When Not to Use Packing Paper

Some weavers prefer to use packing sticks rather than paper. I prefer paper because the warp beam builds up so much more if sticks are used.

Sectional warp beam
If your loom has a sectional warp beam like in the photo, you do not need to use packing paper. It is meant to wind the warp in sections. However, you can use a sectional beam like a plain beam. Read on.

If the sectional beam doesn’t have an apron rod, you’ll have to make one. After that, follow the procedures you do with a plain beam except don’t use packing paper.
Attach a smooth narrow stick or dowel (about ½” diameter) to the cords on the sectional beam with lark’s head knots.
If there are no cords, make some with strong string, not thick or bulky rope. Cut the cords twice the distance from around the beam to where the shafts are like in the photo. Fold each cord in half and knot the ends. Then, attach them to pegs at about 3-4” intervals to the sectional beam with lark’s head knots.
Attach the cords to the apron rod with lark’s head knots. See the end of the post for how to make a lark’s head knot.

Very large warp beam
If your warp beam’s circumference is very big, say, around 11” or more as in the photo, you don’t need to use packing paper.

The lark’s head knot
This is another of my favorites that I find I use a lot.

Using Packing Paper When Beaming

When I was teaching I used to say the teacher learned the most. I learned something when I got this comment after a post. “I thought it might be useful to add here that paper also has a grain (I think of it as a warp/weft) and will curl and fold parallel with its ‘warp’ more smoothly. So, folding the sides of the warping paper, if it is held sideways, will crinkle the paper.” I use short pieces of packing paper and I wonder if this person uses continuous packing paper. I’ve not noticed any problems when I have folded my papers for years, but it’s only because I never ran into paper that had such strong grain.

Preparing the Packing Paper
The principle is this: cut the paper 4” wider than your warp is intended to be and about 2” longer than the circumference of the loom’s warp beam. For longer warps, you will need several sheets prepared—say, about one for every yard of warp length. The edges should be folded so they are double strength at the edges—these doubled areas will extend beyond the warp.

Use heavy paper such as a grocery bag. Cut off the bottom, cut off any handles, and cut along the seam so it lies flat. Fold each of the edges in 1”.

When winding in the packing paper, be careful that warp threads never travel over the paper folded double at the edges. The warp itself only goes over the single-thickness paper with the folded extensions sticking out to strengthen the paper at the edges. You may put in the paper with the folded part on top or underneath—either way of inserting the paper is all right. Make sure no warp falls on the doubled edges. Remember the comment I mentioned in the introduction. “…that paper also has a grain (I think of it as a warp/weft) and will curl and fold parallel with its ‘warp’ more smoothly.”

A Trick so the paper won’t wrinkle
Also watch for paper that is crinkling or rolling in at an angle. A simple trick prevents this: Insert the paper so that it can be wound 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 photo, right in the middle. Hold it taut there as you wind the paper in with the warp so the paper can’t wrinkle.

When to put in the paper.
My teacher said about every yard. I usually put it in more often. I watch the edges of the warp building up. Just before the edge seems not to be sharp like a cliff or rolling in, is when I put in a new piece of paper. In Japan I noticed that they use small pieces of paper, too, but use them continuously.

I don’t recommend continuous packing paper because it is very difficult to get it wound on without wrinkling, and it builds up the warp beam circumference faster than short pieces put in every yard or so. Winding the warp tightly prevents the layers from biting down into one another so continuous packing paper isn’t necessary.

Two Quick Tips

For once I’m up to my neck with things to do so it’s a “quick post” this time. I’ve been wanting to post these for a long time.

There’s an easier way to re-sley the reed than unthreading all the threads that need to be moved at once. Instead, before un-threading anything, insert your sley hook into the new reed position for the incorrectly sleyed thread. Hook the thread to be moved behind the reed and draw it and the sley hook through the dent. In effect, you are “de-sleying” and “re-sleying” in one movement. Once I was making a gift and noticed a skipped dent. I thought it wouldn’t show after washed—well it did and I gave it with apologies. Then I fixed the error and it was a piece of cake and kicked myself for not taking care of it in the first place.

