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Geeking Out: Increasing the Capacity of your Cloth Beam

I often get asked, “How much warp can I pack on the beam of my loom?” The limiting factor is often how much woven cloth can you fit on your cloth beam, since the woven cloth is twice as bulky as the warp. Eventually, the woven cloth will press up against the warp and you won’t be able to get a clean shed.We just wrapped up—pun intended—another weave-along, tackling the Hudson Bay Inspired Throw from Handwoven Home. It was our second doubleweave weave-along, this time tackling a larger, wider, and bulkier piece.

I often get asked, “How much warp can I pack on my beam?” I included my answer to this age-old question on page 149 of Handwoven Home. In summary, it depends on the size of your yarn, your packing material, and your loom. The limiting factor is often not how much you can get on your warp beam, but how much woven cloth can you fit on your cloth beam, since the woven cloth is twice as bulky as the warp. Eventually, the woven cloth will press up against the warp and you won’t be able to get a clean shed. (Keep in mind that looms with front and back beams can hold more warp comfortably on their warp and cloth beams.)

You cannot imagine my glee, when during the weave-along I learned a new trick that can increase the capacity of any loom’s front beam. The issue came up when Barb Hoskins, a dedicated weave-alonger, feared she would run out of room on the front beam of her Ashford Knitters Loom before she finished her throw. Ann Michell, another long-time weave-along participant who was weaving along virtually, offered up a blog post from the Curious Weaver, a Saori weaver in Australia. Ann had tucked away the tip for a rainy day. In the post, Kaz, the Curious Weaver, showed a trick she had learned to increase the capacity of her front beam.

I immediately hopped up from my desk and ran to the loom to see if I could adapt this method to the rigid-heddle loom. It worked like a charm! The key is allowing your warp to drape behind the apron rod and in front of the cloth beam. To do this, you have to slip off your middle apron cords and leave the outer ones in place. My loom has removable apron cords, so the procedure was relatively easy. Barb’s loom has fixed cords, so she further adapted the technique, and re-tied her fabric to a new rod and lashed it to her apron rod. For other folks with the Knitters Loom, you can also snip the fixed cords and buy new ones.

Then it is a matter of cranking the beam forward a few times as you normally would and the fabric miraculously catches and winds onto the beam. [Edit: by popular demand I’m adding a short little video I took of winding on. I personally didn’t really get it, until I tried the technique for myself.]

Although this step wasn’t necessary for me to take, I decided to continue weaving with my beam packed this way to see if there were any issues as the fabric grew. I found that using new packing paper was necessary to keep a nice fell line, but other than that, I haven’t had any issues. Barb was also able to weave off her throw with no further issues.

This is what I love about the weave-alongs, I learn so much. Sometimes it is a better way to explain things or gain a better understanding where weavers get tripped up in the weaving process and how to help them, and sometimes it is an entirely new-to-me technique.

Thanks to everyone who wove along. I love seeing your finished throws. I’m gearing up for a new weave-along in late May/early June. Stay tuned for details.

Heddles Up!

Liz

9 thoughts on “Geeking Out: Increasing the Capacity of your Cloth Beam”

    • If I understand your question, it is how do you tension the warp after reconfiguring it in this way? Once you have reconfigured your weaving with it hanging between the rod and the beam, you crank the beam forward as if to roll up the warp as you normally would. The fabric catches after a few rotations leaving that little bit hanging out giving you more room on the beam. It may be one of those things you have to do to get, but it works like a charm.

  1. LOVE learning this!
    I agree with learning how to explain something in a different way. I teach knitting (free to ICU nurses) and teach them the way they learn. I am a visual learner. All the words in the world do not help me unless there is a picture or video to go along.
    Thank you for being a great teacher!
    PS: Lois, from Bountifulspinweave, thinks you are very good, too.

    • Anyone who is a teacher gets the great satisfaction of meeting students where they are and having them push you out of where you are.

      Lois and I go way back, tell her hi from me.

  2. I’d have to try this to be able to see how it works as I’m not blessed with the vision thing to picture it from these photos! I have a Kromski Fiddle and it has a single cord that runs through holes in the apron rod (I can’t find any pictures online but you probably know what I mean) so I’d have to replace them I guess if I ever wanted to weave something that large on the little loom.

    • You are in luck. I took a short video of cranking the front beam until the cloth caught and tension was added, while I was working on the project. I added it to the blog post.

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