Ask Madelyn: Reading a Warp Color Order Chart

I am fairly new to weaving. My question is about reading a Warp Color Order chart. I recently ordered a kit that gives a Warp Color Order and a Draft, and I am lost. Can you explain?


Hi Judi!

The methods that have evolved as standard for communicating how to wind a warp and thread the shafts can be very off-putting and look like complex math formulas. They really are the most efficient way to give this information, however, once you understand how they work.

Warp Color Order

First, examine the simple Warp Color Order chart given as an example in the Reader’s Guide in every issue of Handwoven. This chart tells you the order in which to wind each color on the warping board for a particular project. We usually read these charts from right to left, the way we read most threading drafts. For this one, therefore, you would first wind 4 black threads, then 8 green, 4 black. Then you’d wind 9 red alternating with 9 white 6 times, and end with 4 green and 4 black. At the left of the chart, the number of threads you will need of each color is listed with the total number of threads in the warp at the bottom. (Notice that the chart is made up of rows that look like the rows for shafts in a threading draft, but they have nothing to do with shafts; each row represents a color.)

Warp Color Order

These charts can be much more complicated if the color orders are complicated. I looked through past issues of Handwoven to find an example. Here is the Warp Color Order for a throw by Sarah Fortin (page 48, January/February 2010). To wind the warp following it: Start with 1 Cinnabar and then wind 6 Cinnabar, 2 alapaca, 6 Cinnabar, 2 alpaca and then alternate 1 Cinnabar/1 Mulberry 3x (following the 3x bracket at the top) and continue. Notice that there is also a 22x bracket above the whole section that begins with 6 Cinnabar. When you get to that last 2 alpaca under the 22x bracket, go back to the first 6 alpaca and repeat all of the threads under the 22x bracket for a total of 22 times. Then end with 6 Cinnabar, 2 alpaca, 7 Cinnabar.

Warp Color Order

You can see that the Warp Color Order is correlated with the Draft, but it would be a lot harder to use the Draft for winding the warp. The Draft is read in the same way except each row represents a shaft. For this Draft, start with 1 Cinnabar (floating sevedge) and then thread shafts 2-3 3x, 4-1 1x, 2-3 3x, etc. You’ll repeat the threads under the 22x bracket 22x, just as you did for the Warp Color Order.

Warp Color Order


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