8 harnesses on Varpa

Warning to non-weavers: this is a very weaverly post. While you may not understand all the language, I think you’ll still find the photos interesting.

After successfully completing a warp of 4 4harness scarves on my new Varpa, I decided that it was time to give it a run with 8H. I knew I wanted to try my next variation of the snowflake twill. My initial intent was to make silk shawls, as I had before. However, the 20/2 silk that I have now is about 50% finer than the silk I used in April, so I needed to have 50% more threads per inch to achieve a stable cloth. That meant 36 threads per inch, and for a shawl, 700 threads total. Given the fact that I need to produce more finished pieces for the next show in a few weeks, I didn’t want to take the time to wind and thread all those ends, so I went for the same pattern but in scarf width.

That decision made, I did the tie up, beamed the warp & threaded the loom, & set off.

Here are a few pictures of the Varpa all tied up. You can see why it’s said that countermarch looms are just sticks & strings.
tied up heddles & lamms

Here’s a close up of the lamms & teadles tied up. 16 lamms, each tied to each harness. 8 treadles, each tied to each harness = 64 tie ups. Make each string as close to completely even as possible. With Texsolv, you can’t get them perfect, as the holes are approximately 1 cm apart, so sometimes they’re either a bit high or a bit low.
treadles & lamms tied up

So I started weaving. I was pleased with the way the piece looked.
handwoven silk snowflakes 1

But my goodness, the weaving was incredibly slow! That was because the treadles were so close together that I had to really play with the side of my foot to press down just one treadle at a time. Not fun. If you look again at that last photo, you’ll see that those treadles ‘float’ together — by the front of the loom, where my feet are, they touch each other.

I went to Weavolution and asked for other people’s ideas of how to correct this. I already had spacers on the backs of my treadles, which is what people suggested, so I needed to come up with something else.

I thought about it, and decided I’d change the tie up. My Varpa loom is able to accommodate 12 harnesses, even though it only came (to me, at least) with 8. So there are 4 more holes in each of lamms than I need. I figured if I spaced out how the treadles were tied to the lamms, it’d leave some room in between treadles by my feet.

So I climbed inside the loom, and tied my treadles to the lamms using holes 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, & 12. That left holes 3, 6, 7 & 10 empty. Now my treadles were rather in pairs, and I could easily find the one I wanted with my feet. Here’s how the treadles looked after this new tie up system.
treadles tied up 2

So I sat down to weave much more happily.


It didn’t take too many picks for me to realize that I had a mistake in my tie up. Actually, I’d tied it up exactly like I’d planned, exactly like my Fiberworks program had shown. But with one switch on treadle 8, I could dramatically improve the design.

Here’s a shot with the cloth before & after the change.
silk 8H old & new from the top

It might be easier for you to see the difference if I show you the bottom of the cloth, where the burgundy color is more pronounced than the top.
silk 8H old & new bottom

Do you see it? Those horizontal lines? Just to make sure you do, here’s a close up of before…silk 8H old closeup

…and after the change.
silk 8H new close

With all now in place, I easily finished weaving this scarf. Enough warp on the loom for two more, each of which will be a different weft color. Then I’m going back to my beloved counterbalance for a bit, since I can get things done much more quickly at this point, & I need to to produce more in the next two weeks!

6 comments to 8 harnesses on Varpa

  • Hi there. We are complete novices & having a whole lot of fun setting up our Varpapuu Loom. Looks like it was never used, bought second hand here in South Africa. The heddles are brand new as well but there are 2 types. Please may I ask how to set this up, i.e. do I alternate the types & must they all go on?
    Marion & Marco

    • Peg Cherre

      I’d love to help, Marion & Marco, but I set my Varpapuu up once…I only owned it for a few weeks before I sold it, as I determined it wasn’t the right loom for me. So I’ve had very little experience.

      I’d suggest that you join Weavolution and the Toika/Varpa group. People there will have tons of info that they’ll happily share – and it’s all free!

  • Louise Lubbe

    Hi Windsong

    Had the same trouble with treadles spaced so close I could hardly treadle. Seems to be common to certain types of Varpa. Greeings. Louise

    • Peg Cherre

      I thought the Varpa would be my ‘perfect’ loom. Although visually gorgeous, it wasn’t the loom for me for a variety of reasons. I sold it within 2 months of buying it.

  • Alma

    Ain’t it the truth – – a small change in one area makes a correction, but it takes using it to see the overall effect. You happened on a wonderful finished product. The otiginal was nice, but this is terrific. Congratulations on having Barney Rubble feet – like many of the others of us!

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