Normally the place to start is with the measuring of the Warp, but it takes a good bit of time to measure out warp, even with a warping reel. Warping reels are faster and easier on a person than a warping board, but both do the job very well.
In deciding how much warp you will need the first thing you need to do is decide how wide your project is going to be and how long you want it. Our project is going to be 12 inches wide and 108 inches long. We are going to be using a 12 dent reed, so we need to multiply 12 inches (width) by 12 which is the reed dent and that will give us 144 Threads. I like a 2 selvage floating selvage so I must add 4 threads to the 144 giving me a total of 148 threads. Since we will be making this scarf 108 inches long our warp must be 108 inches plus whatever waste we think we will loose on the loom. We will have to add what ever amount of waste there will be. We will use 12 inches to the 108, giving us a total of 120 inches of warp. This means that we need 148 threads 120 inches long. We will need a total of a minimum of 493 yards for the warp. In calculating for a balanced weave, which is what we will be doing, you will need as much weft thread as warp thread. I like to give myself a little extra so I usually add 1-2 yards, and if you want fringe you have to figure that in with the warp. Other weaves have different requirements, such as warp faced takes approximately twice as much warp thread as weft, and a weft-faced almost twice as much weft thread as warp thread. With this in mind we will need approximately 1000 yards for this scarf.
The cross is one of the most important parts of securing the warp for the loom. Tie the cross securely so that you will not loose it. You will want to tie in amounts of warp threads that are easy to handle. I like to tie a shoe string around bundles of 25 threads when counting and stop my bundles at 100 threads because its easiest for me to hold. Chain the warp by starting with a large loop at the tail end of the warp threads and pull a loop through this first loop with the warp threads until you have a chain that controls all the warp. Bring this bundle to the front beam of the loom and drape over the beam.
At first make your thread bundles small, maybe 25 threads so you can control the warp threads easier. Also because the bundles are 120 inches long and short, unchain the warp and let it drape over the front beam while you work, otherwise you would leave the majority of it in the chain. Place your fingers in the cross in the most comfortable position for you to hold for a length of time that may become long enough to be tiring. When you have the bundle in your fingers with the cross secure in such a way you feel you will not loose it cut the loop end freeing up all the threads so you can pull them one at a time through the reed.
I pin my beater frame to the frame of the loom so that it will not move with a pin that goes through the upright of the beater on both sides of the loom and into the frame of the loom. If you do not want to drill this hole, or your loom will not permit it you can tie it with shoe laces or cord, but its not as stable.
Measure the reed and find the center and mark the reed with something that you can leave there, like a thread, marks a lot, etc. Then at slot 74 (which is half of the warp threads) place the reed hook through the reed to mark your slot. If you have a weaver’s ruler its simpler to find “center 0". A weaver’s ruler starts and the center of the ruler and numbers from the center left and right to the end of the ruler. Just try to make sure you have the same number of inches for the threads on both sides of “center 0" to balance the warp.
Lean up against the breast beam in a position that you can pull the threads through the reed one at a time with as little stress as possible to your body. Then at the side easiest for you to work from (I start on the right side of the reed) begin by pulling 2 threads through the reed for the floating selvage. Then proceed to pull the warp thread through the reed one at a time until you reach the end of the threads on the opposite side of the reed.. Don’t forget the 2 threads that make the floating selvage on the far end of the reed.
Tie the warp thread on the harness side of the reed in bundles as you go to keep any accidental bumping or some such that will pull out the threading you have just made.
Now you are ready to start threading the harnesses. Pull the pins out of the beater sides and let the beater rest against the castle of the loom. At the back side of the loom you will fold the back beam as close to the loom as you can, and secure it. If you can, remove the back breast beam so you can get as close to the harnesses as possible. At this point your pattern should already be picked and you should know the threading that you will be using. I like to write my threading pattern down on an 8 X 11 paper in a clip board in the number of harnesses I have. With a 4 harness loom I will write my pattern down in lots of 4 threads. Example: we are using a 1234 twill type threading we won’t need to do this, but will separate the heddles 4 at a time to thread. We will thread from the back of the loom 4321 twice for a bundle of 8 threads and tie a knot in the end of the threads. The first and the last bundle will have 10 threads because they will contain the selvages.
