Weaving FAQ

Weaving requires making decisions and solving problems. Here are answers to many of the most frequently asked weaving questions. If you have questions you think should be added to this list, please send them in.

Questions about tying up the warp

What tie-up method should I use?

There is more than one way to tie up the warp before beginning to weave. Many weaving books will show you how. The important thing is to do it carefully. Tie no more than 1" of width in each tie and 1/2" in the selvage ties. If you have too many threads in each tie, the threads that are spread out the most by the weft will be tighter than the others in the center of the ties. This creates tension problems.

After tying up all the warp threads, weave a few wefts. Measure the width of the weaving and compare to the width of the warp at the reed. Your first few weft need to be woven without the use of a temple, so use plenty of length in the weft, but keep the weft turns at the selvages very snug. Place the temple on as soon as there is enough weft for it. If the woven web is narrower than the width of the warp at the reed, after just an inch of weaving, you may need to have fewer threads in each tie, especially at the selvage.

How can I get better tension when I tie up?

If the line of weaving (the fell) is not straight, you can still tighten loose areas if you have only woven an inch or two. Where the weft line curves toward the reed, the warp is loose. Where the weft beats in more than it should, it is tighter than the other threads. Do not use knots when tying up so that you can untie and adjust the tension. If you have a very slippery warp thread, knots may be necessary.

My tie up rod is bent. What can I do?

The tie-up rod can bend when you are weaving narrower than the weaving width of the loom. To prevent the rod or bar from bending, attach the rod to the apron only as wide as the weaving will be. The extra length of the rod does not need to be tied to the apron. Even if the rod is bent, the beater will make the weaving straight, so it will not hinder your weaving.

Questions About Sett

How can I determine sett?

If you are a beginner, ask other weavers for a recommended sett for your warp thread. Weaving magazines and books can also give you recommended setts. When you gain experience, you can determine the sett yourself. You will often know the sett because you have woven with the thread before.

If you have no source of information, wind the thread around a ruler with the threads snug up against each other. Count the number of threads in an inch and divide by two. This will give you an estimate for the number of threads per inch for plain weave.

Twill should have more threads per inch, giving a slightly closer sett. Warp faced weaves have a much closer sett. Pattern weaves require a background plain weave which may have slightly fewer threads per inch than balanced weave, especially on a small loom as you will not be able to beat in as tight a weave. Weft faced weaving has fewer threads per inch giving a much more open sett. Weave a small sample to determine the sett. You can still change the sett after starting to weave by re-sleying the reed. If the new sett makes the weaving more than 4" wider in the reed, you may want to rebeam the warp.

Is my sett ok?

After weaving about an inch, you can count the number of threads woven per inch. A balanced weave is one where the number of wefts per inch equals the number of warps per inch. If you do not have enough weft threads per inch, try weaving another inch and beat harder. You might also add more length to the weft before beating. Try closing the shed before you beat, and beat again after opening the next shed. Advance the warp frequently if you have a small loom. Recount the wefts per inch.

If you still cannot get as many wefts per inch as warps per inch, or if you have to beat too hard to achieve it, you should re-sley the reed to a more open sett, that is, fewer warp threads per inch.

If you have too many wefts per inch, you can either beat less hard, or re-sley the reed to a closer sett, giving you more warp threads per inch. If you have a lot of draw-in or narrowing of the warp width, try a closer sett or a lighter beat. You should also be using a temple.

Weaving, Temple (stretcher) and Selvage Questions

How should a bobbin or quill be wound so that the bobbin does not catch on the inside of the shuttle?

Bobbins and quills should be about 1" shorter than the boat shuttle cavity. This will allow the bobbin to move back and forth as it is being unwound. Be sure to use bobbins which are made for or are compatible with your shuttle. Quills are especially nice to use as an alternative in shuttles where the bobbin tends to catch. They are also a good solution if the bobbin creates too much tension on the thread and pulls too much on the selvages as you weave.

When winding a quill or bobbin, attach the thread around the bobbin, using a simple overlap of the thread revolutions, a simple tie or a twist of the end around the thread, so that when the bobbin empties, the thread will come off the bobbin without pulling. Face the end of the spindle of the winder so that the hand that guides the thread is on the left or back side, the opposite side from the handle. Turn the handle clockwise and wind the thread from one end of the bobbin to the other. Wind the thread back and forth rapidly across the bobbin, which will cause a small swelling on the ends. As you continue to wind, do not wind beyond this small swelling. As the bobbin is filled, traverse a shorter and shorter path until you only cross the center of the bobbin.

The center of the bobbin will be the thickest when you are finished. Use some tension on the thread. Do not over fill. Keep the boat shuttle close by so that you can see how big the cavity in the shuttle is.

How is a paper quill made?

Paper quills can be made for any kind of boat shuttle. Cut a rectangle about 4"x 5". Round the corners and trim it to fit your boat shuttle. Place the paper on the spindle near the outside thinner end of the spindle. Wrap the paper around the spindle and begin to turn the handle of the winder, clockwise. When the paper is nearly all wound onto the spindle, push the paper in to the thicker part of the spindle to tighten the paper. Insert the end of the thread into the quill as you turn the handle. The thread will then start winding around the paper.

If you find it hard to do, make some paper quills and glue them together.

Do I need to use a temple?

The weave which never needs a temple is tapestry. Sometimes warp faced weaves do not need a temple, but if you have draw-in or narrowing of the weaving or the weft shows through the warp, you probably should use one. You can avoid using a temple if you are weaving a very open weave where the beat is extremely light.

Most other weaving is improved by using a temple. It will increase your speed and it will improve the quality of the weaving, allow you to get a tighter weave, a more even beat and make the beating easier. As a result, your weaving will be more square, wefts will be straight, and selvages will also be better.

