Most weaving patterns tell you how much loom waste they allow in the warp length within the project specs. In general, I allow 18”– 22” for the direct method, which requires that you tie onto the front apron rod and 22”– 26” for the indirect, which requires that you tie onto the apron rod in front and back. How much loom waste you need for any given project depends on how much yarn you use to tie on your knots, your loom type, and your finishing technique.
Loom waste is the length of warp that you can’t weave due to loom mechanics and the bits that you use to tie onto the apron rods. I’ve observed that beginners tend to use more loom waste than more experienced weavers. This is largely due to dialing in your knotting technique. Your style of loom can also dictate your loom waste. On my Cricket, I use about 6” of loom waste in the front and 11” in the back. I increase this by 15% when weaving on my Flip. If my project includes fringe, much of this length isn’t wasted, it is used in the final project.
The next time you weave a project, take the time to do a quick loom waste audit to determine how much loom waste you actually use. If using the direct method, you can do this by measuring the amount of warp left that you can’t physically weave at the end of your project, before you cut it from the loom. Then you can cut the project free of the back apron rod, unwind the project from your front beam, untie the warp from the front apron rod, and measure how much warp you used in the front. Include your headers in these measurements. If using the direct method, you will need to untie in the front and back before taking the measurements.
By taking the time to do this, you have your own personal guideline as to how much yarn you need to allow for any given project. If you are trying out a new technique or fiber, I recommend increasing this amount by 10%–15%, to allow for the learning curve.
Schacht Spindle Company wrote an article in their July newsletter about lashing as a way to reduce your loom waste. It is a tried-and-true method weavers use to decrease their loom waste, particularly when they are trying to eke out those last few inches at the end of a project. I generally don’t recommend this technique for beginners because it can be tricky to get your tension even when your learning curve is steep, but after you have a few projects under your belt, you may want to experiment with lashing. That said, you never know what you can do until you try.