October 18


Converting tie-ups

By janet

October 18, 2020

Have you ever woven a draft from a book and discovered that the woven design was on the bottom rather than the top? That’s not the end of the world, but it can be confusing and maybe even frustrating. What’s going on? Why does it happen? How do you fix it?

Why does fabric weave upside down?

The issue is that you’ve used a tie-up written for a kind of loom that’s different than the one you’re weaving on. There are three general categories of shedding mechanisms: sinking shed, rising shed, and countermarche.

  • Sinking shed looms create a shed by pulling shafts down. Any shafts that are tied to the lamms or treadles are pulled down when the treadles are depressed, and tie-ups written for sinking shed looms indicate the shafts that sink.
  • Rising shed looms create a shed by jacking shafts up from below (or pulling them up from above). Any shafts that are tied to the lamms or treadles (or to levers, on a table loom) are lifted when the treadle is depressed or levers are flipped, and tie-ups written for rising shed looms indicate the shafts that rise.
  • Countermarche looms combine these two: they have two sets of lamms, and the shafts that sink are tied to one set while the shafts that rise are tied to the other. Every shaft in use is tied to every treadle in use, and tie-ups written for countermarche looms indicate which direction each treadle moves each shaft.

If you use a tie-up written for a sinking shed loom on a loom that actually has a rising shed, the warp threads will rise where they ought to sink and therefore the weft will go under the threads it ought to go over. The reverse is true if you use a tie-up written for a rising shed on a loom with a sinking shed.

Much of the time, that doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Twill diagonals might go the other direction, what should be light might be dark, etc. Even when you’re weaving something like overshot, the pattern still comes out correctly — but you won’t see the public facing side of the fabric until you take it off the loom and turn it over. That’s not the end of the world but it does make keeping track of the pattern more difficult while you’re weaving.

If your design includes anything directional, like letters, weaving it upside down is a deal breaker: once you flip the fabric over to see the right side, the letters will be a mirror image of what was intended.

How do you tell what kind of tie-up you’ve got?

Many older drafts, such as those in publications like Marguerite Davison’s Handweaver’s Pattern Book and Handweaver’s Source Book, are written for counterbalance looms with sinking sheds. Drafts in newer books, like Anne Dixon’s Handweaver’s Pattern Directory or Carol Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8 Shaft Patterns are usually written for looms with rising sheds. Newer drafts from other sources are probably written for rising sheds (unless they’re reproducing olde timey drafts that were written for sinking sheds) but there’s no hard and fast rule. A draft for more than four shafts is almost certainly (but still not 100% guaranteed to be) written for rising sheds.

There are a few clues to go by, at least. If your draft has Xs in the tie-up, it’s probably written for a sinking shed loom. If it has Os instead, it’s probably written for a rising shed loom:

A tie-up written for a sinking shed loom
A tie-up written for a rising shed loom

If there are numbers in the tie-up, it’s probably for a rising shed loom (again, no guarantee). If it has filled in squares, it’s hard to say: drafts with filled in squares in the tie-up are usually for rising shed but that doesn’t necessarily apply since people are often copying old drafts into new software.

Most modern Proper Books™ written by publishers with tech editors will tell you somewhere (probably near the front) whether the tie-ups therein are written for rising or sinking shed. That’s not the case for websites, blog posts, patterns produced by individuals, drafts doodled by a guildmate on the back of a napkin… and don’t even get me started about Pinterest!

The good news is that it’s not a crisis if you tie up your loom only discover after you’re underway that you’ve got the wrong kind of tie-up. You can simply convert the tie-up, retie the treadles, and carry on – SO much easier than fixing a threading mistake, for instance.

How do you convert tie-ups then?

Notice that the two tie-ups above are exact opposites of one another: all the Os on the right are in the blank spaces on the left and all the Xs on the left are in the blank spaces on the right. They’re actually the same tie-up, just written one way for sinking and another for rising.

Take the first treadle in the left tie-up for instance. It says that shafts 1 and 3 go down, which means shafts 2 and 4 will go up. Now look at the first treadle in the right tie-up. It says that shafts 2 and 4 go up, while shafts 1 and 3 stay down. The end result is the same either way: 1&3 sink (or stay down) and 2&4 rise.

Realizing that the sinking tie-up is just the opposite of its rising counterpart tells you all you need to know to convert between them, and actually making the conversion is a piece of cake!

Here’s how to do it in two simple steps:

Converting to or from countermarche is even easier: the countermarche tie-up is that one in the middle, with both Xs and Os. If you start with either a sinking shed or rising shed tie-up, just do Step 1 to get the countermarche tie-up. If you start with a countermarche tie-up, just ignore (or erase) whichever of the Xs or Os you don’t need.

Easy peasey, lemon squeezey! Now your designs will always appear right side up while you’re weaving.

