A Better Way to Tie on New Warps to Old Ones

Tying on New Warps on the Loom B
Tying on New Warps on the Loom B

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”

Threading the New Warp

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 New Warp on the Drum

Silk Warp on Warping Drum - Peggy Osterkamp
Silk Warp on Warping Drum – Peggy Osterkamp

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.

Warp Loaded in Raddle - Peggy Osterkamp
Warp Loaded in Raddle – Peggy Osterkamp

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”.

Beaming with the Warping Drum _ Peggy Osterkamp
Beaming with the Warping Drum _ Peggy Osterkamp

A New Warp

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]

Peggy Osterkamp’s Warping Method

Back-to-Front Fig 327a
After I posted the testimonial from Ken Berg raving about my warping method a few people have asked me what my system for setting up the loom is.

My way is the European method of warping Back-to-front. It is what I taught hundreds of beginning weavers. Basically the steps are:

  1. Make two crosses when you make the warp. One for threading the heddles and one for loading the raddle (a group cross).Raddle Cross
  2. Instead of making a warp chain, wind the warp on a kitestick.
  3. Load a raddle–not too coarse.Raddle
  4. Wind the warp onto the warp beam under a lot of tension.
  5. Thread the heddles
  6. Sley the reed.
  7. Tie on the warp to the cloth apron rod.

Why back-to-front

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.

The entire process is given in my book, Weaving for Beginners and is also on my DVD.

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.

Peggy Osterkamp – Working on my first eBook!

peggy editing book no. 2I do what I do because I love it. I wouldn’t have this blog if I didn’t think I would enjoy it and I love the fact that so many people learn and benefit from my post. This blog started because a few friends wanted some tips so it was just the easiest ways to get the information to them. Then more people found the blog and people started to ask me to cover certain topics or asked questions – some even showed me the work I had helped inspire them to do! After a while, people started mentioning how I could write a book to share my knowledge but I didn’t think enough people would be interested in it. Then more and more people asked and I decided I sit down and write the book. One thing lead to another and now I’m on my second book with ebook book publishing companies contacting me all the time!

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.

A Wonderful Testimonial

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!

A Weaver’s Tangle Update

the end tangle – click to enlarge

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.)

the warp on tension
the warp on tension – click to enlarge
balls of rags
balls of rags – click to enlarge

My Weaving Disaster – Part One

My Weaving Disaster - Part One
My Weaving Disaster - Part One

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.

Weaving Keynote Speech

2012 CNCH  Weaving Convention
2012 CNCH Weaving Convention

I spent the month of March preparing my keynote speech for the northern California weaving conference, CNCH. It will be May 17-20 at the Oakland Convention Center. It was a lot of work but fun figuring out what I could say in 1/2 hour. Believe me, there was a lot I had to relegate to the cutting room floor. It was hard to give up so many ideas. Maybe we can make a video and put it on line!

April will be devoted to preparing for my two classes and a retrospective of my work. I’ve already made the list for the exhibit for the labels, but now I need to be sure every piece is prepared and ironed, etc. I’m honored to have this recognition.

The two classes are about collapse weaving and supplementary warp–two of my favorite things. (I’ve signed up for CNCH 2013 to teach them again–also about using the paddle.

Getting the Pegs Needed on Warping Reels

Warping Reel Pegs, Vertical
Warping Reel Pegs, Vertical

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.

Horizontal Warping Reel Pegs, Detail
Horizontal Warping Reel Pegs, Detail
Warping Reel Pegs, Horizontal
Warping Reel Pegs, Horizontal

These illustrations are from my Book #1, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle, on pages 33 and 34.

Using a Paddle with a Warping Reel

I received a comment asking about how to use a paddle with a vertical warping reel. In my Book #1, Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle I do discuss this. Here is a clip from the paddle chapter.

paddle and reel
paddle and reel

You want the paddle to be easy to reach, so when you get to the lease pegs, you can easily make the lease and put it onto the pegs.
Other than being clamped to something
approximately at the center of the warping
board as in Figure 118, below, the paddle can be clamped to the bottom of the warping board itself if the height of the board is convenient for you.
Clamping a paddle at a height close to the
pegs on a reel is shown in Figure 119a.

paddle and chair
paddle and chair

Clamping it to the back of a chair works well, too. See Figure 119b.

Also, see below where to place the paddle at a warping board.

Paddle and warping board
Paddle and warping board

Tensioning Linen Warps

This week I put on a linen warp and remembered a trick I learned long ago–and it miraculously worked yet again. Immediately after tying the threads on the apron rod all nicely, the tension on the threads became greatly uneven. There were very, very loose threads scattered all across the warp. They had been all evenly tensioned when I tied the knots but the tension didn’t stay. Here’s the trick. It comes from my Book #2, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, on page 63.

