Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Warping a small frame loom

Thanks to Jennifer for posting about Kathe Todd-Hooker's new book, available very soon.  Kathe has addressed the process for warping of many kinds of tapestry looms in the book and I look forward to getting a copy.  Her other three books are full of valuable information and I know the So Warped will be, as well.  Her other books are Shaped Tapestry, Line in Tapestry, and Tapestry 101.  Kathe sells the books at her website, Fine Fiber Press .

As I prepare to teach at John Campbell Folk School in a few weeks, I'm updating my handout.  I asked the young woman who will be my assistant, to come over to the studio this week so I could do a few new photos  for the revision process.  I thought I'd post these to the blog and ask for your feedback... do they seem to clearly show the process I'm trying to describe?  My handout booklet describes in text and photos what I demonstrate in the class.  The booklet isn't meant to be a self-teaching tool but rather a reminder of what I cover in a class.  And since I'm making the photos myself with a very inexpensive point-and-shoot digital camera, I don't expect print production quality of images.  All those disclaimers out of the way, here goes!

Frame loom and parts, including two threaded rods and nuts (will be inserted in the two U-shaped copper pipe pieces, two PVC legs for the loom, shed stick, rubber band to hold legs together.  By the way, the frame loom is a version of the Archie Brennan copper pipe loom as described at his website; I've made the change to 1/2" copper pipe from his 3/4" as he noted in his diagram and I've used 12" threaded rod.

Legs are placed with the Tees slipped over the copper pipe and the legs extending diagonally behind the loom--the long part of the legs is to be unscrewed and set aside while the loom is being warped.

Insert the threaded rods and slip the top part of the loom over them.  Remember, nothing is holding the loom together at this point--so don't pick it up from the top!  The frame will be held together by the warp, once that's on the loom.  

Tie the warp onto the bottom of the frame using a square knot at the edge of the width desired.  Lena Grace, my assistant, is left-handed so she's starting at the right and will move to the left as she puts the warp on the loom.  For right-handers, you can start on the left and move to the right.

When warping it's helpful to put the warp into a basket or bowl on the floor, and place the edge of the loom at the side of a table with the edge extending over the warp source.  Again, Lena Grace is left-handed, so she has the loom placed with the left side over the floor, the right edge on the table top (there's a small bit of rubber mat under the edge of the frame to keep it from slipping as she warps).  Be sure to use an even tension when putting the warp on.

Loom is now warped for 4" wide, with the end of the thread tied at the bottom.  There are four warps at each inch spacing as the warp goes around the loom frame.  The warps at the back and those at the face will be come together for a sett of 8 epi.  Notice this is a continuous trip around the loom with the warp rather than a figure-8 warping method that's sometimes used.

A shed stick is placed into the warps to create a shed that is always open.   As this stick is inserted, the two planes of the warp, face and back, are coming together as one.

 Here Lena Grace picks up the back warps and places them on top of the shed stick that's being inserted; the front warps go to the back of the stick.

Shed stick is in place creating the "open shed."  This may be tied to the top of the frame to keep it from slipping out, if desired.

Three picks of the warp thread are used for a foundation.  Pull each pick very tightly from one side of the loom frame to the other side and tie each around the other (slip up the Tee of the loom legs a bit so that the foundation can be tied near the bottom of the loom).  These picks will not be part of the tapestry.  The second pick is being tied off in this photo... third is yet to come.

After the three picks of foundation, space the warp ends evenly for the sett to be used (8 epi in this case).  This initial spacing will be followed by a row of twining, using the same thread as is used for the warp.  Then about 1/2" of plain weave is done, again with the same thread as the warp.  Remember, only the three foundation picks go from frame to frame; the twining and the plain weave will be done only in the warp area, in this case, 4" wide.  As with the foundation picks, the twining and the 1/2" of plain weave header will serve to space the warps and will not be part of the finished tapestry.


  1. Tommye -- I love these pics. And the updates, like the tees, should be very helpful to those of us who took your class a while ago!

    Have you got any thoughts on how to tie off the last warp end on a continuous warp so that it stays tight? Or on the foundation picks? (Or do I have to wait for Kathe Lee-Hooker's book, which I will definitely buy).

