More on Sectional Warping

Handwoven MagazineAsk Madelyn

Hi Madelyn!

I have hunted in vain for instructions about warping a sectional beam. I have the tensioner but how do I know how much to put on each section? Can you direct me to a source, preferably one that doesn’t leave out steps?


Hi Sylvia!

Handwoven did publish an excellent article by Betsy Blumenthal on warping with a sectional beam (“Sectional Beaming,” Handwoven, November/December 2004, pages 68-71, also available in the 2004 CD collection). Each step is accompanied by a photograph.

But briefly: Your sectional beam is probably divided into sections of either 1″ or 2″ each. You would first need to know the warp sett for the project you want to weave. If, say, you want to weave a fabric 18 inches wide at 24 ends per inch, then you’d wind 24 ends each into eighteen 1″ sections or 48 ends each into nine 2″ sections. If your number of threads can’t be divided evenly by 24 or 48, you can spread the warp a bit wider or a bit narrower to fill the sections evenly. (If one section has fewer threads than another, the warp won’t go into the section at the same circumference and will end up with a different tension.)

When you know how many threads have to be wound in each section, you will wind one spool for each of them and place it on a spool rack. All the threads go from the spool rack through a tensioner (usually some pegs that the threads go over and under) and then through a miniature reed in the box that keeps the threads in order. You’ll wind all 24 or 48 threads into the first section for the number of yards you want your total warp length to be. Then you cut the threads (usually enclosing them with masking tape to keep their order for threading) and move the tension box to the next section and do the same thing. Since you are winding the full warp length into every section, you’ll need each spool to have on it the number of yards of desired warp length times the number of sections you’ll be filling. So if the warp is 5 yd long and you are filling 20 sections, each spool will need to have 100 yd wound on it. For this task, sectional beamers also need a “counter,” a device that measures the number of yards you wind on each spool. It is this part that discouraged me from sectional beaming, which I did try. You worry that there might not be enough yarn on each spool in spite of the counter, so you put on a little more. After the warp is wound, you might have 48 or 60 or some number of spools still on the spool rack, all of which have some yarn on them. You then need to do something about that before you wind the spools for your next project.

I do like the fact that sectional beaming requires more weaving tools, which I love. So, I have my tools for sectional beaming, even though I don’t use them. For many years, the spools for my first sectional beaming project remained attractively arranged on my spool rack. Since then, I’ve found many other uses for the spool rack, though my tension box continues to acquire dust. (Meanwhile, I devised other methods for beaming a sectional beam without sectional beaming.)


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