For more information check out Temples, Shuttles, Temples and other Weaving Equipment

How do I put the temple on the weaving?

Take the pin out of the temple. Place the temple up side down on the warp at the reed. Extend the temple so that it's length is the same as the width of the warp, with the wood ends extending just beyond the selvage threads. Replace the pin to hold the width. Place the temple right side up near the fell of the weaving (the last weft woven). Set the teeth into the last warp threads of the woven selvages and slide the metal holder to the center to keep the temple flat. You should be able to see the last few wefts that you wove and the reed should not touch the temple when you beat.

If you notice that the selvage warp threads are pulled out wider by the reed, re-adjust the length of the temple one more notch wider. The warp threads should not be pulled out or in by the reed. Advance the temple after weaving about an inch.

My weaving looks like a smiley face. What can I do?

If you are already using a temple, then perhaps you need make the temple longer. If the temple is not the problem, then you need more length in your weft. Try to use a greater angle on your weft, and close the shed before you beat. For wide warps or weft faced weaving, you may need to add even more length to the weft. To do this, throw the shuttle, put your finger below the weft in the center of the warp and push the weft with your finger towards the reed to form a triangle, then close the shed and beat. This is called bubbling. Wide warps require that the weft be pushed out in several places to form a wavy line.

If the selvage threads have become loose, and you have been using a temple, your beaming of the warp may be at fault. To keep selvage threads from getting loose, beam your warp more tightly onto the warp beam. Or use more sticks while beaming. Read the section on beaming warps. Do not double the selvage threads or use a heavier thread except for heavy, weft faced rugs or weaves where a doubled thread at the selvage is meant to prevent curling of the selvage.

If you are not using a temple, this is a clear indication that you need to use one. A temple will not correct this problem; it can only prevent it. When the weaving is not as wide as the warps in the reed, you have draw-in or narrowing of the weaving. This causes the warp threads at the selvage to be too close together. This closer sett means that the weft cannot be beaten down as much as in the rest of the weaving and it will build up. When first starting to weave, place the temple on the weaving as soon as there is enough weft woven to hold it.

My selvages are loose with loops extending beyond the weaving. Why?

If you try to prevent draw-in by leaving the weft slack, your wefts will be very loose at the selvage and the weft may even form loops at the selvages. Instead of having very loose weft at the selvages, the selvage turns of the weft should be snug against the weaving.

To help prevent loose selvages, do not pull extra thread out of the shuttle before throwing it. If you are doing this because your bobbin doesn't let out enough weft, try quills instead. Let the throwing of the shuttle pull the weft out as needed, so that there is no loop of weft extending out at the selvage. Then leave the shuttle near the reed to place the weft at an angle. For weft faced weaves, bubble to get the weft long enough. Use a temple to prevent draw-in. If you leave your weft loose at the selvages, the selvage warp threads will eventually become slack and weaving will be more difficult.

If you still have loops at the selvages because your quill lets out too much weft, try throwing the shuttle a little faster. You can also try putting a piece of fur or velvet inside the boat shuttle so that the thread will have some added tension as it leaves the shuttle.

How can I keep my selvage warp threads from getting loose?

This may be caused by pulling too much weft out of the boat shuttle before throwing it, which leaves the weft loose at the selvages. If your wefts at the selvage are too loose, there will be little take up in the warp threads. You can prevent this by not pulling extra thread out of the boat shuttle before throwing it. With rug weaving, it also can be the result of not pulling the weft tight enough at the selvage.

You will need to use a temple to prevent the weaving from narrowing. Read about temple in the previous questions.

If the weft is not the problem, then perhaps the warp needs to be beamed more tightly so that the selvage warp threads cannot loosen while you are weaving. During the warping process, you can get added tightness on the warp by using weights on the warp bouts while you beam them. Read about selvage papers and flanges for beaming warps in the questions about warping.

Weighting selvage threads is a temporary solution if you are in the middle of a warp and you cannot solve the problem any other way. But for the next warp, find a way to prevent the problem. With experience you will be able to weave without having anything hanging at the back of the loom.

My selvage warp threads are fraying and breaking. Why?

Draw-in at the selvages usually causes this. The warp threads are being frayed by the reed as you try to beat the weft into a weave which is narrower than the warp in the reed. It will only get worse as you weave further and beat harder. There is no way to correct draw-in after it has started. It is better to start over.

Using a temple and more length in the weft can prevent draw-in problems. If you cannot continue, either take out what you have woven or stop and start over. To do that, advance the warp and weave in some filler yarns, replacing the broken warp threads. Bubble the filler and beat lightly. Attach a temple to the filler and begin again, putting a greater angle on the weft before closing the shed. Beat with the shed closed.

If you are weaving weft faced, try bubbling the weft more, and don't beat with the shed open. Before beating, move your foot to the next treadle. This will cause the shed to close and will hold the weft in place. Then beat after closing the shed.

One of my selvages is better than the other. Why?

One common reason for this is the speed of throwing the shuttle. If you throw it faster, the weft will not be loose at the selvage. Have someone watch you weave long enough that you are comfortable and resume weaving as you usually do. Ask them to notice if there are any differences in how you weave on the left and the right, especially the speed of throwing the shuttle. Sometimes it can also be the way you catch the shuttle or where you hold it after you catch it, which will be different with one hand than the other. Pulling weft out of the boat shuttle before you throw it can cause loops at the selvage.

If you are using an end delivery shuttle, sit off center to equalize the length of yarn which extends beyond the selvage.

Another cause may be uneven winding of the warp, causing one selvage to be longer than the other. If you wind more than 6 or 7 inches of the warp (measured at the reed) in a bout, the first warps in each bout may be longer than the last. For your next warp, wind it in several bouts so that all the warps are the same length, and therefore, the same tension.

