December 2017: a loom and a convenient treadle tie up method for countermarche looms

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.

 

 

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9 Responses to December 2017: a loom and a convenient treadle tie up method for countermarche looms

  1. Karen Reff says:

    Fascinating! Thank you for explaining so well. Definitely something to think about!

  2. I don’t see where the knitting needles are used. I’m working on getting my 8-shaft Toika Eeva set up this way.

    • kayfaulkner says:

      The knitting needles can be used under the treadles instead of some sort of plug or a means of stopping the cord come out and above the treadles. This one just stops the cord dropping underneath to the floor and being an opportunity for lint collecting. All the cord stays above the treadle if you use the knitting needle on top. You can just see them if you look closely enough. The only time I wouldn’t use a knitting needle is when I wrap the cord around the treadle and thread it back through itself. I hope this helps. Happy weaving!

      • That makes sense. I have my texsolv looped around and through itself on the treadles. All of the cords are long enough to go through the top set of lamms, so the bottom lamms have long bits of unused texsolv hanging there. I’m using anchors on the top of the lamms. I’ve only gotten four shafts and six treadles set up so far, but would like to get all eight going eventually. It’s so much easier than trying to get the lengths of the cords correct while anchoring under the treadle! Is this correct?

  3. kayfaulkner says:

    Yes, it’s much easier fixing the shafts for each project from the top down. Just make sure you have plenty of slack to allow for movement when the shafts are not engaged as you don’t want to be restricting the shafts going to their full height. Check as you do it, especially for the first few. If you start on the side that has the most movement and if any are too short, then they could be long enough on the side with least movement.

  4. Lisa Svendsen says:

    Thank you for this! I am very interested in trying this method. I have a question. When I push the treadles the upper lamms sometimes move down past the lower lamms. So they bump into one another and cross each other. If the cord goes up through the lower lamms before they go up to the upper lamms, that will not be possible any more, no? Are the lamms not supposed to do this crossing? I have an old glimåkra standard, where the lower lamms are the same length as the upper ones, but have metal weights at the ends to make them heavier.

    • kayfaulkner says:

      Lisa, yes you are correct in that if the cord goes from the bottom lam and through the upper, there would logically be less opportunity for crossing. I try an avoid getting major crossing of lams. On my 4 countermarches of different makes and ages I’ve been able to achieve that. By the way I’m not saying what you’ve got is wrong. If it works it works!!!! There are all manner of variations in looms and you have to work with what you have. So what’s right for one may not be right for another. Have you still got your instruction book on how to set up that area? It may be worth checking. It will give you a recommended set up and achieve how Glimakra says you’ll get that particular loom functioning best. However if you want to experiment with this you may try having the lower one parallel to the floor and the upper 2cm higher at the away from pivot end. (some looms I think even suggest 2 cm below the bottom of the shaft). Others require them to be parallel by the way so there are all manner of variations. 2.5 cm = 1 inch. So around 1″ would do if you’re working in imperial. But then maybe you’re loom is designed to cross. I haven’t come across the one that you’re describing with weight on the ends.
      Getting back to those cords: There is a fair bit of slack in the cords when the bottom lam is used so it’s not constricted or rigid. I’d give it a go with your current set up perhaps first. Just try one treadle- the one with the most movement and you’ll see whether it is going to work for you. You may even need to increase the length to allow for more slack but try first.
      I hope this helps and happy weaving!
      Kay

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