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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How Long Did it Take You to Weave That?

It’s the question we expect to hear. “How long did it take you to weave that?” “…Well, hours and hours, basically.” After almost three hours of threading, I am nearly to the halfway point. How can I convey all the necessary work of dressing the loom? Or, the time it takes to practice a new skill at the loom? Or, the finishing work of twisting fringe, hand hemming, or cutting and sewing?

Threading ten shafts.

Threading ten shafts. The two newest shafts are pale compared to the others. They haven’t yet developed the golden hue of the wood around them.

With any hand-crafted article, there is more than meets the eye. Why do we want to know how long it took to make it? Are we trying to measure value, or understand the maker’s process? Or, is it simply a statement of incredulity about something we didn’t know was possible?

Threading ten shafts--in silence.

For this threading, I sit in silence. No music, no podcasts, no wandering thoughts. I’m easily thrown off by distractions, especially when threading ten shafts.

Threading linen on ten shafts.

Half of the 16/2 linen warp is threaded.

We have a Maker. He fashioned our physical selves; we see that. He also made us with heart and soul. He starts the weaving process before we are born, and takes as long as he needs for the finishing. The Lord, our Maker, includes the necessary development of our character, and the intricacy of our personality, and our dreams and hopes. We are more than meets the eye. How long does it take to make a person? A lifetime.

May you enjoy the process.

Love,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Beth says:

    This is an often-asked question. When someone want to commission, I include descriptions of all steps with estimated time spent so they better understand. I admire your ability to thread in a quiet environment as I seem to need background noise.

    The older I get, the more I understand your comment about taking a lifetime to make a human. We are constantly changing; a forever work-in-progress.

    Can’t wait to see what you’ll be making with the linen!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I think it’s the question I hear most often. I’ve never thought of writing a description of the steps and estimated times for customers. That’s a great idea.

      I need quiet if I have to count more than 4 because I’m very distractible. Haha. I started out trying to listen to a podcast and had to redo the first 20 threads.

      Yes, a forever work-in-progress!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Julia says:

    A textile artist I met one time answered the question this way: “This piece took my entire life. Everything in my life that came before this piece contributed to its creation.”

  • Cat Wycliff says:

    Julia’s comment is a version of the famous saying by Picasso when someone was incredulous about the going price of his art work. Rings so true!
    As a beginning weaver (only 2 years), I struggle mightily with warping. I always seem to have tangled threads. I am careful. I thread heddles with no music, no distractions. Just silence. I have clipped heddles, marked them with colorful counting stitch loops, used painter’s blue masking tape–all in an effort to get it right. Sadly, it never is. I always end up with floaters.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cat, I’ve read Picasso’s quote before. ‘Tis a common thought among makers and artists.

      The learning journey can be steep at times, but it does get easier the more you practice. If you thread texsolv heddles you might find this video helpful that I made a couple years ago, if you haven’t already seen it. link – Threading Heddles

      Happy persistent weaving!
      Karen

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What a Web We Weave

Threading errors happen. But you can reduce their occurrence. After beaming a warp, I count the warp ends into threading groups before I start threading. Always. This is the first step in reducing threading errors.

Beamed linen warp. Tied into threading groups.

Beamed linen warp. Ends are counted into threading groups, and tied in loose slip knots.

The second step in nearly eliminating threading errors is to check every threaded group right after it’s threaded, thread by thread. These intentional steps expose mistakes early in the process. I would rather find an error now than later.

Threading ten shafts.

After a group of warp ends is threaded I check every thread to make sure it is on the correct shaft.

Threading ten shafts. How to avoid errors.

View from the back beam. Every thread is now in its proper place. Two ends had ended up on wrong shafts, so threads were taken back out and corrections made. Threading ten shafts can get confusing, so it is critical that I check my work.

Did the spider check for threading errors before weaving her intricate pattern? Did she know her invisible web could be seen on a dew-rich foggy morning?

Napping spider on her almost invisible web.

Napping spider on her almost invisible web.

Spider's web in dew-rich foggy morning.

Early morning dew reveals the outlines of the spider’s web. Not wanting to be seen, the spider quickly climbs away to hide when I come close to her woven threads.

Our world tells us to make enemies, and hate haters. To grip what is mine, and demand my rights. It’s in my human nature to be that way. But love is different. Love your enemy, do good instead of hate, pray for those who mistreat you. Is that possible? Yes, if you know the love of God firsthand. Love makes you different. It changes you, making you want to take account of your attitudes, and check your motives. Count threading groups, and check the threading. There will be errors as you weave, but they are learning experiences, not fights. Remember, the invisible web we weave may not be as invisible as we think.

May you be different.

With love,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Annie says:

    Good morning, Karen!

