Monday, September 10, 2007

Ergonomics at the Loom

Amount woven Friday: 4.0"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+36.5", also known as 2 yards + 0.5"

I have arthritis in my left ankle and knee, results of previous breaks at both joints; so looms and treadling techniques are very important to me. My first loom was a counter balance loom. CB looms are the easiest treadling of all looms. Once I learned to activate the backs of my thighs when I pressed down on the treadles I was just fine. My thighs were doing the brunt of the work. My calves, and feet simply followed through with the work that was initiated by my thighs. My knees and ankles, however, did little actual work.

I traded in my CB loom three years ago for an 8-shaft jack loom. It has rear-hinged treadles. I had seriously considered getting a counter-marche loom. On this kind of a loom the rising shafts are tied up (as in a jack loom) and also the lowering shafts are tied up (as in a counter-balance loom). One result is clear sheds, even with seriously unbalanced tie-ups. Another result is easy treadling. The downsides are expense and much more complicated tie-ups.

LeClerc advertised their rear-hinged treadle Nilus II loom with the statement that it is as easy to treadle as a 4-shaft counter-balance loom. It is. But I have had a problem treadling that I didn't have with the CB loom. It seemed that the only way I could treadle it was with the balls of my feet as the source of my power, not my thighs. Part of this was due to the fact that the treadles are narrower than those on my CB loom. But also, if you look at the first picture, there is what appears to be a step on the treadle. For me to get my entire foot on the treadle would mean I would have to get my toes up on that step. Yes, I have big feet............... Not wide, just long.

But there is yet another significant difference. Because the hinging is at the back, the treadles are low--close to the floor--at the back but high up in the front. The second photo shows the treadles as they appear at the rear of the loom. This is just the reverse of the usual way treadles are hinged. It is just the reverse of the way the treadles on my CB loom were hinged. As a result, I have usually been sitting at a fair distance back from the front beam. It just has felt like a comfortable position in terms of the amount my knees needed to bend to reach Indeed, if I didn't sit far away, it felt as though my knees were coming up to my chin!

Friday, however, I decided to move the bench just a bit closer to the loom. This way I didn't have to lean quite as far forward to throw the shuttles and look into the mirrors at the side. As I treadled I realized that on my right foot (the good foot), the heel was going down and I was using my thigh to push down. Most of my foot was on the treadle. And my heel went down lower than my toes when I pushed, stretching my calf. And that is a very good thing. I then worked on imitating that with my left leg. I have once again found comfortable treadling.

For good information on learning how to use a counter-marche loom, check out Leigh's blog.

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