Tensioning Linen Warps

Getting even tension on linen warps is a special situation; linen threads always seem to become uneven as soon as you begin weaving. Don’t re-adjust the tension on the bundles. Instead spray the warp with water from a plant mister and immediately begin weaving the heading. All the threads straighten up and weave perfectly when they’re dampened this way. You should only have to do this once, at the very beginning of the warp, whether you tie surgeon’s knots or lace the bundles.

Warning!! Don’t forget to tie these ties!

Ties at end peg (click to enlarge)

Many of my students didn’t think it was important to tie the ties at the ends of the warp as well as the ties for the cross. Then they ended up with a problem when they wanted to load the raddle.  The first illustration shows the ties (two ties) that need to be made at the end pegs of the warp on the warping board. Note that tie ties are made on either side of the end peg–the ties are essentially both in the same “hole”. This may be what confuses people. See page 23 in Weaving for Beginners. More about tying two ties at the pegs is on page 23 as well.

No ties were made at the end peg

The second and third illustrations are from page 34. They show the problem when the ties weren’t made and the solution.

Picking up the loops for the end stick

A Special Testimonial

“Peggy Osterkamp has done more for getting threads on looms than any other person on the planet.”

At Convergence in Albuquerque last summer, Linda Ligon from Interweave Press stopped by my booth and left this message. I was overwhelmed. She said I could pass it along.
What an honor. My book, Weaving for Beginners, had just come out. The previous three books have more reference material–beyond what the beginner needs to know. These are the ones Linda was familiar with.

Use a Kitestick

Warp wound on a kitestick (click to enlarge)

I got a question from a weaving in Australia about where to get a kitestick.  She read about it in my new book, Weaving for Beginners, and saw me using it on my DVD, Warping the Loom Back to Front


A Kitestick

Kitestick: Approximately 1 ½” x ½” x 12″ or
This is not a precise measurement. In a pinch,
a ruler or a yard stick will do. See Figure 24d.

Use  a kitestick when you take the warp off the warping board.
From Page 25 in Weaving for Beginners:  Use your 1½”x ½” x 12″ stick, or a ruler or a yardstick. This is the way I prefer to hold the warp at this point. It isn’t necessary to wind the stick precisely. The instructions look harder to follow than they really are. Follow them any way you can at first, and master the technique another time. What’s important is that the warp is wound up onto a stick so the threads can’t tangle.
Another way to take the warp off the warping board is given on
page 34. (This refers to chaining the warp to take it off the warping board.)
Before you begin, look at the points below, and read about the trick
to winding the kitestick at the end of point 5.

Tying On New Warps Question

Here’s a question I received yesterday. “I want to tie on a new warp for some scarves. However, I want to change the sett from 18 epi to 16 epi. Is it possible to do this?If so, how? I also would like to make it an inch narrower. Do I just not tie on the threads from the original warp and let them hang?”

Ideally when tying on a new warp the new warp should be exactly the same as the old one, hence the question. Yes, I think it would be ok to make the new warp with the number of ends needed and just tie those onto the old warp. The old warp ends not used can just hang. (Would you center the new threads, or just begin tying at one edge and have all the extra ends on one side?) You would then pull the warp ends through the heddles–the old ones will just go along for the ride. Then you’ll have to cut the ends to sley the reed to the new sett. You can cut so the thrums (ends of the old warp) are used when you sley the reed so you will have less loom waste for the new warp. Of course, if you want the keep the thrums for fringe, then cut off at the knots and re-sley.

These procedures are for when you tie on new warps behind the heddles as I recommend. For an over view of the process, go to the tab, “Weaving Tips” on the home page and look for “Try Tying on New Warps This Way”.  It is so much better than tying on in front of the reed and dragging the new warp through the heddles. In my Book #2, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, I explain this thoroughly–especially how to tie the knots so the new warp is on tension immediately.

You can use the Search button on the upper right corner of the home page, too. Search for “tying on” there are several entries.

What’s On My Loom

Undegummed silk for weft 9click to enlarge)

I’m still experimenting with sheer this time with a warp of sewing thread instead of the fine silk.

The weft is the lovely gold silk that took me a month to spool off from the skein. It is stiff because it is undegummed. That helps keep the beat open and there are variations in the thickness of the thread which make the cloth look nice.

