“If you can talk them out of tying on in front, you will be doing them a big favor.”
Jim Ahrens to Peggy in 1995
Here are the advantages and an excerpt from the chapter.
• You tie only one set of knots. The warps are automatically on tension, and you don’t need to waste time or yarn by tying onto an apron rod.
• Because the warps are always under tension they can’t tangle or break or invite mistakes. (When you pull loose, untensioned threads through the heddles, loops and snags are inevitable.)
• Keeping the threads under tension at all times is the key to pulling the knots through the heddles easily.
• You get a perfectly wound warp on the warp beam without any knots on the apron rod.
• You can accurately spread the warp on the warp beam. When working from the front, you wind the warp onto be beam after the knots are tied, using the reed as a guide to keep the warp spread to the right width. The reed is a long, long way from the warp beam, and as the knots pass through the heddles, the heddles can actually scatter the warps.
• With many looms, you can be much more comfortable tying at the back.
For the first few times at least, you’ll find tying the square knots much easier with a firm support to tie against. A board placed beneath the knot-tying area gives your thumb something to press the ends against while your fingers tie knots. It’s like having someone put their finger on the knot while you tie a bow! Later on, you may be able to tie the knots “in the air” without the support, but I still like to use one.
Position the board beneath the knot-tying area, midway between the back beam and the shafts. If your old warp is short, position the board closer to the shafts and adjust the warps so your knot-tying area is above the board.
Support the board on the side framework of your loom, or on lary sticks, or suspend it from long loops of string tied to the loom’s overhead structure. …
The top of the board should be on the same plane as the warps. It should be sturdy and in no danger of falling, so experiment with C-clamps and string, if you need to, to get a firm work surface.
When you tie on warps, whether you lace on like I did here, or tie on with surgeon’s knots, you can begin weaving right away without rags, toilet paper, and such. See the solution, below.
This way the warp weaves the width it’s supposed to be and doesn’t splay out. Also it’s not lumpy. Sometimes I begin with the 2-stick heading so I can cut off the knots for a smooth roll-up on the cloth beam. Often, I begin the way I did here, just to see how the sett is and what things will look like. That becomes my sample. Then I make the 2-stick heading when I cut off my sample and other pieces as I go along.
Throw 3 wefts without beating. Then beat in all 3 at once. You are really not beating hard—more like gently putting the wefts in place. You will feel a bit of resistance as you beat in these 3 wefts. This is how the warps are spread out from their groups in the bundles. The wefts should now be close to or against the knots on the apron rod. If there are still separations in the warp between the warp bundles, repeat the process by weaving in 3 more wefts and then beating them in all at once. Note in the illustration that the wefts extend out beyond the width of the warp. This prevents the warp threads from narrowing in when 3 wefts are to be beaten at once. I weave these wefts as tabby or close to it if tabby can’t be made with a weave structure.
The solution: It’s important that the apron rod stays straight. Slip off excess lashing on the rod as shown. You only want lashing on the apron rod to be as wide as the warp that will be tied on. I’ve seen huge dowels to try to prevent bending. That doesn’t work. It will be easy to slip the lashing onto the rod again for wider warps, so don’t worry about that.
Check the warp tension: Close your eyes (that’s important; it helps you to concentrate), and use the flat part of your fingers to pat gently across the warp. All the threads should feel the same. If they’re too tight or too loose, they should be re-tensioned. Don’t agonize. That’s important, too. Unless a bundle of warps feels definitely softer or definitely tighter compared to the others, it is probably just right.
I like to tie on with surgeon’s knots. If you need to adjust bundles, just tug one of the tails of the knot to open or loosen it. There is no need to untie, then retie the knot. To tighten a warp bundle, brace the heels of both hands on the apron rod and pull the tails of the knot to cinch the warps tighter. Complete the surgeon’s knot: When you’re satisfied that the tension is even, take the tails of the knots and tie them together to complete the final part of the knot. In other words, each knot will consist of the beginning parts of a surgeon’s knot with the final part of the knot on top of it. See my eBook on knots and of course, Weaving for Beginners for how to tie this and other knots for weavers.
Introduction: 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.
Introduction: 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.
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
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.
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.
Getting started. With the loop at the end of the warp, form a lark’s head knot over the tick. Be sure to include the loops of the first and last warp threads when you begin to form the lark’s head knot. Look carefully where my forefinger and thumb are in Figure 82 To form the lark’s head knot, reach with your finger and thumb through the loop and grasp a portion of the warp coming from the warping board. Make a new loop out of the warp itself by pulling some of the warp through the loop and put the newly formed loop onto the stick. Pull up as big a loop as you need to go on the stick. It’s a little like crocheting. Immediately pull the warp against the lark’s head knot to make it firm.
