CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Tips, Tricks and Techniques-Warping Your Loom

Many people seem to be overwhelmed by this aspect of weaving.  I agree that it is the least creative part of weaving, but it has to be done before you begin.

Winding the Warp.

This part can be very tedious.  To make it go faster, wind the warp with groups of threads.  Even better, group the threads in fractions that work well for threading, ie. if you are threading your loom at 16 epi, groups of 4 or 8 threads work well for keeping track of how much you have wound and it also helps to have the groups when threading the loom.  You can usually tell if you have dropped a thread or missed a heddle if the count isn’t right.

When you’re winding groups of threads, it helps if the yarn comes straight up from the cones or balls before joining together as a group.  To help with this, you can use a yarn rack with screw eyes above each cone of yarn.  This piece of equipment was developed, I think, for sectional warping, but if you have a yarn rack and are able to add screw eyes, that will work, too.  Another makeshift, but very serviceable way of doing this is by using a warping paddle.  I have no idea how the paddle is supposed to be used as I’ve never read the book about it, but what I do is lash the paddle onto a cart in my studio and set the cones or balls in containers on the floor beneath the paddle.  Everything is set up in easy reach of my warping reel and winding the warp goes very quickly.

Another way of doing this is, if you have a workspace where you don’t mind putting screw holes in the door frame, is to put screw eyes into the overhead of the door frame and set your cones/balls underneath.  Run your yarn through the screw eyes and proceed with warp winding.

I have never used a warping board because I couldn’t get a long enough warp on them to make it worth my while.  Before I had the warping reel,  I used C-clamps connected to tables throughout parts of my house.  C-clamps work just fine, but are rather clunky and you need to do this when none of the family is around.  For some reason, anytime I did this, a child or a husband absolutely had to go somewhere on the other side of my warp.  Needless to say,  I have had a warping reel since shortly after I began to weave.

Another trick I use when winding warps is putting a cross at both ends. You never know when you’ll loose a cross.  Also, there have been times when I’ve decided on a change of project before the warp goes on the loom.  I’ve been known to fold a narrow warp in half and wind the warp on from both of its ends.

Since the yarn builds up on the warping reel, I keep my warp chains at 10” or less to keep the distortion, from being too fat a bundle, at a minimum.  This also makes it easier to change your mind after the warp is wound.  It’s easy to incorporate a 10” segment of warp into another project.

You may wonder about that last statement.  Why would I change my mind?  Well, I wind several warps at a time. I then always have a warp in waiting when my loom is free.

Always label each warp chain with the length width and epi– it saves a lot of time.

My warps are a minimum of 12 yards. This is long enough to weave 5-6 scarves using the 10” warps or to weave material for 8 to 10 vests or up to 3 simple jackets in wider warps.

Dressing the Loom

Looms can be dressed from the front, threading the warp through the reed and the heddles before winding it on the back beam or from the back using a raddle and leash sticks to keep the spacing correct and the tension even.   Both ways work.  I dress my looms from the back as that is how I learned to do it and I think it is easier on the warp because it isn’t pulled through the heddles twice.

The most important thing is to learn how to do it by yourself.  That way you never have the excuse that ‘no one has had time to help you.’  You can do it by yourself!  Clear the warp with your reed or leash sticks, roll on the warp, give each section of the warp a gentle tug to make the tension even and repeat.

Pack the warp as it is rolled on using sticks or paper.  Throw the paper away when it loses its stiffness.  The idea of the packing is to avoid the layers of warp from cutting into the lower layers and, thus, keeping the tension across the warp even.

If you have wound on the warp at the back, you need to thread the heddles and the reed before tying the warp to the front bar.  If you warped from the front, you just have to tie it on. Check your tension and your threading and you’re ready to weave–and with a long warp, you’re set for several projects.

I always make sure I have at least an extra yard on my warp for trying out different weft combinations, for trying different treadlings and for trying different techniques.  It’s a good way to expand your knowledge.

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