Will it help my selvages if I hold them when I throw the shuttle?

Holding or pinching the selvages is a temporary solution when something goes wrong, like when you fill the bobbin or quill too full and it rubs against the warp threads and then pulls on your selvage, or when the bobbin is catching in the shuttle. But as a weaving habit, it should be avoided. Not only will it possibly cause the selvage warp threads to be pulled and become loose, but it will slow your development toward gaining a rhythm in weaving which will improve selvages. If your bobbin is the problem, wind smaller bobbins and wind quickly from side to side. Read about winding bobbins and making quills.

  • Make sure the bobbins are right for your shuttle. If your bobbin catches in the shuttle, read about bobbins and quills and try paper quills.
  • Tighten the tension of the warp so that the selvages are not loose and can withstand the pull of the weft coming from the boat shuttle when you throw it, or can withstand your pulling the weft on a rug selvage. If you have a jack loom, you may need to put weight on the shafts so that the tension on the bottom of the shed will be tight. Read about jack looms in the section on weaving looms.
  • Use a temple so that selvages do not draw in.
  • Beam your warps tightly so that selvages will not loosen.

How can I make my selvages more even?

With practice you will become better at each step from warping the loom and winding the quills for boat shuttles to weaving. Then you will develop a rhythm in your weaving which will improve your selvages. For rug weaving, consistency in handling your weft is important.

  • Beam your warp more tightly and weave with a tighter tension. With long warps, use more warp beam sticks as you beam the warp.
  • If you do not have a boat shuttle, try one.
  • If you are comfortable at the loom and you wind your bobbins carefully, your selvages will eventually improve. Bobbins should be wound tightly with a rapid back and forth motion, narrowing your path as you fill the bobbin. For determining the height of your bench getting comfortable on you bench,see comfort.
  • If your bobbin continually catches in the cavity of the boat shuttle and pulls on your selvages, try winding some paper quills. Your bobbin may be too long for the shuttle, or not made for your shuttle so that it rubs on the inside of the shuttle cavity. Bobbins and quills should be at least 1" shorter than the cavity of your shuttle. To learn to wind quills, see quills.
  • If too much weft comes off the bobbin or quill when it is full, do not fill it as full. You can try some fur or velvet inside the shuttle cavity to give you some tension on the bobbin.
  • Do not let too much weft thread pull out of the shuttle before you throw it across the shed. Hold the shuttle close to the selvage when you beat and throw it without pulling any extra weft out of the shuttle. Do not pull the shuttle away from the selvage to get more thread to come out. This would cause the weft to be loose at the selvage. If you are weaving weft faced, you will need to bubble the weft, pushing the weft toward the reed, but keep the selvage snug.
  • Use a temple and advance the warp frequently. Try to use the same warp tension each time you advance the warp.

My weaving is not catching the selvage threads. Why?

If you are weaving twill and that uncaught selvage thread is part of the design and must be caught, start the shuttle on a different treadle or from the other side. It will usually catch if you start in a different place in the weave. If the first and last threads of the warp are on odd and even shafts, the weft will catch all the selvage threads as needed, but you need to start with the first weft over the threads on the even shafts. You may choose to take off the unwoven warp thread. If you don't want to take off this warp thread, you may want to use a floating selvage.

A floating selvage is created by taking the selvage thread out of it's heddle and tying it up with the other warp threads. It then lies in the middle of the shed where you can put your weft around it as you make your selvage. Floating selvages are used primarily for catching the edge warp threads on twill weaves or two shuttle weaves. It is easier to weave WITHOUT floating selvages.

If your twill pattern changes direction frequently and if the selvage thread is necessary for your pattern, you may have to use the floating selvage. But with fine threads, you can simply leave the unwoven thread there. If it continues to be unwoven, it is then an indication that your treadling is correct. If you make a treadling error, you will know immediately as the thread will start to be caught by the weft.

Another way to solve the problem is to take out the selvage thread and put it into a different heddle. If it was in a heddle on an even numbered shaft put it in an odd numbered shaft. If it was in a heddle on shaft four, put it in a heddle on shaft one. Or you can change the threading of the selvage thread. For instance, if your threading on the selvage is 1,2,3,4, re-thread the center two threads to be: 1,3,2,4.

If you are weaving with two shuttles alternately and the edge thread must be caught, weave one weft in each shed and only alternate the other one. If one shuttle weaves each shed, there will be no problem with the selvages. If this cannot be done, then the two wefts need to turn around each other at the selvage.

Do I need a floating selvage or a weighted selvage to keep my selvages from getting loose?

A floating selvage is created by taking the thread out of it's heddle and then tying it up with the other warp threads. It then lies in the middle of the shed where you can put your weft around it as you make your selvage. Floating selvages are used primarily for catching the edge warp threads on twill weaves or two shuttle weaves. It is easier to weave WITHOUT floating selvages. Read the section on selvages about floating selvages.

On small or shallow looms, you may not be able to weave with the tension as tight as you would like and this may give you problems with your selvages.

If you are already using a temple and you have switched from a bobbin to a quill and you still get draw-in and loose selvages, you can use a temporary selvage thread weight. Simply add a weight to the loose selvage thread back by the warp beam. Once this is added, it needs to remain there until you are finished weaving.

This weight can help to give you better selvages and keep the warp threads from getting loose. but remember that is a temporary solution for when you are weaving and cannot solve the problem in another way. Weighted selvage threads are not the normal way to weave.

Do not use it in place of a temple. The temple will do a better job of preventing problems.

Do not use a weighted selvage in place of a good shuttle and quill that will not pull on the selvage too much.

Do not use it in place of properly beaming your warp. If this is the problem, re-beam your warp with more care, more sticks and more tension. Read about warping.

Sticky Sheds and Broken Threads

My threads are breaking, and not just at the selvages. Why?