Begin to wind the kitestick with the warp going off to the left, and the loop of the knot behind the warps as in Figure 84. If the loop of the knot is in front of the warps, turn the stick so that it’s away from you and behind the warps. You’ll be slowly and firmly winding the warp in the direction that tightens the lark’s head knot against the stick. This ensures that the warp won’t come loose on the stick.
Take the warp with your right hand around behind the stick, as in Figure 85.
Then, take the yarn below the knot, and bring it up diagonally in front of the stick. See Figure 86.
Now, take the warp to the front, diagonally downward, toward the bottom of the knot, making the other half of an X. See Figure 87.
With your left hand, rotate the stick a quarter turn to the left, to the next facet of the stick. This direction keeps the warps tight. You’ll be turning your left hand until the palm faces you, as in Figure 88. Remember the trick: Hold the stick in the middle, where the warps are accumulating. Make and X on the new facet of the stick as in Figures 88 and 89. After you have completed the X on that facet of the stick, take the warp behind the stick in preparation for turning the stick a quarter turn and beginning a new X on the third facet of the stick. See Figure 90.
Continue this process (Figures 85-90) of making an X on a facet of the stick, turning the stick a quarter turn to the next fact, making an X, and so on. When the entire warp is wound, you can just lay the end of the warp on to of the bundle on the stick or tie it to the bundle if that seems more secure.
Now that I’m restricted to my apartment in my retirement place because of the corona virus, I have more time on my hands. I think that may be the case for others, and maybe people are at their looms more than ever. So I’m planning to send more frequent posts about weaving. While I was allowed to go out to my studio I wove more than I have in a few years. I was afraid we’d get guaranteed and then I could dye what I wove at home. That is my plan.
I was so excited to get everything I needed to make my warping trapeze in one afternoon. Everything came from my local hardware/lumber store. My tech guy screwed in the brackets in 5 minutes. Whoever said there was no such thing as a 10-minute job! I got 8 ounce fishing weights from a sporting goods store and 2 bungie cords while getting the lumber (2×2, 6ft long), solid metal rod (1/2” d.), and brackets (from the plumbing department). My apprentice, Vera, gave me her plans.
The trapeze will be used for beaming—making tightly wound warps for perfect tension. Here-to-fore I’ve used my warping drum (a hassle) or cranking and yanking (works ok but the trapeze will speed up the process with perfection.
Now all I need is a new warp to beam on. That won’t happen until we are allowed to leave our apartments until the virus settles down.
The tech world swirls around me again. Now my DVD “Warping the Loom Back to Front” is available for downloading and streaming on demand as well as a real DVD.
I learned that many people don’t buy DVD’s anymore-in fact computers often don’t have a drawer (or slot?) for them-and people don’t even own a DVD player. This reminds me of the VHS videos I used to sell that are now useless. People are now streaming movies and downloading them to watch from their computers or their phones. In order to do this, people must have a good internet connection though to make sure they don’t have to wait for buffering. Internet service providers, like infinitydish.com, have high-speed internet options to make it easier to download and stream movies quickly. That’s what a lot of people are doing.
Now you can either purchase my “Warping the Loom Back to Front” as a real DVD or download it or stream it on demand from the Vimeo website. I am thrilled that I can offer all of these methods to my customers. To kick off this event, I have reduced the physical DVD price from $34.95 to $19.95. The Vimeo options are to buy it for $9.95 (stream or download anytime) or rent it for 48 hours for $4.99. See my Vimeo page HERE. I’m proud to say that after 14 years in production, people are still ordering the DVD.
For anyone who bought a DVD in the last year at the higher price, you can contact me HEREand we’ll make a settlement together-say a free book, another DVD or credit for a download or Weaving for Beginners.
I hope you’ll want this on all your devices. Always have it nearby–handy at the warping board, when beaming, or threading the heddles. Learn how to make great warps with perfect tension and to thread the heddles without mistakes. My mentor, Jim Ahrens said, warping is 50% of weaving and if done well, the weaving will be hassle free without tangles or broken threads.
We even made a real “trailer”. It feels almost like I’m in the movie business.
Remember: The only thread that can’t tangle is one under tension! Happy weaving!—-Peggy
I needed to hemstitch the other day and had to get out my big book, Weaving for Beginners, which was so big that it made it impossible to do the stitching. So I got out my Mini iPad and opened up my Kindle book on hemstitching. Perfect–then I taught myself again how to make the stitches. I was all thumbs at first but when I got it, it was quick and easy.
