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 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.
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!
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)
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 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?
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!
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