Counting Down My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #2: Warping back to front

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?

 

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 when the book comes out in 2008.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.”

  • 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.

The above tip is an excerpt from “Weaving for Beginners” and Book 2: “Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps”.


 

 

18 thoughts on “Counting Down My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #2: Warping back to front

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I have a mental block about warping my loom, probably from an unresolved tension between the two methods. I appreciate your insight and now I am going to go commence with my first weaving project in years. Blessings!

  2. THANK YOU!
    I’m a new weaver, quite happily warping back-to-front as I was taught (in the UK), but was thinking of trying front-to-back in order to compose stripes. Making minor shifts in the raddle will be far easier!

    • I still like to go back to front–less tangling in front of the reed, etc. etc. With a huge amount of color changes, I guess front to back is your answer. It would be easier to do if the warp wasn’t too long. I design according to how I weave, so I just wouldn’t do a lot of color changes in the warp. But each of us needs to do what suits us best. Good luck,
      PEggy

      • Hi Peggy,
        Just read your piece on warping back to front and as a rigid heddle weaver that is easier to do. As I transferred from my rigid heddle to a floor loom I have found that back to front wins for me. I just have a question. How do you get the warp at the back from being such a mess! I just can’t stand the way the warp on the warp beam is crossed with warp going everywhere. It looks so UGLY! My weaving teacher said it is not important but having been a rigid heddle weaver I have found that not to be true. It is important that the tension be even…even at the warp beam end of the loom.
        Getting that warp coming from the warp beam to look nice and straight is important to me. How is that done?

        Barb R.
        Shelton CT

  3. Peggy,

    I’ve been weaving since the late 80s, and have recently learned to spin. I’m interested in weaving with energized singles. I need to learn the proper warping technique for that (back to front). I’m wondering whether I should purchase your “Warping the Loom Front to Back” DVD or if for my purposes your book “Weaving for Beginners” might be more pertinent.

    • You should probably get the book–it goes beyond just warping and you’ll need all the good techniques available for your vulnerable or tricky yarns. Peggy

  4. I’m sorry, but it seems to me that you skipped a few steps when you numbered them in the comparison. There is no mention of moving the cross to the back, getting the lease sticks in and attaching them somehow in order to maintain the cross. Then there’s the issue of keeping the tension even from the front while you are rolling onto the back beam. Also, threading the raddle always seemed like sleying a reed twice.

    • I think you work from front-to-back and may not understand back-to- front completely. There is no moving the cross for example. I know many think the raddle is a waste of effort but it is crucial and actually goes fast.

  5. Hi Catherine,
    Threading the raddle, as I have learned from Peggy, is VITAL to keeping all that warp on the back beam evenly tensioned and straight. You don’t want warp threads crossing each other on the way to the heddles. The raddle help greatly with this and is important when using back to front.

  6. I wound my first warp back to front. I learned from the Ashford video on warping your table loom. I also used 2 crosses. One threading and one raddle cross. I made some mistakes, but got through it and made a 12 foot sampler from the myriad drafts offered on Handweaving.net.

    I’m a newbie to this artform/industry. But I think I’ve been bitten by the bug. In Feb of this year I couldn’t care less about fiber arts. Now I own a Weavers Delight and a Dorset table loom. I decided to learn on the table loom before tackling the big boy. Yes, my WD is a boy. Its name is Gus. 😉

    I have a question about your warping technique though. You say to ‘wind the warp’ then ‘wrap it around a kite stick’. What is a kite stick? I understand it to eliminate the chaining of the warp. I also get benefit of not chaining the warp if you’re going to the loom right away. But a ‘kite stick’? You got me there Peggy.

    I love your blog and your wonderful tips on weaving. Bless you for passing on all this great expertise.

    • A kitestick is just a piece of wood or a stick approximately 1 1/2″ x 12″ x 12″ or longer. This is not a precice measurement. In a pinch, a ruler or a yard stick will do.

      • Thank you Peggy, I found it on another of your pages since reading this entry. Wrap it like an “x”.
        It was just the first time I’ve seen it – anywhere!

        I’ve seen the F2B method in numerous videos, and I have to agree with the seeming confusion that goes on in front of the loom prior to threading the heddles and beaming. Being a newbie, that type of risk of tangles is just to great. Having only done one warp and that one B2F I think the raddle was the key. Separating the sections on the raddle was a crucial key to understanding and seeing what I had actually created on the warping board. As a beginner weaver with no teacher, it was all about maintaining organization throughout. The raddle, not needing to ‘tie on’ to the warp beam and following the natural path of the warp taught me a lot. I can always change at a later date, but for now, B2F is my MO.

        • Yeah Tom and welcome to the club of the fiber smitten. It is an wonderful infection and may it produce many more runners, towels, shawls and blankets for your enjoyment!

          Barb R.
          Shelton CT

    • Tom – not sure if you will ever see this comments as I oft times find that many online comments vanish into the ether (LOL) – but I just had to comment to say that I also own a Weaver’s Delight and I had the fortune of receiving one with warp pre-loaded onto the beam. While this is great in the sense that it eliminated one step for me, it kinda sucks because the poor warp beam has been sitting for 30+ years with cotton rag rug warp wound on it, and the wood is probably starting to buckle from the heaviness of the warp in a semi damp basement. Though there does not appear to be any wood rot and the cotton yarn itself is not rotted. So needless to say, I am just gonna go for it and try to thread my heddles and sley reed and tie on apron in the front. But, man, I don’t know what a raddle is. I don’t think my loom came with one. Is that the same thing as a tension box? I understand when it *is* time for me load warp onto that beam, I am probably going to want a tension box, and will probably need to make a concerted effort to fix my spool rack or build a warping mill/board. Hmmmmm.

      • If you warp your loom sectionally with many spools you won’t need a raddle. However, you will need a tension box. Warping sectionally is a special technique–only that it is different from warping on a plain beam which most people do, I think.

  7. Hello, when making two crosses on a warping board, must they match?
    In other words if the top cross is begun under first peg and over second peg must the bottom cross also be first under then over?
    Thank you.

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