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Spring Dishtowel Cotton Warp

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It's time for another weaving project, don't you think? 

There's a long story about the process of getting this warp onto my loom, but I'll sum it up by telling you that I put this warp on twice and that I always learn a lot by making mistakes.  And I'll definitely never make the mistake of not putting a layer of something between rotations of warp threads.

20090312_CottonWarpBehind.jpgWeaving is an opportunity for all sorts of "McGuyvering" -- to separate the warp threads on the warp beam, I bought 12 foot of clear vinyl floor runner from the Home Depot and trimmed about 2 inches from the edge so that it spanned the entire width of my loom.  An unanticipated benefit is that I can take the unwound part and pull it over the top of the loom so that it has a cover.  

But, enough with the strange little details.  What am I actually warping my loom for.

Dishtowels.

I would almost never consider knitting up dishtowels (not because I have any issue with the idea of knitting dishtowels or wash cloths, but because it takes a long time and I like to use my knitting time in other ways), but weaving is another story entirely.   I purchased some Sugar and Cream in what I thought were springy colors and designed a warp that I thought would be fun to work with from the perspective of playing with plaids.  And then I got to warping.  The towels are destined to be 14 inches wide and roughly 28 inches long, but I think the lengths are going to end up somewhat variable, because while I started out thinking I was going to make 4 towels that were exactly the same, I ended up deciding (after making the first one), that life is too short and that I wanted to play more with my loom, so I'm using them all as an opportunity to sample color and weave effects.

20090312_CottonWarpClose.jpg Of course, every project is an opportunity to play with my camera.

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One thing I learned in my weaving class that I thought I would share is this tip: start your weaving after you've rolled your warp knots past the front beam and have all the warp threads lying flat on that front beam.  This will start everything off levelly and help you identify tension problems..

20090312_CottonWarpReadyToR.jpgAll ready to go!  That header is a little wonky, but all headers are for is to spread out the warp threads evenly and to give you a level place to start from.  Full steam ahead for dishtowels!



Getting Warped for the First Time

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There might be some that would argue that I was a little warped long before I ever got a loom, but today I'm going to share my first experience warping my Flip.   A wiser person than I might have waited for the nice books she ordered before getting started, but I just couldn't wait to get started, so I cracked open the little paper manual that comes with the Flip and got started.

One of the benefits of having been a newbie knitter when it comes to being a newbie weaver, is that you are bound to have some yarn in your stash that you don't really like, but, for some reason, you haven't bothered to give away or sell.  In my case, it happened to be 4 skeins of sport weight acrylic yarn (actually an acrylic/nylon blend) that I thought would make nice socks for John (because of the color) before I realized that acrylic socks would only result in John having sweaty cold feet.  While the yarn is not so good for socks, it seemed like good starter loom yarn because I figured the tensile strength would be good in a warp (warp yarn spends its time under a fair amount of tension), it was the right weight for my 10 dent heddle, I had enough in one skein to make a reasonably wide warp, and I thought that I would turn my manly colored yarn into a manly colored runner for John's night stand.

Warping, so far as I can tell, is time consuming and requires that you have some higher brain function available (by which I mean focus, not the ability to do integral calculus in your head), but is not hard.  One of the big contrasts between knitting and weaving is that getting started on a project takes a little bit more thinking and a lot more time preparing.  Casting on 300 stitches for a two color sweater in the round takes a lot less effort than getting a loom warped.  I did some basic back of the envelope calculations (assisted by the Flip manual) to know how many warp ends I could get out of one skein of my yarn and figured out where to start warping based on my estimated width.

20090215_Warping1.jpgWarping a loom takes one of two things: a warping board or a warping peg.  Both are the mechanisms by which you measure out a specific length thread to tie onto the loom to be your warp.  The reason to use one or the other seems to be related to both personal preference and how long you want your warp to be.  I suspect that the peg method would not work so well for very long warps.  But given that I do not have a warping board and I didn't really want a very long warp, I followed the instructions with the Flip to use the peg.  This involves mounting the peg the desired distance from your warp beam (the beam in the back of the loom) and then pulling loops of yarn through the slots in the heddle, alternating pulling the loops over and under the warp beam.  This method also saves you from having to tie the warp threads onto the warp beam, so I suspect that it not only saves you time, but also helps keep the tension on the warp more even.

20090215_Warping2.jpgThe next step is to do something that, as a knitter, is pretty scary to me -- you pull the loops off the peg and cut right through them so that they go from being loops to warp threads.  To keep them from getting out of control, you tie the ends using an overhand knot.

20090215_Warping3.jpgAfter that, it's a simple of matter of winding the warp onto the warp beam (the beam in the back) separating each layer of warp threads with paper.  I opted for baking parchment paper because I had it available and it came in a roll -- making it easy to control the flow of paper.    As you roll the warp threads onto the warp beam, you have to stop now and again to pull tightly on the threads to make sure they are tightly wound onto the warp beam. 

20090215_Warping4.jpgYou wind the warp on until you can undo the knot and still have enough yarn to tie the warp ends onto the cloth beam (the beam at the front of the loom).  Then you untie the not and get ready for the main event.

20090215_Warping5.jpgUsing a hook that looks a lot like a latch hook for a rug or a thin crochet hook, you take one of the pair of ends in each slot in the heddle and thread it through the hole in the plastic piece next to it.  You get to do this until all the ends are individually in either on of the slots or one of the holes in the heddle -- this is what is going to make sure that you raise and lower alternate threads for the weaving.

20090215_Warping6.jpgThe final step in the warping process is to tie the warp ends to the cloth beam.  This is easier than you might think, since you do it in groups of about 1" worth (10) of warp ends and then use a simple knot to tie the ends to the beam.  You start in the middle and then alternate back and forth to the right and left sides tying on groups of ends.  The knot used is adjustable so that you can adjust the tension on the warp ends as you go: if the tension isn't adjusted correctly, your final fabric will be wobbly.  After the tension is adjusted the way you want it to be, then you tie the ends in a bow knot (like the bow you use with shoelaces) so that it's easy to untie them after your project is done.

20090215_Warping7.jpgAnd that's pretty much it for warping.  Everything is tied on and you're pretty much good to go -- except for one thing: your warp ends aren't spread out evenly. (You can see how they're bunched into groups in the picture that shows them tied on).  To spread the warp ends out evenly, you need to weave a header.  At the end of the weaving, the header is removed, so it doesn't really matter what yarn you use for it, as long as it isn't too different in size from the yarn you are going to do your main weaving with.  I decided to use some of the yarn I was planning to use for the project since it was convenient.  And I like convenient.  Weaving on the header involves placing a few weft threads ("picks") onto the warp, and then beating them all down together.  I did a few more after that just to get the rhythm of using the heddle. 

20090215_Warping8.jpgAnd there it is, al ready to go, with the heddle in the neutral position.  As you might imagine, I didn't stop there, but I think I'll stop here and talk about the finished product in my next post.   It might take a while to get that warp set up, but getting to the finish line for a weaving project is amazingly quick compared to what it would take to knit a comparable sized length fabric (using appropriately sized needles -- I know that knitting goes fast when you use big yarn and tree trunks). 

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