Now we will sit as close to the back of the loom as we can where we can reach the heddles to begin our threading. We are going to thread the heddles in groups of 8 threads and tie a knot, you will not tie the selvage threads into these knots. Remember the selvages? Ok, now we at the opposite of where we placed the reed hook and pull 2 threads through for the selvages to the back beam not passing through any heddle eyes. I like to start at the far right side of the harnesses, some start in the center, but I think that can become confusing in the threading if you become interrupted or the warp is a long one that takes more than one sitting. In order to keep the harnesses balanced in weaving, you need to remove all the excess heddles, or evenly distribute them on each side of the harness and tie off the excess. We will have approximately 74 threads on each side of center. We now need to replace the back breast beam if it has been removed and open the back of the loom up to the weaving postion.
Now that we have all the threads through the heddle eyes we are ready to tie them to the back beam apron rod. I like to use a lark’s head lash cord knot method. This is done by pre-measuring lengths of cord the same length and knotting the two ends together. Use a non stretchy cord and attach them to the apron rod by pulling the loop end through the knotted end to form a cord that you can use the lark’s head knot around the knot in the end of the bundles of 8 threads of the warp. This will decrease the loom waste and give you a quick way to tie on. Pull the lark’s head tight at the warp knot, and make sure that the knot in the warp is close to the lark’s head knot. It is best to start at the center of the rod, and work your way towards each side in a balanced way supporting the apron rod as you go by the warp that is tied onto the rod. Keep the warp bundles in a neat straight line from the reed to keep down abrasion on the yarn and the tension even when you are ready to wind onto the back beam.
You are now ready to wind onto the back beam. You will not wind the selvages on the back beam with the warp, so separate it off to the sides. One of the first things you need to think about is the way to separate the rounds of threads as you wind onto the beam so that they will not sink down into the previous round and make the tension uneven. I like to use mini venation blind slats. They are cheap, easy to use and you can cut them any length you need. I keep lots on hand. You can use a corrugated card board, lease sticks of wood, whatever. Its your preference so use what you have or what you want to, but use something.
Make sure all the threads are in an orderly manner, straight and fairly tight. Go to the front of the loom at the reed and straighten the warp by grasping a bundle of threads and pulling toward you away from the reed and smoothing the warp as you go. Jerk it a few time with a little “pop” to untangle the threads and do this the entire reed. DO NOT PET THE WARP! When you have them all straightened out you need to begin to crank the back beam clock wise and wind on the warp. Wind on a little ways and then repeat the straightening of the warp threads as many times as it is necessary being careful not to continue past where the threads become tangled against the reed or you will break your warp threads. Wind until the lark’s head knots come up to the warp on the back beam and place a separator (venation blind for me), and then continue to crank until the warp becomes tangled at the front of the reed. You can tell, because it will begin to be hard to wind on, but it’s a very good idea to keep a watch on the warp. Its easy to break a thread if you don’t watch and are not careful. If you come across a knot in the warp thread that is there from the cone, skein or what ever, just ignore it but make sure it doesn’t hang up in the heddles or reed and continue to crank on. When its tangled, go back to the reed and begin the process of straightening the warp all over and continue this process, straighten, wind, place separators at least every round and more if you think its needed until the end of the warp comes up to about 5 inches of the reed. Stop winding the back beam.
You are finished with the back of the loom and need to seat yourself at the front of the loom where you can reach the threads that are still protruding from the reed. Bring the front apron and rod up over the front breast beam and drape over towards the heddles of the loom. Starting in the center of the reed bring a bundle of 8 threads to the apron rod circling the rod from the top down and back up on either side of the bundle on the farthest side of the rod from you and tie a single knot over the top of the bundle. Continue this alternating from left to right until you are finished. Then beginning in the center grasp each knot ends and push away from you, then tighten the tie. Continue in this manner alternating left and right until completing all the bundles. When the bundles all have the same tension on them go back and finish each tie with a square knot.
Next you will tie up the lams, which are the treadles under the loom, or at the castle on a table loom. You will tie the lams up according to your pattern that you will be weaving. If you are using a table loom you will have to operate levers in this sequence together to produce the shed that is needed for each throw of the shuttle.
You will need to weight the selvages from the back of the loom and move the weights as you weave to keep the selvage tensions correct. This is to keep the selvages from becoming too tight as you weave and help to keep the selvages even. You are now ready to weave the header and begin to weave.