Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

To Meddle With Treddles And Heddles

I recently snagged some table loom legs (with treddles!) for Gil, my 25″ Rasmussen table loom.  How? I purchased a second 25″ Rasmussen that came with a floor stand, took it apart, then re-sold the loom (the second, second-hand loom!), reserving the loom legs for Gil.  Somewhere in the midst of that, Gil and stand received a coat of tung oil.  Whew!  I kept Gil (even though he was older and had cotton rather than nylon tie-ups as did the newer one) because I had already installed new metal heddles on him and was not about to do any more fiddling with them.

I used a permanent marker to mark the heddles in groups of ten:

Before removing the second Rasmussen from its stand, I took careful notes on how the shafts were tied to the treddles.  “Reverse engineering” taught me how to tie a lark’s head knot with only one available end.  A lark’s head knot is basically two half-hitches tied in different directions.  I’ve seen it called a snitch knot as well.

When it came time to attach Gil to the stand, tying up the first shaft and treddle took the longest time. I improved with the second, and even more in succession through the fourth, so I had to go back through to the fine-tune the first three.  It was so much fun!  I learned so much about adjusting the cord lengths to balance the cords over length of the shafts so they were properly horizontal at the right height (high enough so the connecting springs did not dangle) while also being connected tightly to a treddle.

I know it’s nowhere as difficult or intricate as a contremarche tie-up, but it was a fantastic stepping stone and warm-up exercise to it.

I’m completely psyched to start on Beauty.  However, two things are in the way: string heddles, and loom cording.

I’ve barely started with spinnng the loom cording.  I’m not ready to surrender to buying texsolv yet.  I have nothing against texsolv; well, perhaps my pocketbook does.  All my Bergman loom parts are original (pre-texsolv days), so I want to try to complete as much of it as possible in the same spirit.  I’m looking forward to the spinning; I just have to curb my excitement about starting the tie-up until that is finished.

Then there are the heddles.

After all the fuss about moving Beauty indoors, I had to cajole my DH into helping me take her back out — to polish and fix up her old wood parts.  I couldn’t do it during the three long months she sat outside while I fretted about her not being inside and not being able to clear a space for her.  I was too busy worrying myself into un-productivity.

Amazingly, after DH helpd me move Beauty inside, I’ve been fantastically productive.  Exactly like flowing chi as put by LittleFaith in her recent comment (“Beauty Is In The House”).  Floodgates have been opened, and obstacles are magically swept away. Not only have I applied tung oil to Gil and treddle stand, but I oiled and rubbed every single surface of old wood in my weaving and spinning collection as well.  (This includes sticks, shuttles, tapestry swords and beaters, another table loom, an inkle floor loom, and an antique click reel.)

 Original condition,

  and Polished!

Finally, on one lovely day of summer reprieve last week, we moved Beauty outside, DH fixed some loose parts of Beauty’s bench, and I polished every exposed part of her wood.  (I would have liked to coat the bottoms of her feet where they touch the ground as well, but it may have been asking a bit much of DH to have him do the lifting.)  Both chi and tung oil have indeed been flowing in lavish abundance.

Back to the string heddles.  I removed (something like six hundred of) them from Beauty to attend to her shafts.  On another productive day, I sat down to count and sort them.  

When I recently added more metal heddles to Gil, I noticed that the eyes were slightly twisted so the warp could pass through them in a back to front direction.  Working with string heddles, I noticed that adding one twist to them would make their eyes more open to the front.

Doesn’t the top heddle (with twist added) look like the eye would abrade the warp less than the straight one below?

It was only after arranging and tying up close to three hundred heddles with the twist that I finally thought to e-mail Trapunto (see my blogroll) with some questions.   Her words of wisdom are shown italicised  below:

Yes it’s a lot of work herding heddles!…In one weaving class, the teacher asked a student why she chose a particular structure for her project, and she said, “Because if I used this pattern I wouldn’t have to move any of my heddles from different shafts” Everyone laughed, and the teacher said that was a perfectly good reason.

You do know you can tie them up into bunches (say, of 10, or whatever you like) when they’re on the loom, and move them together? Joanne Hall of the Elkhorn Mountain weaving site shows how. It’s a figure eight that goes through both upper and lower loops of the heddles. They’ll spread out just fine when you untie the groups, and it’s a good way to store them, so you know at a glance how many you have on hand.

1. Is it OK to give the heddles one twist instead of putting them back on “squarely”? I feel this way, the eye of the heddle faces more towards the front, rather than to the sides. (And the path of the warp would be more going through the shafts rather than from side to side.)

Oh, so glad you asked! The answer is no, there should not be a twist. I put in a twist for my early string-heddle projects, because it does seem intuitive, doesn’t it? It’s kind of complicated and spatial to explain why not, but one of the reasons is that it will put more wear on your warp, even though it seems like the opposite would be true.

