave to your heart’s content.

Why the leveling string is so helpful!

When you get to the end of the warp, and are ready for cutting off, simply tug the loose end of the string at one end of the bar to release the slip knot, and pull the leveling string out of the warp.

May you weave as soon as possible.

Happy Valentine’s Day,
Karen

5 Comments

  • Ettenna says:

    Will this work if I lash my yarn on? Does one have to tie the threads to the bar?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ettenna, The only way I tie on is tying on to the tie-on bar. I don’t know if this works if you lash on. It’s worth a try! If you try it, please report back and let us know how it goes for you.

      Great question!
      Karen

  • Cindie` says:

    Hmm, sounds like we had the same beginning weaving teacher (minus the rigid heddle loom) My teacher of 31 years ago was incredible except for her way of spreading out the warp. It didn’t take me terribly long once weaving on my own to realize what a waste of warp using the toilet paper or rags were. I generally weave a few rows without beating, then beat, and repeat – the warp is spread out within an inch or less of weaving…….I use leftover yarn on bobbins around the same size as what I’ll be weaving with. I’ve seen your technique but never tried it – I’m definitely going to try it out on the next warp. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindie, It wasn’t long for me, either, before I ditched the toilet paper routine. Ha ha, I guess that was a common “technique” for a while. Everything else for my teacher, too, was wonderful.

      I’d love to hear back what you think of this method after you try it. How does it compare to what you are used to?

      Happy Weaving!
      Karen

  • Julia says:

    This looks great. I’m guessing you have made sure your tension is even and all of your knots are secure before putting in the leveling string. Is this correct? Do you use a particular knot when tying the warp bundles to the front bar? Surgeons knot or something?

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Tools Day: Mirror Mirror

When the front side of the fabric is on the underside, it helps to have a mirror. This is one of those times. A transparency can be woven with the weft turns on the front or on the back. I’m weaving this transparency with the weft turns on the front. The underside, therefore, has the crisper lines, and will (probably) be the right side of the finished transparency.

Weaving cotton chenille inlay on linen for a simple transparency.

Weaving from the back, the inlay weft turns look like scallops along the edge of the pattern area. The pattern on the underneath side of the cloth has smoother edges.

You can think of other weaves, as well, that have a different appearance on the back than on the front. That’s when a little mirror comes in handy. You can use a larger hand mirror, of course; but these are two little mirrors that I keep in the cart by my loom.

Mirrors at hand beside the loom.

Top drawer in the cart beside the loom holds small tools that are used during weaving.

  • A little wooden mirror with mother-of-pearl inlay that I picked up on one of my international travels.
Small hand mirror is used to view the underside.

Small hand mirror is used for a quick glimpse of the underside pattern.

  • A lighted extended little mirror that I picked up on one of my wanderings at Home Depot while my husband was shopping for tools. A Husky Round Lighted Inspection Mirror, “…for inspection of hidden, unlit areas in applications ranging from industrial maintenance and automotive repair to general homeowner DIY applications.” They forgot to add, “…and for handweaver inspections of the reverse side of the cloth.”
Lighted mirror extends to inspect underneath the cloth.

Lighted mirror extends to inspect the underneath side of the woven cloth. The telescoping handle makes it possible to view underneath a wide warp.

May you find tools that serve you well.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Julia says:

    I recently heard this song being sung and I thought of you right away. You are a beautiful reflection of the Divine.

    Take my life, and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
    Take my hands, and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.

    Take my feet, and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
    Take my voice, and let me sing
    Always, only, for my King.
    Take my lips, and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.

    Take my every thought, to use
    In the way that Thou shalt choose.
    Take my love; O Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    I am Thine, and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.

    • Karen says:

      Sweet Julia,
      I learned that song as a child, and it remains deeply meaningful to me! It does describe a life that reflects Christ, and that is certainly the type of mirror I want to be.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Karen

  • Barbara says:

    I love the way that your willing to try new weave structures. I’ve never done a transparency,but it’s on my bucket list. Will have to have my husband pickup one of those mirrors at his next Home Depot forray.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbara, Weaving this transparency is so enjoyable. It’s almost like weaving tapestry, but easier. Now I’m eager to do one that’s more advanced, with lots of butterflies! 🙂
      It’s not the first time I’ve found weaving tools at Home Depot or Lowe’s… The lights on the mirror really help since there’s less natural light under there.

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

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