Warp Separators – Why Do You Need Them?

Warp Separators – Why Do You Need Them?

A question I get quite often is what are warp separators and why do you need them?

Warp separators are a tool or material that you can use to keep your warp on any advancing loom (rigid heddle, floor, or table loom) evenly tensioned for the duration of your weaving. 

To fully understand this you will first need to understand how the back beam of your loom works and what it is for.

The back beam on any loom will hold your unwoven warp during the weaving process. When you have a loom with an advancing warp that most often means that your warp is very long and needs somewhere to go until you weave it. In this case, the warp will wind around the back beam and eventually start winding on itself. 

Even tension is really important when you are doing any sort of weaving project. It makes sure that your entire weaving builds up the same way and is not a struggle to weave. 

Using some sort of warp separator ensures that when you warp winds over itself it does so in an even layer. Without this layer, your warps can fall into the gaps of the warps immediately below them. These warps will end up tighter than the warps that do not!


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Types of warp separators


different types of warp separators

There are 2 main types of warp separators to choose from that (of course) have their pros and cons. The type you choose will depend on what type of loom you are weaving on and your own personal weaving preferences.

Long warp separators and stick warp separators do the same exact thing but in a slightly different way. 

The long option is great for when you are using a loom that is not going anywhere.

This is because as you advance your warp the separator will be hanging from the back beam. If your loom is moving from place to place then this can get really annoying as it can get in the way.

Depending on the type of separator you choose it may also be prone to damage. Moving it around while it is hanging down will make it more likely to get damaged!

Long separators are also great because they roll on with less effort.

Since they are long you can wind on faster with less stopping. You just have to make sure that it is rolling on straight. If it starts to roll on crooked then just give it a tug to straighten it out and keep going!


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Stick separators are great for portable looms.

Since they are much smaller they do not have the same issue with draping down from the loom as you advance your warp. Instead, they will fall out as you keep going. While you can use these on a stationary loom, they are a bit more work to put in when you are warping.

When warping your loom with stick separators you will need to stop every time your warp starts to contact itself again. When this happens you insert a new separator.

Since they are skinny you will have to do this often.


Long warp separators


cardboard and kraft paper from woolery.com

Cardboard


When I started weaving this was the only type I ever used! This is just because that is what was available at the university that I went to. So for a long time, cardboard rolls were the only option I really knew of. 

Cardboard is a really great option for when you are weaving something that has to be really tight because it gives less than some other options. Since the point of your warp separator is to make sure your warps do not fall into the gaps the stronger your separator – the better!

Using cardboard from boxes is not quite what you are looking for because it is too stiff, but if you take that same cardboard and separate the layers then it can work really well.

You can also purchase corrugated cardboard specifically for this purpose. This is great because it is already the perfect flexibility and it has clean straight edges.


Kraft paper/ paper bags


kraft paper as warp separator on rigid heddle loom

You can find kraft paper and paper bags just about anywhere. My favorite way to obtain this type of separator is to upcycle the packing paper often found in packages.

I always put it aside expressly for the purpose of using it for weaving. This is also great for being more sustainable!

Reusing your old packaging materials may limit the size of paper you have on hand to use. If you want something where you can control the width and length as well as to make sure you have straight edges then you can also purchase kraft paper on rolls. 

1 roll of kraft paper should last a long time because you can reuse your warp separator as many times as you want until it starts to tear or get damaged. 

You can also cut up paper grocery bags to use for this. Depending on how you cut it up you should be able to get a decent length out of it. 

If you are looking for another way to reuse grocery bags (this time plastic) you can check out my tutorial on making yarn out of plastic bags here.

Funny story: when I ordered some cardboard roll for my warp separator it came with some kraft paper in the package! 2 for the price of 1.


Sushi mat


sushi mat as warp separator on rigid heddle loom

If you want something that is going to have a bit more staying power then you can try using a sushi mat as your warp separator! This is also a really great option because it is not going to flex much and will make sure your tension stays even as you weave. 

The biggest possible issue with using these is that they do not come in large sizes.

You will be limited with the width of your weaving at less than 9.5 inches. You will also need to have many on hand because they are only 9.5 inches long. 

This means that you will have to continue adding more mats as you wind on your warp, but it also means you will have less flowing down from your beam after advancing your warp. 

These sushi mats are a great middle option between a long and a stick warp separator.


Stick warp separators


warp separator sticks on rigid heddle loom

Chipboard


Using chipboard or cardboard sticks is a pretty cost-effective way to use stick separators on your loom. Depending on the type of rigid heddle loom you have it may even come with separators right out of the box.

This is the case for the Ashford rigid heddle loom. These looms come with long chipboard warp separator sticks included. You can learn more about the Ashford rigid heddle loom in my review here.

If you are not careful these types of separators can get damaged, but are probably less likely than if you were to use a different material.

Due to this, these will not last forever and you will probably have to purchase more or change what you are using in the future. 


Wood


If you like the way that stick separators work but you want something a bit more durable, then wood may be a good option for you. (disclaimer: I have not tried wood warp sticks, but I know of many people that like them.)

Not surprisingly, these are going to be more expensive than chipboard or cardboard, but they are also stronger.

Your wood should not flex at all under the tension of your warp, so these will potentially have the best tension retention of all of our options.

They are also the most expensive especially because you tend to need a lot of stick separators for a long weaving.


Want to learn how to weave tapestry? It’s more than just imagery (although that can be a big part of it too!) Follow along with this self-paced online course that you can take from anywhere at any time.


