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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What a Cellist Weaves

I approach weaving like a musician. The looms are instruments, and everything is practice. When I was twelve years old I fell in love with the ‘cello and began learning to play the instrument. Over time, I discovered the value of mindful practice, the need for which is ongoing. It’s not perfection I’m after, but intent to apply all I’ve learned.

Glimakra band loom.

Finished woven band. 12/6 cotton for warp and 16/1 linen for weft.

Band loom woven cord for cello endpin stop.

Small slider is added to make the cord’s length adjustable.

This once, my weaving and ‘cello playing overlap. My husband designed this cello endpin stop for me! I got to weave a cord on my band loom that connects the pieces together. (I showed you the beginning steps in Finer Weft for a Stronger Cord.)

Hand-crafted cello endpin stop, with handwoven band.

Hand-crafted ‘cello endpin stop.

Hand-crafted cello endpin stop.

‘Cello and me.

What if our interactions with people are opportunities to practice real love? It’s no big deal if I love those who love me. Or, do good when I know someone will return the favor. Or, lend to someone who will pay me back. Real love is loving those who don’t love you back. That takes practice. When we love, do good, and give, expecting nothing in return, we start to resemble God’s character. No, we won’t attain His perfection, but when we apply all He’s taught us, we begin to look like His children. For He loved us long before we loved Him back.

May you practice real love.

Love,
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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Tools Day: Ski Shuttles

Patterned rag rugs always use at least two shuttles. I often have four or five filled ski shuttles at the loom. A low profile ski shuttle is an excellent choice for weaving patterned rag rugs. Why?

  1. It fits pleasantly in the hand.
  2. It holds a large amount of fabric weft without being bulky.
  3. The wide base glides smoothly across the warp.
  4. The low profile fits easily through the narrower shed of a tight warp that is common for rug weaving. (Beware of ski shuttles that are taller, and may not fit as easily through a tight shed.)
  5. It is slender enough to send it out of the shed to go over or under outer warp ends, when needed.
Basket of ski shuttles ready for the next rag rug!

Basket of ski shuttles that are ready for the next rosepath rag rug!

My ski shuttles are made by Glimåkra, except for the beautiful cherry wood ski shuttle my husband made for me.

Hand crafted cherry wood ski shuttle, and rosepath rag rug just off the loom.

Newly completed rosepath rag rug is ready to be hemmed. Cherry wood ski shuttle is hand crafted by Steve Isenhower.

 

Ski Shuttle Dimensions (Glimåkra Single Ski)
Height: 1 1/4″ (3 cm)
Width: 2″ (5 cm)
Length: 19 1/2″ (50 cm) and 25″ (64 cm)

Why I like low profile ski shuttles for weaving rag rugs.

Weaving width determines which ski shuttle length to use. The shorter shuttle works with any weaving width. The longer shuttle works only for wider weaving widths (30″ or more) and for spaces with plenty of clearance at the sides of the loom. The low profile of the shuttles is seen in relation to the height of the reed in the beater.

 

How to Wind a Ski Shuttle

1 — Hold ski shuttle vertically. Start with one tapered end of the fabric strip coming across the top of the ski shuttle. Hold the tapered end with your thumb while you start winding the fabric strip onto the shuttle with your other hand.

How to wind a ski shuttle.

 

2 — Continue wrapping the fabric strip around the length of the shuttle, straightening the fabric as you go.

How to wind a ski shuttle for rag rugs.

 

3 — Finish winding when you have a tail of fabric remaining.

How to wind a ski shuttle.

May your shuttles be a good fit for your hands.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

11 Comments

  • Pam says:

    What a beautiful cherry wood shuttle your husband made. Giving a hand made gift is giving a part of yourself. What a loving gift. Cherry wood is a very hard wood. Perfect choice for a shuttle’s smooth durable surface.
    How wide is the fabric weft?I love the colors you selected for this rug.
    Great pictures. Very informative. Thanks, Karen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pam,

      The cherry wood has a nice feel, too. I like holding it in my hands.

