Warping Reels and Beaming

May 23, 2008


I have a confession to make.  Even though I am looking forward to working with some color at the end of my warp, I have been dawdling about getting there.  I don’t really want to be finished, because that means it’s time to get out the warping reel and get frustrated.

Generous readers: help! 

Part of my problem is that I have not found a satisfactory way to beam on.  My old weaving books show Swedish högskola girls in 1940’s wedge sandals and handwoven aprons working in teams of four.  If I had some Swedish high school students I’d use them!  My husband helped me with the last warp, and it was not good for our relationship.  He turned the warp beam while I tried to hold one half of the warp in each hand, put in sticks, shake the threads, and give orders at the same time:  “Stop.  No, go back one notch  Okay.  No.  Wait!  Okay, now.  Nooooo!”

It doesn’t help matters that my warping reel makes one side of the warp ever-so-slightly longer than the other as it climbs the pegs.  I have to compensate for the lopsided tension by combing it as I beam.


I’d like a better reel, but I’m afraid the tension problem is endemic to them.  My current reel is similar to the Louet yarn-blocker/warping reel.  It lacks those separate cross-pieces that carry the pegs on Schacht and most other horizontal reels.A Schacht horizontal reel

Yet even with better-positioned pegs, isn’t there is always going to be a tension discrepancy as the plane of the wound warp transfers from the horizontal barrel of the reel to the perpendicularity of the pegs?

Any fellow reelers out there?  I would love to hear your take on this problem.  What sort of reel do you use?  Can you wind an evenly tensioned warp with it?

As for the beaming, I beamed my first few warps by myself when I was warping Swedish-style.  (That’s the back-to-front threading method where you sley the reed twice, using it as a raddle the first time).  The tension wasn’t too bad, and frankly I can’t remember how I managed it!  I was using 15-dent reed, so that might have helped–the friction as the yarn pulled through.

But then I bought a bendy quarter-inch Glimåkra raddle.  I tried it on both the front and the back beams with poor results and some bad ol’ times with my beaming partner.  Fortunately, they were forgiving warps.  (Fortunately, I have a forgiving spouse.)

I’m about to wind a new warp.  It’s fine wool–not too wide, but long.  And you know, I’m afraid the original owner of my loom was right.  In a handwritten note with her warping instructions, Mrs. S-G declared to her granddaughter, “This is the way I warped a loom. . .This is the simplest and best way to warp no matter what anyone says about it.  I can put a 45” warp on a loom with no one helping, which I preferred to do.”

So I’ve given in.  My loom is Swedish.  Designed by a Swede, built by Swedes.  Okay!  I’ll dress it like a Swede, for Pete’s sake!  I’ll follow your directions to the letter Mrs. S-G.  Unfortunately you don’t say how you kept your tension.

On Bergman looms the main warp beam rests in the castle, a little higher up than the back beam.  If I’d thought logically about this fact, I’d have known a raddle wasn’t the way to go.  But I wasn’t thinking logically.  I was thinking that I didn’t want to sley the whole warp twice.  After struggling to lay my warps in an open raddle without accidentally lifting a piece of them out again or knocking the rod out of the loops and onto the floor, I’m not going to mind the extra sleying so much.  I now have a rocking chair with arms that are perfect for propping a reed across my lap.  And great plans for some bag clips from IKEA.

The tension problem remains.  I don’t have enough floor to drag the warp across it under weights as Elkhorn Mountain Weaving recommends.  I don’t have a warping trapeze like the Vävstuga folks.  If I were a homeowner, I would hang chains from the ceiling and suspend my warps over a wooden closet-rod.  For now I guess I’ll try the milk jug trick.  It’s just that my beam is so low, I’ll be rehooking them every 12 inches.

Advice is welcome!  Wish me luck.


10 Responses to “Warping Reels and Beaming”

  1. Jane Says:

    Am sooo wishing you luck! 🙂 I had always warped front to back — then learned back to front, and I’m so happy that I know both ways and am comfortable with both.

    I’m a solo loom dresser, whether doing it front to back or back to front. I never use weights, a trapeeze, jugs, friends, nor nada. I’m a bit slow, but solo dressing has always worked for me without fail.

