Cord making can be a simple way of constructing new yarn with little equipment.
Cord can be used in constructed fabrics, woven, knitted, crocheted etc. as well as for appliqué techniques. Cords are also commonly used in passementerie, tassels, trimmings and jewellery.
To make a cord you will need:
yarn or any type of thread
knitting needles (a pen/pencil will also do the job)
To start with you will need to make a warp. The size of this warp will depend on the yarn you are making it with and the size cord you want to make. To start with try making a warp of 20 ends, 2.5m long.
If you do not have a warping mill/frame then you can wrap the yarn around a chair back and slip it off the top. Alternatively you could measure each piece of yarn e.g. 20 lengths of yarn each 2.5m long.
Cut three 75cm lengths of the warp then tie a knot in the end of each group of yarns and secure them to a table using masking tape. The knot helps stops the yarn from slipping out underneath the tape.
Alternatively, tie the ends to a door handle or fixed point. This is useful when making longer lengths of cord.
Tie another knot in the other end of each group.
Slip a knitting needle (or pen/pencil) in to a group just above the knot in the free end. The knot keeps the yarn taut around the knitting needle.
Spin the knitting needle away from you (or in the opposite direction of the twist in the yarn) to add twist to the group of yarns. Add as much twist as you can without the yarn turning back on itself. Rest the knitting needle down on the table.
Do the same for each of the other two groups of yarn. ideally there should be the same amount of twist in each group.
To be accurate count the number of time you spin the knitting needle. it should be the same for all three. You can then work out the number of twists per meter (TPM) or twists per inch (TPI). Don’t get bogged down with this but it can be useful information to record.
Once all of the groups have been twisted, hold all of the knitting needles together. Twist all three towards you (or in the opposite direction of the first twists). This will bring all three groups together to make the cord.
Using an elastic band to hold the needles together while twisting can make it easier.
Twisting in opposite directions give the cord strength and stability.
Put as much twist in to the cord as you can before it starts to twist back on itself. Keeping a record of the number of twists is useful information to record.
To stop the cord unravelling wrap some masking tape around each end and then cut through the tape.
Notice that as twist is added at each stage the length decreases. The cord is less than 75cm long when finished. The take up will be different for different types of yarn and different size warps. Keeping a record of the length of warp used to begin with and the end length of cord will help when planning cords.
Once you have got the hang of cord making try experimenting with the following:
type of yarn – cotton, silk, wool, synthetic, metal, paper, sewing thread, embroidery thread
thickness of yarn
number of ends per warp
length of warp cut to make cord
number of groups of threads – two is minimum
try combining yarn type/thickness/colour in one cord
I struggled to find any information online about gating a countermarch so thought it would be useful to share my knowledge with you.
If you are using 8 or more shafts you may find that the shed is small. When using this number of shafts it is advisable to gate the loom. This is a process which opens up the back shaft a little more to give a clearer shed.
Before you start make sure the pins are in the castle, the shafts are at the right height and the shafts/lamms are horizontal/straight. The treadles need to be untied.
With the treadle pivot bar (A) in the lower (weaving) position, set the top of the control bar (B) level with the notches (C) on the pedal spacer.
For the back shaft only (back two lamms) tie each treadle tightly against the treadle control bar.
Loosen the treadle control bar and put the treadle pivot bar in top position (D).
Push the treadle control bar tightly against the treadles and tighten nuts.
Firmly tie the rest of the treadles to shafts.
Put the treadle control bar back in the upper position out of the way and put the treadle pivot back in the lower position, ready for weaving.
Not all countermarch looms are the same but contact me if you are having issues.
When adjusting a countermarch loom always ensure the pegs are in the castle.
If you are struggling to find a solution put the pegs back in the castle and check everything has been set up correctly. Starting at the top of the loom check all ties are still tightly tied and that the shafts, lamms and treadles are exactly straight/horizontal and all line up. This is the main cause of problems on a countermarch loom
I have a 12 shaft countermarch loom and I have seen these sorts of looms are often for sale on second hand websites. However, there is not much information online about setting up these types of looms so I thought I would provide some tips about setting up a countermarch loom. It is not a step by step guide but feel free to contact me if you need any more in depth information.
The most important thing to remember when setting up/adjusting your countermarch is… Never adjust your loom without the pegs in the castle. Make sure everything is horizontal/vertical and precisely in line. It is very tempting to get everything ‘straight enough’ but it really is worth taking extra time when setting up to ensure that everything really is straight and lined up.
Put the back shaft in first then progress forward until you tie in shaft number 1. Make sure all shafts are straight and the same height.Tie a piece of yarn from the back bar to the front bar, left and right sides. The centre of the heddle eyes should be in line with the yarn.