Then I got out my iPhone and it worked better than ever. What fun! I learned to hemstitch way late in my weaving life so on one piece I even forgot to use it.
So, I got it! Since this will be on the hem on the back of the piece, I didn’t need to be careful about having every group of threads the same size. The reason here is to keep the last wefts from unravelling. You should leave at least an inch of warp on the piece before cutting it off the loom.
You can get a copy of my Kindle Hemstitching booklet for just $2.99 HERE. Next month I’ll publish my third booklet. This one will be about a unique way of “Tying On New Warps”. FYI: the second booklet is “Weaver’s Knots“.
Here is my current warp on my loom! Just what I taught my students to avoid–unevenly handspun singles yarns that are lumpy and sticky for warp threads. This is silk yarn I brought back from Bhutan–mainly to show the tour group what handspun yarn looked like. I did use plied threads for the 4 selvedge threads on the edges and weighted them separately. I used 5/2 cotton but a plied silk might have been a better idea.
From Linda Heinrich’s linen workshop at Convergence in 1994 and from her book on weaving linen I learned how easy it is to size a warp on the loom. Before now I’ve always been afraid to size anything. Her recipe is 1 tsp flax seed (any kind will do) to 1 cup of water. Simmer 15 minutes and strain. Refigerate and use within 2 weeks or freeze.I brush on the sizing then strum the threads and then open the shed to dry. Don’t apply too much–sort of like dry painting but pat the threads to get the sizing to go through to the bottom of the threads.
This is the yarn on the skein. I’ve shown it before to show the cross made in the skein. The threads are horribly sticky but with the cross the threads are coming off perfectly. There are plenty of soft-spun lumps and thin areas where it is twisted tighter. I knew from winding the yarn off the skein that the threads were strong–that’s what convinced me to try them for a warp. The stickyness would have prevented the sheds from opening without sizing I realized.
Here is the cloth off the loom and wet finished. I got the cloth really wet in the sink then blotted with a towel. And ironed until dry I love ironing and ironing until dry and I love the sheen I got with the totally mat yarns.
Here is the cloth I just dyed with black walnuts I collected last week. What frun all this is. I can’t wait for the warp to dry and begin weaving again.
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 2. This one has had 9254 views as of today!! The top one has more than 31,000 views to date!! Can you guess what the subject of that tip is? In my book, “Weaving for Beginners“, I describe back-to-front warping as I usually do. However, I’ve asked Patricia Townsend to write directions for front-to-back and the reasons she has taught it for many years to high school students. Look for her detailed directions in the book. Meanwhile, here’s my take on the subject.I advocate and write about warping your loom from back to front. Many American weavers were taught to warp from front to back, and that method works fine for them and has been described in many books. I feel that warping back-to-front (beginning at the back of the loom) has important advantages and I invite you to try this technique. It will come in handy someday when you or someone you know is faced with a challenging warp. And since it works for all warps, especially those challenging ones, I think it is the ideal method for beginning weavers to learn. The first method you learn is usually the one you know best and back-to-front is a method you can always rely on. I admit, I learned front-to-back first. Soon I learned back-to-front, and later Jim Ahrens taught the European back-to-front techniques which were even better. It is these back-to-front techniques that I describe in this book. Just to say back-to-front is or isn’t better than front-to-back isn’t enough. Jim’s way, the European way, has important advantages over both another back-to-front method and a skilled front-to-back method for warping your loom, mainly because it has no limitations on the type of warp yarn or project.Even my front-to-back warping friends have found that for fragile yarns, high twist yarns, fine yarns at dense setts, and using two or more warps, it is easier to warp back-to-front.
An experienced teacher looked at some of my samples woven out of sewing thread and when I asked her how she could possibly have done them warping from front-to-back, she immediately responded, “Why, I’d never want to do such a thing!” My response helped me clear my mind about how important Jim’s methods are. I said, “Yes, but your students might.” Then she agreed-maybe she was teaching her beginning students a method with a handicap. I continued, “My teachers never dreamed of the warps I’ve made. Two examples are fine silk damask at 114 ends per inch using 5 strands as 1 thread, and sewing thread at 200 epi so I could weave 5 layers that unfolded.” (Now I am working with fine silk at 120 ends per inch.)
