Doubleweave on a Counterbalance Loom

My little loom

My little loom

I have a vintage, handmade floor loom that I love. I knew very little when I bought it, and lucked into this loom that is just right for me.

It does have its limitations, however, as it’s a counterbalance loom. That means that the harnesses really have to be in balance. On my 4-harness loom, that means 2 harnesses up and 2 harnesses down. Pick 2, any 2. But it can’t do unbalanced weaves – those that require 1 harness up and three down (or vice versa).

Therefore, once I figured out how to understand the directions for doing doubleweave, I had to figure out how to do it on my loom. Doubleweave requires 1 harness to be raised at a time, and that’s not in the nature of counterbalance looms.

Now, I know that there are some companies that make counterbalance looms that can be fitted with a shed regulator – a device that makes it possible to get get a clean shed on an unbalanced weave. So I went online and looked at them, trying to figure out what they did and if one would work on my handmade loom. The best I could determine was that it’d require modifications to the loom that I didn’t know how to make, nor was I sure I wanted them made. (Plus they were fairly costly.)

That was the bad news. The good news was that it appeared to me that the primary thing the shed regulator did was to raise up the entire harness. Could I figure out how to do that on my loom?

Well, since I’d already changed all the cords critical to the loom’s operation to Texsolv, it was a simple matter to shorten the top cords and give it a try. It works! YAY!

Now, it’s true that I don’t get a big shed, so when I’m doing doubleweave I have to work slowly, and I have to advance the warp frequently, but it works!

(For you non-weavers, I’m going to put together a post with weaving terminology, and will explain them with photos.)

I’m not suggesting that this would work on every counterbalance loom, but it works on mine. I wouldn’t do unbalanced weaves all the time, but for the baby blankets, it’s ok. It reinforced once again the lovely, little poem that one of the loom’s prior owners taped to it’s main balance.

My simple pleasures,
my gentle joys
weave a lovely pattern
of contentment in my life.

8 comments to Doubleweave on a Counterbalance Loom

  • [...] resulting in a finished maximum width of about 23″. That’s why I figured how to do the doubleweave, so I could make handwoven baby blankets, which have turned into a popular item. Doubleweave on a [...]

  • Paula Nordwall

    I also have a handmade counterbalance loom (8 harness) and have been so frustrated with getting no decent shed I am about ready to donate it to a school. It had the rods on top that your photo shows only more of them due to the 8 harnesses.
    Do you have any video/directions of how to tie it up to get a good shed?
    Also, when I have all 8 harnesses tied up (as in Rosepath) almost every treadle will Not pick up/or drop all of the harnesses that need to rise and/or drop.
    I’ve spent hours fooling with this and have woven for years on my Macomber so this really seems like I’m missing some elementary piece of logic that comes with a counterbalance loom.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Peg Cherre

      Paula -

      Thanks for your comment. I’m leaving some reply here so everyone can see it, and also sending you an individual email, since I’m not sure which will reach you better.

      My handmade counterbalance is the first loom I ever owned. Prior to buying it I took about 6 weaving classes, loved it, and jumped at a used loom on Craig’s List. I knew absolutely nothing, including the difference between counterbalance, jack, and countermarche looms. My little loom hadn’t been used in years, and although there was still a warp on it, the tieup was non-functional, as were the cords on the rollers. I did one small thing at a time to get the loom functioning, learning as I went. First I replaced all the old (hand-tied?) string heddles with new Texsolv heddles. Then I replaced the tie-up cords and roller cords with Texsolv cords. Still wasn’t functioning. I looked at diagrams, exchanged some emails with people, and tried a variety of options. Finally got it going, and working beautifully. I don’t have any video or written directions, did it all basically by trial & error.

      I’ll start with several basic questions, and hope we’ll have a great exchange.

    • How long have you had the loom?
    • Have you ever used it successfully for a simple tabby weave or simple advancing twill?
    • Can you successfully raise & lower the heddles in these combinations (with or without a warp on the loom): 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8?
    • Does it make a difference if you only have one heddle tied to each treadle? Although you obviously wouldn’t want to weav like that long-term, I’d want to know if it worked like that. Sometimes when I have more than 1 heddle tied to a single treadle the tie-up cords will slip and things will catch on each other while I’m treadling, making heddles “stick” together and not move as they should.
    • Please check your email for more contact info.

