Warping And Weaving On A Warp-Weighted Loom

Instructions for warping a warp-weighted loom and weaving the warp. A recipe for sizing is included along with directions for striking the warp.

The warp-weighted loom is one of the easiest looms to warp. Especially when compared to large floor loom with multiple sheds. These instructions presuppose a working knowledge of weaving and warping, but there is a brief glossary at the end of the article.

WARPING THE LOOM

Unlike table and floor looms, the warp-weighted loom does not have treadle-operated movable sheds and heddles. It is operated with a fixed shed and three shed sticks with hand-tied string heddles. You weave from the bottom to the top, rolling the finished fabric around the top beam as you go.

Before you start warping for the first time, make sure you have a rigid heddle about four inches wide. Rigid heddles are available from weaving and spinning supply shops and are not expensive. The warp for a warp-weighted loom has a 2" to 4" inch woven band at the top, this can be removed when the weaving is finished or kept as a decorative border.

As with most warping operations, a helper will make the job much easier and faster. A good choice for a first weaving project would be pearle cotton for the warp and weft. This material is easy to work with and does not require sizing. If you elect to work in wool you will need to size the warp and allow it to dry before you begin.

WARP SIZING

Determine the approximate yardage you will need for your warp and put it in skeins about 90 inches around. Tie the skeins securely in at least four places.

Warp Sizing Solution:

Elmer's School Glue (this kind washes out)

4 to 5 pints of water to one pint of glue.

Mix well and saturate the warp skeins in this solution. Wring out the excess sizing, give the skeins a good shake and hang them to dry. When dry you are ready to start making the warp.

BEGINNING

Place two dining room chairs the width of the finished warp apart. If small children are available, have one sit in each chair to keep them from tipping once you start warping. Hopefully your chairs will have spindles the stick up so that you can wrap the yarn end around them, improvise with yard sticks or shed sticks and get more helpers if necessary.

Start by threading your rigid heddle. Your top border will be tighter and more secure if you don't have to cut the ends to get it loose. Once the heddle is warped, place a third chair the length of the finished warp away. Have a helper sit in this chair holding a shed stick. Weave a few rows on the rigid heddle to get it started and then make a long loop down to the third chair and around the shed stick. Each time you do this, change the shed on the rigid heddle. The top of the loop will be the front of the warp and the bottom thread will be the back. Make sure your helper is keeping the threads straight so that you will not have trouble later on when you start tying the string heddles.

Continue weaving the top band and creating the warp threads in this fashion until the correct number of warp threads are woven into the top band. DO NOT CUT THE BOTTOM OF THE WARP FREE YET. Remove the top band from the rigid heddle and tuck in all loose ends with a needle or crochet hook. If your warp is very long, chain it loosely and put into a basket or bag.

ATTACH THE WARP TO THE TOP BEAM

Remove the top beam from the loom and lay it on a work surface. Using strong thread or yarn of a contrasting color (easier to find and remove later), sew the band to the beam, using the drilled holes in one of the flanges. Fasten off securely and place the beam back on the loom. Your warp will now be hanging straight down to the floor. If you chained the warp, unchain it now and separate the front from the back. Gather up the front warp threads tightly in one hand and cut through the bottom loops. Lay the front warp threads over the bottom stationary beam. Now you must be careful not to get the front and back warp threads mixed up.

TYING ON THE WEIGHTS

Divide the front warp into equal portions of about an inch in width and attach a full weight bag to each one. The bags should contain full cans (soda, soup, whatever) or sand and weigh 12 to 16 ounces. All the cans should weigh the same, so full soda cans really are the easiest thing to use. The weights cannot rest on the floor and will be moved as you weave, so use a slipknot fastening that is secure but easy to re-tie when you need to allow more warp onto the loom. When the front is finished, do the back the same way.

THE MOVABLE SHED(S), TYING THE STRING HEDDLES

Place a shed stick on the pegged shed support, resting against the vertical loom supports. Using cotton string, begin making string heddles for the back warp threads. You should have worked out before hand what pattern you want to weave and tie your heddles accordingly. For the simplest basket weave pattern just reach through the front warp threads, taking a back thread between each of pairs of front threads, or every other thread will be from the back. Tie your heddles securely and try to keep them the same size so the shed will open cleanly, giving you ample room to push the shuttle through.



Once all the heddles are tied around the shed stick, try it out by lifting it and pulling it toward you, hooking it on the vertical pegs. You should have opened a nice shed that will be easy to weave with. Adjust any heddles that seem to short or long.

If you are setting up to weave a twill, you will need to repeat this operation with three more shed sticks. When weaving twills on a warp-weighted loom, it is a good idea to color-code your shed sticks. Either mark them with paint or use different colored heddles for each one. Keep a chart of your weaving pinned to the loom so you don't get confused and loose the pattern.

ONE FINAL STEP

It is a good idea to chain the bottom of the front warp, to keep it neat. Loop a thread around each warp thread and tie securely to either side of the vertical sides of the loom. Now you are ready to start weaving.

WEAVING ON THE WARP-WEIGHTED LOOM

Prepare your shuttles, either long lathe shuttles or butterfly bundles as for tapestry weaving, and begin weaving, changing the sheds as necessary for your pattern. After every two courses, beat the threads up using a long stick (a sword beater) or a comb. Do not over beat. Strike the warp frequently so that it does not start to pull in and look like an hourglass. Striking the warp means to cross your arms in front of you and simultaneously strum the warp threads (like a harp) from different directions. Do this every few inches or more often if you notice your fabric is pulling in at the edges and getting narrow.

As your fabric grows, take it up on the top bean and adjust the weights at the bottom to free up more warp. Continue to weave in this fashion until the fabric is the desired length or until you run out of warp.

Remove the finished fabric from the loom and wash and full it to remove the sizing. You can either fringe the bottom or hem it to prevent raveling. It really depends on what you plan to do with the fabric.

GLOSSARY

Warp - The vertical threads in a piece of woven cloth

Weft - The horizontal threads in a piece of woven cloth

Warp-weighted loom - A loom that usually stands upright against a wall, the weaver stands in front of it to weave. The warp tension is controlled by tied-on weights at the bottom of the warp.

Sizing - a liquid applied to warp (and sometimes weft) threads to make weaving easier and prevent the threads from sticking together. It is washed out after the weaving is finished.

String heddles - Usually hand-tied heddles that allow the weaver to control an entire group of warp threads at the same time. This makes weaving faster and easier.

Rigid heddle - a closed comb that contains spaced and drilled slates for changing sheds. This is a convenient tool for making the woven band that locks in the warp threads on a warp-weighted loom.

A very good reference book for warp-weighted loom weaving is The warp-Weighted Loom by Marta Hoffmann (ISBN 82-00-08094-3). This book can be ordered from weaving and spinning supply shops.

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