Front beam separator


Where a warp separator of any kind is necessary for your back beam you can most definitely get away with not having any sort of separation on your front cloth beam. This is because your cloth is a solid piece of fabric and should not fall through any gaps below. 

That being said, if you notice that when you are winding your cloth onto the front of your loom your apron strings are displacing any of your warp and weft then it may be a good idea to add a front cloth beam separator as well.

This could be done in many different ways – including all those mentioned above, but since it should only really be an issue at the beginning of your weaving process you can get away with something much shorter.

If you do not have extra stick separators then you can use a paper towel tube that is cut down one long side to open it up. This can then slide onto your front cloth beam to smooth out where the apron string attaches to the front rod. 


Like most things in weaving it is important to think about what you want to do and the circumstances you have. These things can vary by weaver and by weaving. 

When trying to decide what warp separator option you want to use you can ask yourself these questions:

What kind of loom do I have?

Will I be traveling or moving my loom around?

Am I weaving something (tapestry) that requires a very tight warp?

Do I want to use found materials to be more sustainable and save money, or do I want to purchase something that will have straighter lines and was made for the task?

Am I worried about my front beam displacing my yarns?

When you can answer these questions you can start to make some decisions about what you want to use now and in the future! 


Direct Warping Vs. Indirect Warping (Warping Board)

Direct Warping Vs. Indirect Warping (Warping Board)

Depending on the type of weaving you are doing, this might not even be a question that you have to answer!

When it comes down to it, you can mostly assume that rigid heddle looms will be directly warped and floor looms/ table looms will be indirectly warped. 

Each type of loom though can be warped either way. 

The first things we need to go over are: what exactly are direct and indirect warping? And when should you choose each option?


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Direct warping


direct warping space needed

Direct warping is a warping method that is mostly associated with rigid heddle weaving and allows you to measure your warp and put it on your loom at the same time.

The simplicity of the rigid heddle loom lends itself really well to a simpler warping method! You can direct warp onto a floor loom, but there are a lot more “obstacles” involved in warping a floor loom. That takes some of the simplicity out of the entire system.

So let’s talk about how the direct method works.

First: this warping method requires the use of a warping peg and a lot of space. 

The longer your warp, the more space you need.

This is because you will be measuring out your warp directly onto your loom instead of on an intermediate device such as a warping board or warping mill. 

When you are direct warping the front of your loom is facing the warping peg.

Your peg will be placed your warp’s distance away from the back apron rod of your loom. So if for example, your warp is 8 feet long then you will have to place your peg and the back apron rod 8 feet apart. 

Weaving Tip: Since I usually use my rigid heddle loom to weave scarves, I keep an 8-foot-long measure yarn handy to always be able to easily set up my direct warping. This is simpler than taking out the measuring tape since most sewing measuring tapes only go to 5 feet.


direct warping warping peg

This is why you need a lot of space.

When you are working on a rigid heddle loom you are often working with a long warp. 

Having a long table is the best option for this method, but if you have the ability to span your warp across an open space then this can work well too. Just make sure you have a good place to clamp your peg at the other end. 

I, unfortunately, do not have a long enough table to warp my usual 8-foot-long warps.

Instead, I usually clamp my rigid heddle loom to my studio table and let it span my room. Attached on the other side of the room with a warping peg clamped to my weaving bench.

Clamp your peg to a bench, chair, another table, or anything you can that will not move when the warp is under tension.

Find a system that works for you!


how to weave tapestry

Direct warping is faster but requires open space


Since you are taking out an extra step of measuring all of the warp ends first, this method is a lot faster than if you are using a warping board. While warping time will vary depending on what you are wanting to make, once you have had a little practice you should be able to warp a 10-inch weaving in about 45 minutes! 

Direct warping also allows you to have a warp of any length. Is your weaving an unusual length? You can change your warp length incrementally but just moving your peg.

You are not limited by the constraints of your board or mill but can instead place your peg at any distance you want.

The only thing you are limited by is the amount of space you have.


Indirect warping (warping board)


indirect warping warping board

Warping boards and warping mills do the exact same thing but in slightly different ways.

They are both tools that you can use to measure out all of your warp yarns to the exact length that you need for your weaving. 

You can learn how to use a warping board here.

The biggest difference between the two types of indirect warping tools is that the warping mill turns as you measure your warp. This makes it a smooth process that is fun to do (subjectively speaking of course.) Each side of your warping mill will also be a half yard which makes measuring out your warp yarn easy without having to use a guide yarn. 

Warping boards take up less space than warping mills, but they take up a lot more space than warping pegs. 

Think about how much space you have for warping vs. how much space you have for storing your weaving tools.

Using a warping board or mill is great for when your warp is very long. Since it wraps around and around the mill or the pegs on the board you can get a lot of warp into a small space. You do not need 15 feet of open space for 15 feet of warp!


indirect warping cross

Indirect warping takes longer but can be broken up


Overall, indirect warping takes longer to do. You have to measure out your yarn and then put it on your loom.

Having your measuring and warping in two separate steps is not necessarily a bad thing!

If you can only dedicate small amounts of time to your weaving then this is a great way to do it. Measure your warp when you get the chance and then set it aside until you have time to move on!

You can split up your entire warping process into different segments.

For example, if you are warping from the front of your loom (my preferred method) then you will need to hold onto your cross the entire time you are sleighing your reed. This requires you to find a time where you will not be interrupted because you can not drop the cross.