  • [...] 2 harness up and 2 down at any time. It doesn’t really like to have 1 up and 3 down, although I’ve taught my little loom to handle it. A jack loom can handle any combination of harnesses up and down, enabling you to more [...]

  • Holly Berry

    Hello there lovely weavers,

    I am having a terribly upsetting evening with my new counterbalance loom, and was looking on the internet for clues, when I came across you guys…

    After weaving for a very intensive two months for a new BBC2 programme called Mastercrafts, which will be on TV next Friday, I have invested in a new 8 shaft counterbalance floor loom. I learnt on an 8 shaft floor loom – not counterbalance. I am now realizing that it’s a completely different kettle of fish, and am really upset and worried that I’m not going to be able to do the 8 shaft, double cloth and honeycomb etc structures that I’ve been wanting to continue developing. As far as I can gather it is not possible to lift two shafts that hang from the same pole at the top? and allot of my lifting plans need for this to happen.

    Have I just wasted allot of time and money on a loom that’s not going to work for me? I don’t know what to do. :(

    I hope you can shed some light on my dilemma.

    Warm wishes,
    Holly.

    • Peg Cherre

      Hi, Holly. Yes, counterbalance is a completely different animal than a jack or countermarche loom. Although my initial 6 weeks of weaving lessons were all on jack looms, I purchased a counterbalance loom without really knowing anything, and have come to love my loom. It’s quiet, it’s easy to operate, and it suits me very well. (That being said, I did recently purchase an 8-harness Macomber to allow me more options.)

      I’ll start by telling you that I’ve never worked on an 8-harness counterbalance, only 4-harness, so some things might be different. On my 4-harness, I can easily lift any two shafts, regardless of what roller they’re on. So I can lift 1&2, 2&3, 3&4, 1&4, 1&3, 2&4.

      After doing a bunch of weaving with these combinations, I decided I wanted to figure out how to explore other weave structures that required me to have 1 shaft against 3 – not what a counterbalance is designed to do; they are designed to have an equal number of shafts up and down (at least on a 4) – maintaining the balance at all times. But I’d heard about shed regulators available for new LeClerc counterbalance looms, and that the regulators allowed you to have 1 shaft against 3. I had no idea what they were or how they functioned, so did a bit of online research. It appeared to me that they primarily functioned by raising the rollers (and therefore the harnesses) higher so that you could still get a decent shed with 1 up and 3 down. Since my loom is not a brand name, but was handmade by someone several decades ago, it was clear to me that the structure of my loom would not accept a LeClerc shed regulator. And I’m not clever enough to figure out how to make such a device that would work on my loom.

      BUT, I figured that I could possibly achieve the same thing (lifting the rollers) by adjusting the Texsolv cords that made the loom function. So I just played around, and it works. My shed using 1 harness against 3 isn’t as big as my 2-2 sheds, but it is obviously possible to do doubleweave on a counterbalance loom. I haven’t done any honeycomb, but I’ve done a lot of huck lace, which also requires 3 against 1.

      So the bottom line is: a lot depends on your particular loom. If it’s a LeClerc, perhaps you want to consider investing in a shed regulator. If it’s another brand, perhaps you could just make some adjustments, as I did, to make this type of weave structure possible.

      I’m going to email you directly to see if can offer some more assistance.

  • Ann Cash

    Getting ready to try to figure out a Schacht 4 harness counterbalance loom to weave a baby blanket- Any directions for honeycomb pattern or advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Peg Cherre

      Ann -

      There are lots of honeycomb patterns out there; I’d go to my Handweaver’s Pattern Directory — all 4 harness patterns. They will require you do to 1 harness up and 3 down, or vice versa. Have you tried to do 1 against 3 on your loom? Have you succeeded? I’ll email you off blog to see if I can help.

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