Sometimes I weave dense warps. My front-to-back friends wonder how I could possibly see to thread. My answer is that the threads are quite spread out in the heddles during threading, and it isn’t until they get to the reed that they are pushed so close together. I still wonder how one could put 200 epi into a reed and thread the heddles with the warps so tightly packed together-the front-to-back method.
Sometimes I weave with fragile warp threads-my front-to-back warpers wonder how I can weave them without threads breaking all the time. I tell them that beaming on the threads in groups gives them the strength to go on the warp beam under tension. When they are woven, they pass through the heddles and reed for the first and only time. They are not subjected to abrasion, static, or to tension during beaming like front-to-back warps.
In back-to-front warping, the warp is beamed immediately so almost all of the warp is under tension during the threading process. In front-to-back, the warps are not under tension until after threading. I’ve seen classrooms full of tangled warps hanging from the breast beams and splayed out in the reeds. Just untangling the threads while beaming them through the reed and heddles is a struggle for the weaver, let alone a hardship on the threads. Jim’s principle applies here: “The only thread that can’t tangle is one under tension.”
Some yarns, like singles wool and high twist yarns, kink up on themselves or twist into groups of yarns. Again, it would be a great frustration to the weaver and the threads to try to force them through the reed and the heddles during beaming. And again, putting them on in groups using a raddle and getting them under tension on the warp beam eliminates the struggle.
Many front-to-back warpers feel strongly that designing random colors and/or textures in the reed is a major reason for using their method. Mixtures of textures and sticky yarns and dense warps can be a struggle to beam through the reed and heddles. And since the warp threads are not under tension while sleying the reed and threading the heddles, they can get terribly tangled. I suggest in the stripes chapter that the same designing can be done in the raddle and the mixture of warp threads can be beamed on the warp beam better back-to-front.
Some weavers feel that putting 2 warps on a single warp beam requires front-to- back. I refer them to chapter on two or more warps. They can be put on efficiently back-to-front.
Front-to-back makes good sense if your loom is uncomfortable for you to thread working the European way, or if the back of the loom is not accessible. After all, I do want weaving to be pleasurable.
As for speed, some of my front-to-back friends say their way is faster. That might be true given a sturdy warp that isn’t really long, wide, and dense.
I’ve been told that back-to-front has more steps. Here are the tasks, in order, for both methods.
Front-to-back Steps 1.Wind the warp 2.Sley the reed 3.Thread the heddles 4.Knot the warp on the back beam 5.Beam on the warp using sticks 6.Tie on the front apron rod
Back-to-front Steps 1.Wind the warp 2.Load the raddle 3.Beam on the warp, no tangles 4.Thread the heddles 5. Sley the reed to accommodate the knots and untangling the threads as you go 6.Tie on the front apron rod
I think it makes sense for you to learn first a method that can be used for every single warp you might dream up. Then, later, learn front-to-back when you’re more experienced. By that time, you know what kinds of warps you are likely to make and the loom you’re likely to have. Then you can decide which method is for you, or both, depending on the situation.
Threading My Loom with Threads that are as Fine as Hairs
I’ve been threading the heddles now for a few weeks—about an hour at a time and when I can get into the studio. It’s such a meditative thing that I wanted to have a film made. I’ve never used so fine a thread before and I hope it can stand up to the tension and abrasion of weaving. This short segment is the beginning of the film I’m dreaming of. I hope we can put together the rest of setting up the loom and me weaving—and an end result. This time threading is both soothing and ‘hair’ raising—you’ll see why in the video. If you’re not a weaver and don’t want details, go to the video now.
The thread is so fine that I couldn’t get it wound off from the skein so I sent it to Japan for them to wind it off (my friend with the equipment in the US couldn’t do it). It came back on about 15 cones—each with a very small amount of thread on it. So even the experts had a hard time—so many cones means that the thread kept breaking and they had to find an end and start a new cone over and over.
I’m planning on 120 threads per inch—the threads in my other sheer warps have been only 96 ends per inch. That gives you an idea of how fine we are talking about—like hairs.
I thought I’d warp 10 cones at a time as I’ve done with the other thread. Well, things kept breaking and threads blew around in the air and I almost gave up. I did end up using 4 cones at a time. I could keep track of those and repair them every time one broke and find its own exact path to the heddles in the heck block on my warping reel.
I didn’t notice that the 4 cones weren’t in position to make a perfect cross so I ended up with a 2×2 cross. You’ll notice that in the video. Jim Ahrens taught us that 2 threads at a time can work but never more than that. (3 or more threads will braid up on one another.) I’m hoping that is true because every thread has a mate in the cross. The reason to use a paddle is so you can always make a thread-by-thread cross. In my case I have a heck block that does that job connected to my reel. I am lucky enough to have a warping reel that Jim Ahrens made.