If you have a long warp, then you can split up your warp into smaller sections to make sure you can get up and move between sections. (I talk about this more in my how to use a warping board post.)

Once you are finished with sleighing your reed, each part of the warping process can be started and stopped at any time!


Which warping method should you use?


direct warping vs indirect warping

The easiest answer will be if you are using a rigid heddle loom then you should direct warp. Your rigid heddle loom will probably even come with the peg and clamps to warp this way.

Floor looms and table looms are most often indirectly warped using either a warping board or a warping mill. They do not usually come with these tools but you should be able to purchase them in the same place.

If you do not have a lot of space to warp then you can use a warping board or mill with your rigid heddle loom. 

If you want to skip the measuring step and have the room then you can use a warping peg for your floor loom.

There is no wrong way to warp your loom if your warp gets on your loom! Figure out what is important to you, how much space you have, and your budget, and go from there!


Need help planning your weaving project? Stuck trying to figure out how much yarn you need? What the h&^$ is WPI? Check out my e-book!


Warping tools:


Direct Warping

Warping board

Warping mill

Indirect Warping

Warping peg


Warp Finishing: Fringe Options

Warp Finishing: Fringe Options

There are many different ways to finish a weaving. One of the most common and possibly iconic ways to do this is to have fringe at the bottom.

As with most things, though, fringe for your weaving is not always so straightforward!

There are many different options both for how you create your fringe and what your finished fringe will ultimately look like.

You can go really simple with overhand knots at the base of your scarf or as “complicated” as macrame along the edge!

Your ideal warp finishing and fringe options might even depend on the type of weaving you are creating.

Tapestry?

Functional weavings (scarves, rugs)?

These may require different choices for finishing.

… or they may not.


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Warp fringe vs rya knots


The simplest way to have fringe on your weaving is to use the warp “waste” that is already on the weaving. This warp is what is leftover from attaching it to the loom and/or taken up by headers and scaffolding.

If you are planning to utilize this warp yarn for your fringe you will need to be aware of this before you even start weaving. This is because you will need to account for the extra warp when you are setting up your weaving and in your calculations.

Learn more about the weaving process and the order in which you should start your weaving here.

Another thing to keep in mind when using your leftover warp is what color your warp is. This is a given if you are weaving up something that is balanced or pattern woven. These types of weavings show the warp in the actual piece so it is important to the overall aesthetic. 

If you are weaving tapestry, though, then the color of your warp is not always something you need to consider. Since a tapestry is a weft-faced weaving you do not see any warp. That is unless you use some of it for fringe. 

Learn more about what tapestry is here.

If you are looking for a fringe that is full and overflowing, then using your warp waste probably will not be enough. Your fringe will be limited to the amount of warp ends that you have. If weaving tapestry, then these warp ends are usually even fewer since tapestry requires a smaller EPI.

Learn about EPI here.


rya knots tapestry fringe

If the idea of using your warp yarns is not going to give you the fringe of your dreams, you have the option to create new fringe using rya knots.

Learn how to create rya knots here.

Rya knots are great for this because you can use as many strands of yarn as you want for fuller fringe. They also give you the option of using colors that are not in your warp and/ or different colors in the same space.

Rya knots are great for fringe because they also allow you to create really long fringe without using your leftover warp. You do still have to plan for your fringe at the beginning, but you can at least wait until your warp is on and you are ready to start creating.


Fringe variations (twist, braid, macrame)



Sometimes straight fringe is just not what you are going for.

No worries!

There is a wide range of types of fringe that you can create with either your warp waste or rya knots. These are most often done with your warp, though.

These options are great for when you want your fringe to have a little extra “weight” to them. That means they will hang well when on a scarf. They are also good to keep your fringe from getting tangled and matted. 

No matter the option you choose, it is a lot easier to work with your fringe if your weaving is weighed down so it will not move! Something as simple as putting a book on your weaving will keep it in place while you attend to your fringe.


Twisted fringe


scarf fringe and fringe twister warp finishing

Twisted fringe is a really classic option that creates a heavy fringe that will drape well on a scarf.

The twist is also pretty easy to do, if not time-consuming by hand.

One great thing about a twisted fringe is that you have the option to use a fringe twister to make this process go faster and help your twists to be more consistent. Regardless of if you are using a fringe twister or doing it by hand, your general instructions are the same!

I am using the Schacht fringe twister and I love how quick it makes the twisting go! This fringe twister allows you to twist up to 3 bundles of yarn at a time, but you can twist only 2 if you want smaller finished fringe bundles.

You start your twist by taking at least 2 fringe yarns and twisting them together. Do this at least 1 more time, but for larger bundles do it a total of 3 times.

Make sure you twist them all in the same direction! This is important.

Take all 3 of these twisted bundles and then twist them together in the opposite direction.

Tie a knot at the very end and move on to the next bundle! Make sure you twist each bundle the same amount so they are consistent.

Check out the video below to see the fringe twister in action!



If you are using the Schacht fringe twister then attach 2 or more warp yarns to each clip. Try not to cross them over each other when clipping in order to keep it clean when you start to turn the handle.

Turn your handle clockwise.

Count how many times you turn the handle and remember it for the rest of your bundles.

Take all of your twisted yarns off and put them into 1 bundle.

Clip this 1 bundle together and twist counter-clockwise.

Detach and tie!


twisted fringe scarf

Braided fringe


braided fringe scarf

Braiding is another simple way to get bundles of fringe on your weaving. You can either do a simple braid with 3 strands of yarn or double it up. If you want to get real fancy then you can also do multi-strand braids. 

