Counting Down My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #4: Beam the warp under a lot of tension

It’s been five years since I published my new website including over 100 weaving tips and I’m counting down the top ten. Here is number 4. This one has had 5920 views as of today!! The top one has more than 26,000 views to date!! Can you guess what the subject of that tip is?


BEAM THE WARP WITH A LOT OF TENSION, MORE THAN IT WILL BE UNDER WHILE YOU’RE WEAVING. THIS EXTRA TENSION PREVENTS THE THREADS FROM BITING DOWN UNEVENLY AS THE LAYERS BUILD UP ON THE WARP BEAM. THE IDEAL IS A SOLID, SMOOTH, VERY HARD PACKAGE OF YARNS, THE SAME DEGREE OF SMOOTHNESS AND SOLIDNESS AS A SPOOL OF SEWING THREAD.

TOO LITTLE TENSION DURING BEAMING
IF YOU PUT LESS TENSION ON THE WARP WHEN BEAMING THAN YOU DO WHEN WEAVING, MYSTERIOUS BUNCHES OF FLABBY WARPS APPEAR RANDOMLY AS YOU WEAVE. THE EFFECT OF THE GREATER TENSION YOU APPLY WHILE WEAVING IS THE SAME AS PULLING HARD ON THE WARP. IMAGINE PULLING HARD ON A LOOSELY WOUND WARP: THE OUTER LAYERS OF THE WARP WOULD SLIP, PULLING THE INNER LAYERS NEARER THE BEAM TIGHTER. ON A SHORT WARP OF JUST A FEW TURNS OF THE BEAM, THE SLIPPAGE WOULD PROBABLY CONTINUE RIGHT DOWN TO THE BEAM, TIGHTENING THE WHOLE WARP, AND SO THERE WOULDN’T BE ANY EFFECT ON YOUR WEAVING. BUT ON ANY WARP LONGER THAN A FEW YARDS, THE SLIPPAGE CAN’T GO DEEPER THAN A FEW LAYERS, AND THE TIGHTENED OUTER LAYERS COMPRESS THE INNER LAYERS. AS THEY COMPRESS, THE THREADS FLEX AND CURVE. IN WEAVING, THE FLEXES START TO STRAIGHTEN OUT THE CLOSER YOU GET TO THEM, BUT THEY DO SO RANDOMLY, NOT ALL AT ONCE. THAT EXPLAINS THAT CURIOUS SNAKY PATTERN YOU MAY HAVE SEEN ON YOUR BEAM AFTER WEAVING FOR AWHILE AND ALSO THE MYSTERIOUSLY UNEVEN TENSION OF THE WARP.

DOES EXTRA TENSION HARM THE WARP?

No, not even elastic yarns like wool, and not even if you don’t weave it off immediately. In fact, Jim Ahrens once wove off a 2/28 wool warp that had been under this kind of tension for eight years. In comparing the finished fabric to the sample he had woven eight years earlier on that warp, he found no difference in hand or resilience of the two fabrics. I wouldn’t recommend you put a poor quality thread to this extreme test, but since we’re weaving high-quality cloth, you wouldn’t be using poor quality thread anyway.

Tensioning the Warp by Yourself

If you’re working on your own, without a helper, using the “jerking” method allows you to apply great tension to your warp. Every time you crank the warp beam one full turn, stop, engage the brake, and then stand where the bulk of the warp is. Starting at one side of the warp, take a 2″ section of the warp in each hand. Tension them by jerking hard, very hard. Drop those sections, and pick up the next two sections and jerk very hard again. Continue jerking, in 2″ sections, all the way across the warp. See Figure A. This tightens the warp you just wound on the beam. Then wind on another turn, and follow the same process again, starting from the other edge of the warp. Alternating right and left edges as the starting point helps prevent one side receiving less tension than the other because you may have pulled harder on the first bundles every time.

Beaming the Warp on the Loom A

Beaming the Warp on the Loom A

If you begin to get blisters, though I never have, fingerless gloves, like those that golfers use, can help.Note that it is the turn of warp that you just wound onto the beam that is being tensioned. Warp that is not on the beam is slack as soon as you let go of it. If you must stop beaming and resume later, jerk all the sections of the last turn of the warp again before you start beaming. Another way to achieve good, consistent tension is to use your body weight instead of jerking the warp. Grasp each 2″ section at arm’s length, lock your elbows, and then lean back against the warp. Try this if you feel you can’t be sure of jerking with the same force all across the warp. Remember, the tension has to be not only tight, but even.

SMOOTHING OUT THE WARP AS YOU WIND ON

You may find it necessary to smooth out sections before tensioning to get the warp threads lined up and flat. Whatever you do, don’t comb! Combing can snag a thread or create tangles, often causing threads to break.

Often, it’s enough just to shake the warp briskly, like a horse’s reins, while pulling the warp toward you. You might also try holding a section of warp taut and slapping with your palm or flicking with your finger. See Figures B and C.

Beaming the Warp on the Loom C

Beaming the Warp on the Loom C

Beaming the Warp on the Loom B

Beaming the Warp on the Loom B

 
Beaming the Warp on the Loom D

Beaming the Warp on the Loom D

If this doesn’t lay the warp out flat, the best way to smooth sections with the least possibility of stretching is what I call “the pinch.” Lay threads over the flats of your fingers, then pinch them gently with the thumb. Now draw thumb and fingers toward you for a few inches. Release, pinch, and draw again until the threads lie properly. By drawing the pinch along, the loose warps that have looped up are worked along the bulk of the warp; eventually all the ends are equally tensioned. See Figure D.

 

Beam with a dowel

 

To save a lot of stress on your hands, you can wind the sections around a short length of dowel and pull on the dowel. It is easy and quick once you get the rhythm of doing it. The diameter of the dowel should be around 1/2″. See figure #133.

This tip is an excerpt from Chapter 2, “Beaming on a Plain Beam” in Book 2,Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps– and Weaving for Beginners

 

4 thoughts on “Counting Down My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #4: Beam the warp under a lot of tension

  1. Thank you so much for this information! I often have to warp the beam without a helper…now I can do so with confidence and better results! thank you for this generous gift!

  2. This article was linked on a rigid heddle weaving group and there has been some reaction saying that rigid heddle looms can not take high tension when winding a warp. I am curious what reaction you have to this. Your tip here makes a great deal of sense.

    • Let’s say wind it as tight as you can–if the warp is sloppy and soft on the warp beam, the outer threads will bite down into the lower layers causing some threads to be tight and some loose when you put the warp on tension. You need to do what you can to have as firmly wound beam as you can on the RH loom–just like any loom. By the way, a loom does 2 things: Puts tension on the warp and makes the sheds. To that degree, we are all on the same page. Let me know what your people say and if they disagree, let me know the reason.

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