The Lamms need to be exactly horizontal and all the same height. Every other lamm is tied to the castle and will lift the shaft. Equally every other lamm is tied to the bottom of the shafts and will lower the shaft. The lamms also need to be tied to the treadles below. Tie the treadles according to the structures to be woven. Remember every shaft needs to be tied to every treadle used. There is no need to double knot the lamm/treadle ties. This is unnecessary and will make undoing them very difficult. Below is how to tie the lamms to the castle, shafts and treadles.
The treadles should be approximately 20cm from the ground. Adjust this to make them a comfortable height to work with but don’t do them too high.
The loom is now ready for the warp.
Before you put the warp on the loom take the pegs out of the castle and check everything sits straight and level. You may find that everything moves when released. If this happens put the pegs back in and double check if everything is tied up straight. This is also the time to check the treadles are tied up correctly. Press each one in turn to check the right shafts are being lifted/lowered. It will be easier to correct at this stage before the warp goes on. Put the pegs back in the castle to stabilise everything until ready to weave. Make sure the front apron is tucked behind the knee bar when you tie the warp on. This ensures space for your legs while weaving.
I have not covered how to tie up the treadles to create structures, this will come in another post.
Making heddles is a great skill to have. You may need to make all your heddles which will save you having to buy them (although this would be time consuming) or make additional ones when you don’t have enough to complete threading. They can also be added on to a shaft while setting up to correct a threading mistake which could mean you don’t need to rethread.
To make a heddle:
Choose a strong, smooth yarn. A medium weight, smooth cotton yarn works well.
Cut a length of the yarn which is double the height of the shaft plus 10cm.
Fold the middle of the yarn over the top of the shaft (1).
Move it near an adjacent heddle on the same shaft to use to compare the position of the eye.
Tie an overhand knot where the top of the heddle eye should be (2).
Tie another overhand knot where the bottom of the eye should be (3)
Bring the bottom of the down each side of the shaft and tie underneath with a reef knot to secure in place (4). It should be taught but still able to move along the shaft.
Cut the excess loose ends off (5) so they will not get caught while weaving.
It doesn’t really matter how you tie the heddle. As long as the yarn is secure around the shaft and the eye in the right place the heddle will do the job.
Corduroy has had a bit of a revival in recent years and it is a great fabric to play around with weaving. It’s a fairly simple structure which only requires four shafts.
Corduroy is a ribbed fabric with a velvet like-feel to it. It has warp-wise ridges which are cut to create a pile. Due to their structure corduroys tend to be a heavier fabric and used for clothes such as coats, trousers, suits as well as for interiors.
When manufactured the ridges (ribs) tend to be quite narrow. The ribs are called ‘wales’. For standard clothing the number of wales per inch is around 10-12 but can vary from 6 (jumbo cord) to 18 (needle or pin cord).
The ribs are made up of stripes of weft floats with a narrow plain weave between them which is there to secure the floats down. The ground cloth behind is what holds everything together. These floats are cut down the center to create the characteristic pile.
Below is the woven structure I used to weave my corduroy. I did make mine super chunky as you can see from the fabric pictures above. This was to allow me to easily see what was going on.
The corduroy below only uses four shafts. Two are for the plain weave background and the other two secure the floats down with plain weave. The picks alternate between one pick of weaving the plain weave background and two which weave the floats.
The corduroy in the image above was woven using 2/20nm spun silk and tussah silk. It was intested to see what effect the tussah silk had in comparison to the spun silk in terms of texture. The spun silk is so soft and luxurious while the tussah is more spikey. It would be fun to experiment how different yarns effect the texture of the pile.
When weaving I beat down quite firmly to ensure that the ground cloth was strong and the plain weave would hold the floats in place when cut. It is only the plain weave on shafts 1 and 2 that stop the floats from coming out.
To cut the floats I found it best to cut them while the fabric was still on the loom and under tension. I cut them as I went along, once I had woven about 5cm or so. The scissors need to be very sharp, small and pointy. The first couple of pairs of scissors I used were not small and sharp enough. Every time I cut the floats the scissors just pulled the weft floats out of the structure. It may take a few tries to find the right ones and of course as the width of the ribs gets smaller the scissors need to get smaller too.
A twill can also be used for the ground cloth. This will enable the cloth to be beaten down more and increase the density of the floats making a more luxurious fabric. Weaving the floats so that they are not all exactly the same width will also give a more rounded shape to the ribs.
A lot of fun fabrics could be created by varying the yarn type, width of rib and where the floats are cut (do they all need to be cut)?