I was very nervous about the sett–wasn’t sure if it was too open, but wanted the cloth to be sheer for sure. It probably is too open, but of course, I made do. What I had to do was beat gently (which I hate to do) and beat on a closed shed (also don’t like to do). So, it’s going slowly but I’ve got the cloth I’m after. (The next risk: will I be able to make  out of it what I have in mind?)

I have reed marks which are just fine–in fact they are a gift. The threads in the reed groups move around randomly which gives a bit of color variation. Nice, so it doesn’t look like commercial cloth. So, the next time, I think I’ll stick to this sett and just go slowly so I can get the color variations.  (I made the warp with  10 different spools of thread–so 10 different shades in the warp. Instead of a paddle, I have a wonderful heck block on my reel that I inherited from Jim Ahrens. This allows me to get a thread-by-thread cross.)

A Video About Me, sort of

Check out this video–I am thrilled with it.
http://www.knittingdaily.com/blogs/daily/archive/2011/03/04/what-is-energized-yarn.aspx Click on “What is energized yarn?” and scroll down to the You Tube video.

I loved working with Kathryn Alexander and in this video she tells about working with me. The thread she spun for me that she talks about was really fine and fragile. She was sure that I couldn’t weave with it and that I would be mad at her. But I did–warping “back-to-front”, of course. I wanted to test my warping process with the most fragile thread I could find, so that’s why I asked her to spin some for me.

Pink Creature (click on to enlarge)

She calls the yarns “energized” I call them overtwisted. These  yarns are what I’ve used for collapse weaving where the cloth puckers. Search  for “Pink Creature” to read my post about it. This is one of my favorite collapse pieces. There is also a picture in the post of the cloth after woven but before washing.


Think about Ashenhurst’s Rule

I use Ashenhurst’s rule to take the mystery out of sett (warp or weft-wise). Check this out in my Book #1, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle” and also in my new book, “Weaving for Beginners“. In both books I’ve devoted a chapter to determining the ends per inch (epi) or sett. Book #1 has more details. In upcoming posts I hope to explain it and say why it’s so very, very useful. If you can read the book(s), you’ll be ahead of the game.  I’m swamped with getting my room in my studio emptied–more about sett next week or so.

Warping Paddles

Slot and Hole Paddle

For many weavers, “paddle” is a mysterious word. Perhaps they’ve tried and never quite figured out how to make it work. It may have seemed awkward, confusing—but always seductive. How liberating to be able to warp multiple ends at once! But keeping one thread organized and moving freely onto the warping board or reel can be a challenge—how much

All Holes Paddle

more dexterity it must take to manage four or six or a dozen! But that is exactly the advantage of using a paddle. The paddle lets you measure many threads with every pass up and down the board or reel. Becoming proficient with the paddle need not take any special dexterity—in fact, its use has developed precisely because it acts as an extension of your own hand. See the Weaving Tip: Why Use a Paddle?

See Chapter 1: Using a Paddle, in my Book #1, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle.

Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving

Rigid Heddle Loom (click to enlarge)

Do you know that there is a whole chapter on rigid heddle weaving in my new book, “Weaving for Beginners”? These looms are very popular with knitters and would-be weavers. I’m mentioning it because a friend told me he had gotten a rigid heddle loom and hadn’t realized I had included it in my book. Also, I want you to know it so can have it in mind so you can recommend it to others.
They are really fun to use! Warping takes minutes instead of hours or days.

Heck Block for Warping Reels

Jennifer asks for a quick way to warp multiple threads at a time. The most available method for weavers today is to use a paddle. I have a chapter on using various types in my Book #1, “Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle.”

Jim Ahrens’ warping mill which I use in my studio has a heck block–a marvelous (and old) mechanism that he made. I am warping 10 ends at once while  making a thread-by-thread cross (lease).

This is from Page 16 of my Book #1 ,” Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle.” I don’t know if anyone makes them now, AVL did for awhile. You might look them up in old weaving books from Europe.
The heck block

Heck Block (click to enlarge)

The heck is a mechanical way to spread your warp at precisely spaced intervals along the frame of a warping reel. It moves up and down on a vertical support that stands next to the reel, or if the reel is horizontal, it moves back and forth on a support alongside the reel. The central
support of the reel extends beyond the reel and turns with it: a cord wound around this support is attached by a pulley to the heck.
As you turn the reel to measure out your warp, the cord unwinds, and the heck block moves along the length of the reel. As you turn the reel for the return trip, the cord winds back round the pipe, drawing the heck back along its support. Multiple warp ends, which are threaded
into a leasing and tensioning device on the heck block, are carried with the heck
and so are laid down on the reel automatically.