P.S. Sometimes it can be advantageous to intentionally flip a tie-up over. If you’ve got an 8 shaft draft that lifts five shafts with each treadle, for instance, flipping it over means you’ll only have to lift three shafts instead of five. If that doesn’t make the pattern too hard to follow, it’s worth the extra effort to take some strain off your legs and hips.

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  1. Thank you Janet. You have given such a clear, detailed explanation. I have 2 counterbalance looms and as patterns get more complex I would certainly like to see the pattern as I weave!

    I have enjoyed the WALs with Tien – how timely during COVID…I think about the planning stages of weaving differently now and have applied your tips during weaving, as well.

    Thanks again,

    Irene, Aurora, Ontario

  2. Brilliant! That’s why I love the way you teach Janet. You take what seems to be a complicated subject and boil it down, give it a shake and voila! ….. understanding where there used to be oatmeal!

  3. Thank you Janet. This explains a mystery for me! I was using the Dixon book and everything I tried was always backward.

  4. I have been confused about my coutermarche loom. Is it correct that I don't really change any tie-up I run across, but rather that all lamms must be tied-up? (all X and O's) accounted for.

    1. You don’t alter them, you augment them! That is, if the tie-up you’ve run across is for sinking sheds, you don’t change the sinking bits but you do add the rising bits. Likewise, if the tie-up you’ve run across is for rising sheds, you don’t change those bits, just add sinking bits.

      1. Does this apply to having the top side of your pattern on the underside? What do you do to always have the top of your pattern that you are weaving on top so you can see mistakes better and will be able to correct the mistake instead of finding them when the cloth is off the loom?

  5. It seems to me that you can tell whether it is written for rising or sinking sheds, if the draft has a drawdown. Is that right?

      1. Actually, I take that back. A weft drawdown made when the tie-up is sinking will look exactly like a warp drawdown when the tie-up is rising, so unless you know whether you’re looking at a weft or warp drawdown, it doesn’t help you in knowing whether the tie-up sinks or rises.

        Which is just more evidence that rising and sinking are just opposite sides of the same cloth, as are weft drawdowns and warp drawdowns. You can set any loom up to weave either face on top.

  6. THIS is very helpful for me as I prepare/study drafts and learning to tie up a countermarch loom (waiting for my Louet Spring II ) and currently have Ashford Jack. I am so worried about knowing how to tie up a draft. I am looking at all my books, trying to figure out if I understand. I like your idea of just trying to tie up, and if it's wrong during the sampling, re-tie. Thank you for this information, and if you have other resources I can use, you can bet I am looking for them.

  7. Janet – Hey from Baja. I just completed a Krokbragd runner and the pattern was on the bottom. Arg. So, it is a 3-harness threading. The draft is obviously for sinking shed; I have a Jack loom. So if the tie-up is 1-3 / 1-2 / 2-3 I don't need to pay attention to that, just tie-up 1, 2 and 3 cause that's all I need. YES??

    So for Treddle 1 (1-3) I would depress Treddle 2 alone, etc. Only 1 treddle per pass, on the 3-harness pattern???

    1. If the sinking shed tie up is 1&3, then you’d tie to 2. If the sinking tie-up is 1&2, you’d tie to 3. If the sinking tie-up is 2&3, you tie to 1.

      Which is just me agreeing with what you already said! 🙂

  8. Janet do you know if the patterns on handweaving.net are for rising sheds or sinking sheds/countermarche sheds? I want to join, but afraid I won't understand the tie up.

  9. Janet until I stareted to read adout how to tell what kind of a tie up I had, I was clueless there was adifferance! I'm so happy that the Gorgeous Gradients class had a link to you. Thank you for the information and I thank Tien for including you in this leasson, Learning so much!

  10. New to your site. Maybe you have already covered this, but, I would like to learn an easy way to covert Scandinavian drafts, to US system. I subscribe to VAV, and I always bumble thru this process when I want yo try a Scandinavian structure.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by a Scandinavian draft. I know that European drafts are often read from bottom to top and that at least some folks write their threadings from left to right – that’s how WinWeef works and how the drafts in Marian Stubenitsky’s books are read. Is that what you mean, or is there more to it?

  11. Hello Janet,
    I would like to thank you very much for your article on Converting Tie-ups. I have recently purchased an 8-shaft Ashford Table Loom (with rising shed and levers), having upgraded from a rigid heddle. Unfortunately, the Handweavers Pattern Book by Marguerite Davison is all written for a sinking shed loom with foot treadles and I was having difficulties regarding the conversion to a rising shed loom.

    I know I could have woven with the "right" side facing down and then reversed it once it was off the loom but I certainly love your clear and concise explanations on how to do it so that the pattern is uppermost.

    Your articles makes it sooo much simpler! Once again, thank you.

    1. Yay! Glad to hear that the post helped! I’ve actually built a tool that’ll convert a tie-up between rising, sinking, and countermarch (both rising and sinking) sheds, but I think it’s important to know how to do it yourself so you don’t have to rely on a tool to do it for you.

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