Please Note: Search for Two Stick Heading. There is another tip with complete illustrations.
Many weavers never learned about this heading, but it has been used for centuries. It is a great help and can be used in two different ways. First, it is used for the initial heading to spread out the warp threads. Second, it provides a technique that lets you cut of lengths of your woven cloth as you go; you won’t have to weave the entire warp before you can get your hands on the goods.
The warp threads that were tied on to the apron rod in bundles now need to be spread out by weaving a heading. But please ignore the suggestions you hear about headings woven with rags, toilet paper, or any of those bumpy, bulgy recommendations. Instead, weave the 2-stick heading described below, which gives you a smooth, knot-free base for your cloth. It works for most warps except for warps with very few ends per inch like those for tapestry and other weft-faced weaves.
You need a pair of sticks that fit on your cloth beam and won’t interfere with the ratchet. They could be lease sticks, dowels, or metal rods. I prefer thin and lightweight sticks rather than thick ones because they take up less warp and aren’t so bulky.
Begin weaving the heading immediately after you’ve tied the warp onto the apron. Weave plain weave, or as close to plain weave as you can. Use a thin weft, like carpet warp. (A color that contrasts with the warp color shows up errors fast; but don’t choose a color that might make a stain when wet.) Throw 3 or 4 wefts of plain weave, but don’t beat each weft. Beat the 3 or 4 wefts in together. If the warp has not been completely spaced out, throw 3 or 4 more wefts, then beat. A few more wefts of plain weave, beaten normally, will even out the selvedges. This technique will quickly space out your warp and even out any irregularities of tension in the warp. Any loose threads will loop up and even themselves out. That’s why I told you earlier not to agonize when tying on!
After you’ve woven the initial heading (or at least 1″), insert a stick in one plain weave shed, insert another stick in the next plain weave shed, and continue weaving for 1″ or so. See Figure A which shows you the heading in detail.
How to make a smooth base on the cloth beam
Now is the to time cut off the knots in the warp bundles to make a smooth base on the cloth beam. (See below if you want fringe.) This gives you a smooth, flat (lump-free because there are no knots) surface for your accumulating cloth to roll onto.
Follow these steps:
- Carefully cut between the knots and the first inch of the heading you wove. Leave both headings and the sticks attached to the loom! Be careful not to cut the loom’s apron cords! (If you want fringe, don’t cut anything and read below.)If the warp is sparse or slippery, put some white glue or tape on the cut edge. That prevents the heading from unraveling or the warps from pulling out of the heading when the warp is put back on tension.
- Fold the sticks against each other with the first inch of the heading folded underneath. (Fold the first inch on top of the cloth if your cloth is thick, so the cloth beam will have a smoother base.) See Figure B.
- Tie the two folded sticks to the front apron rod at 3″ intervals. Make the ties strong by doubling a string about the size of carpet warp. Make the first tie in the center of the warp to hold the sticks stable. You might find it easier if you wind up the cloth apron until the apron rod is resting on the breast beam. Then pull the heading sticks (and the warp) forward to the apron rod and tie them together while steadying them on the breast beam. Use strong but not fat string, and put the knots on the edge of the apron rod so you won’t make lumps with the ties.
- Begin weaving again. The warp tension remains unchanged; since the heading was woven on tension before it was cut off, all the threads remain evenly tensioned as you resume.
If you want fringe, untie the knots instead of cutting them off and fold the sticks as above. Then smoothly fold back the unknotted warp threads as well as the heading.
Cutting off the cloth as you go
This is a technique I love to use. You can cut off pieces as you weave them; it’s not necessary to wait until the entire warp is used up before cutting off fabric. The headings and two sticks save precious warp because you don’t need to tie the warps back on to the apron rod. I always cut off a sample at the beginning of my warps to see if I like the result and to test for shrinkage. Then I know for sure just what the woven cloth will be like. I don’t worry about whether the warp tension is the same because I made the heading with the warp on tension.
When you’re ready to cut off a length of cloth, make the complete 2-stick heading just like above. (Weave 1″ of plain weave or as close to plain weave as you can and insert 2 sticks into the next two plain weave sheds and weave one inch more. That’s the complete heading.)
Cut between the cloth and the first inch of the heading you wove, leaving the complete heading attached to the loom. See Figure C. Remove the cloth from the front apron rod.
Fold the two sticks as usual, and tie them to the apron rod like Figure C.
Continue weaving, knowing your warp tension remains the same.
Checking for Errors
Once you’re tied up, you can open the sheds to check for errors. If you find one, occasionally you have to re-thread from the place of the mistake to the nearest selvedge, but many mistakes can be corrected without all that work. Errors that you might encounter, how to identify them, and how fix to them are in the section “How to Fix Broken Threads and Correct Errors” later in the chapter. If you worked methodically when you were threading and sleying, and you checked your work frequently-after each section-you may never have to spend time re-doing instead of doing.
This tip is an excerpt from Chapter 6, “Weaving” in Book 2, Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps– Revised Edition.