2. I don’t know my final count of heddles yet, but I’m thinking it’s about 800. Would you recommend loading them on evenly over the 8 shafts, or do you think I may need more on some than others?

Putting the heddles on is such a pain, I would say don’t even bother loading them back on the shafts until you know how many threads wide your sample warp will be, then put exactly as many heddles on each shaft as the pattern calls for. It’s not common practice to leave extra heddles on the shafts when you’re weaving with a countermarche. (I do sometimes because I’m lazy, but they can make the shafts heavier and get in the way.) It’s a good idea to choose a pattern that requires roughly as many heddles on each shaft for your first warp. This is one of the things people mean by a “balanced” weave. Even countermarches can have balance problems, if one or two shafts are much heavier than the others (I speak from humbling experience.) There are tricks to help, but you don’t want to have to cope with that on your first warp!

3. The heddles are all hand-tied string. I would say that most of them are very similar, but I’ve come across more than a few where the bottom part of the eye of the heddles fall 1/8″ lower (or even more) than the others. Is this significant enough to create problems in the sheds?

1/8″ probably isn’t too bad. More could be a problem. Perhaps you could sort out all the “good” heddles with 1/8″ tolerance, and put aside the baddies as extras. It’s more important that the top knot of the eye of each level with the others on the loom, more than the bottom knot, provided the heddles themselves are the same length. The top knot of the eye determines the height of the warp threads that get pulled down–the ones that your shuttle runs on top of.

So, I guess I need to muster some enthusiasm to re-sort and untwist the three hundred heddles already counted.  (And to re-tie each group separately rather looping together with a single thread.)

Thank You so much, Trapunto, for the generous help and advice!  You are the Angel of the Bergmans!


3 October 2008 - Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , ,


  1. Okay, I can safely say that I have read a lot of your entries now, and I still haven’t a clue what any of this equipment is or why you should be fascinated by it and I find all this jargon completely mind-boggling. The pictures are beautiful though 🙂 You’re gonna have to actually show me in person someday what it is you do with these things.

    Comment by Littlefaith | 5 October 2008 | Reply

  2. Ah, doesn’t she look pretty! I’d be tempted to warp her up and weave right there. I have a funny old 70’s Leclerc ad that shows a warped Fanny sitting in a snowy wood. Surreal, yet strangely compelling.

    Comment by Trapunto | 6 October 2008 | Reply

  3. Wow,is it an artist’s drawing, or a photograph? I know, it’s like Beauty is calling, calling me to weave.

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 6 October 2008 | Reply

  4. Beauty is lovely, and Gil is so very handsome! I am loving reading about your adventures, and so enjoy stopping in.


    Oh — and Trapunto just rocks.

    Comment by Jane | 6 October 2008 | Reply

  5. I have just returned to blogging after my hospital stay. I love your photos of Beauty, but where is the back beam? It was missing on mine and my non woodworking husband has made me one, but I have no idea whether it is anything like the original!More important it works.
    Whilst recovering and doing ‘non-active climbing under the loom things’ I also counted out and sorted and tied together about 800 string heddles. I also found they varied in size and twist.What I can tell tou is these old Bergmans actually work ….I was quite apprehensive that it was all too temperamental. I love mine and she sends good wishes from UK

    Comment by deborahbee | 14 October 2008 | Reply

  6. Welcome back, Deborah!!! The back beam was oiled, and put somewhere else to cure. Do you want to see a picture of it? I’d be happy to send some to you. Congratulate yourself for having such a handy and helpful husband! I know your back beam works, since I’ve already been amazed by your first piece from your loom! It’s good to have you back and recovered.

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 15 October 2008 | Reply

  7. It’s a photograph. Maybe I’ll scan it for the blog, when the cold weather comes.

    Comment by trapunto | 23 October 2008 | Reply

  8. […] by a couple points; I had sorted out 800-plus string heddles (the wrong way — see “To Meddle With Treddles And Heddles“, and I did not have any tie-up cord.  I did not want to use texsolv, as I wanted to […]

    Pingback by Vanquishing Bergman Tie-Ups « Spinninglizzy’s Weblog | 19 February 2009 | Reply

  9. I don’t know if you are still looking at comments, but I have a question about how you attaches your pedals to the loom. My husband wants to build some pedals. Thanks!

    Comment by Diane | 3 January 2012 | Reply

  10. Hello Lizzy,
    I have a rasmussen loom that I bought at a yard sale. I am new to this. I have been watching videos and I cannot figure out how to attach the reddle (sic) It is in 2 pieces. All of the videos I watch, there is only one. It doesn’t look like any I have seen. Do you know about this? I would appreciate any suggestions. I can figure the rest out but this is a mystery.

