Heres a Toast to Alternative Second Warp Beams

  Karen's Problem Warp
  Karen's supplementary warp and weights

Barbara Walker said it in a nutshell. “Since the pattern warp takes up differently from the ground warp, it must be tensioned separately. This is most easily done on a loom with two beams.”


This wasn’t exactly the answer I was looking for when I went searching for articles from my Handwoven library about turning drafts, although a loud “Amen” sprang quickly from my lips. Barbara wrote this in an article about name drafting for a turned overshot runner in the November/December 1999 issue. In fact, I have woven a fair number of turned supplementary weft projects (in which the pattern thread becomes supplementary warp) successfully without a second warp beam. The one currently on my 8-shaft Norwood loom, however, has some particular challenges.


I’ve probably said this before, but I love weaving blocks. I’m particularly fond of double two-tie structures, but not of the two-shuttle weaving they usually require. Turning the draft 90 degrees reconfigures the tie-up so the treadling becomes the threading and vice versa. So if the original draft is threaded with only one warp, I can now weave block patterns to my heart’s content with one shuttle. There is, however, that pesky issue of take-up, as Barbara said back in 1999. I have successfully weighted supplementary warps off the back beam, over and behind the ground warp, numerous times. I had a box of empty water and soda bottles with strings tied around their necks for that purpose in the closet. My husband sighed and gave me the familiar eye-roll when I insisted we move the box from New Jersey to Asheville a few years ago.


Last year, though, as I found myself putting on turned draft after turned draft, I ordered a second warp beam for my Baby Wolf. What a difference! Wind the ground warp on the main beam, wind the supplementary warp on the second beam, hang their crosses in separate lease sticks behind the shafts where you can see them and thread and sley accordingly. Tie everything onto the front apron rod, adjust the tension on both warps so they are even, load one shuttle with weft, and settle into a happy weaving rhythm.


My lovely cherry 48-inch Norwood, however, does not have a second warp beam, and retrofitting it would take more money, floor space, and technical expertise than I can currently commit. Okay, I told myself, this yardage will be a good opportunity to revisit the alternate second-warp-beam process prior to an upcoming workshop. For reasons I divulged in a post several months ago, the supplementary pattern warp for this project is still threaded through a reed instead of lease sticks. This proved no problem when threading the two warps back to front, and it wasn’t until after I finished that I asked myself, “Well, what am I going to do with the reed now?” The idea of combing the reed through six yards of mixed-fiber warp to take it off the other end was abandoned as folly. So I carefully pulled the reed back over the ground warp and back beam, smoothing tangles as I lowered the reed toward the floor, and laid it across the back of a warping board I had upended. I tensioned the pattern warp bundles as evenly as possible below the back beam and went to get my water-bottle weights.


Now, I’m not suggesting my husband has been surreptitiously recycling my weaving gadgets, but that box used to be full. Suffice it to say I could not find enough bottles that would hold just the right amount of water to get enough tension on the pattern warp across the 24-inch width. I emailed the neighborhood immediately looking for help, as it was trash night and any empty beverage bottles would be in the recycling truck by morning. No luck. I started hunting and finally rounded up one empty two-liter ginger ale bottle, one liquid iced tea jug (poured the remaining bit of tea in glass and returned it to the fridge), one big juice bottle (dumped the very unpopular juice down the drain), and one empty (and thankfully clean) beer growler. I was able to fill each with enough water to weigh 3½ pounds. I hung them from the four slipknots in the warp with S-hooks and started weaving. Pattern warps drooped throughout the shed.


I gave up and went to bed. About 3:30 a.m., when the dog barked at some animal passing through the yard outside, my brain decided it had slept enough and clicked on. I started thinking about that reed I’d left in the warp. Maybe it could be helpful after all. Thankfully, I fell back to sleep for a few hours, and this morning rearranged my substitute “second warp beam” using an adjustable table-loom stand I had stashed in the utility room. I pumped up my liquid weights to 4 pounds each and split the warp into six sections vs four. That required two more weights, and I found two 4-pounders in my husband’s dumbbell set.


The reed is now supported in the X-frame of the loom stand, keeping everything neat. Another bigger dumbbell and a pair of ankle weights are keeping the stand stable. As the deadline for this post is upon me, I haven’t tried weaving with the new set-up yet. I’m hopeful I’ll achieve relaxed one-shuttle weaving by nightfall.


In my search for that 1999 Handwoven last night, I found another excellent quote, this one in the September/October 20th anniversary issue. From Deborah Chandler: “When a piece has become such a terrible mess that it’s messing with your mind and heart, remember this: It’s only yarn. You can cut it off and throw it away.”


Plain weave using only the ground warp is still an option.


Karen Donde

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