  2. Hey there Audrey,
    Do you mean a continuous warp where the warp goes around a bar that's temporarily attached at the back (the Mirrix loom has a clamp, I believe, that holds it until the warp goes on)? It's just a matter of getting a snug double hitch tied around it to keep it tight.
    Same for the foundation picks, as you tie each together, a double half-hitch does the job.
    Kathe's book might address that, don't know yet.

  3. You seem to have described warping up on the copper pipe loom very clearly and the photos are good. Can i mention tension tho...?
    Funnily enough i was originally taught to warp up using a figure of 8 not circularly as you have done. I can't seem to break out of the mould either. It makes finding the first shed very easy. Kt.

  4. Yes, Kaite,
    Figure 8 would work as well and the first shed is easy then. However, when you warp with a figure 8 you need to hold the warp source in your hand or pick up/put down as you pass it in and out of the loom frame. A continuous loop around lets you put the warp source in one place and move it around the loom.
    Yes, tension should be evenly done as you move around. Thanks for mentioning it and I do describe it when I am showing how to warp in a class. Even tension rather than as tight as could be is more important because the threaded rods and nuts let one tighten--or loosen as needed to get the warp tension right.

  5. Hi Tommye,
    The photos and instructions are very clear. And timely! I've got two friends coming over this weekend to learn what little I know about weaving tapestry. I've built the looms and was planning on using wooden legs as supports, but yours are so much more elegant. Back to Lowes I go! Thanks for sharing this blog with the Tapestry list. What a great resource!

  6. The instructions look great - I particularly like that you have a background color that really shows up the warp. The only thing I would add is a picture of the foundation straight on when it's spaced out to just remind one what it "should" look like.

  7. Hello, I took a weaving class a while ago, (few years) and I'm trying to set up a new warp for a new rug. I have a rug that I started before but didnt finish and I cannot remember how to set up the warp. After getting the figure 8 warp up, theres a yarn that is "snaked" through the top and bottom of the warp. I dont remember how to do this or know what it's called. Did i completely lose you or maybe you can help?

  8. Racy,
    Sorry, I don't use a figure-8 method for warping. Did you take a Navajo weaving class? Sounds like you're describing what is done with that manner of warping to make what Rachel Brown calls a twisted selvedge. There's a description, with diagrams, of setting up a loom in this way in chapter 6, The Navajo Loom in The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book by Brown.

    Do visit the site? There's a forum for Navajo loom on the site; you might want to take a look there for other help. Also, if you do a google search for Navajo weaving technique or Navajo looms I think you might find blogs and/or websites with tutorials about setting up the loom in that way.

    Sorry not to be able to address your question in a more direct way! Good luck in finding your way with what you want to do.

  9. Hi, Tommye -- finally I've got the time & focus to review what you & Pat taught us in our wonderful 10/2012 class in Asheville. This post, although over 2 years old, is invaluable for helping me remember details of what I "learned." I've built my loom -- yea!-- and as soon as the holidays are over, I'll start using it. I've pinned the 2" sample I completed at the workshop onto my bulletin board in front of my work table, so between that & this blog & Todd-Hooker's Tapestry 101, I'll have good guidance. Oh -- p.s. - I've done the legs on my loom a little differently from yours. I'll let you know how well they work. :) Cheers & Happy Holidays to you, Tommye, and to your readers!

  10. Great you found this, Stacy!
    Happy weaving to you and I hope this post will be helpful. Yes, please let me know how you've done your legs... I'm sure they'll probably work out great.
    Happy holidays to you!

  11. Hi, Tommye -- Well -- finally I've "cleared my desk" and am able to start working with my pipe loom. I warped it the other day and learned a lot through mistakes. Of course I had problems because I hadn't secured any of the joints -- I don't remember your using any of the strategies Kathe outlines in Tapestry 101 -- and I wonder about using glue at the joints and where exactly to do so. Seems that would preclude ever changing the horizontal pipes ... and what's the point of using glue on the vertical joints if the warp's going to secure those anyway?
    What am I missing here?!

