The Lowdown on Lease Sticks
I have been weaving for many years but with big gaps between weaving events so sometimes when I warp I feel like I have to learn how to do it all over again. I have never had the luxury of new equipment so I have always had to make do with the tools at hand. I have a very old and unloved table loom that I acquired some years ago. I am in the process of putting on the third warp. It came with lease sticks that are not as wide as the loom and they are flat sticks with rounded edges and are about an inch wide. Is it just me? Do I not know how to use these blasted things? Or should I throw them out and go buy myself some round doweling instead! I find that as much as I try to spread the warp out, it is not that easy to find the next thread to thread through the heddles. I am warping back to front. Maybe I should warp front to back and not have to deal with lease sticks! I don't seem to have this problem with my large floor loom.
I do sympathize!
So, with lease sticks, there are a couple of issues. In general, you’d like the lease sticks to be a little longer (2”) than the weaving width of your loom. The shape of your sticks (flat with rounded edges) is a common shape; I don’t think rounded dowels will make a big difference. The problem you are having sounds like it is related to the distance and position of the lease sticks from where you are sitting and threading; that is, you are having trouble distinguishing the order of the threads. What I like to do is to string a loop of strong string around both the back and front beam on each side of the loom. I then twist the two cords together to form an opening in which I can insert the end of a lease stick (on each side). Then I twist again to form another opening on each side for the ends of the other lease stick. The cords hold the sticks at the level of the front and back beam and I can push them forward or back to position them where I can see them and/or reach them most easily. The cords hold them relatively firmly so I can place tension on groups of warp threads to see their order clearly and pick the threads one by one. The cross in the heavy cord keeps the lease sticks from sliding immediately next to each other so that you can see the cross in the warp threads in the opening between them. I hope this makes sense!
The only other aspect of positioning the lease sticks is being able to seat yourself so that you can see them easily through the castle of the loom (without contorting your neck). For some looms, I tilt the loom to make this happen. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you have plenty of light and that your threading position is comfortable.
I do prefer front-to-back warping for most warps, but lease sticks re-enter the picture if you have several threads in each dent of the reed. In that case, you have to transfer the cross to the threading side of the reed and insert lease sticks for threading. When I have to do that, I use the same procedure to secure them as above.
Hope this helps!