Peggy’s Weaving Tips > Beam the Warp Under a Lot of Tension

Beam the warp with a lot of tension, more than it will be under while you’re weaving. This extra tension prevents the threads from biting down unevenly as the layers build up on the warp beam. The ideal is a solid, smooth, very hard package of yarns, the same degree of smoothness and solidness as a spool of sewing thread.

Too little tension during beaming
If you put less tension on the warp when beaming than you do when weaving, mysterious bunches of flabby warps appear randomly as you weave. The effect of the greater tension you apply while weaving is the same as pulling hard on the warp. Imagine pulling hard on a loosely wound warp: the outer layers of the warp would slip, pulling the inner layers nearer the beam tighter. On a short warp of just a few turns of the beam, the slippage would probably continue right down to the beam, tightening the whole warp, and so there wouldn’t be any effect on your weaving. But on any warp longer than a few yards, the slippage can’t go deeper than a few layers, and the tightened outer layers compress the inner layers. As they compress, the threads flex and curve. In weaving, the flexes start to straighten out the closer you get to them, but they do so randomly, not all at once. That explains that curious snaky pattern you may have seen on your beam after weaving for awhile and also the mysteriously uneven tension of the warp.

Does extra tension harm the warp?

No, not even elastic yarns like wool, and not even if you don’t weave it off immediately. In fact, Jim Ahrens once wove off a 2/28 wool warp that had been under this kind of tension for eight years. In comparing the finished fabric to the sample he had woven eight years earlier on that warp, he found no difference in hand or resilience of the two fabrics. I wouldn’t recommend you put a poor quality thread to this extreme test, but since we’re weaving high-quality cloth, you wouldn’t be using poor quality thread anyway.

Tensioning the Warp by Yourself

If you’re working on your own, without a helper, using the “jerking” method allows you to apply great tension to your warp. Every time you crank the warp beam one full turn, stop, engage the brake, and then stand where the bulk of the warp is. Starting at one side of the warp, take a 2″ section of the warp in each hand. Tension them by jerking hard, very hard. Drop those sections, and pick up the next two sections and jerk very hard again. Continue jerking, in 2″ sections, all the way across the warp. See Figure A. This tightens the warp you just wound on the beam. Then wind on another turn, and follow the same process again, starting from the other edge of the warp. Alternating right and left edges as the starting point helps prevent one side receiving less tension than the other because you may have pulled harder on the first bundles every time.

Beaming the Warp on the Loom A

Beaming the Warp on the Loom A

If you begin to get blisters, though I never have, fingerless gloves, like those that golfers use, can help.Note that it is the turn of warp that you just wound onto the beam that is being tensioned. Warp that is not on the beam is slack as soon as you let go of it. If you must stop beaming and resume later, jerk all the sections of the last turn of the warp again before you start beaming. Another way to achieve good, consistent tension is to use your body weight instead of jerking the warp. Grasp each 2″ section at arm’s length, lock your elbows, and then lean back against the warp. Try this if you feel you can’t be sure of jerking with the same force all across the warp. Remember, the tension has to be not only tight, but even.

Smoothing out the warp as you wind on

You may find it necessary to smooth out sections before tensioning to get the warp threads lined up and flat. Whatever you do, don’t comb! Combing can snag a thread or create tangles, often causing threads to break.

Often, it’s enough just to shake the warp briskly, like a horse’s reins, while pulling the warp toward you. You might also try holding a section of warp taut and slapping with your palm or flicking with your finger. See Figures B and C.

Beaming the Warp on the Loom C

Beaming the Warp on the Loom C

Beaming the Warp on the Loom B

Beaming the Warp on the Loom B

Beaming the Warp on the Loom D

Beaming the Warp on the Loom D

If this doesn’t lay the warp out flat, the best way to smooth sections with the least possibility of stretching is what I call “the pinch.” Lay threads over the flats of your fingers, then pinch them gently with the thumb. Now draw thumb and fingers toward you for a few inches. Release, pinch, and draw again until the threads lie properly. By drawing the pinch along, the loose warps that have looped up are worked along the bulk of the warp; eventually all the ends are equally tensioned. See Figure D.

This tip is an excerpt from Chapter 2, “Beaming on a Plain Beam” in Book 2,Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps– and Weaving for Beginners


19 thoughts on “Peggy’s Weaving Tips > Beam the Warp Under a Lot of Tension

  1. Pingback: it can be done « Pirtti

    • Yes, this is correct, but it took me a minute to understand what you meant. To crank and yank easily without having to walk around the loom to the front after every crank, the warp is on the back beam with the bulk of the warp going back from the loom–away from the heddles. After beaming, the warp is taken OVER the back beam and is pointed to the heddles for threading. This is a big time saver and makes a well-beamed warp.

