Dressing your loom

There are plenty of sources of information (online and with every new loom) about how to get the warp in place, so I’m not going to do a step-by-step here. Instead I thought it’d be useful to look at the things – four I was struck by – that the instructions don’t always go into.

One: Direct warping, or not

Essentially there are two ways to measure out your warp; wind it onto a warping board, or put it directly onto the back beam (warp beam) of the loom and run it out to a peg.

With a rigid heddle loom it’s easy to direct warp if you have enough space and patience to walk it out to the required length. The advantage of direct warping is it basically removes a step and so saves some time.

The warping board however allows you to warp a long length in a compact space and I suspect it makes it easier to alternate colours (not sure, haven’t used a warping board yet).

Two: Front to back or back to front?

When putting the warp onto the loom you can start by tying it to the back beam or to the front beam. Some people seem pretty passionate about which way works best, but most weaving “gurus” seem to say that you should do what works for you.

Three: The cross and the raddle

The most important thing when getting the warp onto the loom is making sure that you keep your threads in order. When using a warping board, you do this by creating a “cross” where the threads get interlaced so they can’t get out of order.

A raddle, is also used to help keep threads tidy while warping the loom. It is basically a separator, so you can put smaller groups of threads in their right order while you do the steps involved in warping.

Four: What’s with the paper?

If you’ve seen anyone dressing a loom you’ll have seen them feed card/paper in between the layers of warp, but why?

Well, for even tension across all threads, they need to be the same length at any given point in the weaving. If you don’t use paper between the layers of warp, you risk some threads “cutting in” to the layer below, which will mean they’ll be shorter than their fellows.

Still a bit unclear? Think of the layers of warp as a spiral, where as you add layers each layer forms a bigger circle. If a thread falls through to the circle below, then it will take less thread to wrap around that layer of the spiral than the layer it’s supposed to be on.  Thus, it ends up shorter than it’s friends!