 I call this my wobbly peg illustration. I think it speaks for itself.

Threading Without Mistakes: Three Tricks to Try

Jim Ahrens is the “A” in AVL Looms. He taught production weaving at Pacific Basin Textiles in Berkeley when I had finished a year there learning to weave. We were shocked by the things he taught us and they are the bones of all my books. I apprenticed with him and two others for a year at the new production studio there. Early on, once I offered to thread a loom and he said, “You don’t make mistakes do you?”  (I thought everyone made mistakes.) Then he proceeded to teach some of his tricks for threading without mistakes. He liked to thread his looms at 125 epi, etc. He got comfortable, turned on the radio, and happily went to work. After being comfortable, here are his three tricks. You can try them or not, they are not required for threading.

Here is how he arranged the lease sticks for threading so it was easy to see the cross that keeps the threads in order. This was new to us students. But it’s how I taught my students and use myself. 125 epi is nothing to me—it’s easy to see the cross and you just go along.

Trick #1: Put some tension on the warp threads so they are taut when they are in the lease sticks making it easier to see which is the next thread. I use a wrench that lives in my apron pocket at all times. Anything of similar weight would work. My wrench weighs 3 ½ ounces. I almost never use it for any other purpose, but I did need it to escape a locked bathroom stall, once, at a workshop where I was teaching.
Put a loop of string on the weight and add a rubber band onto the loop with a lark’s head knot. Then, separate a bundle of cut warp threads about the thickness of a medium-sized carrot and with another lark’s head, tie the rubber band onto the bundle near the end of the warp. The weight hangs straight down from the lease sticks, behind the shafts. When you select a strand to thread next, you pull It out of the weighted bundle.

Trick #2: Get out the next 4 heddles, place them in the order to be threaded, and reach through the shafts with your hand curved like a claw. Grasp the 4 threads needed between your fingers as shown, and then, inserting your hook into the heddles one-by-one, hook the correct thread and pull it through. I think it helps me thread accurately when I use this technique. First, I concentrate on the heddles and get them out. Then, I concentrate on the cross and put the threads between my fingers. Then, I concentrate just on putting the threads through the heddle eyes.

Trick #3: Watch for consistencies (and inconsistencies). For example, you might notice that when you thread the heddles on shaft four, the warp thread is always on the top of the lower lease stick. If that suddenly isn’t the case, look to see if you made a mistake—either in selecting the correct warp thread or the correct heddle.  In the illustration here, the threads on shaft 4 are always over the top lease stick.

Jim always recommended using straight threading hooks.

Using a Kitestick Instead of a Chain

Generally, the chain keeps most warp threads organized enough so that they don’t tangle. However, some yarns (for example, linen) can be quite “jumpy” or springy and tangle easily as can a large number of fine, silky threads. I recommend winding the warp on a kitestick instead of making it into a chain so that the threads are always on tension and thus, can’t tangle. In case of a large warp made in sections, you would have each section on its own kitestick rather than in several chains.

I’ve used the illustrations and text from my book, Weaving for Beginnerss. The trick is to hold the stick with your left hand, in the middle, where the warps are accumulating.  See Fig. 85. Your left hand should rotate the stick so you can easily wind above and below the lark’s head knot with your right hand. (Fig. 89) The motions are a lot like using a nitty noddy to make a skein.

The warp will be wound on a stick in the same way a kitestick is wound. Use a stick approximately 1 ½” X ½” X 12” or longer. This is not a precise measurement. In a pinch, a ruler or a yard stick will do. It isn’t necessary to wind the stick precisely. The instructions look harder to follow than they really are. Winding on the stick is a lot like using a niddy noddy to wind a skein. Follow the instructions any way you can at first, and master the technique another time. What is important is that the warp is wound up onto a stick so the threads can’t tangle.