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 3. This one has had 7828 views as of today!! The top one has more than 27,000 views to date!! Can you guess what the subject of that tip is?
This is a very different approach from what you’ve known before!! Jim Ahrens told me, “If you can talk them out of tying on in front, you will be doing them a big favor.” Here’s our gift to you.
Part One explained why this is such a good method and the concept. Part Two gives you the step-by-step.If you like it, and tell your weaving friends!!
Step 1. Make an Accurate Lease Behind the Shafts
The correct sequence of the threads in the old warp is easier-far, far easier-to see from a lease than from the heddles. You avoid many errors by selecting threads from a lease.
If the lease sticks are still in place on the old warp, check that the lease is accurate. (Check by treadling the two plain weave sheds and seeing if they are exactly the same as where the lease sticks are.) The lease may not be accurate if you corrected an error made when you wound the warp or threaded the heddles. If your lease doesn’t correspond exactly to the order of the threads in the heddles, make a new lease from the heddles.
Why this emphasis on the exact order? Later, threads out of order show up as crossed threads, making it impossible to pull the new warp through the heddles. Stabilize the sticks or cord. Hang the sticks from the castle or tie them to the sides of the loom. If you use a lease cord, make it taut by tying it to the sides of the loom.
STEP 2. CUT THE OLD WARP OFF THE WARP BEAM APRON
Before you cut the warp, be sure you’ve stabilized the lease sticks or cord so they can’t fall out. Cut the warp’s end loops at the endstick or apron rod. Leave all the loom waste intact. As you cut, you may want to tie slip knots in bunches of the warps to help keep the lease sticks in place. When you finish, the warp ends are dangling from the lease cord or sticks. See Figure A.
STEP 3. BEAM ON THE NEW WARP AS USUAL
STEP 4. POSITION THE WARPS AND LEASES
Position the leases in both the old and new warps between the shafts and the back beam. It’s important that you can easily see the leases so you won’t make mistakes. You’ll be choosing the threads in sequence from each lease to tie a thread in the old warp to its matching thread in the new warp.
Adjust the two warps so they overlap each other about half way between the shafts and the back beam. Leave a 4″ tail from each warp extending past the midpoint of the overlap. This is where you tie the knots. Long tails make tying the knots easier-you cut the tails off later. If you don’t have enough of the old warp to overlap 4″ past the knot-tying spot, you can make the knots closer to the shafts.
STEP 5. ENGAGE THE BRAKES
Make sure the brakes are engaged on both the cloth and warp beams, to put both old and new warps under tension for knot-tying.
STEP 6. MAKE SURE BOTH LEASES ARE HORIZONTAL (PARALLEL TO THE FLOOR) AND SECURE
Both the leases should be horizontal-parallel to the floor. If you’re using lease cords and they are taut and tied to the sides of the loom, adjust the ties so the leases are horizontal. See Figure B.
If you’re using lease sticks, probably the easiest way to make them horizontal is to tie the two warps together temporarily. Make two ties about one fourth of the way in from each edge. Take about aninch of warps from the old warp and a similar bunch from the new warp, and tie them in a bow or half bow. It doesn’t matter that these probably are not exactly corresponding threads because you’ll retie them thread-by-thread later. Now you can remove any ties you made to stabilize the lease sticks. The temporary ties make the leases parallel to the floor and stabilize the lease sticks. See Figure C.
The leases in both warps should be “safe” –nothing is going to collapse or fall out. If you feel anything is cumbersome or vulnerable, see what you can do now so all is stable. It makes you work better if you know all is safe.
STEP 7. CENTER THE WARP IN THE HEDDLE EYES
If necessary, raise the shafts so the warps are in the center of the heddle eyes. This is important so the old warp is straight while you’re tying the knots, and so the knots won’t catch when you pull them through the heddles.
STEP 8. POSITION THE SUPPORT BOARD
Position a board beneath the knot-tying area, midway between the back beam and the shafts. If your old warp is short, position the board closer to the shafts and adjust the warps so your knot-tying area is above the board. Support the board on the side framework of your loom or on lary sticks, or suspend it from long loops of string tied to the loom’s overhead structure. See Figure D. It should be sturdy and in no danger of falling, so experiment with C-clamps and string, if you need to, to get a firm work surface.