    I have never seen ten shafts threaded before. The first thing that came to mind was “This must have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s line “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” The play it appears in is escaping me for the moment. In comparing the spider web to the one on your loom, the spider web seems rather simple!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts this morning. Have a wonderful day and weekend.

    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie,
      Shakespeare’s quote is certainly on target.

      I watched the spider start weaving her web a couple weeks ago. Very meticulous and precise, it seemed. So fascinating! It’s amazing how something so fragile can be so strong. As far as simple? Yes, mine is considerably more complicated…and will last a bit longer, too.

      Thanks for chiming in! I enjoy hearing your thoughts!
      Karen

  • Cat Wycliff says:

    What a lovely way to describe how love makes us different. And your practical ideas on re-threading and checking it twice deserve to often be repeated. I need to remind myself of your patient practice.

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Keep Threading Those Heddles

It will be worth it. 896 threads through these heddles, and then two ends per dent in the reed. This is the necessary dressing of the loom. I do it nine minutes, thirty-five minutes, and twenty-two minutes at a time. I do not accomplish it in one sitting. After accumulating almost five hours of threading, I’m ready to sley the reed.

Threading heddles.

Colored threads are 16/2 cotton, thicker than the 24/2 unbleached cotton threads.

Threading Heddles

Checking for threading errors before tying the group of ends into a loose slip knot.

It is easy to lose concentration when there are so many ends. The M’s and O’s threading has just enough variation in it to make me wonder if I did keep it all in the correct sequence. We will find out. The threading, correct or not, is always revealed as the fabric is woven.

Texsolv heddles of four shafts. Glimåkra Ideal.

Texsolv heddles on four shafts, threaded. Glimåkra Ideal.

Sley the reed. Glimåkra Ideal.

Two ends per dent are sleyed in this 22.5-dent-per-inch reed.

What is faith? Faith is putting your trust in something you have good reason to think is true. Stand firm, immovable, in your trust in the Lord. You put threads in the heddles because you have good reason to think these threads will become fabric. Don’t quit. Keep coming back to it. Be strong in faith. And do it from a framework of love. Your framework is always revealed in the cloth of your life.

May you stay strong.

Happy threading,
Karen

2 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your encouragement on having faith. It was a very good start to my morning ☺️
    Anxious to see this project woven too. Your patience and fortitude for taking on difficult projects amazes me, a fellow weaver!
    Carolee

    • Karen says:

      Good morning, Carolee,
      Patience and fortitude are virtues, so thank you for that compliment. One reason I enjoy weaving so much is there are continual opportunities to stretch my knowledge and experience.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Sweet Little Loom with a View!

Steve thought I should have another loom, so he used his carpentry skills to build a 27-inch Swedish-style four-shaft countermarch loom! It’s beautiful. It’s incredible! In preparation for retirement in a few years, we found a place in beautiful Texas hill country to call (our future) home. For now, it’s a place to gather with children and grandchildren on occasional weekends. And a place to put a sweet little loom.

Making weaving loom parts.

Making weaving loom parts.

Making weaving loom parts. Treadles.

Six treadles ready.

Putting the new little handbuilt loom together!

Final Touch. Tightening the cradles for the top of the hanging beater.

Maiden warp for a new sweet little loom.

Putting on the maiden warp of 12/9 cotton seine twine.

Ready to take the loom apart to move it.

Loom is ready to be disassembled. Warp is wrapped up on the warp beam. Blue duffel bags will hold all the loom parts except for the side frames and the beater, to be transported to the new location.

And it only gets better. We situated the petite loom by the corner windows in the living room. At the loom, I have the best seat in the house, with an amazing view of God’s creation. The loom tells me my husband knows me very well. And the view tells me the Lord knows me, too.

Loom with a view! Texas hill country.

Threading heddles while enjoying the hill country view!

Grandchildren, loom, view... heaven on earth!

Can there be a better setting? Grandchildren playing, loom, view…

Sweet little loom with a view!

Sweet little loom with a view! Heavenly!

None of us can come to God on our own terms. Not by our wisdom. Not by our strength. Only through humility do we find God. Humility opens our heart to God. That’s when we see how much He has done to get our attention to tell us He knows us and loves us. My special loom with a view is an example of what it’s like to be known and deeply loved.

May you know you are loved.

Blessings,
Karen

26 Comments

  • Beautiful Karen. An inspiring blog to exemplify how necessary it is for us to be grateful for the ‘simple’ things in life. My loom with a view has a delightful panorama of the Pacific Ocean on the east coast of Australia, south of Sydney. And today I picked up (another!) little sweet loom, a Louet Jane – for small delicate treasures.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison, It sounds like you enjoy a gorgeous setting! Yes, gratitude is essential, isn’t it?
      We have a way of finding space for those sweet little looms…

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Meg bush says:

    What a lovely post!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Oh, my goodness! It is beautiful! Not only does your husband know you well, he obviously loves you very much. What a treasure. I look forward to seeing the first project from this lovely loom.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It is treasure indeed!
      I have a project on the loom that’s been on my weaving “bucket list” for a while – a four-shaft tapestry sampler. Pictures coming soon.