    1. Hi Stacy,
      Glad to know you've gotten a loom underway. I do indeed join the corners with an adhesive. Archie's diagram shows a small screw at the elbows which would allow you to take the frame apart back to the basic components. However, I've attached all of mine so they are sort of squared off U shapes... top and two sides; bottom and two sides. The threaded rod goes between those. The adhesive I've used successfully have been a paste epoxy and lately, a Stick Fast Instant CA Adhesive, the thick version. Someone told me about that product when I was at Arrowmont and it's works great. It was in the craft store there but I haven't looked for it in a local hardware.

  12. AHh -- now I vaguely remember your mentioning using a paste epoxy. Okay. Since I bought the Gorilla Glue, I may as well try it ... thanks so much for helping me out here!

    1. Let me know how it turns out! Hope it will work out fine.

    2. I tried gorilla glue to attach a coil spring tray (from Mirrix) with gorilla glue to the top of my copper loom and it only stayed on for one warp... the tray came off when there was no warp when the loom fell over... the glue that was left on the tray and loom peeled off easily. I may try the epoxy next...if that doesnt work, i will use screws...

  13. hi tommye!
    i am a *very* new self-taught weaver which i have done by poring over books and youtube videos the past 6 months. i think i might be obsessed :) and i'm delighted to have found your blog! my question is probably pretty simple/obvious but i've made some frame looms so i can whip up samples more quickly than warping my rigid heddle loom. the book by brown that talks about warping a frame loom indicates a fig 8 warp, as does some other books i've come across. but it seems like that isn't necessary based on this? is it 6 or one-half dozen of the other? just one's personal preference? i didn't know about the fig 8 and made a couple of weavings without it but thought i had made a mistake by not doing it. so i've warped my frame looms WITH the fig 8 and am not sure how to start it? i assume below the lease? and move the lease up as i go? do i need to insert a shed stick to make it easier or create some kind of heddle? all this seems to complicate a process i was doing to keep things simple but maybe thats just weaving for you?
    sorry this is so long! i could probably ask you about a million questions but i'll leave it at that :)
    thank you!

  14. Hi Mary Catherine,
    I don't use a figure 8 for warping although many people do. I warp around the frame, as the post describes, and then bring the back warps to the front to be placed on a dowel that is the shed stick for one shed. When I set up leashes I put those on the warps that are under (or at the back of) the dowel. Don't know if this helps any or not! Kathe Todd-Hooker describes warping with a figure 8 method for frame looms in her books.

    1. well it's interesting because when i was fooling around trying to figure it out i originally did the wrap-around and it worked out great! then i read somewhere about the figure-8 and thought i was doing it wrong but think i get it: though its way less awkward to do the wrap around method, you will need to pull the back warps forward to create a shed. but either way you have to set up the leashes to create that second shed. do i have it?

    2. Mary Catherine, yes, the wrap-around method is easier for set-up. With the figure-8 method you have to have your warp in a small enough cone, ball or tube that you can hold it in your hand while warping. Most of the time that's quite possible but sometimes I have a new, full tube and it's difficult to manage. In that case, it could be wound into a ball for use. However, I've always preferred to wrap around as I described here.

      About the second shed. Yes, about the second shed, the one that isn't always "open" either by the frame of the loom with the figure-8 method, or the dowel with the wrap around method--that shed must either be picked with the fingers or have leashes placed on those threads. Finger picking is pretty easy and quick and many people work very well that way. I do so for small pieces. I also set up leashes on some of the frame looms. I haven't described how I do the leashes here at the blog. It's a method I learned from Archie Brennan and is done in a continuous way. Others have experimented successfully with creating separate leashes/heddles, with using other devices like paper clips to make the leashes, etc.

      One of the advantages many find with looms like the Mirrix is that there is a possibility of setting up heddles on both sheds and using a simple mechanism on the loom for opening either shed. Larger tapestry looms also sometimes have harnesses or shafts into which the warps are threaded; the sheds open by stepping on treadles as with "normal" looms.

      Good luck on your tapestry journey!

    3. tommye thank you so much for taking the time to answer a beginner's questions. so helpful and so clear! this makes perfect sense the way you've described it and i can finally lay to rest one of the more perplexing weaving questions i've had and actually get to work :)
      thanks...mary catherine

  15. an intriguing modifictaion to the design widely shared by Archie Brennan - Susan Martin Mafei = Thank you for sharing.