Here is a refresher of how to do a simple 3 strand braid:

Take 3 strands of yarn and separate them. Take 1 of the outer yarns and cross it over the middle yarn.

Then take the other out yarn and cross it over the new middle yarn.

You will keep doing this until your braid reaches the desired length or you run out of yarn!

Tie a knot at the end to keep everything together.


Macrame fringe


macrame fringe scarf

If you are feeling really fancy then you can do macrame at the bottom of your weaving. This will not be individual bundles of fringe, but instead will elongate your weaving with a lace-like texture on the ends. 

I will admit that macrame is not my expertise, but I have been known to do very simple macrame at the end of my weavings on occasion.

You can do this simple macrame technique like this:

You will be using smaller bundles of yarn for this. Make sure they all have a knot at their top at the edge of the weaving to keep your weft in place.

Take 2 small bundles of yarn and tie them together about an inch down from the edge of your weaving.

Move over to the next 2 bundles of yarn and repeat this step all the way across.

On your way back you will then take 1 bundle of yarn from each not and tie those together.

You can do this as many times as you want, just make sure to alternate which bundles you are tieing together to create your lacy “net” fringe!


Side (selvedge) fringe


If you are wanting something a little different then you can create side fringe on your weaving! This is really simple to do if you just ignore one of the main things that I teach.

That is, to weave in your weft tails as you go! Most of the time you want to weave in your weft tails. They can get in the way, and it makes the finishing process a lot easier. 

If you do not weave them in, though, it can be an aesthetic choice.

You can even exaggerate your side fringe by purposefully starting and stopping your weft yarns more often – as much as every single pick of your weaving. This will give you a consistent selvedge of fringe all the way up! 

You could also do some side rya knots every few picks to get some extra fluff on the sides.

Side fringe is not something I see too often, but if done well it could be a really fun addition to your weavings.



Tapestry vs functional weavings (scarves)


twisted fringe scarf and rya fringe tapestry

I already touched on this a little bit earlier, but the type of weaving you are doing may determine the type of fringe you have or at least the decisions you have to make when creating your fringe. 

It is very common to just use the rest of your warp on functional weavings like scarves. That is because there is usually a large number of warps to begin with and you will probably not want something too fluffy at the end of your scarf.

Probably.

You do you.

As for tapestry, adding rya is the most common method for fringe, but if you like the look of using your warp then there is nothing wrong with that!


Best Weaving Looms For Beginners

Best Weaving Looms For Beginners

Starting out on your weaving adventure can be a bit daunting. There is so much to learn and so much to buy! This is a common topic here at Warped Fibers because I am always hoping to bring more people around to weaving.

Why wouldn’t I?

Weaving is awesome.

I have talked a bit about what you need to start weaving here and if you want to know the looms and supplies I use in my studio you can see those here.

Also if you are a new weaver or just someone looking for a weaving refresher then check out my FREE Weaving Guide For The Absolute Beginner. 

Yep. 

Free.

You can enter your info into the form below to sign up for my mailing list to get access to the free guide or just click the link above!


This page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!



Looms are one weaving supply that might be the scariest to buy because they are the one that is the most exclusive to weaving. Everything else that you will need you will probably already have or will be able to use for other things. 


What to look for in a beginner loom


Once you get to know what you want to do it can be easier to figure out what type of loom you want. I will be going over the 2 main types of weavings that you will probably be starting with and what type of loom you will need to weave them.

That being said, there are so many different looms out there, and all of them offer different things.

When you are first starting out it can be a good idea to try to find a goldilocks loom that is not too expensive and has some options but is still simple to use.

If you want to go all out from the beginning because you do not want to buy another loom later, just remember that there is nothing wrong with having more than one loom! You can also upgrade later once you know what you really like. There are many different places you can sell a used loom if you decide to make room for a new one.

Other things you might be looking for are a frame loom with a stand for easier weaving or a loom that is small either for storage or portability.

Make yourself a list and go from there.


Why you should start weaving with a frame loom


beginner friendly looms - frame looms

If you are new to weaving or looking to get into it then these are my recommendations for looms to get you started and get you hooked!

If you are brand new to weaving then the best way to dip your needle in is with a frame loom!

Frame looms are my favorite beginner looms and not just because they are how I originally started weaving.

That being said, there is a reason that most people start with frame weaving. They are (mostly) inexpensive, (mostly) small, and generally easy to warp. 


Want to learn how to weave tapestry? It’s more than just imagery (although that can be a big part of it too!) Follow along with this self-paced online course that you can take from anywhere at any time.


Inexpensive


Frame looms are just about as simple as you can get when it comes to starting your weaving journey. While, yes, you can start with a cardboard loom (learn how to make a cardboard loom here) if you have the ability I recommend you give a frame loom a try instead.

Frame looms will not only give you better warp tension but also will not fall apart after a few uses. They can even be just as inexpensive or almost as inexpensive as just pulling some cardboard out of your recycling bin. 

That is because you can use a repurposed picture frame that you already have laying around or grab something from a clearance section for only a few dollars. 

This type of loom is called a simple frame loom and if you want to learn more about them then you can learn about simple frame looms here. 

Speaking of warp tension, their ability to hold a very high tension makes frame looms ideal for tapestry weaving. If you are wanting to start your weaving adventure with tapestry then frame looms are the best option.