    I use warping sticks on my smaller looms — and on my big floor loom, I keep a roll of thick painter/carpenter’s paper (love Home Depot for weaving supplies) that is nearly the width of my loom, and as I wind, it rolls on with the warp, smooth as can be — as I weave, it winds off as smoothly.

    I do use a raddle that I made myself for my floor loom — and I use two little bungi cords to keep it snugly on the back beam. I put a couple of empty paper towel tubes, that have been slit lengthwise, over the pins on the raddle — spread the warp threads out over those first, *then* I slide them to the left as I begin filling in the slots of the raddle. I wind rubber bands over the raddle pins to ensure that the spread threads don’t jump back out as I go (they have never indicated that they might, but I’m paranoid). Not real high tech but works great for me.

    Peggy Osterkamp has a good video and book(s) out on loom dressing — and you might even find them through your library.

    Handwoven has some good instructions:


    Since my big loom is Canadian, and my smaller loom is Coloradoan, and my table loom is a Kiwi –I’ma thinkin’ that I haven’t been much help here.

    We need to find you a way to “Granny warp” your loom! 😉

    Don’t have a warping reel — so certainly can’t help you there. I have a really nice warping board that I love. Procrastinating on dressing the loom is a common malady. . .

    Cheering you on!

  2. Cally Says:

    I used to beam the warp solo but now have my husband pretty well trained. He turns the warp beam and puts in the separator: sticks for the first turn and then he attaches my trusty roll of corrugated cardboard (I haunt the stationery stores but I like the DIY places too!). It’s my job to shake/comb out the warp threads and keep the tension. As he is at the back he has learned to shout if he sees a tangle that has slipped through the raddle.

    The first time we did this was an absolute nightmare but now the warp goes on like a dream. I probably shouldn’t be saying that as I have just put a new warp in the raddle for beaming later today and I may have brought curses down upon myself – I’ll post about the outcome if I am still living.

  3. I’m sorry I can’t be of any help, my looms have all had sectional beams and it’s the only way I know. I have trained and pay a local high-schooler to help me put on my longer warps- 50+ yards, because my shoulder can’t take all that cranking. Is there a young person you could get to help? Cheaper than a marriage counselor, and the young person may want to learn to weave.

  4. SpinningLizzy Says:

    My Bergman loom came with a warping reel (not sure, but think it’s an unmarked Schacht), but with only one crossbeam (other was lost before I got it). I’m thinking of having someone make the second. If it works out, I’ll let you know, and perhaps one could be made for yours as well.

  5. Hi Trapunto, have you tried a raddle yet? It didn’t take long at all to make, and works like a dream, even as chunky and clunky as mine turned out to be. It’s like magic.

  6. Celeste Says:

    Being one of those Vavstuga folks I heart the trapeze! It’s my best friend 🙂 In terms of winding a warp – I like to use a mill. And (another habit from Vavstuga) I now always pre-sley. I think it’s amazing how tidy it makes the warp look on the back beam. I’m OCD and Swedish so it suits me well, lol! Anway – love your blog. It’s really fun to hear the thoughts and problems and wonderful tricks people have. Since I want to be a weaving teacher it really helps to hear all the different points of view and to learn new ways of doing things. I sure hope you get back to blogging some day in the not to distant future!

  7. Celeste Says:

    P.S. I happen to know that the trapeze Vavstuga sells just went way down in price! It’s awfully handy, and becky has a video on the site on how to use it.

  8. […] mentioned that my new-used Le Clerc warping reel arrived moldy.  I should have known better, since my old no-brand reel was another Ebay disappointment.  That one wasn’t moldy, but it had design […]

  9. Susan Berlin Says:

    I CAN dress my Bergman loom as instructed, but I hate doing it that way. Does anyone know whether it’s possible to dress a Bergman back-to-front? I can’t figure out how to do it, because of the position of the warp beam — but there MUST be a way! If you know how to do it, pease educate me!


  10. Susan Berlin Says:

    Louet has a DVD on how to warp your loom (back to front) on your own (narrated and demonstrated by Jane Stafford). It’s beautifully clear and the system works perfectly on most looms — but I can’t figure out how to do it on my Bergman loom (see note above). Parts 2,3 and 4 of the DVD are available on YouTube — but I haven’t been able to find Part 1. If anyone can find it, please let me know!


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