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 | , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Raddle Me This

I decided to put a fourteen-inch wide, ten-foot long warp onto Gil, my Rasmussen loom.  It will be a sampler of some basic twills, and used as a runner for the top of my piano.

The warp is some bumpy Portugese cotton from a massive cone, and one of two small coils of viscose/nylon/cotton yarn (thirteen dollars each, and inherited from Roxy).  I’ll use more of the cotton and the last ball of novelty yarn for the weft.  

Available open space in my house is in constant flux.  Since Gil is now situated in the spot I would have preferred to assemble my Bergman warping reel, I had to warp in the Kitchen.  It was a tight fit, and I was backed against the sink the entire time.  I’m getting used to the weighted swing of the reel: using it to my advantage, it makes warping very, very fast.  I used practically no effort, only having to slow the reel to wind on a cross, then let it fall back the other direction.  I wound on 196 (10-foot) ends in less than half an hour.  It will be even faster in the future, since it was a bit ackward having so little room in the kitchen.

I decided to warp back to front.  I enlisted the help of my DH to hold and tension the warp while I wound the warp onto the back beam.  Since I was working with both unskilled and grudging help, it was not a happy experience.  I would need to find a way to warp on my own to preserve our marital bliss.

It was only after the warp was wound on that I thought to measure the width of the warp on the back beam.  My supposedly fourteen-inch warp measured only an average of twelve inches.

A lightbulb came on.  Is this what a raddle is used for?

I immediately posted for help on Ravelry.  While it was created for the knitting community, there are enough weavers (and spinners) on it that I can usually get my questions (newbie ones) answered within an hour, if not minutes.  But I was too impatient to wait for an answer.  When the Weaving Works told me they didn’t have any raddles in stock, I hied myself away to the closest hardware store, and came home with a pound of cable tacks. 

I chose cable tacks because in one of Peggy Osterkamp’s books, she recommended using screws with eye-holes.  The holes are for inserting a dowel to keep the threads down.  I just couldn’t see myself twisting in close to 150 screws, so I went for the cable tacks.  I also didn’t want to use finishing nails because I was worried that having them sticking out might be dangerous to my very active son.

I kicked myself for resisting any notion of a raddle previously.  I have had severe wrist pain in the past, and I guess I was afraid I would be pounding nails for hours without end until my hand fell off.  In reality, the raddle took less than an hour to finish, taking even that long because I had to stop several times to rustle up other pieces of wood for my son to hammer and to persuade him his wood pieces were much, much better to pound than mine.

The raddle was made, and the warp was re-beamed within the hour following.  What a difference it made! I was able to beam on by myself!  My previous experiences with warping involved more praying than skill to get the warp on the loom; this was the first time that I actually felt in control of beaming on properly — in a scientific manner with reproducible results.

The only problem with my raddle is that I wanted to avoid using screws with eye-holes (suggested in Peggy Osterkamps’s book – so you can quickly run a dowel through them), so found some cable tacks to use instead.   Unfortunately, they are very thick – a little less than an eigth of an inch, and I’m worried it may throw off cloth measurements by almost a quarter inch, counting both sides; this may be more of a problem when warping with very fine threads.

Two of my books say the raddle is optional, and another two say it is a necessity.  I didn’t make the connection between the raddle being used for warping back to front, but I definitely knew I didn’t want to use Deborah Chandler’s hybrid method of sleying the reed to use as a raddle, then re-sleying it after threading the heddles.

I plan to make a raddle for my 45″ Bergman loom, but I’ll use finishing nails instead of cable tacks.  Being able to insert a dowel through the cable tacks wasn’t as handy as I thought it would be, and rubber bands work very well to keep the warp in place (although the cable tacks are long enough not to need the bands).  And a raddle with nails stored safely away couldn’t be worse than having spiked wool combs (truly lethal, yikes!) in the house.


The Ravelry community is awesome.  I would love to frequent the knitting forums more, if only I had more time.  As a newbie to spinning (still under a year!) and even more so to weaving, it’s been a wonderful source of help and inspiration.

2 October 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , | 12 Comments

Weaving On A Budget Of Practically Nothing, And Feeling My Mortality

At a family barbeque two weeks ago, my brother asked me conversationally: “So, is that your latest loom you’re working on?” What could I say, except: “Ummmm… no?”

I’m currently the owner of six looms.  Remember, I started two months ago on Father’s Day.  (Edited to add: I wrote most of this post two weeks ago, but waited until now to publish it since I didn’t have pictures of everything at the time.  As of today, I’m actually the owner of eight looms.  Stay tuned for a post introducing the two latest arrivals…)

I was weaving on my Easy Weaver (size A, small), a rigid heddle loom made by Harrisville Designs. These come pre-warped by the manufacturer, using the ingenious method of attaching velcro on both front and back beams to quickly warp the loom.  Mine was used, and two-thirds of the warp was already woven.  I impatiently finished off the last part (letting my son weave a few picks) so I could tie on a warp I prepared for my first try at tablet (or card) weaving.

Before the BBQ, I quickly tied on that first card-weaving project, “Sample Band A” from Candace Crockett’s “Card Weaving” book.  I started the first picks in the car.  It caught the interest of one of my nephews (a belt), so I’m already received my first commission!

