Warping the Loom, Front to Back

For me, warping the loom, is the slowest part of the process. Warping a loom is taking all the strings you just wound on the warping board and painstakingly inserting each thread through the many moving parts of the loom that will eventually create the fabric. One mistake and all is lost. 

Peaceful warpThat may be an exaggeration but one mistake has the potential to create a massive headache for the weaver. Metaphorically and physically speaking, of course.      

There are basically two different ways to warp a loom. Putting the warp (strings, yarn, fiber, etc) on from the front of the loom or putting it on from the back of the loom.

This may sound like a simple decision. But don't be fooled by simplistic words. It's like entering a house from the front door or the back door. Sounds easy but sometimes the path to entry is very different.

For me, I use different methods for different purposes. If I am designing on the loom, I warp front to back. What this means is I may have some bouts (groups) of yarns and I want to string them onto the loom as I see fit while at the loom. If this makes no sense, I understand, bear with me. 

I get to choose each string order while sitting at the loom. I get to see the pattern as it develops right in front of me. I pick and choose as I see fit and can adjust accordingly.

For me, the way my brain works, this is easiest. I get to decide on the fly. As a person who thinks planning is for the uptight and anal retentive, I like doing things on the fly. These differences in how we all think is what makes us all unique. To each his or her own. 

As I plan, I place each and every string through the metal reed which eventually will keep my warp aligned and happy. A happy warp is a happy weaver. Weaving Heddles and Reed

When all the strings are through the reed, they are then strung, one - by - one through a heddle. Each string gets its own heddle. The heddles are what raise and lower the strings that eventually create the fabric. The order the strings are put through the heddles, that are on shafts, created by a lift plan that creates the floats that create the stability, or instability of the fabric you are designing and weaving.

And you thought this was simple!

Once through the reed and the heddles, the rest is easy, so to speak.

The strings have to be tied to the back warping beam, and wound onto the loom under tension. 

This is usually the part that creates the headache, or migraine, frustration, aggravation, or joy.

To comb or not to comb. 

When you comb your hair, the comb removes knots. Right? 

It would only sound logical that combing the strings, or hair, would also remove knots. 

If your hair were 13 yards long, where would the knots go? 

Maybe further down your hair? 

Yes, that's what happens. The knots just move, and grow and morph into often unmanageable monsters that eat small children. Who knew yarn could be so violent? Often, depending on the size of the string, how many strings there are, the fiber and/or fuzziness of the strings, and other variables, will often determine whether combing is a necessary evil or something to be avoided like the plague. 

Those who weave with sturdy cotton yarn in small numbers may find that combing your warp isn't needed. I also love videos made of yarn that is all one color, thick and few in number. This makes it look so easy. But when you are warping 500-1500+ threads of varying colors and fibers, it's a different story. 

This is the sluggish part of the process. If the universe is lined up in your favor today, you can put your combing fingers away and life will be good. Get out the tequila, brownies or champagne and celebrate!

If the universe is working against you and the stars are shooting across the universe in all directions, the only comb you will be needing is a pair of scissors to cut the knots out and start over. Get out the scotch, it's gonna be a long night. 

I've been warping looms since the 1980's and have jumped for joy and I've crawled into the corner of despair over warping. Warping is not for faint hearted grannies. Don't let anyone tell you you don't need strong underwear or years of experience for warping.  



Warping mess

If everything was aligned, your warp is beamed and wound, you are on your way to creating your fabric. 

A few hours, days or months later, when the knots are gone or you've cut the warp off and started again, You are at the end, which is only the beginning. You get to tie onto the front beam and start weaving. The moment we weavers wait for. To find out if the process worked. Or didn't. 

If it didn't work, you have some adjusting to do. Good thing you have on your strong underpants. You may need them now. Usually, if you catch mistakes here, they are a somewhat easy fix. It's when you get a few feet into the rhythm of weaving and see the mistake that you have some decisions to make. Take a breath and keep going, making the mistake part of the plan or, take lots of deep breaths and find a solution.  

I've made both decisions. Time has taught me mistakes I see may not be mistakes as seen by others. We are our own worst critics. We need to love ourselves, mistakes and all. 

Stay tuned as we forge ahead into warping back to front. A different more or less sluggish path for those willing to forge into the unknown. 

You can enjoy the entire process here, if interested. 

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