If you are using a warp thread which is generally strong enough to withstand ordinary weaving, then first try to advance the warp more frequently. Advancing the warp will put the heddles at a different location on the warp.

  1. Lower your beater if the threads are rubbing too much at the bottom of the reed.
  2. Beating only once may help.
  3. Using a temple will help as you will not have to beat as hard.
  4. Lengthening treadle ties will produce a smaller shed which will be less stressful to the warp. A large shed may cause the threads to rub on the tops and bottoms of the shafts.

Fragile warps can be mended using extra warp thread as a replacement. Wound warp threads can also be sized before being put on the loom, or can be brushed with sizing while the warp is on the loom. In a pinch, fray check or glue can be used to strengthen warp threads, but it becomes hard and cannot be washed out.

For the next warp:

  1. Winding and beaming the warp more carefully so that all the threads are the same tension, will help prevent breakage.
  2. Consider changing to Texsolv heddles which are less abrasive to warp threads.
  3. A deeper loom or a counterbalance or countermarch loom will also give threads less stress. When warping the loom, beaming the warp through a raddle or open reed before threading the heddles causes less wear to the threads.

What can I do about a sticky shed? My shuttle catches the wrong threads.

If you know that your sett is correct and you do not want to space the warp threads out to a more open sett:

  1. Try beating after you open each new shed. This will clear some sticky sheds before you throw the shuttle.
  2. Tighten the tension on your warp.
  3. Use a boat shuttle which doesn't have up turned ends, and practice throwing it horizontally (level).
  4. If you have a jack loom, put weights on your shafts. Metal rods can be taped to the top of each shaft. Of course, this will make the treadling more difficult, but will help to clear the shed.
  5. Treadles springs on jack looms are a great help if you have them. A deeper loom or a counterbalance or countermarch are better choices for sticky warps. Read about them at jack loom adjustments.
  6. Try spray starch, a diluted solution of shampoo called no more tangles, or use Leclerc's Clerco brushed on the warp. This will help considerably.
  7. Prop up a mirror on a table at the side of the loom so that you can see if the shed is clear. This will help you to avoid mistakes.
  8. If you have a jack loom, try tying up the treadles, each to move just one shaft and treadle with two feet, first one, then the second. This makes long treadling sequences difficult to remember and can slow the weaving considerably, but could help with a sticky warp.
  9. On your next warp, be very careful to wind and beam the warp carefully so that you have even tension. If tension is your problem with the current warp, try winding a yard or two forward around the cloth beam and then re-beam the warp. Use more sticks and tighten the warp on the warp beam while beaming. You may need to re-tie the warp to the cloth beam tie-up bar to even the tension. Read about beaming at warping questions

If nothing else works, try using a batten to separate the sheds before throwing the shuttle. A counterbalance or countermarch loom would be a better choice if you suspect that the warp will be sticky. For more information on getting better sheds on a jack loom, read jack looms.

How can I prevent my shuttle from falling through the warp to the floor?

This usually is caused by the weaver throwing the shuttle a bit downward instead of level. You might be distracted, tired or slightly off balance. In Sweden there is an old saying that was used to teach young weavers to be careful with the shuttle. It goes like this "drop your shuttle, lose your boyfriend".

  1. Practice throwing the shuttle level. If you are not comfortable, put your bench closer or higher so you can reach better.
  2. For wide warps, throw the shuttle a little harder so it will not stop in the middle of the warp. Try a longer shuttle or one with rollers on the bottom.
  3. Make sure your treadle cords are the correct lengths so that you have a good shed.
  4. Check for correction heddles which may be raising some warp threads too high for the shuttle to pass.
  5. If your shuttle has an open bottom, make sure that your bobbins are not wound too large, causing them to catch warp threads.
  6. Smaller, lighter weight shuttles are easier to throw and catch. Catch with your palm up.
  7. Avoid shuttles with up turned ends.
  8. Tighten the warp. If you have a jack loom, add metal rods to the shafts to add weight. Lowering the beater may help.
  9. When you pick up a shuttle which has been dropped, check it to be sure that it has not been damaged as it may then catch on warp threads.

Tension Questions

Why is my warp tension loose at the selvages?

There are several possible reasons for this happening. One is that the warp was not beamed tightly enough and the selvages have been pulled by the shuttle or your hands. You can re-beam the warp with more tension and more warp beam sticks.

On long warps, you may have selvage threads spreading out on the warp beam and they were not as tight on the beam as the other threads. Use selvage papers. Read about selvage papers in warping questions.

The most common reason for selvage problems is that the weaving is being done without a temples. The temple will keep the take up on the warp threads at the selvage the same as the rest of the warp. Loose weft at the selvages will reduce the take up on the warp threads. A temple will allow you to weave with the weft more snug at the selvages without your selvages drawing in.

Do I need a floating selvage or a weighted selvage to keep my selvages from getting loose?

A floating selvage is created by taking the thread out of it's heddle and then tying it up with the other warp threads. It then lies in the middle of the shed where you can put your weft around it as you make your selvage. Floating selvages are used primarily for catching the edge warp threads on twill weaves or two shuttle weaves. It is easier to weave WITHOUT floating selvages. Read the section on floating selvages.

On small or shallow looms, you may not be able to weave with the tension as tight as you would like and this may give you problems with your selvages.

If you are already using a temple and you have switched from a bobbin to a quill and you still get draw-in and loose selvages, you can use a temporary selvage thread weight. Simply add a weight to the loose selvage thread back by the warp beam. Once this is added, it needs to remain there until you are finished weaving.

This weight can help to give you better selvages and keep the warp threads from getting loose. but remember that is a temporary solution for when you are weaving and cannot solve the problem in another way. Weighted selvage threads are not the normal way to weave.