If you want something that may actually be simpler than a simple frame loom then you can get a loom with notches or make one with nails. These will warp up even faster than a simple frame loom (which already warps up fast) because everything is already spaced out and good to go.

You can also learn about spacing hacks for your simple frame loom here.


Easy to warp



Since there are many different types of frame looms there are varying degrees of difficulty when it comes to warping your loom. All of them though, are going to allow you to get weaving fast and with little effort.

The easiest frame looms to warp are going to be ones with dedicated notches or nails with either no shed system or a simple heddle bar (see above video.) These looms require no extra math to figure out your EPI and keep your warp spaced perfectly as you go.

Other types of frame looms are not hard to warp, but they may require a little extra effort. They do have their advantages though.

Learn about different types of frame looms here.

Learn specifically about simple frame looms (my favorites) here.


They don’t take up a lot of space


Most frame looms are small.

This means that not only are they good for travel, but they are also good for when you do not have a bunch of dedicated space to devote to a skill that you may not even love.

Do not worry. You will love it.

That sounded threatening… anyway.

Not only do you probably not know if you will love to weave or not, but you may not even know what you really want to weave. It is never a bad idea to start small and work up from there. If you decide later that you want a larger loom of any type you can still rest easy knowing that you can always still use your frame loom for smaller weavings or samples.

You can read more about finding the best second loom here.


Need help planning your weaving project? Stuck trying to figure out how much yarn you need? What the h&^$ is WPI? Check out my e-book!


Why you should start weaving with a rigid heddle loom



Not everyone wants to weave tapestry.

When you are looking to weave something else, then a rigid heddle loom might be a better object for your creative input than a frame loom – at least to start.

Rigid heddle looms are great for weaving longer weavings that are either balanced or pattern woven, but tapestry should be left for a loom with the ability to hold more tension.


Easier to warp than a floor loom


Floor looms are notoriously annoying to warp. Not necessarily hard, but there are a lot of steps and it takes a while. The more steps there are, the more opportunities you have to make a mistake in the process.

Mistakes are good. They are how we learn. 

For most people though, when first starting anything new it is a good idea to start on the easier side to get hooked first. It is a lot easier to deal with things that can be frustrating when you love what you are doing. 

Rigid heddle looms have the ability to be warped directly instead of using a warping board or mill. This means that you eliminate a step in the warping process that requires you to measure out your warp first and then put it on your loom. Beyond this, the warping itself is simpler because there are fewer moving parts to deal with.

Unlike a floor loom, a rigid heddle loom only has 1 heddle for you to pull your warp through. This means fewer chances to make mistakes.


Longer weavings than a frame loom


Sometimes a frame loom is just not going to cut it for what you want to weave. If you know going in that you want to weave scarves or other long pieces of fabric then starting with a frame loom may not make sense.

Weaving on a rigid heddle loom is great for when you want to create longer weavings and when you want to work on balanced or pattern weavings.

With its ability to have an advancing warp you can create weavings that just keep going!

Even if your goal is not to weave something specific, rigid heddle looms can be great for beginners because they allow you a lot of room to practice your weaving skills. Weaving, just like any other skill, will only keep improving with time and practice.

The more time you have to weave without having to re-warp your loom keeps you in the weaving mind-frame longer. A.K.A. more time to get hooked!


My beginner loom recommendations


choosing beginner looms

If you really just want to get started with no fuss then purchasing a loom that already has notches and a shed device will get you weaving the fastest with the least amount of learning involved in the warping process. 


Frame looms


If you are going the simple frame loom route then you can use any old frame you have laying around or one that is found in a clearance bin to keep it cheap. You can also use canvas stretcher bars for a more tailored size. I usually purchase mine here.

Another inexpensive frame loom that is great for beginners is this notched loom that you can find on Amazon.

Easy to warp? Check

Inexpensive? Check

Portable and easy to store? Check

Heddle bar capability? Check


Rigid Heddle Looms 


Rigid heddle looms for beginners are usually less expensive, but still capable of weaving a lot of different techniques including pick-up weaving.

The Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom is great for beginners because it is small and does not have any extra frills. You can read my full review here.


Take a class


If you are still having some doubts then the best loom to start with is one that you do not own! Taking a local class helps you to get your needle on the loom without committing to anything you have to keep in your home. A lot of times you will get to use a loom that may even be beyond beginner status (but still has beginner capabilities.)

If you are in the Richmond, Virginia area then check out my in-person classes. If you are not, then just google weaving in your area to get in with a local weaver who can teach you on their looms before you purchase your own!


Weaving With Wool – Material Spotlight

Weaving With Wool – Material Spotlight

Weaving and wool go hand-in-hand.

In fact, tapestry would not be as we know it today without the use of wool as a common material used in weaving. So what is it about wool that has made such a huge part of the history of weaving itself? How can we use it today to its full potential?


In case you have missed my other yarn spotlights you can check those out here:

Weaving with cotton

Weaving with linen

Weaving with hemp


This page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!



Wool as a fiber


wool yarn on cones

So what exactly is wool?

Wool can actually be used to describe many different types of protein fibers from different animals. For example, the fleece from sheep, alpaca, goats, rabbits, and other animals are all called wool.

That being said, when you see “wool” listed as the contents of your yarn or fabric then it is going to be a type of sheep’s wool. Otherwise, it will usually have the animal title preceding it. So unless I say otherwise, wool = sheep’s wool.

