Ask Madelyn: Different Types of Warping

I’ve heard you say some things about this in past Ask Madelyns, but I’m finding it hard to decide what warping method would work best for me. I have a new Schacht Baby Wolf loom, and I’ve downloaded several warping articles from Handwoven. But I’m unsure which one to try.


Hi Martha!

Generally, there are three basic methods of warping: from the front, from the back, and sectional. The labels “from the front” and “from the back” are determined by the threading direction: From the front means that you’re sitting at the back of the loom and threading the warp through the heddles from the front of the loom to the back. From the back means you are sitting at the front of the loom and threading the warp through the heddles from the back of the loom to the front. The order in which you do each step and small aspects of the steps themselves are different.

1. Steps for warping from the front:

Wind the warp in the warping board with a one-and-one threading cross. Cut the loops at both ends of the warp and, with lease sticks in the cross, sley the reed. Thread the heddles, taking the threads in order from the reed. Tie the warp onto the back apron rod and wind it onto the warp beam. Tie onto the front apron rod and beam.

2. Steps for warping from the back:

Wind the warp on the warping board with a one-and-one threading cross. Do not cut the loops at the end closest to the threading cross. Remove the warp, chaining from the end that is opposite to the threading cross. Place a rod in the looped end and lease sticks in the cross and spread the warp in a raddle (spacing the groups of threads in the density equal to ends per inch; i.e., 10 threads in a raddle with 1/2 inch spaces for a sett of 20 ends per inch). Secure the lease sticks in the threading cross and the rod in the loop to the back apron rod and wind the warp on the warp beam. Thread the shafts, sley the reed, and tie the warp onto the front apron rod.

3. Steps for sectional warping:

Wind a spool for each warp thread that you will need in the width of each of your sections. For example, for a sectional beam that has 2″ sections and a sett of 24 ends per inch, wind 48 spools. Each spool needs the warp length that will be used in every section (for 10 sections and a warp length of 10 yds, you’ll need 100 yds per spool). Placing the 48 spools on a spool rack and the 48 ends through a tension box on the back beam of the loom, wind 10 yds in each section of the sectional warp beam, cutting the ends (securing their order with masking tape), and moving from section to section. Drape the ends from each section over the back beam, and thread the shafts, removing each end from the masking tape as you go. Sley the reed and tie onto the front apron rod.

Your choice will probably be between front to back and back to front since for sectional warping, you need a sectional beam and special equipment. Sectional warping works well for people who put on long warps that divide conveniently into sectional widths and use color repeats that work well in the sections.

To choose between front to back and back to front, the most important factor to consider is where it is most comfortable to sit while you thread the heddles. If you have a new Baby Wolf loom, Schacht has made removing the back beam possible, so that it is more comfortable to sit there and thread from the front. If you use complicated threading orders, threading from the front makes it possible to wind each color in a separate chain on the warping board (instead of cutting and tying at each color change), sleying the reed with each color separately. A disadvantage to from the front is that you may occasionally have multiple ends in each dent of the reed. In this case, warp threads may be twisted around each other when they reach the heddles as you beam. To avoid this, you would need to “transfer the cross” from one side of the reed to the other so you can place lease sticks in the one-and-one cross. This is a painful task.

It is often said that warping back to front is easier on the warp since it doesn’t have to go through the heddles. This is not true, since passing through the lease at the lease sticks during beaming is as hard on the threads as going through the heddles. To reduce wear on the warp, a fourth method should be used: Back to front with two crosses.


Updated May 21, 2018.

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