Tag Archives: warp

Ask Nancy: Special Edition Part 2 – Abrasion

Our favorite weaving teacher, Nancy, has been dropping some important knowledge on Facebook. We are sharing the info here too so that it will be more permanent and searchable.

Previous Posts in this Series:

Part 1 – Tension

Ask Nancy

Last time we talked about tension, but just in what you could expect in a given yarn, and not overall as it pertains to a warp on the loom.  So before we leave that topic… NO BANJOS.  

I love banjo music, let me say that first; but cranking up the tension on your warp to the point where you can play a tune on it is unnecessary, wasteful, hard on the equipment and the warp, and ultimately just tragic.  The amount of tension needed is just enough for error-free weaving, so that when you throw (or pass) the shuttle, there should be no slackers standing up from the bottom layer, nor drooping down from the top layer, to catch an unwary shuttle and cause you to weave a skip.  Just that; you don’t need extreme tension, and on a soft warp, you can’t have it, or things will snap.  You just need even tension.

And so on to abrasion.  The first thing is abrasion in the reed, so you have to size the reed to the yarn.  If you have for example a soft yarn at about 24 WPI (wraps per inch), a logical place to start in determining sett will be 12 EPI (ends per inch).  That makes sense, so let’s start the first trial balloon at 12, which logic will tell us is very convenient for our 12-dent reed.  First though, take a piece of that yarn and run it back & forth through a dent in that reed 30 or 40 times, to simulate the abrasion it will be enduring as you weave.  If it abrades significantly, that’s a poor reed choice.  It might be a great warp sett though, and just exactly what you want; so reach for the 6-dent reed instead, and sley the reed at 2 per dent.  Magic; you have cut the abrasion in half, and have a much better chance of a successful outcome.

The next abrasion hot spot is the selvedges, and many weavers come to grief there because of excessive draw-in.  There will always be some draw in, but if it’s not excessive, it will work.  The next time you are at the loom in front of your project, pull the beater back toward the fell of the cloth slowly, and observe what is happening to the outer couple of warp ends.  There is LOTS of abrasion there, and the selvedge threads are at a terrific angle and stretched, rather than nicely perpendicular as the rest of the warp is; that’s draw-in, and it happens because the distance from the right side of your warp to the left side is, in our hypothetical 10” scarf, 10 inches.  However, the distance that the weft has to travel is considerably more than 10” because of the over and under wave nature of the path.  To counter that, you have to leave sufficient weft in the shed to account for that increased distance.  This is why we “bubble” our weft, or leave a steep angle before beating.  Anything more than about 1/2” of draw-in on each side is excessive, and you need to change some habits, or you will always be plagued by broken selvedges.

And this brings us to the last of the abrasion plague spots, and that is the habit of not stopping to advance the warp frequently.  If you have woven 3 or 4 inches without advancing, bring the beater toward the fell slowly and observe those same selvedge threads; yikes, that is an awful angle, and a lot of stretch and abrasion going on out there.  The closer the fell approaches to the beater, the riskier it is on the poor selvedges; stop and advance your warp every couple of inches, and you will be a better weaver.

Next up, we will have part 3 of our little series, where we clean up miscellaneous odds and ends of putting to rest some of the fallacies wandering around out there that concern warp yarns, and what will, or won’t work; what breaks warp yarns and what preserves them.

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Ask Nancy: Special Edition Part 1 – Tension

We have a special series of Ask Nancy installments for you! Nancy has been sharing some valuable information on Facebook so we’re sharing it here as well where they will have more permanency and be more searchable to the internet at large.

Ask Nancy

I’m seeing a lot of misinformation out there lately about the suitability of certain yarns, particularly handspun yarns and singles, for use as warp yarns; and I wanted to take the opportunity to address some of these concerns for the benefit of the larger weaving community (mainly neophytes who use Facebook’s Hive Mind as their primary source).

First let me present you with my bona fides; I teach weaving and spinning here at the Woolery in Frankfort, Kentucky, and have for 10 years now. Before that, I taught privately for a number of years. I have attended many conferences and Convergences, and have studied at the feet of some of our brightest lights. I turn out a lot of successful weavers from my classes, and I do know, and do wear, what I am talking about.

So let’s start at the beginning, and address the two biggest causes of warp yarn failures, tension and abrasion; we’ll start with tension.

Take any yarn and subject it to a break-strength test: hold it between your hands and pull until it breaks. Very likely, if it is a commercially spun knitting yarn (let’s pick for example Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport Weight), it will break fairly easily. What’s the real break strength? Tie a small barbell to it, and see what it takes to break it; I’m guessing under 2 pounds (just a ballpark). Please note that I have never done this: I don’t need to and this is just an academic exercise. But the point is, it breaks. Easily. Now, imagine an 10” wide scarf, and a warp sett of 10 EPI, that’s 100 warp threads. And if my warp on my loom is tensioned to about 10 pounds (not unreasonable), then each of those 100 warp ends is only responsible for 1/10 of one pound, just under 2 ounces. Go ahead, tie 2 ounces of weight to that piece of potential warp yarn, and see if it breaks; I’ll wait for you. Hint for those who just want to read: it doesn’t break. Take 100 strands of that yarn and tie weights to it until it breaks; I guarantee that you can’t do it by hand, and it takes a LOT of weight. Is that yarn strong enough to be warp? Yes, it is. The point is, you cannot judge any yarn by breaking one strand between your hands.

