Meet Olga

For Christmas 2002 I received a wonderful present.

A 150 cm 10 harness Ulla Cyrus Vertical Countermarche Loomaka Olga the Oxaback. Imported with the help and generous hand holding by my friend Sara of The Woolgatherers.

I decided on a countermarche loom after realizing that treadling my 4 harness Herald jack loom irritated my left knee which was damaged as a result of agility training. What attracted me to this one rather than a Toika or Glimakra was the unique way that the treadles are attached to the lams.

Picking up the loom in late February of 2003 proved to be a challenge as Sara was not a dealer for them like she is now. Jer and I ended up picking up the loom from O’Hare and going through customs ourselves. Lesson learned, hire someone to do the customs paperwork for you. Surprisingly, I only had to pay duty on a few shuttles. I could import the huge loom duty free. Also the box the main parts are shipped in is a HEAVY wooden crate. Jer and I barely managed to get it in the house.

The above photo shows the first project in process after the loom was put together. A simple log cabin pattern in 8/2 cotton with 4 harnesses hung.

Now its been over a year since Olga has had a warp on her. The warp has been ready for a while, but something always kept me from warping it.

Yeah, probably missing Patches.

Something about this loom is very connected to her. She was my original “loom dog” even though she wasn’t as handy as Roo. She never retrieved very well preferring to pick things up and throwing them at me. She was comfortable anywhere she could be in my way it seemed, behind the bench, under the treadles. As she got older she would get stuck and I or Jer would have to carefully extract her from some place under the warp or beside the lamms.

Anyhow, I’m finally made some progress I can share with everyone in warping Olga with some romney I purchased a while back.

Yes that’s it, 332 ends to be warped at about 6 ends per inch. First job is to get the lease sticks in the back cross and attached to the loom next to the backbeam.

Then I spread the warp in a raddle. Now I’ve calculated this warp to be 140 cm wide so I need to separate threads into groups in the raddle.

After that I put the apron rod through the loops in the warp. HA! That’s easier said than done. Last time I attempted to lash a slat threaded through the warp ends. Can you say broken slat and loss of a bit of warp.

Now the fun begins. I hang onto the the warp while the husbands cranks the warp onto the back beam. We insert slats as we go so the warp goes on smoothly and evenly with only problems being warp slipping off the slats. And after warping together for the past four years we are still married. I now realize I should have split this warp into four sections rather than two.

Of course we have “extra help”. What would I do without my loom dog? Silly prick eared aussie. The shelties wander in an out, but they don’t like the noise the loom makes.

Once the warp is on the back beam, then I move up front so I can thread the heddles. This is fairly easy as it is straight 2/2 twill. 

After threading the heddles I hang my reed at a comfortable height and thread it. This particular reed is 7.5 ends per inch aka (30 ends per 10 cm) so it should work perfectly with one thread per dent.  If I wasn’t using twill I would not be setting it this close.  This is when a trained dog comes in real handy.  If I drop my reed hook, I just send the dog to go pick it up.  Oh and don’t forget to keep a container of dog cookies nearby to reward the good aussie with!

With everything threaded I place the beater back on the loom and place the reed in it. Then its time to tie to the front apron. And adjust and fiddle, and adjust some more.

Its tedious, yes, but the results make it worth it.

 Now the hard part, getting everything in balance so I have equal pull and all the treadles working as they should.   Treadles are tied up, holders are removed and the pin slowly eased out of place.  Wow…this one is almost right on.  I only need to adjust the height of the beater.

Now I’m good to go. Once this is finished I will be fulling it. As Laura Fry says, nothing is finished until it is wet finished! This is the first wool blanket project on this loom, but not the last. I mean, why else am I spinning up 10 lbs of Shetland wool!   If you look carefully you can see my one threading error that I found and fixed with a string heddle.

On another note of obsession, the color bug has bit, and bit hard. When I say bugs I mean bugs.

Cochineal bugs that is! Here is my cooling dyepot of roving and cochineal and the resulting roving. Obvious the pH was on the alkaline side as it is almost purple. Sorry about the one picture being out of focus, but I thought the color was more important to show you than the amorphous roving in a pot. I also need to learn to NOT felt the roving until after I spin it. The other pictures colors are off, the roving is closer to fuchsia.

Here is some mordanted yarn . It was used on the exhaust of the dye from the bugs. Then after the dyeing. From left to right I used merino, suri alpaca, mohair and naturally colored corriedale.  And this yarn is pale fuchsia as well, not salmon colored.

 Oh there is more where those colors came from. I have some chamomile and weld to play with as well. And a few Earthhues extracts. Most of the stuff I bought were New World dyes. I’m trying to limit myself somewhat, but its hard when you have the whole world to stick in a dyepot. The indigo will wait until spring. It is a vat dye, and one that smells like an old outhouse to be exact. I’ll be doing that outside when the weather is nicer.

The roving is some seconds from Brown Sheep. I’ll be carding them on my drum carder to blend them in different ways, at least the ones that are not felted into a solid rope.


5 thoughts on “Meet Olga

  1. I have an old Glimakra loom that was lent to me on “permanent” loan.
    The first time (and only time) I tried to treadle it I heard the snapping on strings, and knew that it needed major work in the “texile” tie up department. I didn’t have the know how or $$ to get new ones so the loom is dismantled for now. sigh. Seeing you photos makes me want to take on a new project….fix my Glimakra!! I want nice blankies too dam it!!!

  2. I have a 60″ wide Ulla Cyrus countermarche rug loom in perfect condition that I bought used about 30 years ago. I’d like to get an idea of how much it would be worth now because I met someone interested in buying it from me. I’m looking for sources that would help me determine its present day market value?

  3. Marion, I would suggest contacting Sara and Hans at the Woolgatherers in Wisconsin. The link to their shop is in this post. They have assisted people with selling their Ulla Cyrus looms 🙂

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