Do not use it in place of a temple. The temple will do a better job of preventing problems.

Do not use a weighted selvage in place of a good shuttle and quill that will not pull on the selvage too much.

Do not use it in place of properly beaming your warp. If this is the problem, re-beam your warp with more care, more sticks and more tension. Read about warping.

Why is my tension looser on one side than the other?

This may be caused by the loom. Measure your loom to make sure you assembled it squarely. If you have a small folding loom, check to see if it is properly opened and tight.

It can also be caused by beating on one side of the beater rather than the middle. You should also be sure that you are not treating one selvage differently than the other.

It could also be caused by the warp being longer on one side than the other. You can avoid this by not winding more than 6" or 7" of warp in a bout. For instance, if you have a 24" warp, you could wind 4, 6" bouts. Beam with tension and beaming sticks so that the warp is tight around the beam.

Why doesn't my weaving turn out square?

This can be caused by the same problems mentioned above. It is also a problem with small looms which have small warp beams. In this case, beaming should be done very carefully, using many warp beam sticks.

Making shorter warps can help. Holding the beater in the center is also necessary for even beating.

Will re-beaming my warp give me better tension?

If you are having problems with tension, try to determine the cause of the problem. If it is from a poorly wound warp, then yes re-beaming can help. Use more sticks and more tension when you re-beam the warp. Read about beaming under warping questions.

Questions about Looms

Why are the harnesses now called shafts?

Shaft is a more accurate term. It didn't matter much until American weavers started communicating more with weavers from other countries.

And drawlooms have become more popular. They have two harnesses with 4 or more shafts in each harness. Most looms have one harness of four or eight shafts.

What kind of loom should I start with?

Some beginners start with very small looms and then move on to table looms before weaving on floor looms. Some start with a table loom so that they can take it to workshops.

Others get discouraged with small looms as they have many limitations. They start with floor looms, as a floor loom makes it easier to weave a good quality product. Some start with a small floor loom and then purchase a larger loom.

If you want to only purchase one loom, then invest in the largest, best loom you can afford. A loom with a large frame will allow you to start with four shafts and later add more shafts and treadles. Later a drawloom frame can be added.

Is it wise to purchase a second hand loom?

You can save money by purchasing a second hand loom, but only if the loom suits your needs. A loom may be difficult to sell when you want to purchase something else, so whether it is new or second hand, it needs to be the right loom.

  1. Selecting the type of loom you need for your weaving is more important than weaving width and the number of shafts. To determine what type of loom you want, read about types of looms.
  2. You must be knowledgeable about looms to evaluate one and know if all the parts are included. Replacing parts can be expensive and difficult if the company is no longer in business.
  3. The condition of the loom determines the value. Scandinavian looms are easier to purchase long distance when you cannot see the loom first. There are few metal parts to rust and the frame is put together with wedges, assuring a good tight frame.
  4. Jack looms require more engineering, have more parts which need to move without friction and there is more to go wrong if the loom has not been stored properly. There is less to go wrong with a counterbalance or countermarch loom.
  5. Second hand looms sometimes come with many extras such as books, warping equipment, shuttles, temples and thread. This is helpful for a beginner to get started weaving.

My loom is very noisy. Is there anything I can do?

Weavers often become accustomed to the noise they make when they weave, but family members can be annoyed by the noise. Sometimes it is the bobbin in the boat shuttle which makes the most noise. Change to cardboard quills or make paper quills to lessen the noise. Read about these at weaving questions.

Jack looms are the noisiest. Jack loom which have hanging shafts and hanging beaters are less noisy. The noise comes from the shafts and their metal heddles falling onto the frame or jacks which they sit on. Some loom companies sell rubber bumpers for various parts of the loom. They are put where the shafts of a jack loom fall and where the lower beater hits the upright of the frame.

You can reduce some noise on looms which have metal or wire heddles by taking off the extra heddles, or tying them tightly together. You can also replace heddles on some looms with quiet Texsolv heddles. If you have a jack loom, it will make your shafts lighter and you may need to replace that weight in some way.

What kind of heddles should I use? And what size?

The kind of heddle your loom has is determined by the type it is. Jack looms need weight on the shafts and so they usually have the heaviest heddles which are the metal ones. Counterbalance and countermarch do not need to add weight to the shafts, so they usually have string heddles, or commercially made textile heddles called Texsolv. Wire heddles are lighter than metal. Both wire and metal heddles usually require that the shafts have sides.

Metal heddles can be put on so that the top and bottom alternate. They tend to nest together so alternating them makes it easier to separate them for threading. The hooks which hold the metal bar in the center of the shaft are usually adjustable. If the heddles are too loose, the hook can be screwed in farther to separate the bars more. If they are too tight, unscrew the hook slightly. If you are right-handed, the eyes should be angled to the right for threading. If you are left-handed, put them on the shafts so they angle to the left. Wire heddles are used the same as metal heddles, but you don't have the nesting problem.

Texsolv heddles are quiet, allow you to weave with more threads per inch and with less wear on the warp threads. There is no top or bottom and they do not slant right or left. There are no hooks in the centers of the shafts. The newer Texsolv heddles have open eyes. The older ones had closed eyes and were more difficult to thread.

If you have shafts with sides, you must use the size heddle that fits the shaft. Texsolv comes in many sizes and can be put on most any loom. If your shafts do not have sides, they are made for Texsolv heddles, and more than one size will fit. The largest heddles will give the biggest shed.

Should I convert my old loom to Texsolv heddles and tie-up cord?

If you have not used them, order a small amount and try it. They may not fit your loom. But you will find them much easier to use and they will last longer than cotton cord.

How do I advance my warp without getting too much unwinding?

