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

 

Counting Down My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #6: A better way to use paper for winding warps

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 6. This one has had 5457 views as of today!! The top one has about over 24,500 views to date!! Can you guess what the subject of that tip is?

ONLY USE PAPER AFTER EVERY FEW TURNS OF THE WARP BEAM.
DO NOT USE PAPER CONTINUOUSLY–SEE WHY BELOW.

To keep the edge threads from slipping off the roll of warp, you pack in a new, short length of paper after every yard or so as you wind. To provide the support needed, use sturdy, brown paper called kraft paper or grocery bags, if they are wide enough for your warp; newspaper is too flimsy. Don’t use rolls of corrugated cardboard as packing paper‹this paper is too spongy to create the very tight, evenly tensioned warp you’re striving for. It¹s also so thick that it can take up a lot of your warp beam’s capacity.

Cut the paper 4″ wider than the width of your warp on the warp beam and in lengths about 12″ long, or the circumference of your warp beam. Why cut the paper into lengths? You don¹t need to use continuous paper if your warp is beamed on very tightly because, as you remember, tightly wound layers can¹t bite down into each other. Continuous paper is usually unnecessary, takes up room on the warp beam, and is terribly difficult to wind in smoothly. Even if you choose to use continuous paper, it’s much easier to use short lengths continuously rather than one long length of paper.

Next fold in 1″ on both edges of the width of the paper. These 1″ extensions support the edge threads on the warp beam because the folds at the edges strengthen the edges of the single-thickness paper.

When winding in the packing paper, be careful that warp threads never travel over the paper folded double at the edges. Also watch for paper that is crinkling or rolling in at an angle. A simple trick prevents this. Insert the paper so that it is wound in with the warp, then turn the beam a bit until the end of the paper catches in. With your thumb and forefinger, take hold at the center of the opposite end of the paper, as in the figure, right in the middle. Hold it taut there as you wind the paper in with the warp.

Paper for Warping the Loom

Paper for Warping the Loom

Put the first piece of paper in after the first several turns of warp are wound on in a flat layer. Remember, if your apron cords prevent the warp from going on flat, you need to insert packing sticks to create a flat base before you can use the pieces of paper.You usually need about one piece of folded paper for every several turns of warp. You know when it’s time to put in another piece of paper when the edges of the warp look like they might not be piling up exactly upon themselves. One teacher said “The edges should look like cliffs.” My teacher said to add paper every yard or so. I usually do it more often with the fine silk threads I’ve been using.
Remember, the packing paper’s only job is to hold the edges of the warp up straight. It’s because you are winding the warp so tightly that the layers can’t bite down into one another. You need paper more frequently if you have gaps between raddle groups on the warp beam.

This is in my books, Weaving for Beginners and Book 1: “Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle”

A Fine-Silk-Thread Saga: Part One

Drum - Beamimg Raddle
I have been fascinated with stiff silk—raw silk—undegummed silk for a few years. These threads and fabrics are not silky but crisp. Silk organza is an example. On a trip to Japan with Yoshiko Wada we found a few skeins of it and I grabbed them. They were lovely in the skeins and I didn’t notice how very, very fine the individual threads were! When I tried to wind the threads from a skein onto a spool it was a nightmare: threads broke, I couldn’t find an end etc., etc. I asked Takako Ueki, owner of Habu Textiles in New York, how to wind off fine threads and she said she would do it in her store, when I got a skein back it was on about 10 cones—I guess she kept starting over and over when threads broke. (It was expensive.)

Now I want to weave with that silk thread. The previous fine silk threads (enormous in comparison) were on spools (much easier) and collapsed when wetted or dyed. Now I want to weave and dye the cloth with indigo—hence the undegummed silk was needed.

I wound my previous warps with 10 spools at a time so I thought I would with this fine stuff, too. Snags, broken threads, cones messed up—all kinds of problems. So I tried 6 and finally ended up with 4 good cones and made a 10-yard warp. I have a wonderful warping reel with a heck block and leaser so winding with multiple threads is efficient. I tied many, many choke ties before I took the warp off the reel—turned out unnecessary for these threads but critical for the previous warps with the threads that collapsed. I decided I had to recalculate the sett because the threads were so fragile and fine so I went from 96 threads per inch to 120.
Rattle Loading
This first photo shows me loading my 5-dent raddle with 24 ends per dent. I skipped a space after every 2 dents to widen the warp and with more threads in a dent they worked together so that they did not break. For the 24 threads I used 2 raddle groups, each with 12 ends. [be sure to click the photos to see the fine details]
Drum - Raddle on Loom
Drum with Choke Ties

 

I use a warping drum to hold the warp on tension while I beam. I clamped the raddle onto the loom and left the lease sticks in to keep the threads organized and in order in their groups of 24 threads.

 

 

Drum - Errant Threads One photo shows a few errant threads but all in all the threads did fine under the tension of the warping drum while winding it onto the warp beam on the loom. The first group of threads was the one where I tried 10 and then 6 cones and had the breakage, etc. I will discard that group I’m thinking—that snarled errant thread shows you why.
Drum - Beamimg Raddle
The drum is across the room in my studio—maybe 15 feet away from the loom. I have to push a lot of stuff out of the way in the studio to make room for the beaming process. I stand at the loom and turn the warp beam roller and that pulls the warp off the drum under a lot of tension. The warp looks really great on the beam—tight and orderly.

The final step in this part of my saga is at the end of the warp as it came off the drum.
Drum - End of Warp
This illustration is from Page 148 in the chapter: The Warping Drum in my Book #2, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps which is now available again in PDF format. The rope to the drum is attached to the end stick which I put in the end of the warp and the lease sticks are in place—for the tread-by-thread cross. This I did today. Now the remaining part of the warp can be beamed and ready for threading the heddles. I think it will take a couple of weeks for that step—there are around 600 threads and sometimes I can’t even see them—just feel them. Wish me luck.