STEP 9. GET YOURSELF COMFORTABLE AND READY
Decide where to work. You begin tying the knots at the edge away from you and work toward yourself. Stand or pull a stool or chair up to the back of the loom, whichever is more comfortable. If there is room, you can sit inside the loom itself. For a wide warp, you need to tie the last warps from outside the loom.
Make sure your lighting is good and that you are comfortable. Comfort is not a luxury-it’s important to help you work error-free.
STEP 10. TIE THE KNOTS
You take the first thread in the lease of the old warp and tie a square knot to join it to the corresponding first thread in the lease of the new warp. Continue in sequence, picking one thread from one lease and then its mate from the other, until all the warp threads are knotted together. When you get to a temporary tie, untie it, match up the warp threads, and continue knotting. Don’t worry too much about maintaining precise warp tension while tying the knots.
STEP 11. CUT THE TAILS OFF THE KNOTS
Leave the long tails on the knots until all the knots are tied. Then cut all the tails short-to about 3/4″ (or 1/2″). Don’t try to weave or pull the threads through the heddles with the long tails on! The tails will tangle terribly. If a knot unties after you’ve cut the tails, there won’t be enough thread to re-tie it. You can either tie in an extension and re-tie it, or treat it as a broken end when you weave the heading.
STEP 12. REMOVE THE OLD WARP’S LEASE AND THE SUPPORT BOARD
With all the warps correctly tied, tightened, checked, and with tails cut off, you can remove the support board. Remove the lease sticks or cord from the old warp — and only the old warp. The new warp’s lease sticks or cord should stay in place, although you should untie the lease sticks from the sides of the loom. Remember, if possible, you want the lease in during weaving and for tying on the next new warp.
STEP 13. EASE THE KNOTS THROUGH THE HEDDLES
Now you’re ready to pull the tied-on warp through the heddles. Disengage the brake on the warp beam. Make sure the warps are in the center of the heddle eyes to avoid getting the knots caught on the tops of the eyes. Raising the shafts in Step 7 should have centered the warps.
I think “easing” is the key word. Some warps move smoothly through the heddles, others-especially heavier threads-may take more hand manipulation to ease them through, whether you crank or pull the knots through by hand. Sometimes a good tromp on a treadle will shake the knots loose so they’ll go through.
STEP 14. EASE THE KNOTS THROUGH THE REED
Getting the knots through the reed can be slower than you think, so gather up some patience. It’s easier if you have sleyed two ends per dent.
STEP 15. WEAVE THE HEADING
If the old cloth is still attached, you already have the warp under tension. You can weave the heading in the new warp as soon as the knots are through the reed.
If you have only a heading or overhand knots in the ends of the old warp, you need to get the warp under tension before you can begin the heading in the new warp. Attach the heading stick(s) or the overhand knots to the cloth apron rod. You can lace on. See May Tip of the Month.
The first time you tie on a new warp, it will probably seem slow, but just be patient. It will go faster the next time.
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 8. I’m amazed that it has had about 4,900 views. The top one has about over 23,000 views to date!! Can you guess what the subject of that tip is?
Here’s how to repair a broken warp thread. Cut a piece of warp yarn that matches the broken end, about the length of the loom’s depth, maybe a little longer if the loom is small. Whether I begin working on a repair at the front of the loom or at the back depends on where I noticed the break.
If I’m working at the front of the loom (the broken end is in front of the shafts), I first isolate the offending thread and tie the splice thread to the end of the broken end (I like to use an overhand knot–Figure A). Anchor the other end of the splice thread to the woven cloth with a pin like a cleat (Figure B). Then, pull the splice though the dent in the reed and heddle to the back of the loom. You can avoid manually threading through the reed and/or heddles by pulling the original warp end with the splice connected to it through them.
Pull the splice toward the back of the loom as far back as you can-through the lease sticks and close to the warp beam. With the splice and the original warp still connected, tie a slipknot at the back of the loom as shown in the the box below. See how to tie the special slip knot and how to undo it. Go to the front of the loom and re-adjust the tension of the warp thread on the pin in the woven cloth. See Figures C and D. The reason to tie the slipknot is that it will be easy to undo when it appears just behind the heddles. See Figure E. At that time, undo the slipknot and pull the splice connected to the original warp thread through the heddles and reed to the cloth and tension it on a new pin used like a cleat. You’ll be winding the original thread on the pin, and the splice thread will no longer be used. See Figure F.
Instead of using the slipknot, you can replace the overhand knot with a big bow. It works fine, but won’t be as easy to undo as the slipknot. Another method is to weight the splice thread and let it dangle behind the back beam as you weave. When the original thread is long enough to go through the heddles and reed, attach it to the woven cloth on a pin. See Figure G.