This is a problem which should be avoided as it can cause a real problem at the warp beam. You may have to decide not to use the brake release treadle. If you have a sectional beam, loose threads can catch on the pegs. It happens most on shallow looms (less than 4 feet deep). It also happens if the warp beam brake is a ratchet and has very few teeth. A ratchet should have at least 20 teeth. Some older rug looms only have the four sectional rakes as a brake and they are difficult to use. You may have to get up to advance the warp from the warp beam.

If your loom will not release warp smoothly, you can try to loosen the tension at the cloth beam first. To do this, you will have to hold the cloth beam with your hand while you take out the pawls. If your loom does not have a cloth beam handle separate from the pawl, this can be difficult to do, especially if you want to remain sitting. You may have to go to the back of the loom and release some warp while holding the beam to keep it from unwinding.

A deeper loom will not give you this problem, especially if the ratchets have many teeth. Releasing the tension at the back of the loom is not a nuisance if you don't have to do it frequently. If you can weave 8 -10 inches at one time, then releasing the tension at the back of the loom is not a problem for most weavers.

For more information, see Swedish Looms and read about advancing the warp.

Should I make canvas aprons for my loom?

A canvas apron will make a nice smooth surface for the warp and cloth to wind on, however you will still need a cord to attach the cloth apron to the tie up bar. You will find that a canvas apron will catch lint and will need to be vacuumed now and then. They are not practical for the warp beam if you want to add warp flanges to the warp beam. But you can still make one for the cloth beam.

If you make one, do not hem the side edges, just zigzag them to keep them from raveling. Hems will build up on the beam and create an unwanted bump. Use tacks to set it into the wood of the beam. Be sure that the canvas is perfectly square, wider than the weaving width of the loom, and that you put it on perfectly straight. It also needs to be long enough so that it will go all the way to the shafts in the back and near the reed in the front.

Thin strong cords or Texsolv cords also make a nice apron. Heavy cords are not necessary and create unnecessary bumps on the beam. Any canvas or cord method will cause some bumps on the warp and cloth beam. If necessary, you can put sticks on the cloth beam as your weaving starts to wind on and this will make the beam smooth. The small bumps from thin cords on the warp beam will not cause a problem for a warp. If your cord apron winds on in one place rather than in a zigzag fashion, you can tape some cardboard around the beam between the apron cords.

For very wide looms with canvas aprons, you can make narrow aprons from cord or canvas for when you are weaving narrow widths. They are attached to the full width aprons on the loom.

Should I add a weight to my beater?

If you have a hanging beater on an average sized loom, this is not necessary, as they are usually heavy enough. If you have difficulty beating the weft tightly, first try using a temple, as draw in of the selvages will prevent the beater from beating in the weft. Using a temple will make beating easier so you may not need to weight the beater. To read about this, see temples

To add weight to a beater, metal rods can be attached under the beater. Athletic wrist weights can also be put on the sides of the beater.

If you have a small loom and the beater is attached at the bottom of the loom, your loom is not made for heavy beating. It might help to beat harder if you add a weight to the beater, but do not make it a permanent part of the loom. A lower beater that is heavy will make it hard for you to get an even beat when you want to beat lightly. And be careful about doing a lot of hard beating with a lower beater. It can give you shoulder problems over time if you weave a lot. To read Peter Collingwood's comments on beating techniques, see comfort at the loom.

Do not expect to use a light weight loom for weaving a lot of rugs, especially if the frame is assembled with screws instead of bolts or wedges. It would be too hard on the loom and on you as well. If you want to get a tighter beat, you can also use a weighted hand beater to help with the beating. Be sure to take frequent breaks.

Should I oil my loom?

Some looms have a lacquer or polyurethane finish, and should not be oiled. Looms in the past often did not have a finish, and it is not necessary to have any finish on your wood. If your loom has an oil finish, follow the directions sent with the loom, or ask the company to make a recommendation. If your loom is kept indoors, metal parts should not need any treatment.

What is a worm gear?

Many loom companies experiment with features designed to make weaving easier and better. Sometimes traditional methods of weaving can be the best in the long run. You will have to evaluate the features when you look at purchasing a loom. Worm gears have been added recently to some looms. They are an attempt to achieve fine adjustment of tension on the warp. This is a problem for small looms and worm gears might be a nice feature, especially for a shallow loom.

But for large looms, where it is very easy to attain consistent tension, worm gears do not do this any better. For small looms, worm gears might be convenient if they are added to the warp beam as well as the cloth beam, but they are often just on the cloth beam.

On many shallow looms with ratchets on the warp beam, you need to release the warp from cloth beam before advancing the warp. A worm gear would make this easier. Sometimes when weaving, one advances the warp too far. If the worm gear is only on the cloth beam, you still have to go to the back of the loom. For a shallow loom, a worm gear on the warp beam may be more important than one on the cloth beam.

Worm gears are often put inside the loom frame and in this position there isn't much space for the handle. So the handle is small and it takes many turns to move the warp. It can be slow when you want to move a lot of warp forward. A worm gear also might be a nuisance when you have finished weaving and are taking all the cloth off the cloth beam, so be sure to ask if there is a release feature, or that you can unwind the beam easily.

If you are interested in a worm gear, try one to see how you like it, as it is an expensive addition to a loom. It may be difficult to reach when you are standing at the side of the loom. You sometimes need to position your warp and you want access to the warp beam handle as well as the cloth beam handle.

Rhythm and Beat Questions

How can I make my beating more consistent?

On small looms you must advance the warp very frequently and we often delay doing it. This delay can cause the beat to be inconsistent. With a small loom, it is hard to get the same tension each time you advance the warp and this too can cause the beat to be uneven. Shallow looms have a short beater attached to the bottom of the loom, making the beating harder to control. Remember, you must always put your hand in the center of the beater for a level beat. If you cannot use a deeper loom with a hanging beater, try these things:

  1. Advance the warp more frequently and try to re-tension to the same tension.
  2. Close the shed before you beat.
  3. Use a temple so that draw-in does not hamper or resist the beat.
  4. Be consistent in the angle you place the weft across the warp.
  5. Consider the strength of the beat and think about it as you weave. Count the threads per inch now and then.
  6. Try a closer sett which will give more resistance.
  7. Remember that on very small looms, especially table looms, you must be very diligent in all these things.

Do I beat once or twice, before, during or after changing the shed?

The answer to this question varies with what you are weaving:

  1. Balanced weaving which needs a light beat should be beaten only once on a closed shed.
  2. Balanced weaving which needs to be tightly woven can be beaten on a closed shed and then again after changing the shed.
  3. Fuzzy warps may need a second beat after the shed is changed to clear the shed.
  4. Weft faced weaving should be beaten only after the foot has been placed on the next treadle and pressed lightly. If it needs to be beaten more, it can be beaten again after the shed is changed.
  5. Rag rugs can be beaten on a closed shed and then again before the next weft is woven. A third beat can also be made for a tighter weave.
  6. Beating on an open shed allows the weft to move. Extra weft can accumulate and create a loop anywhere in the weaving. A closed shed will hold the weft where you want it to be.

How can I develop a rhythm in my weaving?

Weaving with rhythmic motions is less tiring and more enjoyable, and it produces nice weaving. Read the list of suggestions above for attaining an even beat and try the following:

  1. Use a small, lightweight boat shuttle which is easy to catch and practice throwing it across the warp before you start weaving. Fat shuttles are harder to catch. Heavier ones are needed for wide warps, but a shuttle that is too heavy is tiring.
  2. Tie up the treadles so that you can alternate feet so you will be "walking on the treadles". You may also want to tie them so that they hit the floor or the frame to stop at the right place. This will control the size of the shed.
  3. Ignore your selvages and weave a sample on the warp. Adjust the sett and beat if necessary.
  4. Adjust the angle of the weft to give enough length in the weft.
  5. For wide warps, try the shuttles which have rollers on the bottom.
  6. Put your bench up close enough so that you are sitting on it and not teetering on the edge. Not putting the bench close enough can cause backaches. Putting your bench close enough will give you better balance. You may even want to be sitting against the breast beam.

This should give you a good start for developing a good rhythm. Of course, it is easier with a one shuttle weave, as you will not have to set the shuttle down. For more information on "walking on the treadles" review comfort at the loom.

When weaving with two or more shuttles, use a bead to set the fabric protector up above the breast beam. This will keep the extra shuttle from falling off the weaving. For information on the fabric protector, see Fabric protector.

Warping Questions

How can I beam a warp using weights instead of a helper?

Beaming with weights is my preference, even if I have help. After attaching the warp to the apron rod of the warp beam, and with lease sticks in place between the back beam and the beater, unroll the warp on the floor out beyond the breast beam as far as your space will allow. The warp is passing through the reed or raddle in the beater and is on top of the breast beam. If you have a knee beam or foot rest, put the warp around it. Put a towel under each bout and a weight on the warp. As you turn the warp beam handle, winding the warp onto the warp beam, the weight moves towards the loom, holding tension on the warp.

Use a weight which is appropriate for the warp you are using (20 60 lbs is the usual range). Rug warps need more weight than fabric warps. Wool warps use less weight than cotton warps. Use a separate weight for each bout. So, if you are beaming a 3 foot wide warp, you might have four bouts and four weights (8 -16 lbs each). All the bouts should be the same width and all the weights the same. I use 4-10 bricks wrapped in fabric, which weigh 6 lbs each.

You will have to hold the warp for the last yard or two, or attach the weight to a secure tie in the warp. If you don't have space in front of the loom, the warp can go around the breast beam and under the beater to the back of the loom. If you have no space in front or in back, you can attach a horizontal dowel to the ceiling. Put the warp under the breast beam, over the dowel, down to the floor and tie weights to the bouts.

What are selvage papers and are they the same as beaming with paper?

Selvage papers are described in Ulla Cyrus's book, Manual of Swedish Hand weaving. Many weavers beam their warps with sticks and some looms come with warp beam sticks. If you are beaming a long warp of more than 6 yards on a small loom, adding selvage papers will give better tension.

Selvage papers are heavy paper which has been folded and placed on the warp beam so that the folded section lies outside the selvage threads. Use a paper 16" x 24" and fold the long edge 1/4 in toward the center. Fold this section two more times so that it has eight thicknesses, leaving the other edge one thickness. The single thickness is placed under the selvage threads and makes up for the space lost as the selvage threads are spreading ever so slightly out of their place. As the warp beam is turned, the eight fold section is placed beyond the selvage threads, resting on the sticks placed in previous turns. The next series of sticks will rest on this thick folded paper and remain flat, making the warp on the warp beam perfectly flat, while supporting the selvages. Beam with tension on the warp. Use selvage papers with beaming sticks.

Some weavers use heavy paper or cardboard all across the warp for the whole length of the warp. Never use thin paper as it bends it serves no purpose. Paper beamed through the whole warp may build up too much with long warps. When using paper this way, do turn in the edges of the papers at least one fold to support the selvages. It is best to add warp beam sticks also to keep the warp even.

What are warp flanges and do I need them?

Warp flanges are disks which are attached to the warp beam to keep the selvage threads from spreading out on the warp beam. It solves the beaming and selvage problems of ordinary beaming. No sticks or paper need to be placed on the warp while beaming. Flanges are useful for short or long warps. They are easy to make, but need to fit carefully and tightly to the warp beam. The edges need to be smooth and rounded to make sure the selvage threads are not caught on the disk, but wind onto the beam. A small opening is made to insert the warp rod. As the weaving is finished, the flanges are removed. A cord is attached to the warp rod in the usual manner as with an apron cord, so that the last of the warp can be woven.

When is it easier to tie on a new warp?

It may seem easier to tie on a new warp to the old one. It is useful when you have woven something with a complex threading and you want to put on a new warp with the same threading. Of course, you would need to have the same number of threads and the same sett. If either of these must be changed, it may be easier to take the old warp off the loom and put on the new warp in the traditional manner.

To tie on, first treadle plain weave and insert lease sticks behind the shafts. It is best to do this before cutting on the woven piece. Tie secure knots in the warp in front of the reed. Leave the threads in the heddles and reed and pull the lease sticks close to the shafts. Secure the lease sticks to the loom and cut the warp threads between the lease sticks and the back beam and tie the threads in slip knots. Beam the new warp onto the warp beam. If may be easier if you can remove the shafts from the loom and put them back after beaming the new warp. Or, you can put the warp around the back beam in the opposite direction and hold the warp from the back as you beam. You will need a raddle and a second set of lease sticks. They will be in the cross of the new warp. Secure them to the loom. Sit comfortably at the back of the loom and tie the new warp to the old. Go to the front of the loom and pull the knots through the heddles and reed and cut the knots off.

Should I warp the loom back to front or front to back?

If you are a beginner and want to learn only one warping method, the back to front method will work for all warps. The book "Manual of Swedish Handweaving" is a good resource for warping. "A Handweaver's Workbook" is also a good book for learning to warp a loom.

The front to back method is a more recent method and it can be used when you make short warps with open setts and when you wind only one thread at a time. Be sure to put some sticks on the warp beam to smooth out the knots used to tie the warp ends to the warp apron rod.

More advanced weavers who use fine threads, use close setts, wind multiple threads together, make long warps or do sectional warping, should beam the warp before threading the heddles and sleying the reed. If you want to wind warps with random colors or textures, you can warp back to front by placing the warp bouts on a table and mixing the colors and threads in the raddle or pre-sley a reed to use as a raddle.

Should I leave the lease sticks in the warp while I weave?

It usually is a good idea to leave them in. One reason is to help clear the shed so that twisted threads will not cause problems with the opening of the shed. This can be helpful if you beamed the warp without leaving the lease sticks in the warp. And, if you break a thread while weaving or beaming, it is easier to locate the thread's position if the lease sticks are in place.

If you have a shallow loom, you can keep them between the back beam and the warp beam. Be sure to tie them in place so they don't move close to the shafts and cause problems with your shed. If you beamed the warp without the lease sticks, you may have too many twists for the lease sticks to move easily through the warp. You may have to reposition them each time you advance the warp.

How do I beam a warp on a sectional beam?

Sectional warp beams are made for beaming long warps, usually more than 15 yards long. If you have sectional beaming equipment as well as the sectional beam, check your library for weaving books that will help you to learn to warp sectionally. Sectional warping equipment includes the sectional beam, a spool rack and spools, a tension box, counter, and an electric spool winder. Sectional guides for the beam are also helpful. If you do not have sectional rakes on your loom, you can purchase them and attach them to the warp beam. It is important that you attach them carefully, lining up all the sections.

You will need to have a spool rack with at least 20 spools if you are weaving 10 threads per inch and have 2" spaces on the warp beam. You will need 60 spools if you are weaving 30 threads per inch. The warp in each section must be flat, not rounded.

If you do not have the sectional equipment, but you have a sectional beam, you can make a modified sectional warp. Wind your warp on a warping reel or a warping board, making one cross. Wind the number of threads you need for one section. Tie off the warp, place it in a box or bag, take it to the back of the loom. Tie the cross end of the bout to the section cord, placing the warp over the back beam. Spread it out on a rug on the floor and put a 10 15 lb. weight on it. Use the cross to spread it in a raddle which has 1/4" spaces. Spread the warp out to the size of the section. Wind the bout onto the warp beam, with the weight giving you the tension. Continue with the next bout.

It may be less time consuming to wind an ordinary warp onto a sectional warp, through a raddle or a reed to spread the warp. You need to watch so that the threads do not catch on the section pegs. Place sticks in the warp as you wind. It may also be possible to purchase an ordinary beam for the loom or to remove the sectional rakes from the warp beam.

What is the difference between a horizontal and a vertical countermarch?

The horizontal countermarch is the most common and least expensive type in the US. It has upper lamms or jacks, two for each shaft, which sit horizontally in the countermarch box on the top of the loom. The vertical countermarch has a vertical upper lamm for each shaft and is about 8" taller than the horizontal countermarch. Countermarch looms are tied up after the loom is warped, threaded and the warp is tied to the cloth beam apron. For the horizontal, the tie up cord runs down through the center of the warp to the second, lower, longer set of lamms. On the vertical countermarch, the tie-up cords go across the loom, over pulleys and on down the side of the loom, outside of the loom frame. They use pulleys. Pulley grooves should be deep or covered so that the cords cannot pop out of the pulleys. Both systems work very well. For more information, read about types of Countermarchs or loom tie-up instructions. This page may help too.

How can I keep my loom from moving when I beat?

There are several things that you can try. Stadig floor protectors from Sweden are a perfect loom foot for this problem. They will also protect your floor from scratches and rubber marks from your loom feet. Some looms have rubber feet which can over time mark the floor or stick to the floor. Stadig loom feet will not cause this problem. they are small wooden frames with metal cradles which keep the loom from moving. They are the best solution if they fit your loom. They fit on Scandinavian type looms and many other types of looms.

They will not work if you have a cross piece on the front or back of the loom which is close to the floor. In this case you might consider attaching a block of wood on the bottom of the leg to lift it off the floor. Then the Stadig floor protectors would fit. The added loom height may require raising your bench, be this may also be more comfortable for weaving.