(Re) Learning Lessons in Warping

I have a confession to make. Though I have been warping and weaving for almost five years it’s only in this past year that I’ve started using both a sleying hook and threading hook when I warp. When I warped my very first “real” project on the loom I tried using both of these tools while warping the loom and rejected them as clunky and unnecessary. They got in my way as I was trying to handle the threads and I would frequently drop them on the floor. I was unfamiliar enough with weaving—adding in other items to manipulate and keep track of was just too much.

For the next few years I placed every thread in the reed and each heddle by hand. I kept them for weaving on the rigid-heddle loom—they really did seem to help there—and that was that. Well, at least until I was warping a wide project at a sett that required me to use two threads per dent. While I was carefully picking up one thread at a time and slid each one through the reed, I spied the much-neglected sleying hook on my shelf. I wondered if I could use the hook to sley two threads at a time and decided to give it a second chance. The speed at which I warped the loom was an absolute revelation. Since that time I have always used a sleying hook, and have even purchased a spare so if I drop or lose one, I have the other on the shelf beside my loom.

Lessons in warping

Christina’s new old favorite warping tool

More recently, as I was warping up some dish towels, my husband asked me why I didn’t use my threading hook while warping. Thinking back to my experience with sleying, I decided to do a few threads with the threading hook to see if it made a difference. Once again the tool I had once found cumbersome was now an asset.

Suddenly I had an epiphany: When I first started weaving, it wasn’t that the tools themselves were bad, or that they were unnecessary bits of equipment, it was that I didn’t know how to use them properly. It was a bit like when I first tried using a good kitchen knife for the first time: I didn’t know how to use it correctly and it was difficult to handle. Eventually I learned how to rock the knife with one hand and move the food with the other and could chop easily and efficiently. The same thing happened when I first tried to use those hooks.

I was completely new to the process of warping a floor loom, and just about every bit of my brain was focused on keeping the threads straight and making sure the right heddles were threaded in the right order. Because I was uncomfortable with warping I was uncomfortable with the specialized warping tools. Now, though, I have the muscle memory when warping, as I instinctively place each thread and balance the cross in one hand and my sleying hook in the other.

As I advance in my weaving, I’m learning so much I didn’t know I needed to know. Each new lesson helps me to become a better, more efficient weaver. And it’s not just the process of weaving that’s helping me; it’s also learning about and better understanding the weave structures themselves. When you better understand why a weave behaves a certain way or how it creates the patterns it does, your weaving will improve.

Be sure to check out this valuable weaving resource, Next Steps in Weaving. It features tips and tools that are designed to take beginning weavers and turn them into more advanced, intermediate weavers (and to be honest, there’s a lot advanced weavers can probably learn from these as well). It will help you better understand weave structures and the process of weaving to become a better, more efficient weaver.

Happy Weaving!

Originally published on December 16, 2015

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