Cathy mentioned in the comments of my last post that she was curious as to why I chose a countermarche loom. I guess the short answer would be,
"It was there, I was there, and the price was right."
Of course there's a little more to it because I probably wouldn't have pursued the ad if it had been a jack loom, and definitely wouldn't have pursued it if it had been a counterbalance loom.
When I first started weaving I didn't know that there were different kinds of looms. My introduction to weaving was at a one day workshop, where we were able to try variety of floor and table looms; all jack. That workshop not only confirmed that I loved weaving, but also gave me an idea of the make and model of loom I wanted, especially since I had back aches at the time. The Schacht Wolf loom was the most comfortable for me to work at, so it was what I looked for.
I eventually found a used Mighty Wolf, which came with two reeds, a bench, and lots of yarn. It had belonged to the seller's deceased aunt, and I was told that it was thought to be a '4 Now - 4 Later'. That was deciding factor for me, as I knew I would someday want more than four shafts. Needless to say I was very disappointed when I later figured out that this was not a '4 Now - 4 Later' model, just a basic four shaft loom. Ah well. I put it to good use nonetheless.
I first read about loom types in a Woodland Woolworks catalogue. I immediately dismissed counterbalanced looms, since the shafts work best in pairs and therefore seem limited in regards to unbalanced weaves. I already had a jack loom and could verify that they take a lot of leg work to weave, and yes they are noisy to operate. But I lingered over the description of the countermarche looms. Phrases like "wide even shed," and good for "using delicate materials and when weaving narrow on a wide loom" really got my attention.
A little more research and I found new phrases I liked; "quiet, smooth treadling" and "better tension" were added to my list of things to admire. My only mental set-back came when I discovered that CM looms are much trickier to tie-up (for nonweavers, this basically means connecting the shafts to the treadles, which determines the pattern on the cloth). Several weavers had told me that it was just too much work to get down on the floor and struggle with tying up a countermarche loom.
Of course, everyone has their personal preferences. It is human nature to prefer what we have good success with, whether warping back to front versus front to back, or Scotch tension versus double drive spinning wheels. Since I thought a new loom was a long time down the road, I pretty much set the whole thing on the back burner and pressed on with weaving on what I had. It was when I read the ad that I knew I was ready and willing to own a countermarche loom.
Now that I have it, I've been doing more research because I want to understand how it works and how it is different from my jack loom. Interestingly, in my reading I am discovering that some of the weaving problems I have been having are probably due to the design of the jack loom itself.
When creating a shed (the opening that the shuttle passes through), the jack loom uses what is referred to as rising shed action. This means that as the treadles are depressed, their attached shafts are lifted to make the shed. The result is that the lifted warp threads are stretched tighter than those that remain unlifted. This creates an unevenness of the warp tension that can result in skipped warp threads, poor shed, and poor selvedges. These are things I've been battling for as long as I've been weaving! I used to try and fix skipped threads by increasing the warp tension, but as I would crank the tension tighter, my shed would get narrower.
Another problem this uneven tension creates is difficulties weaving weft dominant fabrics (which is why jack looms are not usually recommended for rug weaving). I always thought that I was not beating hard enough because I could never get the weft well packed in when certain shafts were lifted. Now I understand that it probably wasn't just me.
Even so I would not have traded my jack loom for all the world. And if I had started with a countermarche loom, I'm sure I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.
I cannot honestly tell you if and how well the countermarche loom will correct the weaving problems I've had. I'll just have to wait, weave, and see. In the mean time, if you are interested, there is an excellent article on the different types of looms at Fiberarts.org, read it here.
Posted 21 June 2007 at http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com
Comparing Looms: Jack & Countermarche