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.)
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.
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
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.|
THE ABOVE TIP IS AN EXCERPT FROM “WEAVING FOR BEGINNERS” AND BOOK 2: “WARPING YOUR LOOM AND TYING ON NEW WARPS”.
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 an inch 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.
This tip is an excerpt from Chapter 8, “Tying On New Warps” in Book 2, Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps– Revised Edition.
|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.
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]
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]
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]
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]
Before I leave on a textile tour to India next week (look for my daily travel posts) I thought I’d give you a tip about one of the most important techniques that I use and have taught my students.
To be clear, this technique is different from what most people use which is TYING ON THE NEW WARPS BEHIND THE HEDDLES!!!
You may already be tying your new warps to old warps in front of the reed. For some weavers, tying on the new warp at the back is counter-intuitive. But Jim Ahrens has said to me, “If you can talk them out of tying on in front, you will be doing them a big favor”. I urge you to try it; there are so many advantages.
This technique is described in my out of print (but soon to be out in a PDF format book) “Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps”. I thought I’d share this weaving tip with you now instead of waiting until it is available.
Click the link below to view the tip:
“Peggy’s Weaving Tips > Tying on new warps the new way”
Here are pictures of the threading. Every fine silk thread must go in order into its own eye of a heddle. The heddles are made of string which I tied years ago. Setting up the loom this way (back-to-front) allows me to separate the heddles so I can see them to thread them easily. There is a supplementary warp: grey cotton sewing thread on its own little kietstick. The silk threads are threaded in the heddles on the 4 shafts of the loom. The supplementary warp is threaded between every 8th heddle–those threads don’t go through eyes but between the heddles.
The threads are kept in order on sticks called lease sticks. Look closely and you can see that the threads alternate going over and under the sticks. That way it is obvious which thread is the next one to thread into the next heddle. There are 2 pairs of lease sticks–one above holds the grey threads in order and the one below and to the right holds the silk ones.
The last picture show me beginning to thread all the threads into the reed. There are 8 silks and 1 grey in each space of this comb-like part of the loom. That keeps the threads as close together as needed. It is in the “beater” which pushes the weft threads into place during weaving. I am almost there. I began setting up the loom on June 15–maybe 3 weeks ago. [click first photo for slideshow]
The warp was taken off the reel and rolled onto the drum. You can see the ties for the raddle (group) cross dangling at the end of the warp. Then the raddle was loaded. See the rubberbands on top so the threads don’t come out of the teeth.
The raddle was then clamped onto the loom so beaming could begin. The warp comes off the drum under tension, goes through the raddle and onto the warp beam. The drum is essential to keep all the threads under tension while I crank the beam. Directions for building a warping drum are in my book no. two “Warping your Loom and Tying On New Warps”.
Finally I got to my studio and made a warp this week. Another 10-yard one with the fine silk threads I used for the bookmarks, rullfes, and other sheer pieces. Here ae some details and the equipment I need for this fine and kinky thread. It kinks horribly if off tension a second. I warped with 10 spools on the reel that Jim Ahrens built and used. There is also a heck block which makes the path on the reel and makes the cross with two tiny shafts (called the leaser).
Because the thread kinks so much I had to use a creel that holds the spools horizontally. I had this built by a friend. I discovered to keep the threads in order and on tension from the creel to the reel I needed several lease sticks. That way if a thread broke, I could find it, too. I clamp the stick onto two boards coming out of the creel.
The heck block rides up and down on the two poles, attached to the floor and the ceiling.
By the way, the colors are fugitive–as soon as they are on the reel they all are the honey color with a tiny tinge of the original colors.
You can see the drum waiting beside the reel. That’s the next order in the process.
[click on first photo for slide show]
My way is the European method of warping Back-to-front. It is what I taught hundreds of beginning weavers. Basically the steps are:
- Make two crosses when you make the warp. One for threading the heddles and one for loading the raddle (a group cross).
- Instead of making a warp chain, wind the warp on a kitestick.
- Load a raddle–not too coarse.
- Wind the warp onto the warp beam under a lot of tension.
- Thread the heddles
- Sley the reed.