    Comment by LouAnne | 30 October 2012 | Reply

  11. Hi LouAnne, Congratulations on your new loom! I moved your comment to this post which has pictures of my Rasmussen. I couldn’t tell from your comment if you meant to say heddle, raddle, or beater. If you’re talking about the beater, there is a reed that fits into it, and is topped off by another piece of wood that goes across the top to hold the reed in.

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 30 October 2012 | Reply

  12. HI Lizzy,
    It’s the raddle. I have been watching the Ashford videos and they are pronouncing it in NZ accent so I didn’t know how to spell it. So, it’s in two pieces. I’ve got the beater in place. The heddles are in great condition. I know that the raddles just keep everything straight and then you remove it before you wind it arouns. These raddles have a wing nut in the middle and long screws. All of the ones I have seen are a long board with spaces that gets tied onto the back board. Do you know what I mean?

    Comment by LouAnne | 31 October 2012 | Reply

    • Usually a raddle is kept in place until after you’ve wound on a warp. Raddles usually have a line of nails or pins along the length of the wood. If the raddle is in two pieces, it sounds like the kind that has a top cap to cover the nails _after_ you’ve put the warp threads in place between the nails. This kind of raddle is really wonderful for keeping the threads from popping off while you are winding on the warp. I’ve had the horrible experience of popping off all my warp threads when I used a raddle that doesn’t lock down the warps: https://spinninglizzy.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/this-madness-called-weaving/

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 31 October 2012 | Reply

  13. Hi Lizzy, Thanks for your continuing effort to solve my question. The raddles is in two exact same pieces. They bot have screws to separate the threads and would not fit on top of each other. I would like to send you a picture. How does your raddle look for this Rasmussen? I think I could just make one that would mount on the back board.
    Thanks, LouAnne

    Comment by LouAnne | 1 November 2012 | Reply

    • Hi LouAnne, It sounds like you have two raddles. Are the screws spaced differently on them? That would give you two options for spacing the warp threads. I used clamps (hardware store) to hold my raddles in place. My favourite one is the spring clamp shown in this picture: https://spinninglizzy.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/6482raceclamped.jpg

      I’ve made my own raddle. You can see pictures here: https://spinninglizzy.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/raddle-me-this/ I bought my bobbin winders and shuttles separately (as they did not come with my loom either). I’ve been lucky to find mine used on craigslist, eBay, and Ravelry. Otherwise, they can always be purchased new from any weaving supply.

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 1 November 2012 | Reply

  14. My loom looks exactly like yours. Also, I didn’t get a bobbin winder or shuttle with mine. Do you know of a source for this?

    Comment by LouAnne | 1 November 2012 | Reply

  15. I do have two but they are exactly the same. The mystery is they are about 12″ long each piece and they have a long screw parallel to it but there is no where on the loom to attach it. Maybe they don’t go with?. It’s strange but i will make my own as it’s not an intrinsic part, but seems to be an optional way to keep the threads straight. Thanks for your help.

    Comment by LouAnne | 4 November 2012 | Reply

  16. Hi Spinning LIzzy, thanks for this lovely blog including your experiences with a Rasmussen loom. I have a 4 shaft Rasmussen table loom, but I have string heddles. Do you have any images on your blog of Gil’s setup for the shaft harnesses? I’m interested in working up something a bit more even and consistent than the string/ dowel arrangement.


    Comment by Adrienne Myers | 21 December 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Adrienne, Thanks for stopping by! I’ve moved your comment to a post that includes pictures of my Rasmussen. If you click “Rasmussen” on the tag cloud to the right-hand side of my blog, it will link you to every post in which I’ve uploaded pictures of my Rasmussen. I have seen a Rasmussen with string heddles — it was beautiful, made of cherry wood (I think), rather than maple. Are you looking for information on setting up the levers that pull up the shafts? I only use dowels with doupe heddles for picking up on rigid heddle looms, not my Rasmussen.

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 21 December 2012 | Reply

      • My Rasmussen has universal treadle legs, so I don’t actually use the upper levers at all. I see now after looking at your cloud tag that you upgraded Gil I thought. Perhaps I misunderstood. I have a maple loom, I”m pretty sure, as there are tiny birds eye markings in the stock used to make the beater.

        So did Gil ever have string heddles then?

        Comment by Adrienne Myers | 21 December 2012

      • Gil always had metal heddles. I met someone who had a cherry-wood Rasmussen with string heddles, very lovely! I mentioned this to a saleswoman at The Weaving Works in Seattle, and she said that something like 30 or more years ago, she hand-tied string heddles for Rasmussen, and was paid by the number she made.

        Comment by SpinningLizzy | 21 December 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: