Thursday, July 9, 2009

Warping Front to Back

I warped up the floor loom today. I'm making a set of five White Scarves. The White Scarf is an award in the SCA, for excellence in rapier fighting. The recipients are allowed to wear a small white scarf pinned to their shoulder. (One of these is already spoken for, but the rest will be for sale, for $45 each. If you want to pre-order before these get off the loom, I can let you have one for $40.)

Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to document the warping process. If you ask 10 weavers the best way to warp a loom, you'll get about 15 different answers. As long as the threads end up where they are supposed to be and under even tension, it doesn't really matter which method you choose. I warped this from the front of the loom to the back. Here:

First, I measured out my warp. I have a horizontal warping mill to make this process easier. I measured out a guide string 6 yards long and put it on there first. Then I put on 82 threads of unbleached 8/2 cotton. Down at the far end there, you can just see that I made a figure 8 around the pegs there. This gives me the 'cross', which helps keep the threads in order. More on this later.

I chained the warp to take it off the warping mill. This is a process of pulling loops through loops, kind of like crochet. This keeps the threads from tangling up as I move them around the room. Tangles are bad!! (I chain up my tent ropes this way when I'm tearing down from camping, too. Keeps them from looking like a plate of spaghetti in the bag. But that is neither here nor there. Back to weaving...)

Then I took that warp chain and wrapped it a couple of times around the front beam of the loom, with the cross end facing into the loom. That gives me something to pull against during the threading process.

Here I've stuck my fingers through the cross. See how I can pick up the threads in the same order that I wound them on the mill? It is a good trick to avoid tangles. Like I said: tangles BAD.

Ok, it is time to put the threads through the reed. The reed is at the front of the loom. It spreads the threads to the proper width. It also moves back and forth when you weave, to beat the threads firmly into place. I'm using a doohickey called a sley hook to pull the threads through. (You'll sound more official if you say sley hook, rather than doohickey. Just saying.)

Here's the warp all sleyed through the reed.

Now, move around to the back of the loom. Grab some pillows and have a seat. It is time to thread the yarn from the reed back through the heddles. Each thread gets its own heddle. This controls when each thread gets lifted up for weaving. I'm using the other end of my sley hook to grab the threads through the heddles.

Here's the heddles all threaded.

Continuing on to the back of the loom, the warp gets tied onto the apron rod, which is attached to the back beam.

Here is the warp, being cranked around the back beam. I put an old piece of window blind in every half turn or so. This prevents the threads from slipping down through the built up layers. It would mess up the eveness of the tension if they did.

Every turn of the back beam or so, I trot back around to the front of the loom and give a gentle tug to the warp. This gets rid of any tangles, and evens up the tension. Say it with me once more: tangles are Not Our Friend!

Once the warp is all wound around the back beam, it is time to tie onto the front apron rod. I separate the warp into about inch batches, and tie the first half of the knot.

Once each first half is tied, I pull up on the knots to tighten up the warp. The goal is to have every thread under the same tension.

While I'm trying to make the tension even, every so often I trot back to the back of the loom, and run my hand across the warp feeling for loose spots. (And then I do it again, just to marvel at the creation of precise order. And to fondle the fiber. But that is just me.)

Once everything is even up, I tie the second half of the knot.

I've previously attached the shafts that hold the heddles to the floor treadles. Now I step down on the treadles. Some of the threads are raised, and some stay in place. This forms the shed where the shuttle will pass through. I look into the shed, to make sure no threads are twisted around each other. Perfect!

Now, I use some bulky yarn that I have around, and weave about an inch. This spreads the warp out evenly, getting it ready for the real stuff.

There! The loom is ready to go. And now, I finally get to start what people think of as 'really weaving'. If you don't get the prep work done well though, you might as well give up on the project. A good weaving succeeds or fails in the warping process.


  1. Goodness, this looks really complicated, but you have given us such a great pictorial tutorial. Great information!

    Think I'll just have to follow you!

  2. Each individual step is easy. Take this thread, put it over there. :) You just have to be kind of persnickety. Luckily, there are books to help me remember what to do in which order.

    Glad you dropped by!

  3. Don't you just love it (weaving)? I haven’t woven for a long time but reading your posts makes me want to. I always enjoyed warping it was somewhat cathartic to me, it was just peaceful and everything else that might be going on around me just seemed to go away for a little while.

  4. Yes, when it is going well warping can be a very meditative process. When it is not going well, and I've ripped the same section of threading out three times because I've made stupid mistakes...time to step *away* from the loom!

  5. Just doing some research around the internet before embarking on my 1st "warp-up" in TEN years!!!!!

    The pictures have helped soooo much :)

    Many thanks


  6. Glad you stopped by, Jo! Good luck with your project. What are you planning on?