My daughter fosters dogs. Sometimes they arrive in a very poor condition and need much TLC. However you may well be asking what on earth does this have to do with weaving? I have been feeling as though I am duplicating what she does but with looms.
I was offered a loom. It had been acquired in a farm lot in western Queensland (possibly an estate sale). The new owners were fascinated by things old and mechanical and have quite a collection. It was stored adequately and for a number of years, off the ground yet under a house- a “Queenslander”. Its owners came to the realisation that it would be unrealistic for weaving to happen and so by various means, it ended up in my studio. Yes, I really couldn’t resist the challenge of bringing it back to good condition and weaving on it.
Amazingly, all the pieces were there. However it did have a fine covering of dirt and every hole was inhabited by mud put there by insects that thought they would be ideal homes. Somewhere along the way it suffered some water damage. Some string heddles could have walked being inhabited by “critters”. Those very quickly made it into the bin. But surprisingly there was the original instructions and they were in good condition. I was very pleased to note that none of the pieces had warped.
The mud homes were demolished, the wood washed down and oiled, the loom assembled. It went together beautifully. It’s an old Glimakra (countermarche action) and this loom is really a testament to the original craftsmanship in how well it weathered the passage of time. New cords installed, the loom balanced and now it works beautifully. Here it is in all its glory with a warp on and ready for students to weave on.
For some time now, I have been meaning to write up the system that I use to tie up the lams, shafts and treadles. So while I’m talking of fixing looms, this is an ideal opportunity to do so. I use this system on all my countermarche looms apart from the draw loom. Countermarche looms have advantages especially with regard to the great shed that can be obtained, but it does have the drawback of having to tie up every shaft that is used to every treadle: those that go up and those that go down. It is often enough to put people off weaving on these looms. I often hear weavers saying that it’s too hard to get under the loom to tie up all those treadles.
Commonly weavers use short and long cords according to whether shafts will be attached to upper or lower lams and swap them around according to what the shafts are required to do. Setting up a loom under this system does take time as each new project may require a different combination. Often it is inconvenient as all the adjusting is done beneath the treadle.
This system that I use is so very convenient. I never get under a loom any more. The cords are always in place, attached to a treadle and available for use whether the shafts go up or down. There’s no need to swap cords around….ever. I make adjustments from the top. It is simple and easy to use. Kati Meek wrote up a very detailed description in the latest Complex Weavers magazine (October 2017) and with a much appreciated acknowledgement to me. I would also like to acknowledge Kati for her input prompted some fine tuning of this system. As she says no man is an island and communication enables thinking. Here is a brief outline of what I do for those who don’t have access to that magazine.
This system of tying up treadles is done after the shafts are hung and attached to the lams. Systems vary according to looms. I will mention some generalisations in brief here. All adjustments should be made with the shafts locked in position and the eyes centred on a string that passes from the front to the back of the loom. The lams can have several positions ranging from both parallel to the floor to them being angled. Use what’s allows your loom to work best. This old loom required the bottom lam to be parallel with the top 5cm higher at the non-pivoting end. Once the shafts and lams are correctly positioned it is time to attach the treadles.
This image shows one treadle and will explain the basic principle. The texsolv cord is attached to the treadle and passes through the appropriate hole on the lower lam and then through the hole in the top lam. A knot is made so that the cord won’t fall through. The treadle is permanently attached and no adjustment is made at that end. I can’t give you a specific measurement for each cord for every loom as each loom is different. As a general guide, the height is to nearly the bottom of the shaft including the extra length that is required to make a knot and whatever method is used to attach to the treadle.
The cords are pegged from the top down: above the lower or upper lam according to requirements. As these cords never move, the optimum position can be marked, so it is a simple matter to put the peg in and know that no further adjusting is required. I leave the pegs in the end of the unused cords so that they are always there. If you look carefully at the unused cords on the right you can see the white plastic pegs.
The length of the cord has to accommodate the treadle being on the ground (not used) and the movement of the upper lam as the shafts go up. It should never restrict the movement of the shafts. Note that while one shaft is raised, those that aren’t being used have some slack.
Every shaft on every treadle will have one of these. So for a 10 treadle, 8 shaft loom, 80 cords will be required. Yes this is a lot of cord.
Does each cord need to be the same length? Can I save on the quantity of cord required? With care some fine tuning of length can be made. The treadle that will require the most is the one furthest away from the pivot point. The hole on that treadle that requires the most is the front if the treadles are mounted from the back. In reality I would suggest that for each treadle the cord length is the same. However, I often make each treadle’s cords a different length according to the position of the treadle. Experiment if quantity of yarn is a concern.
One of the factors influencing cord length is the method of attaching it to the treadle. This diagram that I found in a texsolv booklet shows methods of using the cord. Diagram B is the neatest to use but requires more cord. Alternatively diagram C may be used. Another alternative is to peg under the treadle or even use knitting needles. This of course will use less cord. My aim is always to achieve a result of not having cord accumulating under a treadle and collecting dust. So if I use the latter methods, I will also use a knitting needle above the treadle to keep the cord from dropping down.
The following image shows an 8 shaft loom with its full complement of cords. Yes, every treadle will require 8 cords. So in this case of a 10 treadle loom and 8 shafts, 80 cords will be required.This is a lot of cord. But this is certainly outweighed by the convenience of never having to get under the loom again. Note the use of knitting needles. You will also note that not all shafts are currently tied up. Sometimes you will not use all the shafts for every project. As this loom is regularly used for different 8 shaft projects, this is how it remains with its full compliment of cords. You’ll notice that in this case only 5 treadles are being used. I will space the treadles to make it easier to put my foot on just one treadle and not the one beside it. It also saves hitting my ankles.
Sometimes an 8 shaft loom will be used for a run of projects using a fewer number of shafts. In this case there is an option of removing shafts, treadles and lams. It makes for less clutter down there. The rescued loom has the potential to be a 10 shaft loom. I have only set it up with 6 treadles for a 4 shaft configuration. Do I take the cords off the loom? Of course they do need to be removed from the lams so that they can be taken off the loom. If I wish to remove treadles, I will leave the cords in place and with the pegs attached. If each treadle has different lengths of cords due to their position in the loom, I will number the shafts underneath so that they go back to the appropriate position.
The only loom where I don’t use this system is my draw loom and that is because usually only two cords are used for each treadle. I can deal with retying treadles in this case. However I always use long cords that can be interchangeable.
However for all my other countermarche looms this system has sure made my life easier.