The more I teach, the more I learn. A few years ago, I wrote a post about how to create more space on your cloth beam. Since that time, I’d thought more about the issue and have a much simpler way to work this maneuver to create space on your cloth beam. This method is particularly useful for folks who don’t have a removable apron rod.
Creating space on your cloth beam is necessary when you overfill your cloth beam with woven cloth and it starts pushing up against your warp and interfering with the weaving process. This bumps up against another question I frequently field, which is “How much warp can I fit on my loom?”.
How much warp and woven cloth you can roll onto your beams depends on your loom, the size of your yarn, and your packing material. The thicker the yarn, the more quickly it grows as it is wrapped around the warp beam and woven off onto the cloth beam. Weavers tend to focus on how much warp they can pack on their warp beam, but an equally important question is how much fabric can you pack on your cloth beam, since it will be thicker than the warp alone. Looms that have additional front and back beams are able to pack more warp on their beams and maintain a tidy shed on longer warps than looms that don’t have these additional beams.
Generally speaking, any rigid-heddle loom, with or without additional front and back beams and regardless of the yarn size, can accommodate a two-and-a-half to three-yard warp without any issues. This isn’t to say you can’t successfully warp and weave more. The finer the yarn, the more you can pack on your beams. When you start exceeding a three-yard warp on looms without beams, you may start to notice differing tensions on your shed layers. To mitigate this, you can slip a shim between the two layers behind the heddle and scootch it to the back on top of the back beam. That will add some extra tension on the warp. Some loom lines have accessories to help you manage this additional length. For instance, the Ashford Knitter’s Loom has an optional Freedom Roller available that creates more space on the front beam.
Creating Space on Your Cloth Beam the Easy Way
Even if you can comfortably warp a long length, you may not be able to weave off the entire warp without encountering issues on your cloth beam. Here is a simple way to create more space.
Start by taking off the brake on your cloth beam and unwinding woven cloth, allowing it to hang in a loop. This warp is just one I happened to have in progress. It isn’t exceeding the capacity of my beam, but it will give you an idea of how to work the technique.
Then press a your hand into the loop under the beam. If you have a wide warp, you can use a rod or a pick-up stick. I prefer a rod—the smaller in diameter, the less room it will take up on the beam.
Keeping your hand in place, engage the brake and begin winding the cloth back onto the beam until the fold catches. Remove your hand and continue putting tension on the warp. You may have a bit of a wiggly fell line (the last woven pick), but depending on your yarn—bouncy wools are more adaptable that inelastic linen—a few woven picks will straighten it out. If you are weaving multiple items on a single warp, try to work this maneuver between items. This way, you can weave some scrap yarn to re-establish your fell line.
You will be winding on a double thickness of the fabric in addition to the newly woven warp, but you will still gain additional space on your beam to get you to the end of your warp. When advancing the warp after weaving more yardage, I add packing paper between the layers to even out any bumpy bits.
This is a much simpler operation than the previous method I shared. I’ll still turn to that original method when weaving something really chunky and long like a blanket, as it seems to work better, but this more streamlined version works really well in most situations.