    • Thanks for your comment–It is so important to beam the warp under tension. There are lots of tips that have information you will want to know. Much is in my book for beginners, I wrote it just for you. See the books tab.

  2. I have a sectional beam on my new macomber loom but I don’t want to warm it sectionally. I desire to warp the regular way back to front. Can I do this by just leaving the pegs on the warp beam and warp regularly without packing?

  3. Peggy, I have a question about applying the brake while warping. I have the DVD Warping the Loom Back to Front which I have watched many times–I always get so nervous when putting on the warp. My question is: while winding the warp beam do you take the brake off when winding a revolution-stop-apply the the brake-then yank the yarns-release the brake-wind another revolution-apply the brake-yank? I have a wolf pup LT that I am warping this weekend. I really like the DVD, it helps me calm my warping anxiety. Thank you, Deborah Belmaggio

    • I think you are talking about a tension brake–not a ratchet brake. Yes, release the brake while winding; engage it while yanking. You were right when you figured it out.I’m glad to calm your warping anxiety. We don’t want anxiety–we want to KNOW what to do. I’m glad my video is helping out.I hope this answers you. Try again if not, until I get it right for you.

  4. I hi Peggy I just started a project on a loom I just purchased and after I worked on my threads one side of my loom the threads are a lot shorter than the other side not sure why that is. Do you have any suggestions. My email is Thank you Faith

    • Often this just happens. I could never pin down anyone to explain why–even my Jim Ahrens said it happens, don’t worry about it. It was never too much a few inches or so longer on one side and my warps weren’t very wide. It might be some more than a few inches if it’s a wide warp. this is the best I can do. I think it was the only problem I couldn’t get an answer/solution for. I never factored it in on my planning calculations and never got caught short but never needed precise measurements, either.

      • I have watched weavers (new weavers esp.) wind warp onto the warp board & see the warp getting tighter, shorter, as the wind on. Actually see the pegs bending, this is how you get one side shorter. More noticeable when using fine threads & they feel they must get an entire warp in one chain.

  5. I am weaving an harness pattern scarf in tencel and find the end threads on the right side are breaking at the fell line about every 5-8″. I’m also finding some resistance lifting a couple of the harnesses with five tied together on one treadle. Any suggestions?

    • I think your cloth is drawing in too much—how much narrower is it than the width in the reed—on the right side and the left? Putting more thread into the weft could help—more diagonal. I hope you are NOT putting in the weft as in Figure 19 on page 13. Are you changing the shed at the right time? Read the first paragraph on page 27. Follow the weaving motions carefully beginning on page 11. These motions may be new to you but are important—be sure you understand why to change the shed after the beater has hit the fell. Read the pages 11-30 carefully and thoughtfully.

      I don’t think raising the heavy shafts has anything to do with your breakage. Often the left edge is better than the right for right handed weavers—that may be why your left side isn’t a problem.

      You might use a stronger thread for the selvedge threads on this warp.
      Let me know what happens. And what works. I’m glad you have the book. Have you read the chapter on selvedges? Have you read about shuttles? I notice there is a troubleshooting chapter, too. I don’t think the chapters are too long or dense—in the beginning book the information is less technical.

  6. I just finished winding on an 8.5 yard warp of 2/8 wool. I ended up seeing a bulge as it was being beamed. I use sticks. I also saw some spreading at the ends, as confirmed by measuring. At the end of the warp, I had the middle loops shorter than selvedge loops, by about 4 inches. I cut the ends, removed them from the raddle, and looked in your “Weaving for Beginners” book for the photo that I recalled seeing…”poorly beamed warp”. It resembles a cigar. I believe I needed more tension during beaming. Can I unwind the warp, rechain, re raddle, and re wind? Or with wool of this length, would I risk trashing the warp?

  7. Hi, Peggy,
    Thank you for the wealth of information you share with us.
    I recently purchased a 4-shaft Dorset Loom. The front ratchet and pawl is somewhat loose, in such a way that I cannot maintain the proper tension when I advance the already woven fabric before continuing my weaving. Is there any way I could adjust this without pulling everything apart? Do you have suggestions of how I could tighten this.
    This ratchet has a lever, not a crank and the break that bites to the gear of the ratchet. (In the back beam there is a crank that tensions the back beam threads but that is fine.)

  8. Hi Peggy,
    Thank you for your tips. It explains a problem I had with tension for some bags I was weaving. I had to use finer threads and thread three to a dent. One side began to have less tension than the other and threads at one end began to snap. I realised this was because some end threads had roll off the paper so the ends weren’t evenly tensioned.

  9. rolling the warp onto the paper to loose. Can I move the whole warp forward to the front of the loom and then slowly reverse it back over the paper to get a better tension

    • Yes. When you bring it forward, gently wind it up on the cloth beam just so the threads don’t get too messed up. Put it under a lot of tension as you wind it back onto the warp beam. Slowly isn’t the issue; it is tightly.

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