Not the Easiest Way to Weave

I considered making a matching set, but at the loom I get an inclination to explore. Hence, no two placemats are alike. A change in the weft changes everything. New colors emerge! Slate and apple green on a coral warp become periwinkle and avocado. If you look closely, though, you can still see the underlying coral and camel stripes of the warp.

Cotton placemats on the loom with color and weave effects.

Second placemat uses red and orange in the weft. These colors work with the coral in the warp to bring out a distinctive color-and-weave effect in the design.

Three double-bobbin shuttles—this is not the easiest way to weave. I am carrying the colors up the selvedge, so it gets tricky when all three shuttles end up on the same side. Nevertheless, this is the joy of weaving a challenge. How and where to set the shuttles down, and which hand picks them up—ever aiming for efficiency. Newly-formed colors and technical pursuits—this is a handweaver’s thrill of discovery!

Three double bobbin shuttles for this color and weave placemat.

Beginning of the third placemat shows variation in pattern and color choices. Three double bobbin shuttles put my manual dexterity to the test.

Color and weave variations.

Coral and camel warp stripes form the base of the design. Pattern variations are produced by varying the number of picks per weft color.

Imagine the thrill of discovery that awaits us in heaven! Love permeates heaven. Like a narrow-striped warp, love is written into the fabric. The environment there is love, where pride and selfishness don’t exist. Blending of colorful personalities will be such as we’ve never seen. All to the glory of our Grand Weaver. And how marvelous that through Christ we’ve been given everything needed to practice that kind of love here and now. Double bobbin shuttles, and all.

May you rise to the challenge.

Love,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Ruth says:

    Karen,
    Thanks so much for the color show this morning. It is snowing once again up north and I am so ready for spring and color. The close up of your placemat makes my heart sing! And the double bobbin shuttles with their color are beautiful. Blessings to you and yours.

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Beautiful colors Karen! Geez, I have problems with 2 shuttles, someday I’ll make it to 3!!!
    Libby

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, Three shuttles is a little crazy. I may make it easier on myself for the placemats after this. I’m enjoying the colors, too!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Elisabeth says:

    I really like that they are all different but have the same warp (core). It’s almost llike human beings 🙂 They are all beautiful!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, I see it the same way. I think it will make an interesting set. Yes, humans are all made in the image of God. What could be more beautiful?

      Thanks,
      Karen

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Stay Ahead of Empty Quills

What a delight to weave with just one shuttle for a change! It is relaxing to weave this Swedish lace wrap. Even moving the temple and getting up to advance the warp becomes part of the natural rhythm of weaving.

Exchanging empty quill for a filled one.

Empty quill is replaced with a filled quill from the loom bench basket. Smooth operation. My foot needn’t even leave the treadle.

There is one thing that breaks my stride. An empty quill. If I have to stop in the middle of a sequence to wind more quills, I lose momentum and sometimes I even lose my place. Solution? Stop ahead of time at a sensible place in the sequence and wind quills to put in my loom basket. Then, while weaving, it’s a seamless motion to change quills and keep going. It’s a pause instead of a dead stop.

Hemstitching at the end of this wrap.

Hemstitching at the end brings the weaving stage of this piece to a close.

We need to prepare for those times when people seem harder to love. It helps to think ahead, and fill our heart basket with the thoughts of kindness and humility that are essential to keep going. We have a good reason to love each other. We have been loved first. God so loved us that he gave his son. This is the Christmas news. God sent his son to be born here on this earth to be with us hard-to-love people and to save us. That’s good news worth celebrating!

May your heart basket be filled with love.

Christmas Blessings,
Karen

6 Comments

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Tools Day: Countermarch Loom Pros and Con

When my long-held dream of weaving on a floor loom became a possibility, I started my journey with questions. What are the pros and cons of the different types of looms? After considerable research, a winner emerged—the Swedish countermarch loom!

Pros and Con of Countermarch Looms
(My experience is with Glimåkra. Other countermarch looms may differ.)