- Tie on the warp to the cloth apron rod.
I think back-to-front is the ideal method for beginning weavers to learn because
it is a method you can always depend on. I’ve also found that the first method
you learn is usually the one you know best. Therefore, I think that a method that
works for all kinds of projects is the best one for a beginner to learn first. When
you want to weave fabric for a wedding dress, or a ceremonial cloth, or some
very large project, probably using rather thin threads, you can do it because
you know a method that can handle these complex projects efficiently without
tangled and broken threads. Front-to-back is not suited for such projects.
My previous books are more like references with much more detail and reason why. Book #1 tells about making the warp (plus sett, planning). Book #2 tells about putting the warp on the loom. Book #3 tells about weaving.
As you can see, I’m up to my neck getting my Book #2, “Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps” ready for it’s 4th edition–this time as a pdf. There aren’t many hard copies left, so for only a little while, I’ll have both available. Both will be available on my website. It will be an e-book in pdf format. We will set up the website for ordering when we have it ready–maybe the end of February. It’s a job, checking every page and every item in the 13-page index.
For now, the posts I’ll be doing will be some of my favorite weaving tips.
Getting this email from Judy Wheeler really made my day!
I just wanted to say THANK YOU!! for writing the New Guide to Weaving books. I have all three, and literally could not weave without them. I learned to weave many years ago at a weaving shop that was only in business a short while…
I love weaving, but it was always a struggle. Warping was difficult, tension was never good, and my projects rarely turned out like I had hoped. Then I found your books. Weaving is now so much more enjoyable and rewarding, and your books are just amazing! I always refer to them when weaving, but often I pick one up and just read it, because I always learn something new.
Thank you again!
I spent my summer untangling 10 yards of fine silk thread. The first photo shows what I had to cut off—about 8” so that is good. The second photo shows the warp on tension and what I had to do. I could not untangle every single thread, but was able to separate the threads into the groups for the raddle. This small raddle has 5 dents per inch. There are 10 threads in each raddle space. So in essence the sett is 15 epi (size of my reed) instead of 96 as I intended! It is a bit narrower at 2 ¾” wide now. The next dilemma was to find large enough threads in my studio for the wefts. When I downsized my studio space and got rid of 500 pounds of yarn, I only saved the fine threads and my linens. The third photo shows my solution for the wefts. I have these old balls that someone made up of rags ready for hooking a rug. The rags are vintage cottons from the 30’s or 40’s and are just the right width and thinness for my warp situation. The colors on the outside of the balls are subtle and faded; it will be interesting to see what they are like inside. There are prints, stripes, solids. I can’t wait to see what comes up. I need to get the loom emptied ASAP so I am looking forward to weaving these strips in the soft colors and soft rags. I might put in some rose canes and horse hair, of course. The warp threads will collapse, so I made some samples and the squiggles look nice with the rags. Off to the studio for an adventure! (All the strips are sewn to each other with a few hand stitches. I feel some wonderful connection to the woman who collected her rags so carefully.)
Here is what I’m dealing with in my studio—how embarrassing it is. I didn’t want to let anyone know about it at first. There are 10 yards of warp and the snarling started as soon as I began beaming. Thankfully I had lots of choke ties so I could work on a section at a time. I’ve worked almost all of the snarls through the 10 yards—just a foot or two left. I’ve spent hours on it. This has never happened before. The cause, I think, is that I wound the threads too tightly onto the warping reel. The fine threads are highly overtwisted and when they were off tension they just kinked unmercifully.
Part Two of the story will be what happens next. It might be a week before I can get back to untangling. I’ve really enjoyed it—the patience is soothing like a meditation for some reason. Does anyone else enjoy undoing a little tangle as much as I do? I haven’t bothered to count up the hours I’ve spent. I began the warp on Memorial Day.
While thinking about using the paddle with a warping reel, it occurred to me to show how you can get the pegs you need for the crosses on warping reels. In my books I recommend using 4 pegs for the crosses and usually reels only have 3. This is what I have used to get the needed 4 pegs.
These illustrations are from my Book #1, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle, on pages 33 and 34.