If the break is behind the heddles,connect one end of the splice thread to the broken warp end with an overhand knot and tie the slip knot (see above) as close to the warp beam as you can. Then, it’s quick and easy to find the empty heddle by pushing the threads on either side of the broken thread apart at the lease sticks and working the separation up toward the shafts. I drape the splice thread on top of the warp at right angles to the warps so I can easily see it from the front of the loom, and then I thread it through its heddle while I’m sitting at the front of the loom. See Figure H.
With the same separating motion at the front of the loom,you can quickly find the correct dent, pull the thread through the reed, and anchor the splice thread in the cloth with a pin like a cleat. See Figure I below.
When the slipknot advances, continue weaving until the slipknot has moved forward to the back of the shafts. See Figure E. Then, stop and undo the slipknot as shown in Figure L in box below. By then, the original thread will be long enough to be pulled through the heddle and reed, and pinned like a cleat into the cloth Figure F. Resume weaving and never think of that warp thread again.
Instead of knotting the threads together behind the heddles, the splice thread could simply be clamped to the warps on either side of it as far back from the heddles as possible. A good clamp is a hemostat, a clamp-like instrument that surgeons use. See Figure J. When the hemostat advances to just behind the heddles, you can unclamp the warp and draw the original thread through the heddles just as though you had done the slip-knot procedure. Use small hemostats that are about 6″ long or so.
Tie a slip knot to take up the slack in a spliced thread
Pinch the splice thread and the broken thread to form a loop of the excess thread. Use the two threads in the loop together as one thread (the tail) to tie the slipknot. See Figure K. Make a loop in the excess thread by crossing the tail on top of the pinched threads. Reach through the loop and grasp the tail pulling it to form a second loop. Tighten the knot by pulling the second loop away from the pinch. To loosen the slipknot, pull the two threads in the tail in opposite directions. See Figure L. In order for the slipknot to hold, it is important to tie the slipknot using only the excess thread you’ve pinched off.
–Halsey, Mike and Youngmark, Lore, Foundations of Weaving. David & Charles Ltd. England, 1975.
The counsellors and a few of the campers and a parent came to my studio to set up the looms before the camp started. The day of these photos a counsellor made a warp and she and I threaded one of the 7 Structo looms together. Her little brother and his friend came, too, and had fun weaving while we were having fun ourselves setting up the loom. It was a lovely afternoon. [click photos to enlarge]
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. 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]
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.
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. 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.
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.
I am so happy that the PDF is finally ready for my Book #2, 4th Edition, “Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps”. Frankly, it is the book with the most “meat” of my reference books in the series, Peggy Osterkamp’s New Guide to Weaving. It has been out of print for some time. I went over the entire book, page-by-page and made minor changes that had come to my attention in the 8 years it was in print. I edited things here and there to make them more clear and added a a completely new chapter on how to use the Warping Wheel.
There are comprehensive chapters on adjusting looms,sectional beaming, tying on new warps, and includes beaming back-to-front. There are references to techniques unique to the Ahrens Looms.
I have just started a website for the looms that Jim Ahrens built, how they work and how to use them. I’ll keep you posted.
How to know which shaft a heddle is on
It’s easier to see what shaft a heddle is on if you look at the
bottoms of the shafts. See the closeup in Figure 176a.
This comes from the same book that will very soon be ready as a PDF digital book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps. We are now very, very close. There is lots of threading information. This will be the last threading tip for now, however. I can’t wait to be able to tell you that it is finally ready!
Below is taken from my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps which is currently out of print. It will be available very soon only by PDF and “on demand”. This is one of my favorite techniques for threading without mistakes.
Threading from the “claw” This technique speeds up your threading. Behind the heddles you use your left hand, held palm downward like a claw, to hold four threads in order. To thread, separate out four heddles in order according to your list on the adding machine tape. With your “claw” hand, reach below the lease and place one thread between your little finger and ring finger, one between your ring finger and middle finger, and so on, ending with one thread between index finger and thumb. Push the threading hook through the first heddle eye and, with the hook curved down, catch the thread between thumb and forefinger, then draw it through. Continue with the three remaining threads: first putting the hook through the next heddle eye in sequence, then catching the next thread in sequence and pulling it through. Figure 84 shows you a close-up of this method.