Pros

  • Weave anything. Rag rugs to lace-weight fabric.
  • Hanging beater. Swinging beater has momentum that enables a firm beat. No strain to shoulders, arms, or wrists. Asset for weaving rag rugs, and superb control for cloth with an open weave. Beater placement is adjustable, making it possible to weave longer before advancing the warp.
  • Rear-hinged treadles. Pressing treadles is effortless, no matter how many shafts. No strain on back, legs, knees, or ankles, even with robust weaving. Because treadles are close to each other, I press correct treadles with sock- or bare-footed ease…without having to watch my feet. Ample foot rest makes it easy to trade feet when using many treadles.
  • Clean shed. Stepping on a treadle raises and lowers shafts at the same time, so a great shed is not only possible, but usual.
Horizontal countermarch. Info about CM looms.

Glimåkra Ideal with horizontal countermarch. The cords from the countermarch jacks at the top of the loom go straight down through the warp to the lower lamms. The lower lamms connected to treadles cause shafts to lift when a treadle is depressed.

  • Even warp tension. Because shafts are both raised and lowered, tension is equal on raised and lowered warp ends. Even warp tension is good for all types of weaving. This even tension makes a tight warp possible. Perfect for linen, and for rugs.
Vertical Countermarch Loom - info about CM

Gimåkra Standard loom with vertical countermarch. Cords from the countermarch jacks go over the side of the loom to the lower lamms below. The upper lamms (not pictured) attached to treadles cause shafts to sink when a treadle is depressed.

Threading ease of countermarch looms.

Bench sits in the loom for threading heddles. I call this my little playhouse.

  • Texsolv heddles. Heddles can be easily added or removed from shafts (shafts are also easily added or removed). Quiet. Easy to thread.
  • Perfect fit. A petite person like me can weave on a large loom (my Standard is 47”/120cm) as comfortably as someone with longer arms and legs. Able to sit in upright posture for weaving.
  • Wooden. The loom is primarily wood. Bonus if you appreciate natural beauty of wood. Held together with wooden wedges and a few bolts. No screws or wing nuts.
  • Scandinavian clarity. Because of the Swedish loom, I adopt Swedish weaving practices and have an interest in traditional Scandinavian textiles. The loom fits the style. Streamlined design, precision, systematic and logical processes, and beauty with function.

Con

  • Treadle tie-ups. Shafts are connected to upper lamms and lower lamms. Treadle cords with a bead at one end are hung in the lamms. Lamms are then attached to treadles. Treadle tie-ups normally fall under the Pros category, because this is what enables the loom to have the clean shed it’s known for. But since I just finished tying up ten shafts to ten treadles (that’s 100 treadle cords), this is my least favorite part right now. 😉 (The weaving pleasure more than makes up for it, though.)
Countermarch treadle cords. Pros and cons.

One hundred treadle cords hang from upper and lower lamms. The only thing left is to attach all the cords to treadles. 😉

Treadle cords for 10 shafts! 5-shaft satin coming up!

Treadle cords are attached. Little anchor pins lock each cord into position under the treadle. After a few adjustments, the shed on each treadle is good. The loom is dressed! Five-shaft satin dräll coming up!

Conclusion:
When I weave on my Glimåkra Standard countermarch loom, I am soaring like an eagle. I’m sailing with the spinnaker up. I am a pipe organ maestro. I am dreaming while fully awake. This is everything I imagined weaving could be, only better.

Countermarch looms - pros and con.

Testing weft options. Gorgeous handcrafted damask shuttle, Chechen wood, made by Moberg Tools. Five-shaft satin dräll–a weaver’s dream.

For more in-depth information about countermarch looms, comparisons of looms, and other fantastic resources, see articles written by Joanne Hall, found at Glimåkra USA.

May you live your dream.

Very Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Annie says:

    This article is exactly what I needed to read, Karen. I have been looking online at websites at the various looms, trying to decide which one I think would be best. I narrowed it down to countermarches for the versatility and sheds but was confused about brands, sizes, etc. This really helps. However,l I have a large learning curve before I jump into buying one unless a great used one suddenly appears.
    Many blessings, Karen.