Wool fibers are made primarily of a protein called keratin. This is very similar to our own hair. Just like our hair, wool has cuticles that go along the length of the fiber that you can actually feel. These cuticles are responsible for one of the main attributes of wool – the ability to felt.

While felting in and of itself is an artform, it also applies to your weavings and how they behave. We will go more into that a bit later when we talk about pros and cons.


History of weaving with wool


Sheep were first domesticated in about 5000 BCE, but it was not until around 4000 BCE that they began to be utilized for not just their meat, but also their wool and milk. It took 1000 years for the fleece of these domesticated sheep to shift from mostly hair that was unsuitable for creating yarn to mostly wool. Prior to this, most weaving materials were made of cellulose fibers such as linen and hemp

Since wool naturally comes in different colors (whites, greys, browns, and blacks) and because it easily takes dye, it became a prominent material for creating patterned textiles. These textiles were often weft-faced and became tunics and tapestries.

This dye affinity meant that the domestication of sheep changed the future of textiles. Suddenly there were more color options to work with and more imagery could be created.

A quick refresher on tapestry:

Tapestry is a weft-faced weaving that features discontinuous weft. Most often (although not always) these weavings heavily feature imagery. 

Learn more about tapestry here.


How it is harvested and prepared


wool fleece and hand carders

An important thing to understand about wool is that it is a renewable material. This makes it a sustainable option for weaving that you do not have to feel guilty about using. While those that are vegan may abstain from wool since it comes from an animal, wool is collected without causing harm to the sheep. In fact, domesticated sheep have evolved to need shearing in order to live a more comfortable life. 

There are many different types of sheep that produce different types of wool. Some sheep even have a mixture of wool and hair. 

After shearing, the fleece needs to be cleaned before it can be turned into yarn. Cleaning the wool is important to rid it of multiple things you will not want in the final product you use for weaving. The wool is cleaned of large debris such as grass, dirt, dust, and feces.

Most often the fleece is also cleaned to remove the waxes and oils (such as lanolin) from the fibers. Sometimes these waxes are kept on for spinning, but they should always be cleaned off when it comes time to purchase yarn for weaving.

After it is cleaned the wool is carded to make sure all of the fibers are going in the same direction to prepare it for spinning or for weaving. If you are not doing your own spinning or cleaning up raw fiber, then you may not need hand carders. If you do need them, though, then these Ashford hand carders are the ones I am using.


Families of wool yarn


wool and fiber books

There are hundreds of different breeds of sheep from all over the world. We do not have time or really need to go over all of them here. There are some names, though, that you may come across in your yarn purchases that would be good to know.

If you want to learn more about different breeds of sheep then I highly recommend The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.


Merino


There are many different breeds of sheep but not all of them are great for producing fibers for weaving and other fiber arts. There are some breeds known as hair sheep that produce little to no actual wool. Wool yarns can be categorized by the weight and texture of the fibers. One of the most common types of wool that you will see is Merino.

This common family of sheep originated as a crossbreed of Spanish and Moroccan ewes (female sheep) to African rams. Despite its reputation for fine soft fibers, in the Merino family, there are actually many different breeds of sheep that range from having fine to courser wool textures. Since it has become a household name, you can assume that the Merino you can find in everything from socks to sweaters to base layers is of the finer variety. Prior to being dyed, most Merino wool is white or off-white, but can sometimes be found in grey, brown, or black.


Want to learn how to weave tapestry? It’s more than just imagery (although that can be a big part of it too!) Follow along with this self-paced online course that you can take from anywhere at any time.


Northern European Short-Tailed


One of the most well-known breeds of sheep from the Northern European short-tailed family is the Icelandic sheep. These sheep are not surprisingly originally from Iceland and were developed almost entirely in isolation – keeping them pure. In 1985 and 1990 they were brought over to North America.

Icelandic sheep are double-coated where the outercoat is called tog and the undercoat is called thel. These terms are sometimes applied to other types of non-sheep wool as well. These two types of wool are sometimes spun together and sometimes separate. If separate then thel is best to use for anything that needs to be really soft, while tog is best to use for applications that require a strong yarn.

Shetland yarn is another popular breed that is known for its wide range of natural colors. Much like the Icelandic sheep, Shetland sheep are double-coated. The two types of wool that you can expect are “kindly” and “beaver” with the former being very fine and soft and the latter often characterized as scratchy.

Shetland sheep will naturally shed both their over and undercoats, but this happens over a few weeks of time. Instead, like most sheep raised for their wool they are sheared to get all of their fleece at once.


group of sheep

English Longwool


Leicester (pronounced Lester) sheep are a member of the English Longwool family. As their name implies, this family of sheep is known for their long wool. These sheep mainly come from the UK but originated from Rome.

These sheep can be shorn twice a year for shorter gains, or once a year for longer wool. Within the Leicester family, there are 3 main breeds: Leicester Longwool, Border Leicester, and Bluefaced Leicester. I will not be going into all the differences here, but just know that not all Leicesters are the same.

Among these different breeds you can find all colors, but mostly white. The Longwools locks can be crimped or curled.


Cormo


The Cormo sheep do not fall into any particular family but are still notable. Cormos originated in Australia as a cross between Corriedale rams and Merino ewes. They continue to be bred very precisely to keep the wool consistent in look, feel, and yield. They were brought to the United States starting in 1976.

The wool from Cormo sheep has a well-defined crimp and stretches well and is good for both fluffy and lacy applications.



Wool – what it is good for?


Absolutely a lot of things … (get it?)

Anyway, wool is an amazing fiber.