For the record, that Brown Sheep yarn is what I use in my beginning 4-shaft weaving classes, and no student has ever broken a single warp end in class. In fact, when it comes time to teach them HOW to repair a broken warp end, I have to cut one with scissors to teach the lesson.

Next up, we will talk about abrasion.

Note: We had some comments on the blog from people trying to sell used equipment. While we encourage the buying/selling of used equipment, our blog is not the place for such transactions. Please use other available resources meant for this purpose such as Ravelry Warped Weavers Marketplace, eBay, or, Craiglist.

Sampling and Sketching

Now that I have all the yarn picked out and ready to go for my tapestry wall hanging that I’m making for my grandmother, it’s time to plan how I’m going to weave that yarn up! Before I just slap the yarn on the loom I want to have a plan. It’s a big project and I don’t want to get going and decide I don’t like how it’s turning out.

Our own Weaver Nancy suggested that I make a sample (or as I called it in my knitter vernacular, swatch) so I could decide what I want my sett to be. So I grabbed a couple small tapestry looms and got to work! I wove one little sample (just about 2×2″) on a Made Kits Small Tapestry Weaving Loom. This is as 6 dent per inch handloom so this sample has 6 ends per inch warp. My second sample was done on a Purl & Loop Minute Weaver, which has 4 dents per inch. This means this second sample has a 4 ends per inch warp. I used the exact same yarns for these samples so I could tell how each of them looked with the different warp spacing. After these were done I pinned them up on my cubicle wall so I could consider them over a week or so and decide which one I liked best.

Tapestry Weaving Sample

As you can see these were just quick and dirty samples, I didn’t worry about securing my warp ends or making them pretty. The one on the left is the 6 ends per inch sample and the one on the right is the 4 ends per inch sample. After looking at these I decided that I liked the 4 ends per inch (the right one in the photo above better). My reasoning is that I’m using a lot of bulky yarn and even roving because I want lots of texture and I felt like the bulky yarn on the left sample got too strangled in the closer warp. With my end per inch determined, it was time to do something that scares both weavers and knitters: sketching!

Hear me out; you don’t have to be an amazing artist for sketching to be beneficial for your projects. Just the act of getting your ideas down on paper is very helpful for planning a project. For my sketch I wanted to determine my color placement, if I wanted to try and do a gradient style or if I wanted to have all of the colors randomly placed all over the place. So I drew up my 3 rectangles to represent my tapestries and did some coloring! I made my sketches on my iPad pro, but you don’t have to have fancy technology to do this, there’s no reason you can’t go to town with some colored pencils, markers, or crayons on your own!

Tapestry Weaving SketchTapestry Weaving Project Gradient Sketch

Based on this I decided to go with the top more random color placement option. I like the gradient a lot but I think it only works because I drew the color changes evenly and I’m not sure I have the right distribution of color in my yarn to make the changes evenly. I am also concerned about running out of a certain color and then having the 3rd tapestry I make look uneven and wrong. I’ll have a lot more options to just play and have fun going with the more random color placement choice.

Since I’ve planned my warp and my weft color placement, it’s time to actually warp up the loom! I’m going to be weaving on the 22″ Mirrix Zach Loom. I chose to use this loom because of it’s nice wide weaving with, and it has the ability for me to choose my sett by switching out the different warp coils. I am using the 8 dent coil and just skipping every other space to achieve 4 ends per inch. I didn’t really measure my warp length and just made it super long because I’m not sure how long I want these to be and I don’t really need to decide right now since I’m using the Mirrix Zach and can advance my warp. My warp yarn is Maysville 8/4 Cotton Rug Warp Yarn in Ivory.

Warped Mirrix Zach Loom

How exciting is it to have that nice fresh, shiny, and new warp all ready to go? My next steps are going to be twining and then actually getting going with weaving. I’m hoping to share some fun texture techniques with you like soumak, rya, bubbles and more, so keep watching this space!

Weaving In The New Year

Perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to weave better.  Better means different things to different people. For some it means faster; for others it means with less mistakes; for others still it means weaving with more precision.

Weaving on the Edge

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Nancy and Nancy argue about which shuttle they like best. Learn more in our Weaving Shuttle Breakdown video.

Selvedges are one of the biggest challenges for weavers.  We obsess about them.  There are a few simple things that you can do to create perfect selvedges.  If you find that your warp is “smiling” at you or turning up at the edges it is probably because you are not putting the weft in at a steep enough angle or you are pulling the yarn too tight as you grab the shuttle exiting the shed. We tend to do the latter when you reach with your non-dominant hand because we have less control when using it.  Check our our video My Weaving Isn’t Even to learn more.

Another way to ensure good selvedges is to invest in an end-delivery shuttle.  It gives you better control over your yarn by keeping it under tension.  You can learn more about them in our Weaving Shuttle Breakdown or How To Wind a Pirn videos.  And, speaking of winding:  winding your shuttle bobbin or pirn well will also help you with your selvedges.  Well-wound bobbins keep the shuttle from jerking as it passes though the shed.  The jerking can keep you from making a smooth pass and laying in the weft evenly.

Recovering from Mistakes

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Chris broke his warp thread, now what? Watch our How To Fix A Broken Warp End video to see how he recovers.

The reality is that mistakes happen – recovering from them is what makes our weaving “better.”  Broke a warp thread?  Watch our video on how to fix it.  Can’t get a clean shed?  Maybe you miss threaded the reed or the heddles.  We have a video on that, too!

These are just a few of the tips and tricks that you will find on our  You Tube channel.  If you have an idea for a video, let us know.  We would love to hear from you.

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team