    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It was your previous comment that prompted me to write this. So I thank you for that!

      Take your time with research and questions. As you narrow it down, you’ll gain confidence about making the right choice for your circumstances.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • JAN says:

    Great descriptions/instructions! Yes, sitting on the floor tying up the treadle cords for any contramarsch loom is tedious, but as you said, the results are well worth it. Sounds like you have written an ad for Glimåkra. The same, even somewhat better results can be obtained on an Öxabäck loom, a.k.a “Ulla Cyrus”?

    • Karen says:

      Hi, JAN, Yes, the tie-up can be demanding, but I can see that you enjoy what comes as a result, too.

      I’m afraid you’re right. It does sound like an ad for Glimåkra. I’m very happy with my Glimåkra looms, so I may be a little eager about my own experiences.

      Öxabäck has a wonderful reputation! I haven’t yet had the pleasure of weaving on one. I’m sure there are details about the Ulla Cyrus and other countermarch looms that I would really appreciate!

      Thank you,
      Karen

  • Joan says:

    Check out Vavstuga Weaving Studio’s way of tying up the treadles. Becky has figured out how to ditch the legged pegs for knitting needles. So much easier!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joan, I think Becky’s ingenious method of using knitting needles for tying up treadles is fantastic! I learned it at Vavstuga Basics a few years ago. I use that method when weaving with two, four, or even six shafts.

      When weaving with eight shafts, however, I have found that I can get better sheds by tweaking the tie-up after weaving a few inches. And it’s easier to pop out and replace individual pegs than to pull out the knitting needle and redo the whole treadle. So, with eight or more shafts, I prefer the old-fashioned method of pinning each treadle cord.

      Thanks for your input!
      Karen

  • Esther Bauer says:

    I have a 4 shaft Glimåkra. I love it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Esther, I can spend hours on my 4-shaft Glimåkra. It’s such a weaver-friendly loom. It’s good to hear of your experience!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kayleen Andresen says:

    I have a Glimakra 4 shaft. I have found it to be great to use. I have had to dismantle it to move and it is very easy to assemble again. My least favorite job is changing the tie up.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kayleen, Thank you for bringing up how easy it is to dismantle and re-assemble. I didn’t think of including that in my list. That is definitely a big plus!
      Changing the tie-up is one of those things of which can be said: “I didn’t necessary like doing it, but I like having done it.” It does give me a good sense of accomplishment!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Gerda says:

    Thanks Karen, very clear and I love your conclusion. Such prose! It is exactly how I felt when I finally had my Toika countermarch up and running, after years on a counterbalance (which is still very useful, and I like it too). I have graduated to 8 shafts, 8 treadles, this week going to 10 treadles: more texsolv to cut, more crawling to do… 10 shafts comes in a year or so, lots of soaring and playing to do first. Living the journey and reading your blog faithfully!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gerda, There’s such satisfaction in weaving on a loom that functions so beautifully for the task. That’s great that you are graduating little-by-little adding treadles and shafts. There’s no hurry, because even 2 or 4 shafts is sufficient to have a grand time at the loom.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Serenity Towels

The neutral colors and the quiet elegance of these towels say “serenity.” What a pleasure to weave M’s and O’s. This was mostly single-shuttle weaving! Uncomplicated, luxurious, and serene. Five towels, plus one very long table runner that I made specifically for our dining room table. The fine 20/1 line linen weft increases the visual and tactile elegance for me.

I’m still amazed when I see the results that come from threads and a weaving loom. And thrilled that I get to be a part of that experience. Enjoy this short slide-show video of the process.

May serenity be woven into your days.

All the best,
Karen

22 Comments

  • Kerry Fagan says:

    Just beautiful and inspiring work. Love M &O’s and agree on serenity while weaving it. Your fluid ratios and colours are wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kerry, Your sweet words put a smile on my face this morning! Thanks for your kindness.
      M’s and O’s is one of those favorites I will keep coming back to.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Sabine says:

    Beautiful, Kerry! And the music you’ve chosen complements the mood perfectly.