      Karen

  • Martha says:

    What a loving present your husband made for you! Enjoy your new petite loom with the beautiful view.

  • Cindie says:

    Oh my gosh, what a beautiful little loom, what woodworking talent your husband has. And yes, what a beautiful view!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindie, Yes, my husband is very meticulous and an excellent woodworker. This was not an easy project–it certainly was a labor of love!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Marcia Cooke says:

    This is SO cool! (I couldn’t help but think of the loom plans I found in my husband’s bookcase several years after his death…..and of all the weaving tools he could have made for me had he survived cancer.) I love your setting, too….thanks for sharing this post!

    • Karen says:

      Dear Marcia, I see you know what it is like to be loved. How sweet to find those plans… I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad that this triggered fond memories – those memories are a blessing.

      Love to you,
      Karen

  • Carol says:

    A real dream come true for a weaver! I am also very grateful for a studio that I enjoy and a husband who has given up his garage to allow me a place to enjoy the talents and use the gifts God has given me. The view is not as wonderful as yours, but I am most grateful for it and now to be able to teach my granddaughter to weave, another to paint, and a grandson to crochet my heart is full.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carol, The loving surroundings are every bit as important as the view. It sounds like you have a perfect space for using your gifts and pouring into the next generation! That’s wonderful!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Margaret Scheirman says:

    What a beautiful team you two make and this loom exemplifies this! And how beautiful of you to share the story like this!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Margaret! It’s great to hear from you. Yes, we are a team–companions for life. Nick W, back in college days, was the one who told Steve to aim for companionship in marriage. Best advice ever!

      Thanks for stopping in!
      Karen

  • limor Johnson says:

    Karen,
    Your Journey as a weaver is impressive and your willing to share in great detail is very much appreciated.I’m a new weaver and I’m learning a lot from your posts and videos.
    Are you going to use a book with patterns for your new a 4 shafts loom? Can you share your favorite book on weaving?
    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Limor, It makes me very happy to know you are learning from things you find here! You ask a great question. In fact, I am using a project from The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell to start the journey on this little loom. The project is called, “Four Decorative Sample Strips.” That also happens to be my favorite book on weaving. 🙂

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Melissa says:

    Hello Karen, I learned to weave at age 16. Then due to kids, job, life, i wasn’t able to weave for about 20. I am now able to weave again. YEA! It just makes me happy. I have looked a weaver’s blogs, all very talented weavers!!!, but like your the best and keep coming back to it. i admire the quality and creativity in your weaving and the fact you are a Christian. I am looking to use my weaving to augment my spiritual gift of encouragement. Thank you for the beautiful site and beautiful words.

    • Karen says:

      Melissa, I’m touched! It’s a pleasure to have you joining me here. Our world needs your gift of encouragement. I hope you soar with that!!
      I know you have encouraged me today. Thanks!

      Happy Weaving (and don’t worry about little typos. I only noticed your kind sentiments.) 🙂
      Karen

  • Anonymous says:

    Ops, I see I didn’t proof read my comment. 🙁

  • Marcia says:

    It’s awesome Karen! I just came back from Lawrence, Kansas, and the yarn shop there is filled with weaving supplies. The tiny yarn shop in Grand Rapids has them too. Whenever I see the supplies, I think of you!

    • Karen says:

      Marcia, I know that shop in Kansas! I used to wander in the Yarn Barn just to browse the yarn when I was a student at KU. That was way before I had any notion about weaving. That is so sweet that you think of me when you see weaving supplies. I think of you when I see amazing knitted items – “I know somebody who makes things like that!”

      Thanks for dropping in here!
      Karen

  • Shearling says:

    Very cute loom! Looks like a wee Glimakra School loom. Be sure to mark it with date and maker!

    BTW, the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont has a very old chest of drawers with the names of all the owners over the generations carved into its top. We should all do that to our looms, maybe!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shearling, It is much like one of those Glimakra School looms. If we could have found one of those, I don’t think we (Steve) would have needed to make one. Thanks for the thought about marking it with the date and name of the maker! We hadn’t thought of that. Will do!

      It would be great to have a piece of the history on the loom, wouldn’t it? Oh, the stories the old looms could tell.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • […] been on my mind for a long time. But I purposely waited to begin until I could weave it on my new sweet little loom with a view. Four Decorative Sample Strips, it’s called in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila […]

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