Like most natural fibers wool is biodegradable. As long as it is 100% wool and it has not been treated than when your woven fabrics or scraps are no longer usable you can be happy knowing that they will not be adding to the landfill. If sustainability is important to you then this is just one of the attributes that you will want to be looking for when choosing your fibers.

Learn more about sustainable yarns here.


Wool is flame resistant


Did you know that wool is used by firefighters and other professions where fire could be a professional hazard? Wool is naturally high in both water and nitrogen which makes it much slower to burn than other fibers. When it does ignite (with very high heat) the structure makes it so the fire does not spread and only smolders. Wool is actually considered self-extinguishing as any burning stops when removed from active flames.

It also does not melt or drip which makes it a great option for home textiles or anything that will be against the skin.


woven wool scarves

Temperature regulating


If you have ever looked for performance wear then you may have heard that wool is great for keeping you cool and dry. In fact, wool can actually absorb up to 33% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. This makes it a great option for anything that you might wear if you are planning to be sweaty.

Wool will absorb both perspiration and moisture from the air. These things will keep you cool in warmer weather and warm in cooler weather by balancing everything out.


Mold and mildew resistant


We previously talked about the anatomy of wool and the fact that it has cuticles all along each fiber. These cuticles are perfect for when you need a yarn with a little extra “tooth” to it. You will not have to worry about your warp or weft sliding around! Some weavers use wool as their warp for tapestry for this very reason. The wool warp grips to the weft and keeps it in place. That is not to say that using a cotton or linen warp will mean the weft will be moving around during weaving, but if you are noticing some slip then you can always try wool!


Every fiber has its drawbacks


While wool is a great fiber for a lot of different applications there are some that you may want to leave for other types of yarn.

One of the biggest things to keep in mind with wool is that it is a favorite of moths.

Moths are attracted to protein fibers and if you have ever had a favorite woolen sweater mysteriously have holes appear in it, you know exactly what I am talking about. This may not be enough reason to not use it at all (do not let the moths win!), but it is something to think about when storing your wool yarns and finished weavings.

Learn more about studio organization (and storing wool) here.

Another possible drawback of using wool is that it can be prone to felting. Depending on what you are going for you may or may not want your wool to felt.

Felting may be advantageous for certain applications or for filling out gaps from weaving. Felting, though, is not always the goal when making woven fabrics. If you are wanting to make sure your wool weavings do not felt then you will need to be very careful when washing. There is also a chemical finish you can get on your yarn to keep it from felting called superwash.

Learn more about yarn treatments and specialty yarns here.


Weaving with roving


weaving tapestry with wool roving

First, what is roving?

Roving is an unspun fiber that has been cleaned and carded so that it is all going in the same direction.

It is basically a long fluffy “snake” of wool that you would normally spin into yarn, but can also be woven as is!

Weaving with roving seems to have become more popular as of late and that is probably because the payoff is huge. Roving created large fluffy areas of texture on the surface of your weavings and can be really beautiful to weave on their own or mixed with more traditional yarns to really make them pop out!

You can weave plain weave, soumak, overshot, and more with roving. So if you are looking for a way to add some extra interest to your weaving then try this out!


Favorite Wool Yarns


The types of wool yarn that I personally use in my studio range from those that are great for tapestry to those that are great for wearable fabrics.

These are the wool yarns that I keep buying!

Harrisville Shetland Wool

Harrisville Highland Wool

Scout Dk Wool


Resources



How To Fix A Broken Warp On Any Loom

How To Fix A Broken Warp On Any Loom

What is the worst thing that can happen while you are weaving?

Depending on who you ask, the answer may be “a broken warp”.

While this is not an ideal thing to have to deal with, it is not the end of the world! A small setback – yes, but something that is actually very easy to deal with once you know how to do it!

One of my favorite things about weaving is how easy it can be to fix any mistakes that you make and issues that come up. 

Regardless of the type of loom you are using, your fixed warp will be just as simple to weave with as your previous warp was. You may end up having 2 extra tails to deal with when your weaving is off the loom, but in the grand scheme of things – this is doable.

I believe in you!


This page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!



Why your warp is breaking


Luckily, with a bit of forethought, a broken warp should not be a regular occurrence. Sometimes they do happen though and these are a few reasons why:

  • Getting twisted in your heddles – make sure to double-check your threading as you go. It is important to make sure your warp is going through the heddles straight or it adds stress on the yarn.
  • Too much friction in reed – if your warp is too thick or there is just too much stress on your yarn (selvedges pulling in a lot) then the reed may be putting friction on it.
  • Accidently cutting it when you mean to cut weft – oops! 
  • Picked the wrong warp – Warp yarns should be strong! If you are trying to use yarns that do not meet the strength test then they will be more likely to break. While a broken warp here and there is not something to get too worried about – having yarn that is unsuitable for warp will make trying to weave with it an uphill battle. Do yourself a favor and do not choose yarn that is not strong enough for the job. Learn more about picking the right warp yarn here.

If you are not sure why your warp is breaking then try to see where it is breaking. This can help you determine the problem.


Fixing a broken warp on a simple frame loom


broken warp on simple frame loom

What you need: extra warp yarn

One of the best things about a simple frame loom is just how simple it is! That even extends to fixing a broken warp. 

Learn more about simple frame looms here.

This method is best for when you do not have a lot woven. If you have already woven a lot then you can follow the instructions in the next section for the notched loom where we do not completely replace the warp.