  • Cathy M. says:

    I’m so happy I came across your blog and receive your posts! I’ve learned so much from you, and seeing the photos of your work fills me with a sense of calm about MY weaving. Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cathy, It’s my greatest hope that this would be a place where people can learn something useful, so I’m thrilled by your kind words! I’m sure your weaving is beautiful. A sense of calm is always a good thing for weaving, and for everything.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    What a beautiful way to begin my day. Thank you for sharing your work and creativity.

  • Ghislaine says:

    Très beau, félicitations, belle présentation.

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Morning Karen,
    They are so beautiful, I love them!!! Your video is great too, I love seeing the weaving that comes off the loom, it is always amazing to me!!

    • Karen says:

      Liberty, Thank you so much! I am fond of this fabric, too. It is so lightweight, and has a wonderful sheen because of the linen weft.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • martha chiang says:

    Hello Karen,

    I love your slideshow and tomorrow I will watch it again with the music, husband and big dogs on bed are trying to sleep. I am a brand new weaver and not sure how I found my way to your site a couple of weeks ago, but I am really glad that I did. Intimidating though it is to see what someone like you can do with so much experience and equipment, etc.

    I love your serenity towels. I wove my first towels a couple of weeks ago, and I am now working on getting a warp wound and onto my loom for a scarf. I had a few local weavers (unfortunately not just one!) come and each help me get my first warp on my loom for my first project. What this means to me is that I have seen lots of different ways to do this, but am now a bit terrified to do it all alone this time around.

    But one way or another, the warp will get onto my loom and then from there the weaving is just so rhythmical and meditative and seems to take no time or effort at all.

    Well, hope I can learn too even though I am a bare beginner.

    Warmly,
    Martha

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, Of course you can learn! Every one of us started as a bare beginner.

      I know what you mean about seeing several ways of warping the loom. It can be confusing. I have some great resources I like to recommend that give step-by-step pictures and explanations for warping the loom back to front. The books are listed at the end of this post: Quiet Friday: Warping Back to Front with Confidence.

      Every baby step forward is exciting!

      Welcome to the world of weaving,
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Karen,

        I had been to your post once before on Warping Back to Front with Confidence, and so now having looked at that post again and taken an even more careful look at the 3 books you recommend, I have an important question. My first loom in from Harrisville Designs, neither a countermarch nor a counterbalance loom, not a Swedish loom nor do I have a trapeze. I have been cautioned repeatedly agagainst taking in too much weaving info all at once–in your opinion, would these 3 books still be appropriate for me? When I look at your lovely photos, I feel a bit lost, your loom looks so very different from mine. Thank you in advance, Martha

        • Karen says:

          Martha, I believe your Harrisville Designs is a jack loom. I don’t have any experience with jack looms, but I know you can use the same principles of back-to-front warping. I’m not going to be able to give you specific advice regarding your loom. Before I had a trapeze, I laid the warp out on the floor in front of the loom and put weights (bricks covered with cloth) on it. Many people use a helper to pull the warp as it is wound on. So you don’t have to have a trapeze for warping with this method.

          The book that might be most helpful for what you need right now is Joanne Hall’s book, “Learning to Warp Your Loom.” I’m pretty sure you would be able to make sense of her clear instructions, and adapt them to your type of loom.

          Karen

  • tw says:

    Karen,
    I hope you get as much enjoyment out of making these videos and slideshows as we get from watching them. They always provide creative inspiration and food for thought. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Theo

  • tsw says:

    I just realized where you live and am keeping you and fellow & sister Texans in my thoughts. I hope you and yours are safe.

    Theo

    • Karen says:

      Theo, Thank you very much for thinking of us! We are safe, but many friends are struggling right now. I’ll have a short update on my blog post tomorrow morning.

      Karen

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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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