      The fabric for the rosepath rug is cut 3/4″ wide. The batik fabric for the double binding rug is lightweight, so I am cutting it a little wider, about 7/8″ wide.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Denise says:

    I really appreciate your tips, Karen. Are you weaving with a single strip of fabric as opposed to two strips? If so, why?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Denise,

      My first response is — it’s easier. 😉
      Weaving with a single weft strip does make a lighter rug, but I don’t necessarily see that as a disadvantage. I use doubled weft fabric strips if I want to do some color gradation in the rug, but otherwise, I like the simplicity of weaving with one fabric strip on the shuttle. Weaving with two fabric strips on the shuttle can be tricky if the fabric strips are not exactly the same length. However, I have been thinking of doubling the weft for the rosepath pattern picks on the next rug to accentuate a raised look for the pattern…

      The double binding rug is two layers thick, so using one weft strip on each shuttle makes sense to me.

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    Your rugs are gorgeous and whatever the draft is, makes the rug look so sophisticated! And it looks fun to weave. I don’t really understand what a double binding rag rug is and what the threading is….

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie,

      Double binding is very fun to weave. There are two layers being woven at one time. First, throw a pick for one layer, and then throw a pick for the other layer. It feels like magic every time you beat the two layers together.

      I listed some resources for double binding in my response to Maggie in the comments at the end of My Favorite Thing to Weave, if you are interested.

      All the best,
      Karen

      • Debbie Moyes says:

        Thank you! I just ordered The Big Book of Rugs (sounds like a children’s Golden book title!) and am looking forward to figuring out what you are doing.

        • Karen says:

          Debbie, in The Big Book of Weaving (I think that’s the book you mean), this 8-shaft rug (p.144) is called “Rag Rug x 2.” The book doesn’t mention the words “double binding,” but calls it “weft enhanced plain weave.”
          The other example of double binding in the book is “Checked Fabric,” p.96, and they call the weave technique “Reinforced weft weave structure,” but it is actually a simplified double binding structure. You can use that draft to weave rag rugs if you adjust it to 8 epi and use fabric strips 3/4″ wide. Arrange the two blocks as you please. I have done many rag rugs with this draft.

          Have fun!
          Karen

  • Kathy says:

    HI, Karen, thank you so much for all the tips on weaving! Your rugs are beautiful! Do you usually use 12/6 cotton rug warp for your rag rugs instead of 8/4? Just learning! Thanks so much!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathy,

      I only use 12/6 cotton (Bockens) for rug warp. I like it because it has high twist which makes it very strong and durable. This makes it an excellent choice for rugs, hopefully giving them as much longevity as possible.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kathy says:

    Thank you so much, Karen! I’ll definitely try it when I weave a rug, hopefully pretty soon. Thanks again!

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Tools Day: Narrow Shelf

It’s not easy to keep a table top cleared off. Little things accumulate that intrude on the work space. The wonderful maple work table Steve made for my weaving room a couple years ago provides a needed surface for multiple uses. I do my project planning here; and I weigh out my yarns here; and I wind quills here. It’s time to create a space for the little things, to get them off the table. Steve to the rescue! He built a narrow shelf to go on the wall behind the work table. Pencils, snips, pins and needles, quills with a little bit of thread, and the like. Pegs below the shelf give me a convenient place to hang a few essentials–small scissors, Gingher thread clippers on a cord, a few choke ties, tape measure, and my Väv Calendar.

Hand-crafted maple shelf compliments the maple work table below.

Hand-crafted maple shelf compliments the maple work table below. Frequently used items are within arm’s reach.

Hand-crafted maple shelf above weaving work table.

Re-purposed vessels make colorful holders for small items.

Now, I am ready for anything!

May your creative space work in your favor.

All the best,
Karen

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