The first thing you will want to do when you have a broken warp is to tie off the top of the warp yarn to the frame to keep your tension even. This is important because your warp is one continuous piece of yarn. A simple square knot will be fine for this.

Learn more about weaving knots here.

Cut a piece of yarn to be your replacement warp. This warp yarn will need to be longer than the height of your weaving so that you have enough yarn to tie it to the frame. The amount extra will depend on the frame you are using and how much yarn you personally need to tie a knot.

Next: tie this new warp yarn to the bottom of the frame in the same spot as the broken warp.


new warp on a simple frame loom

Then with your tapestry needle, follow the warp channel (include your scaffolding with this) and up through your weaving. Be careful not to pierce the weft yarns on the front or the back of your weaving!

Take this new warp yarn and tie it to the top of your frame, again make sure to go through your scaffolding. This will be next to your original tied warp. 


fix broken warp

Once your new warp is in place you can remove the old warp from your weaving and tie it to the bottom of your frame. This will keep the tension of your weaving.

Done! Keep weaving like nothing ever happened.


tie on broken warp on simple frame loom

Fixing a broken warp on a notched frame loom


broken warp on notched frame loom

What you need: extra warp yarn

Fixing a broken warp yarn on a notched frame loom is essentially the exact same as fixing a broken warp yarn on a simple frame loom. This is because neither one of them has an advancing warp. These smaller weavings are easier to fix because you can just tie a new warp yarn onto your frame in place of the broken one. 

The same options also apply. If your woven area is small then I recommend a full replacement, and if your woven area is large then your broken warp yarn should stay in place with the new warp yarn overlapping and taking over for the rest of the weaving.

The size of the woven area in these photos is small enough that I could have done a full replacement, but I opted for an overlapped warp for the sake of this post.


tie on broken warp to frame loom

If you are overlapping your warp then instead of weaving up the entire warp channel, you would instead weave into your scaffolding and then float the warp on the back of the weaving until a few inches below the top of your woven area. Then weave up the remaining few inches of your warp channel and tie your new warp to the top of the loom. 

This is much simpler than trying to weave up the warp channel of a large weaving but it still anchors the warp in place for easy weaving.


broken warp float on weaving

Your old warp yarn will stay in place and your new warp yarn will overlap it by a few wefts. The friction of the weft on the broken warp will keep the tension intact for the remainder of the weaving.

The pictures show the warp floating on the front of the weaving because it is easier to fix this way, but you will want to push these tails to the back of the weaving when you are finishing it. This will make it look cleaner.


fixing a broken warp on a notched frame loom

Once the weaving is finished and off the loom you can weave the broken warp and the new warp back into the weaving. Pull the new warp from the scaffolding to free it to be woven in. This is done in the same way as you would weave in your weft tails.

Learn how to weave in your weft tails here.

You can find the notched loom I am using here.



Fixing a broken warp on a rigid heddle and floor loom



What you need: extra warp yarn, t-pins, weights, something to hold your extra warp

Fixing a broken warp on a rigid heddle loom and a floor loom (and also a table loom!) is basically the same because the warp mechanics are very similar.

The biggest difference will be in the weights and types of weights you will be able to use since floor looms are much taller than their rigid heddle and table counterparts. It is possible you can use similar weights, but you will have to play around with the right options to maintain the right tension on your warp.

The first thing you need to do for a broken warp on an advancing warp loom is to measure out a new warp yarn to replace the broken one. I always like to make notes on my weavings for occasions like these. That way I know exactly how long my replacement warp yarn should be.


Re-sleying a broken warp on a rigid heddle loom

Take this warp over to your loom and tie a small square knot at one end.

Insert your t-pin into this knot and insert your t-pin into your weaving a few inches below where your woven area has stopped. Be careful when inserting your t-pin into your weaving that you do not pierce your weaving. Also, I recommend putting the tip of the pin toward the back of your weaving so you do not pierce yourself…

Next, you will re-sley your reed or your rigid heddle with your new warp yarn. If using a floor or table loom you will need to also re-thread your heddle.

The remainder of your yarn can be wrapped around a weight and left to hang from the back of your weaving.

If you have old film canisters or pill bottles these work really well to contain the remainder of your warp so it is not dragging on the ground.


broken warp with weight

broken warp with weight

The weight that you choose will depend on the amount of tension that you need. Fishing weights are really good options because they are small and heavy, but you can use anything that is easy to get your hands on!

You will need to let out the extra warp as you keep weaving and moving your warp forward. Just think of this as a way to make sure you get up and stretch occasionally!


fixing a broken warp on a rigid heddle or floor loom

Your new warp will weave in seamlessly and beyond letting out some warp from the weight occasionally, your weaving experience will be the same.

Once your weaving is finished you can take it off your loom as usual.

To start your finishing process: remove your t-pin or straight pin and untie your square knot. You will finish this the same way as any other broken warp. Weave in your broken and new warp up and down the warp channels. It is ok if your new warp tail is on the shorter side, weave it in anyway. It will be overlapping your old warp so everything should stay in place.

This works even if you have a balanced weaving and you can see the warps. I have circled where the warps overlap in the picture below.

Barely noticeable!

The Schacht Flip folding rigid heddle loom I am using can be found here.


fixing a broken warp overlapping warp

When a warp breaks it can be easy to stress out and get discouraged. Luckily, if you follow any of the steps above then it should not be any more than a few minutes of extra time added to your weaving!


Weft-Faced: Tapestry Techniques & Beyond - Online Course Now Available!

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