Skeleton Tie-Up on a Countermarch?

I’ve been told that you cannot do a skeleton tie-up on a countermarch loom. That would require pressing two treadles at the same time, which is not feasible on a countermarch. Guess what? I have a skeleton tie-up, and I’m pressing two treadles at a time for the pattern blocks in this kuvikas structure. On my countermarch!

Kukivas (summer and winter) on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Trying to establish a consistent beat so that the squares are all the same size. Making the squares a little taller than they are wide will, hopefully, produce actual squares in the end. The fabric is expected to shrink more in length than in width when it is cut from the loom, and washed and dried.

It works because the tie-up is carefully planned to avoid conflicting treadle movements. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the square-within-a-square results. Isn’t it fascinating that a design such as this can be fashioned by hand, using a simple wooden loom and a bunch of strings, with a few simple tools? And a non-standard tie-up?

Skeleton tie-up on a countermarch loom for kukivas.

Pressing two treadles at the same time is surprisingly less cumbersome than I had imagined it would be. The whole series of motions feels like a slow majestic dance.

Have you seen the sky on a moonless night? Who made that starlit fabric? Who wove the pattern of the heavens? Who put the sun in place, and set the earth on its axis? How grand and glorious are these constant features of our existence! Our human hands can create no such thing. The heavens reveal the glorious nature of God. They shout the unmistakable truth that God is our Creator. Surely, the fabric we make with our hands serves to confirm that we belong in the hands of our Maker.

May the work of your hands be a reflection of you.

In awe,


  • Betsy Greene says:

    Hi Karen
    This square pattern is really nice. Am I correct in thinking that kuvikas is similar to summer and winter? I have a countermarch loom also and would love to hear more details about your skeleton tie up.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, You are correct, kuvikas is a Finnish term for what we commonly call summer and winter.
      The double treadling is possible because of the tie-up. The pattern threads are on shafts 1 – 4, and the tie-down threads are on shafts 5 – 8. The trick is where to NOT tie up the treadles. You need two free-standing groups of shafts, so only the pattern shafts and only the tie-down shafts are tied to the treadles, besides the tabby shafts.
      And then, the first 2 treadles produce the tabby for the background. Treadles 3 & 4 bind the pattern floats. Treadles 5 – 8 control the pattern’s various blocks.

      I’m afraid I did a poor job of explaining. You can find the draft in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell, p. 164. She does a better job of describing how it works.:)

      Happy weaving,

  • Marcia Cooke says:

    That is gorgeous, Karen! Thanks for sharing the source of the draft, too!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marcia, I’m glad you like it. I like it a lot, too! I’m already thinking of using this draft to make some upholstery fabric for some chairs I want to cover.

      All the best,

  • So us how you tied up your loom please, with a diagram or photos.

    • Karen says:

      Great idea, Jenny, Here’s a picture taken from the back of the loom.

      Skeleton tie-up on countermarch

      From left to right, 2 treadles for tabby, 2 treadles for tie-down threads, 4 treadles for pattern. You can see that the tie-down and pattern shafts are independent of each other, which make double treadling possible.

      Does that help?


  • Carol says:

    Hi Karen,
    I really enjoy your blog. Thank you.
    I also have a countermarch loom and am wondering how you get away with not tying up all eight shafts on every treadle. Do you know of a book that really explains countermarch ti-ups. I think I am missing something here. I must confess I am a new countermarch loom owner.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carol, You ask some good questions!
      How do I get away with not tying up all 8 shafts on every treadle? I don’t know. I’m learning as I go. Honestly, I have not found a lot of information about weaving with this type of tie-up on a countermarch loom. I have seen it mentioned a few places, but not explained. I tell myself that it is like weaving on two four-shaft looms that work together. 🙂 That may be way off!

      The thing to remember is that this is NOT a typical tie-up for a countermarch loom. I’ll have to say, it was a little finicky to get clean sheds, so I wouldn’t recommend this for someone until they have some serious weaving on eight shafts (with a “normal” tie-up) under their belt.

