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.

23 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,

    • 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.

      • Patricia Tondreau

        I just sent you pictures of the shed regulator from Leclerc that is on my loom…… 🙂 still trying to figure out where I am stopposid attach the spring and chain part…. the Leclerc say to screw it in the crossbeam, but the Fanny II is a foldable one and don’t have the side crossbeam….. there is a picture on the Leclerc instructions but not of the fanny and we don’t see where it is to be screwed in hope you have some idees, but sent you many pictures of the shed regulator

  • 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.

  • ellen santana

    so i too am having trouble with the sheds on my new to me counterbalance loom. i have been weaving for years on a jack loom and bought his one. i cannot afford the shed regulator, although this is a leclerc loom and it would fit, and i live too far from any place that has weavers. could you tell me about this raising the harnesses higher? just exactly what do i do? do i shorten the cords that attach the top roller to the ones connected to the shafts? your attention is appreciated.

    • Peg Cherre

      Ellen – I just tried shortening the cords to my two main rollers. In other words, I made the shafts have to travel up higher than they did before. If that’s not clear, email me directly and I’ll try to take a photo of what I mean and send it to you.

      • Patricia Tondreau

        I would like to try shortening the cords on my 60 leclerc Fanny………if you have pictures would love instructions to achieve better shed on double weave help would be appreciated

        • Peg Cherre

          Patricia – When I bought my little homemade counterbalance I had to replace all the cords on it. Knowing next to nothing at the time, I chose to use Texolv for all tie up and roller cords, as well as Texsolv heddles. So it was, and remains, a simple matter for me to shorten or lengthen the cords – simply move those Texsolv pegs to different holes. Sorry I don’t have photos. Hope this is helpful.

  • Patricia Tondreau

    do you have a email address

  • Rhonda Junkins

    Hi! I am a new weaver and excitedly read your blogpost as I am restoring an old loom which was given to me because I haves sheep farm. It has been sitting in my living room for 2 years and then two more in the garage. I was afraid my husband was going to send it to the woodpile so I started taking it apart, sanding and finishing each piece with a stain-poly. It is hand made and looks very similar to yours. Is it possible for you to send me some pictures so I can verify I’m putting it together correctly? Mine has string heddles – you said yours were redone with Texsolv. Did it have string heddles originally? Thank you for your blog and the picture of your “little loom”.

    • Peg Cherre

      Hi, Rhonda! Yes, my loom did have string heddles originally. They were hand tied, and based on my memory, either heavy linen or waxed cotton. I’ll email you some photos of my loom. Enjoy your weaving journey!

  • France Tremblay

    Can you send me photos of a shed regulator because a want to adjust it. It a old regulator (1975) for my Fanny leclerc.

    Thanks you very much.

  • I am trying to make my shaft equal value of space so my weave is more balance trying to find some info on my old nileus counter balance

    • Peg Cherre

      I sometimes had to play with my strings so that my shafts were even. And I raised all the shafts to do doubleweave on my counterbalance. Be patient – with your loom and yourself – and you will have success. 🙂

  • Peter Hoare

    I am thinking of making a loom for weaving Shaker tape for chair seating. I have Susan Weaver’s book, Handwoven Tape, which includes photographs of small floor looms with two rigid heddles suspended by their centres from a small overhead roller and raised/lowered by two treadles hinged from the front legs. I am looking at fitting four shafts (with Texsolv heddles) with the top roller suspended by Texsolv cords at each end from a crossbeam between the uprights. These cords could be adjusted to achieve a shed with unbalanced lifts. Janet Phillips describes in her book, Designing Woven Fabrics, how she wove a Multi-sectioned Sample Blanket with ten threading plans in the warp and fifty different lift plans in the weft. In the appendix, page 165, she explains how she wove the blanket on a four shaft counterbalance loom. She used a universal tie up to achieve all 14 possible lift sequences on a four shaft loom. Treadle 1 shafts 2 & 4, T2 S4, T3 S3, T4 S2, T5 S1, T6 S1 & 3. She made some adjustments to achieve a shed on the unbalanced lifts and found a ski shuttle useful in a not quite perfect shed. I am planning my loom to have a weaving width of only 10 inches for tape but might widen this to 18 inches to get inside the loom for threading if the front beam is removable. This would be too narrow for lamms so I would fit guides to take the treadle cords from verticaaly above their treadle hole to vertically underneath the centre of its lower heddle bar. Peggy Ostercamp in her book, Warping your loom and Tying on New Warps page 69, says she never changes her all purpose tie-up on her four shaft counterbalance loom using only 4 treadles. T1 S1, T2 S3, T3 S4, T4 S2. For Plain weave treadles 1 & 2 (S1 & 3) are treadled together with the left foot and T3 & 4 (S4 & 2) with the right foot.
    2/2 Twill left foot right foot
    1 2 treadles
    3 2
    3 4
    1 4
    This walks the treadles.
    A counterbalance floor loom is light to treadle and fast. It would be easy for a child to use compared with a table loom if there was a raised point of attachment for the treadles. It would be easy to widen the loom in the future and fit six treadles and lamms.

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