Warp Guide for a Weaving Loom

by Shannon Stoney

Getting a warp on your loom is an essential first skill for the beginning hand weaver. The way you warp your loom will determine the success of your project, as well as your pleasure in hand weaving. The warp must have even tension, and it must be strong enough not to break. Learning a few warping tricks will make your hand weaving go faster and more smoothly.

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Preliminary Calculations

At the start of a project, weaving involves quite a bit of math. You must figure out the correct sett, or number of ends per inch, for your warp. First, wrap a piece of warp yarn around a ruler, and then count the number of wraps you can fit per inch. Divide this number by two to get the tabby, or plain weave, sett. Once you have figured your sett, figure out the desired finished width of your woven piece and add about 10 percent for take-up and shrinkage. Now multiply your woven width by the sett. This is the number of ends you will wind on the warping board. Calculate the length of the warp by adding about 10 percent to the wanted length of the woven piece, plus 1 yard loom waste.

Tensile Strength of the Warp

Warp yarns are under considerable stress and tension during weaving. The warp yarn must be able to withstand this tension and the abrasion of the reed. Test your yarn for strength by pulling a piece of it between your hands. If it breaks easily, it will not make good warp yarn. To increase the strength of your warp yarn, apply a warp sizing to the skeins before winding the yarn on the warping board. Soak the skeins in a solution of gelatin from the grocery store, and then dry them on a line. When the skeins are dry, wind the yarn into a ball and then wind the warp from that ball. The gelatin sizing will prevent fraying, and it will wash out later.

Winding on the Warping Board

Your next task is to wind the warp with even tension on the warping board. Divide the warp in half, and wind each half separately. This will make it easier for an assistant to hold it under correct tension while you beam it. Wind the warp two ends at a time, and make a figure eight cross at one end of the warp. When you have wound half the warp, tie off the cross with a shoestring. Tie both ends of the warp. too. Then put ties at one-yard intervals on the warp. Take the warp off the warping board and bring it to the loom. Wind the second half in the same manner.

Spacing and Beaming the Warp

The new warp has to be spaced accurately as you wind it onto the back beam of the loom. The simplest way is to use the reed as a spreader. Pre-sley the reed by pulling four ends of the warp through every fourth dent in the reed. Then put the pre-sleyed reed in the beater. Put the back apron rod through the warp end. Have an assistant hold the two other ends of the warp in her hands. She should exert the same amount of tension on both warp chains as you wind the warp onto the back beam. Use flat sticks to keep layers of the warp separate. Put a layer of sticks every fourth revolution. When your warp is beamed with even tension onto the back beam, you can thread the loom, sley to the final sett, tie the front of the warp to the front apron rod, tension the warp and begin to weave. Your warp will be on smoothly and evenly.


  • "The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book"; Rachel Brown; 1983

About the Author

Shannon Stoney holds a B.A. in English and comparative literature from Princeton University, as well as an M.F.A. in visual art from the Maine College of Art. She has been a fiber artist since 1985 and a fine artist since 1998. Stoney is also a writer and editor, with work published in magazines such as "Cite," "Spin-Off" and "Permaculture Activist."

Photo Credits

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