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Warping Doesn’t Have to Be Scary! Weave-Along Color-and-Weave Warping Tips

As I hoped, the color-and-weave pattern for this weave-along has already generated lots of discussion about warping. For those who are still newish weavers, don’t let all these geeky details overwhelm you. Take what you need and leave the rest.

Think of these weave-alongs as an interactive pattern instead of a class. The Facebook and Ravelry groups are there for you to pop in and ask questions and see your fellow yarnworker’s progress. We laugh, we cry, we encourage, and we celebrate.

This post steps you through some of the pain points that you might encounter as you warp.  If you are brand new to warping, you will want to get your hands on a good set of instructions. I cover the two main methods of warping in the revised edition of my book, Weaving Made Easy, and in my video Slots and Holes.

Warping Color-and-Weave

The pattern you see in these towels is created by alternating contrasting “light” and “dark” ends in plain weave to make a seemingly complex structure. One place were folks get confused, is using the interchangeable language of “pattern” and “structure” in weaving. Color-and-Weave is a plain weave structure that creates unique patterns. In this usage, a structure is the way the yarns interlace, whereas  the pattern is the look they produce.

This particular towel is made by threading 2 ends of fine 8/2 unmercerized cotton in every slot or hole. We need to wrap our heads around the concept of “ends” (each individual thread) and working ends or the yarns that go into each  spaces either the slot or a holes.  For example, to thread the Dacquari colorway, you thread 8 ends Jade over 4 spaces (slot, hole, slot, hole), 2 ends Turk (slot), 4 ends jade (hole, slot), and 2 ends Turk (hole). This gives you a working end of two threads each. Note: it doesn’t matter if you start on a slot or a hole. I started in a slot in this example.

Direct and Indirect

There are two basic ways to warp your loom: direct using a warping peg, and indirect using a warping board. This towel pattern provides you with an opportunity to examine why one might be better the other and to consider a hybrid of the two, if that suits you. There is no right way.

In general this is how I apply the two methods.

Direct: Solid warps of a single yarn type, short warps of 3 yds or less, stripes of even-numbered warp ends

Indirect: Mixed warps of multiple yarn types, long warps of 3 yds or more, stripes with odd numbers of ends, complicated color orders.

You can also do hybrid methods, using elements of each method to get the job done.

Tips for Direct Warpers

Direct warpers, you are in luck! This pattern offers you a unique opportunity.  Since you double the yarns as you work already, you can warp the holes at the same time you warp the slots! Doubling your ends is a boon for direct warpers who want to do color-and-weave since threading complicated color orders can be such a pain.

Because of its length, you can also use a hybrid system by using the warping board as a peg system. To do this, clamp the board to a table and use it as both a warping peg and a warp storage system, keeping the warp in a more compact area. If possible, you want to position the warping board so that the first peg you wind around is lined up with the middle of the rigid heddle. This may mean you have to place your board to the left or right of the loom.

Lining Up The Warping Board For the Direct Method

Lining up the board like this will keep you from having uneven ends, a common problem with wide warps and the direct method. Sometimes this isn’t possible with your set-up. If it isn’t, just add a few inches of extra warp length to compensate for any unevenness.

This pattern isn’t exceptionally wide so you don’t have to worry too much. I consider a wide warp to be more than 15 inches.  (For future reference, to mitigate this problem on wide warps, use more than one peg so the the warp isn’t traveling at steep angles.)

There is nothing wrong with having the yarn travel straight to the loom. If you have a good set-up for this, you can warp these towels just as you always have with the exception of warping the holes at the same time you warp the slots.

Tips for Indirect Warpers

Using the formula outlined at the beginning of this blog post, I would use a warping board because this warp is over 3 yards.  I do have a confession, which is pretty much an open secret. I often find myself in a warping bias situation. I almost exclusively teach the direct method because it is so easy to learn and relatively faster than the indirect method—20 minutes for the average scarf vs. 40 minutes. However, I almost exclusively use the indirect method because I find it more comfortable, and generally speaking, I get better results.

If you are in the weave-along Facebook group, I’ve been doing a series of videos about warping as I prepared for this post—I had to warp my looms to take these photos! Keep in mind these are demonstrations and not tutorials. Here is a brief pop-in I did from my desk that explains why I love my warping board and the indirect method so much.

For some, the pain point is removing the cross from the warping board. I wrote a blog post about it awhile back. The most important thing to do before you remove the warp is to tie at least one choke to keep the warp tidy and intact as you thread the loom. To do this, measure your warp from your back beam to the front beam and tie a choke around the warp this same distance from the cross. A choke tie is simply a length of contrasting yarn that is tied tightly around the warp using an overhand knot.

You can also tie additional chokes down the length of the warp or chain your warp if you are nervous about keeping your warp tidy as you move it from board to loom and while winding on.

To do this, slip the ends of the warp away from the threading cross off the board. Form a loop at one end by draping the warp over your fist and then pull the warp through the loops like a crochet chain stitch. Be mindful that the cross doesn’t slip off the board. If this is your first time doing this, you may want to tie a few loose choke ties at the four points or around the middle of the cross to keep it secure as you work.

Chaining the Warp

We are veering into floor loom methodology, and over the years I’ve found that many of the “rules” that you hear about warping comes from applying floor loom warping methods for super long warps to the rigid heddle. While weaving is weaving, with rigid-heddle weaving, we are still talking about relatively short warps, compared to the yards and yards and yards that floor loom weavers put on their looms. Some of the elements of warp management may or may not be necessary. What looks like a mess will tidy itself up as you wind on.

One additional note: different loom styles may also dictate your technique.  For instance, Kromski owners are probably schooled in using the warping helper which essentially an indirect hybrid method. This method and other methods that recommend removing the apron rod to manage the warp is not an option for folks who can’t remove their apron rod, such as Ashford Knitter’s loom folk.

Winding On

With either method, when you wind on, you want to mess with your warp as little as possible. We have a great need to comb our warp as we work. Resist! This is particularly tempting if we run into a snarl or a snag which is more common with the warping board where the warp hasn’t been traveling in a straight line during winding. Raking will introduce tension problems and it is the number one reason why your warp develops soft spot or loose warp ends as you weave.

To wind on, I use the crank and yank method. To prepare, cut short lengths of packing material, about 2 – 3 feet long. I like to use kraft paper, see this post for more info about packing materials).  I do not recommend keeping the warp under tension as you wind.

As you wind, let the rigid heddle do the work for you. If you run into snarls, shake the warp like reins.  If you hit a snarl that shaking doesn’t take care of, then use your threading hook to separate the yarn at the rigid heddle, disturbing the warp as little as possible. Then continue winding on.

That’s it, folks! Tomorrow is our official start of the second Yarnworker Weave-Along. Remember this is a go-your-own adventure, adventure. Feel free to work ahead or lag behind. I’m thrilled to have you join me as I reweave my lost teaching samples. It has also given me lots of ideas for other ways we can learn together.

Happy Warping!


P.S. There is still plenty of time to join in. We will be warping, weaving, and finishing our towels throughout November. The pattern is available here, and Cotton Clouds has a handy kit available that makes it easy for you to join in. The pattern isn’t included in the kit.

Liz Gipson Widgets
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