      One helpful book that explains everything about a countermarch tie-up is Tying Up the Countermarch Loom, by Joanne Hall. But it doesn’t mention skeleton tie-ups. I guess I like to try things outside the norm…

      I hope you enjoy your countermarch loom as much as I enjoy mine!

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Embedded with Elegance

In the afternoon light the linen takes on a golden appearance. The halvdräll pattern in the cloth is no less distinguishable in these low-contrast weft colors. In fact, the pattern seems more embedded in the fabric now than it did with the vibrant red weft in Weaving Christmas. Natural unbleached linen over white bleached cottolin brings monochrome elegance to this table square.

Elegant monochrome halvdräll on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Unbleached and half bleached 16/1 linen are combined for the pattern weft. Bleached 22/2 cottolin is used for the warp and for the tabby weft.

Halvdräll on the loom. View of the back of the cloth.

View of the back of the halvdräll cloth under the advancing warp.

God has a life plan for us that reveals His glory. His instruction gives me wisdom, insight, and understanding for life. It is much like following a halvdräll weaving draft to produce halvdräll fabric, and witnessing the fabric at its best as it glistens in the afternoon sunshine.


May you enjoy the wonder of Christmas.

Happy Halvdräll,


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Does Your Weaving Show Your Very Own Style?

Have you developed a style all your own? I can identify some tapestry artists by their work, even before I see their name on the piece. One friend of mine weaves gorgeous silk scarves, and another one makes handtowels with exquisite color. Their woven items consistently showcase their individual style. In our little weaving group we even say, “It looks like you.”

Double binding rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Rag rug on the loom is almost complete. Moving the temple frequently helps produce tight selvedges, which, in turn, help ensure a finished rug that lays completely flat.

For most, personal style happens over time, by repetition of favored designs or techniques, until particular skills become second nature for the artist. One day they wake up and realize they have developed their very own style. In other cases, the unique style is clearly intentional, and artistically so. Either way, it’s admirable. Eventually, someone may see a rug I’ve woven and say, “That looks like Karen!

Everything we see that is glorious is a window into the glory of God. Look through the window. The whole earth is filled with the glory of God. If our small artistic attempts are reflected in what we make, is it inconceivable that the wonders in our universe have the Creator’s signature? Everything glorious puts the Grand Weaver’s personal touch on display.

May you find your personal style.

Happy weaving,


  • Nancy says:

    Karen, Thanks for your thoughtful words. It was a most welcome reminder. Life is so fragile and we are here for such a short time. Let’s rejoice in the creativity we are given.

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The Rosepath Warp

This Swedish rosepath is a weft-faced structure, which means the warp is covered by the weft. (To see more of what I wove during my week at Vävstuga Classics, click HERE and HERE.) Yes, you can see this linen warp preceding and following the woven wool weft, but if you look at just the patterned area, the warp is not visible. The treadling is simple (weaving on opposites); and because of many possibilities with pattern and color, designing at the loom is incredibly fun! Do you ever think about the warp that lies under the pattern and color of your life?

Rosepath on Opposites at Vävstuga.

Warp is 16/3 Line Linen (Bockens) and weft is Brage Wool Yarn (Borgs). Treadle one is paired with treadle three, and treadle two is paired with treadle four. This simple treadling, combined with color choices, provides endless design possibilities.

At times I find myself so involved in my day-to-day activities that I only think about what needs to get done, forgetting the unseen warp that provides the inner strength I need.

Swedish Rosepath on the loom at Vävstuga.

Inspired by New England’s autumn foliage, this piece is an attempt to capture the glory on display in creation.

Our creator’s goodness is so constant we can overlook it, forgetting how much we need his goodness to sustain our lives. And it is his unending love that gives meaning and stability to the overlaying patterns and colors that form our days. You do not have to see the warp with your eyes to know it is hidden within the beautiful rosepath weaving. The scenic autumn New England countryside that I enjoyed last week is the creator’s rosepath on display!

(Next week: You don’t want to miss my exclusive conversation with Becky Ashenden, the delightful master weaver of Vävstuga.)

May you discover hidden things worth discovering.

Having fun with rosepath,

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