Warping for Non-Weavers

13 Apr

I thought I’d share a quick explanation of the first few phases of the process known as “warping.” Warping is the process of getting yarn measured, organized, threaded, and properly tensioned on your loom so you can begin to weave.

Warping isn’t my favorite part of weaving. It’s repetitive, involves math, requires your full concentration, and almost never comes out completely perfect the first time. All that being said, I love weaving, and warping is the price I pay to get to the fun part. I just finished getting 13 yards of orange, rust, maroon, and brown on the loom, so these pictures are from that process.

My first step in choosing my warp is to pull yarns out of my stash that are the right color and will work for my project. I should warn you that I’m a bit of a fast-and-loose yarn selector, and that gets me into trouble once in a while. I mix yarns specifically spun for weaving with knitting yarns and novelty yarns. Some weavers will tell you that this sort of blending will all end in tears, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Next up, I wind all the yarn onto spools and put the spools on a spool rack. Then I pick which threads I want to put together, and thread them though a tension box. From there, the are wound directly onto the sectional back beam of the loom.

Each section is wound individually. I tie the ends of the yarn together, attach them to a leader, and then turn the warp beam a given number of times. My beam is roughly one yard in circumference, so if I want 13 yards, I turn the beam 13 times.

Once all the sections are filled, each yarn is threaded through a heddle.

Heddles have an eye (like a needle’s eye) in the middle. They sit on shafts which are moved up and down by your feet.

The structure of your woven fabric is created by the interaction of the warp threads being raised and lowered by your feet and your weft threads being added with your hands.

If all this sounds a bit complicated, that’s because it is…  but it’s also really cool at the same time. I highly recommend taking any opportunity that comes your way to see a loom in action. In the U.S., many weaver’s guild do demonstrations at state fairs. It’s a great way to see the entire process of making cloth from fiber to yarn to finished fabric.