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A Weaving Shed and Fashions to Buy (..and tying on new warps my way) Vijayalakshmi Nachiar is the Director of Appachi Eco-Cotton Pvt Ltd (www.ethicus.in and www.thecottontrail.com. She showed us around her hand weaving shed , her design studio, and her shop for which is called Ethicas, “The Ethical Fashion brand”.
In the large weaving shed were perhaps 30 jacquard looms, all operated by handweavers—men because lifting the threads on jacquard looms is really heavy lifting. There were two women contentedly sitting on a mat twisting the fringes for scarves.
I asked her how the weavers tied on new warps and was THRILLED that they do it exactly as I recommended in a previous post before my trip. The photo of the white and red threads shows a new warp tied to an old one. The “knot” was really a kind of twisting. One of the women (I wonder if this is a woman’s job) came over and demonstrated how the two warp threads are twisted/knotted together. The old warp is still in the heddles and the new one is all beamed on, just like I have shown.
Then we were shown Vijayalakshmi’s design area at the end of the room where the weavers were working. She has innovative designs that reflect Indian craft and tradition however, her products are not only saris. They make garments, accessories and home furnishings and the style and taste are lovely. I bought a scarf that was like the color “blanket” that she uses in her design work to choose her colors. In the blanket all the colors of threads are in both the warp and weft so she can see exactly the color that is the result from the different threads crossing one another. In fact, she designed a scarf like a color blanket. I love owning a scarf that is really this tool that many weavers’ know about. The blue fabric is just one of the ones I saw and liked. Vijayalakshmi has a very easy nickname which is Viji.
In her cotton spinning mill (previous post) they spin long staple cotton (160s size) for the Japanese market with their handpicked locally grown cotton.
Handlooms at Home
We visited two homes with looms and were told that most of the houses in this village in Pollachi, had a loom. One house had this tall and fairly modern-looking jacquard loom. It looked like it took up most of the house, but we didn’t see more than the room with the loom. The husband and wife both weave in shifts for all but 3-4 hours a day to weave saris that are on order.
You can see us walking by the wall of another home which is much lower. There is a jacquard loom with the jacquard mechanism high over head, but since the ceiling is so low, the warp threads are at floor level. You can see someone’s feet in the photo to show how low the threads are to the ground. Then the feet are in a pit where the pedals are which operate the loom and the jacquard mechanism. These pit looms are traditional in India. The photo with a woman standing beside the loom shows the jacquard mechanism high above the loom. This is what makes patterns in the cloth (a simple explanation). [click first photo below]
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Another Warping Method We saw this huge warping wheel in a room, maybe in a house or maybe in its own small shed. Notice that the bottom part is in a pit. Most of the looms in peoples’ homes have the treadles in a pit and the weaver sits on the ground level.
The women take the mass of warp yarn and wind the threads onto rolls (for spools) in preparing for the threads to be wound on the warping wheel. The man runs the wheel and is holding bundles of two warps he had made previously.
I was (always am) fascinated to see the cross in the warps. You can see the big lease sticks holding the cross as the threads come off the spools and in the warp itself on the wheel: it is being shown as the X held in the green threads.
The woman is holding the cross in her fingers: before it goes to warper, she winds the warp onto spools.
I tried to show the beginning and end of the warp on the pegs.
It was interesting to see the men and women hanging around. I wonder if they were there to see us or if there are usually men and women hanging around the warping procedure. [click first photo below]
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Getting Warps Sized We got up early to visit the people whose business it is to size warps for the weavers. It’s like putting starch on the thin fragile warp threads so they can withstand the tension and abrasion from the loom during weaving the cloth. We had to go early in the morning before it got too hot so the sizing wouldn’t dry too quickly. The spay was very fine and big brushes were run up and down the warp on both sides many times so the sizing was spread on evenly. They did maybe 8 warps in a morning. The warps were brought in on a bicycle. The finished warp would be bundled up and sent off to the weaver.
It’s interesting that all the warps we saw were all the same length because they were all to be woven into saris at 5.5 meters in length. [click first photo below]
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Warping in a Street Imagine my delight when we rounded the corner in a little village and saw these warps being made in the street! There were several local people working on them and maybe supervising. It was fabulous that we could walk among the threads.
At one point some men wanted to show us the sari that was going to be made. It was lovely and so nice to see a lot of people involved and interested.
They were passing sticks through the white warp to space out the threads. It looked very much like a group cross on the sticks, doing just what we do and there was a raddle to make the spacing exact. The red warp was in a vacant lot. At one point there was some commotion at the other end. A goat had come up and threatened to nibble on the threads! This was in a village within the city of Madurai. [click first photo]