I’m very happy with this sweet little loom.  It does exactly what I wanted it for, weaving in the car.  (The passenger seat, silly.  I can already “weave” when I’m in the driver’s seat!)  It was inexpensive, since it was used and missing one shuttle.  It’s the older model, so there’s no heddle block mounted on the base to interfere with tablets.  And it is perfect for my son to use if he wants.  I had a little difficulty getting the warp tight enough with my tablet weaving, since the apron rods I added on tended to slip and loosen the warp and cloth; I will try drilling holes through the rods (for the cording) to see if that will keep them from turning.  I finished off the belt (it’s horrible, made of jute, with lots of mis-turnings) and beamed on a second during a four-hour road trip to Vancouver, BC.  Alas, I ignored the advice to avoid using jute in a first project, for it proved finicky to handle as well as too rough and bulky for belts; they might be salvaged as luggage straps.

The tablets I used were purchased along with others of varying sizes, tiny shuttles, heddles and a backstrap belt with harness for a few dollars at a garage sale:

Then I snagged this electric bobbin winder for even less:

It was cheap because the motor was Danish and made for 220v electrical; I took it into a repair shop, where I was fortunate to find a used 110v motor to replace the original.

The day after the Easy Weaver arrived in the mail, I was practically gifted this 24″ Kromski Harp, with stand, by someone who ordered it new but never got around to taking it out of the box.

With an decoratively flourished heddle:

I don’t know if I’ll keep the Kromski.  Somehow, I just can’t love it as I do Hedy (Schacht), even though the Kromski has a larger weaving width and can accept two heddles, whereas Hedy is limited to one.    I’ve been dragging my heels on the very last bit of the assembly, tying on the apron strings and rods — some bother about finding a candle to melt some nylon ends together.  The ornate woodworking of the Kromski just doesn’t move me as do the quiet, square lines of the Schacht.  Also, I’ve received a few offers for it already, so I may not have it long.  I will add a later post with pictures to compare these two looms..

Last, I came across this handsome fellow, a 25″ Rasmussen table loom that had been stored for thirty years in perfect condition.

His name is Gil (Hebrew for Joy), he folds for portability,

and he came along with four books, including “Warping All By Yourself” by Cay Garrett, and Marguerite Porter Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book”.  I don’t understand why, when I take out the bottom screw that locks the castle upright, the hole it comes out of misses alignment (when folded down) with a third hole to lock it when collapsed.  The difference in alignment is very small, but large enough that I don’t believe the difference is due to any warping.  Plus, it’s the same on both sides.  The hole that doesn’t match up is the one pictured below on the upper left:

I think I tried removing the screw on the upper right (instead of the bottom one), and found it doesn’t work, either.  Or perhaps it didn’t make sense to me, since the castle would have to tilt away from and not lock down the reed, and would not collapse as compactly.  I’ll try calling Montana Looms, the company now manufacturing these.  Gil’s collapsing feature isn’t quick or easy compared to my other table loom (Bergman Treasures And A Reprieve), plus he is bulkier and heavier.  It’s more likely that I’ll end up taking out the booster seat and putting down the back seat of the car rather than collapse this loom again.

In compensation for spending practically zilch on looms, I have been bankrupting myself on books –Peggy Osterkamp’s second and third, and “Mastering Weave Structures” by Sharon Alderman — plus accessories.  I purchased two hundred new metal heddles for Gil (more expensive than the loom), to bring him to five hundred.  And placed an order for a Schacht auto-reed hook (shockingly expensive) that I can’t wait to use.

OK, so the budget wasn’t practically nothing, but only because I kept stopping in at The Weaving Works to badger the nice people about my Lendrum fast flyer (hence the new books and accessories).  I’m learning that even if one buys everything top-drawer, and retail, those expenses would be nothing compared to the time investment involved.  Rather, that even if all the looms, tools, education, and yarn were free, weaving is incredibly expensive, time-wise.  (And if so much time is to be spent doing this, isn’t it a necessity to use the tools one likes best?!)

I think I’ve just made the argument that weaving cannot be be inexpensive, if one values time.

Reading through the used weaving books recently acquired, I’ve found names written inside, and small notes.  Most of the used books are circa 1970’s, with pictures of authors usually in their 30’s or later.  Why are so many weaving texts out of print, where are these people now, are they still weaving, and did they fulfill their dreams?  I muse on these things, and when looking at the authors, realise that many of these women may already have passed.  At least four of my looms are older than I, and with care may probably last longer.  Perhaps it’s silly, but I’m wistful, at the thought that my time to use each of these looms is running out.  There will be some point when I too must pass them on to the next weaver.  How can I possibly weave enough when dressing one loom has taken me more than twenty-four hours?!  My slowness at knitting never bothered me.  I’m not slow at spinning; but I suppose recently I am, since I’m never spinning, but always weaving warping.  I touch these older looms, read these older books, and I see my life dwindling down and I wonder why I am doing this, what am I accomplishing, is this adding meaning to my life, will my family survive this, should I stop before I’m in trouble, and why do I enjoy this?  Because, I truly don’t need another scarf.

9 September 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments