Warping the Loom for Weaving

My first rug!

Back in July I wrote about learning how to weave on the big loom here at Pipe Spring National Monument.  Warping the loom under the direction of Ranger Sarah from Zion took four days.  Of course, this included the time to repair the loom and get all the parts we needed.  Pipe Spring Ranger Sarah, Ranger Teresa, and I did weaving demonstrations for a month before we ran out of warp and had to stop.

In order to continue weaving and making rugs for Winsor Castle, we had to warp the loom again.  We were eager to do it, but Ranger Sarah was on vacation for two weeks and it would take another two weeks before she had time to come help us.  So, with Tom’s encouragement, I decided to figure out warping the loom without her.  I watched some YouTube videos and found a good pdf on the steps for warping a loom and hoped I would be able to do it.

Warping board

First we had to make a warping board and order cotton warp string.  Tom was ready to make one, but we found one already made in the living history storage area.  Whoever used it last didn’t know what it was and was weaving a rug on it.  We took that off and set up a guide string so we could make warp strings about 12 yards long.

After making 220 warp strings, I attached them to the apron of the warping beam.  Tom made a raddle which I used to spread out the warp strings, in order, along the length of the loom.  Then I threaded the warp strings through the heddles.  Ewing, a young volunteer, helped with this tedious, time-consuming task.  She did a great job, although she missed a set of six warp strings about 2/3 through.  This is important because each of the strings has to go in order.  So I had to undo the strings up to the miss and do them over.

Then I threaded the warp strings through the dents (spaces) in the reed and tied them to the cloth beam.  Thinking that I was done, I started weaving.  But shortly after weaving I discovered that I had put two strings through the same dent.  Some people might not have noticed, but I wanted to get the loom done right for the other rangers who use it.  So I un-wove what I had done, and then restrung the warp strings through the reed.  This also gave me a chance to make a few other adjustments.

Ranger Teresa threading the heddles

I was very pleased with myself and I did it in two days – about 18 hours.  We were able to make seven rugs on this warping and did it in less than three weeks.  A mixed blessing, because now I had to warp the loom again.  Ranger Teresa helped with this third warping.  She is hoping to work here again next year and we need someone who is returning to know how to warp the loom.

With both of us working together, we got the loom warped in six hours!  A new record!   We made one mistake – got some heddles out of order – but had the apron tied on to the cloth beam early in the afternoon.  Since then we have been weaving and finishing up the rugs for Winsor Castle.  We are hoping to get enough done that Ranger Teresa will warp the loom one more time with my help before Tom and I leave at the end of the month.

Weaving partners

Warping the loom looked like an impossible task the first time I helped with it.  So complicated.  But I took it one step at a time, didn’t get discouraged, and produced some pretty good looking rugs over the summer.  Another skill to add to my resume.