Thursday, January 13, 2011

Warp your rigid heddle the easy way

Warping a loom is one of the most tedious parts of weaving, but with a rigid heddle loom, it isn't complicated. Using a warping peg and warping directly to the loom, you can have most projects ready to weave in an hour.
Start with a simple project and use inexpensive thread or yarn. Then you don't need to calculate how much yarn you need. For those of you who like to figure, I will include some length calculations, if you don't want to count it, just gather a bunch of yarn :-)

Using a 72 inch scarf as an example, you would need 96 inches of warp yarn, times a 10 inch width, woven on a 10 dent reed - means you need 9600 inches of yarn for your warp - or 267 yards. If you want half white and half another color, then you'll need 134 yards of each color. Not bad, when you put it in yards. You will need an approximately equivalent amount for the weft, the cross yarns you weave in.

In addition to the yarn, you need a rigid heddle loom, these are often available online. Just search rigid heddle loom to find looms usually listed from $9.95 to $500. The loom should have a heddle, braces, 2 brakes, front and back beams, a warp beam and a fabric beam. If you have any questions whether or not a loom is complete, feel free to ask me via a comment here or an email. 

In addition to the loom and yarn, you need 
  1. scissors, 
  2. a tiny crochet hook or heddle hook, 
  3. a table or stand to put the loom on, 
  4. clamps of some sort to hold the loom on the table and 
  5. a stable peg that you can have a set distance from the loom. 
My dining room chairs have spindles on the top. I weight those down with a bunch of books and use them, because they are handy. Some looms come with a warping peg or a stair bannister works. You just need something upright that you can drop a loop of yarn over and that will hold the yarn for as long as it takes you to warp the loom. This time factor generally leaves husbands and children out of the equation!

Find the center of your rigid heddle. This is usually marked on used looms. If it isn't marked, you'll need to find it by counting the slots. Tie a thread through the slot and around the top of the heddle to mark the center, or mark it with a pen. Now, measure 5 inches from the center to each side. Mark these slots with threads. This will give you the 10 inch width for your scarf.

Start with the back of your loom at the edge of the table. The front of the loom faces the peg/chair on the other side of the table.
  1. Clamp the loom to the table and set your peg 96 inches away from the back beam of the loom. 
  2. Set your first ball of yarn on a chair below the loom, or on the floor. 
  3. Tie the end of the yarn to the warp (back) beam of the loom.
  4. Using your heddle hook pull a loop of your yarn through the slot marked as 5 inches from the center. You can go either to the right or left, which ever is more comfortable for you. 
  5. Take that loop of yarn across the front beam of the loom. Don't do anything with this beam yet
  6. Pull the loop all the way to the peg and drop it around the warping peg.
  7. Go back to the warp beam and pull a loop of thread from the cone, around the back beam and through the next heddle slot.
Continue across the heddle, pulling a loop of thread up from the cone on the chair, threading it through the next slot and drawing the loop down to the warping peg. The loops will go over the warp beam and then under the warp beam. 
When you have threaded all the slots from your beginning thread to your ending marker for a total of 10 inches, cut the thread several inches past the back warp beam. Tie the end of the thread to the beam.
Now, carefully slide the warp threads off of the peg. Begin winding the warp onto the back beam by turning the beam or knobs attached to it. When the threads start winding onto the beam, you will need to put paper, newspaper, cardboard or some other paper on the beam, under the threads. This is to separate the layers and keep the tension equal.

When you have the warp wound on the back beam and there is about 8 to 12 inches left in front of the heddle, STOP. Set the brake and turn the loom around. For the next step, you need scissors and it is easier to finish warping while you are seated.

Take a good look at the loom in front of you. There are two threads going through each slot. Next to each slot is a heddle with a hole in it. For the weaving to work, half the threads have to go through those holes. 

Pick up your warp threads, take your scissors and cut the ends of the loops. With your heddle hook or small crochet hook take one thread of each pair and pull it through the hole. This is much easier to do than it is to explain. Feel free to print these instructions and try to work through this process. If you have any questions, send me a message. 

When you have one thread through each slot and hole in your ten inch weaving width, you are ready to tie on. Pick up the first 4 threads in one hand and the next four in the other hand. Pull the threads over the cloth beam, around, under and then up over and tie them together. Just use a single, over hand knot, so that you can tighten the threads in the next step. Again, this is easy do, just hard to explain.

When you have all the threads tied on with a single knot, check the tension on them and tighten them where needed. As you tighten, knot the threads again, making a double knot in each bundle. Begin winding the cloth beam forward, This will tighten the warp further. Check for any missed slots, or holes or crossed threads. This is your last chance to correct warping mistakes.

Raise and lower the heddle. Check your warp threads again to make sure the tension on all of them is even. 

Take some sheet fabric, tee shirt material or even paper towels. Raise your heddle and set the material in. Pull your heddle forward to beat the fabric tight. This is spacer fabric, you will pull it out when you cut your scarf off the loom. It evens out your warp and will spread the gaps from the tie on. Lower your heddle and weave and then beat the next pass through.

This raising and lowering is how you create your weaving. You raise the heddle and put your weft through from one side. Then you lower the heddle and run your weft back through from the other side. You beat your fabric tight with the heddle between each pass. Weave in 3 or 4 rows of spacer.  Look how the space fabric is woven through the warp threads.

Now, wind your weft yarn onto your shuttle. I like to wind mine on in a butterfly pattern. Then it comes off easier when you are weaving. Wind on as much as you are comfortable handling. Remember, you will need to slide it through the gap between the slot threads and the hole threads. This gap is called a "shed"

Run your shuttle through your through the shed, leaving the end of the yarn hanging out several inches. Beat the weft yarn in, then change your heddle position. Tuck the end of the weft yarn in and run the shuttle back through. Keep your edges loose and leave your weft thread in an angle. Beat it down. This raise heddle, run the shuttle through, beat, lower heddle, run shuttle through, beat, is the basic pattern for your weaving. There are many good books out there that explain this process in detail and have wonderful patterns for weaving.

Congratulations - you've warped your loom! Happy weaving!

Guide ID: 10000000001572825Guide created: 08/22/06 (updated 12/19/10)

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