Warp Rep Reverie

Karen Donde is a fine weaver and teacher whom many of you have met through the pages of handwoven, through Weaving Today, and some of you through her most recent web seminar on weaving design. One good teacher appreciates another, so who better to tell you about Rosalie Neilson's lessons for rep weaving? ––Anita

My first adventure in weaving warp rep is currently in a pile on the laundry room floor awaiting yet another toss into the washer and dryer. The three throw rugs I wove for my kitchen early in my weaving career were designed using colors from the commercial pile rug I had purchased from Ikea for under the kitchen table.

I no longer have the pile rug, but the warp rep rugs are going strong. The colors have faded a bit, and two of them have small holes from a former family dog with lightning-fast jaws, but otherwise the rugs look good and function fine. Durability (dog teeth aside) is only one reason to love the warp-faced (or warp-dominant) rep structure in which alternating thick and thin wefts create colorful block patterns and weft-wise ridges.


  Warp Rep on the Loom
  One of Rosalie's warp rep projects on the loom

As much as I enjoy weaving block patterns, I haven’t woven many warp rep projects since those rugs. I’ve done several mug rugs and samples for use with an Intro to Warp Rep class I teach where I focus on a design technique I figured out while weaving the rugs. But nothing has been wider than five inches on the loom.

Thirty-three minutes into watching Rosalie Neilson's new video Weaving Rep, I remembered why. I had threaded the rugs’ four-blocks-on-four-shafts pattern the traditional way, with each block using two adjacent shafts: Blocks A and C on shafts 1 and 2 (C flips which of the two shafts carries the pattern color) and Blocks B and D on shafts 3 and 4.

Because warp rep is generally warp faced, the sett is very dense, up to double the balanced tabby sett. I remember trying to depress a treadle and getting no shed. . . and I mean none. I had to press the treadle several times and then clear each shed with a long weaving sword. Thankfully, it only took a few picks to weave an inch, and I was enamored with the patterns I could create or I never would have finished.

Rosalie has been weaving warp rep for more than 35 years (her numbers), and I wish I had taken her workshop or seen this video before I started that project. The first suggestion she made for dealing with the density/shed challenge was to thread the alternating ends of each block as far from each other as possible. That is, thread Block A on shafts 1 and 3, and Block B on shafts 2 and 4, etc. If you have eight shafts, thread A on 1 & 5, B on 2 & 6, C on 3 & 7, D on 4 & 8. Give the warp ends some room to move.


Rosalie at the Loom  
Rosalie at the loom  

Another suggestion, a skeleton tie-up intended to maximize treadling options, also helps open stubborn sheds. Lifting the first shaft of each pair with one treadle followed by the second shaft of each pair with another helps pry the warp ends apart. Even so, I felt a bit better about my own struggles as I watched Rosalie’s sticky shed when she started to weave. However, her experience prevailed, and she calmly pulled the beater forward to strum the warp ends behind the reed with the back of her hand, clearing the shed.

To be honest about the video, Rosalie had me at "Hello." The gorgeous warp rep examples hanging over a spool rack beside her were mesmerizing. Then she started peeling them off the rack one by one, illustrating the design possibilities and demonstrating the depth of her knowledge about the technique. I couldn’t look away.

She goes on to demonstrate how to design and draft the many treadling options possible with warp rep, winding the end-on-end warp by holding the pattern and background yarns together, beaming the dense warp evenly, threading and sleying the alternating colors correctly, her lashing technique for tying onto the front apron rod, how she handles rep’s weaving challenges and even lessons in replacing a knotted warp end and hemming. It is a very thorough explanation of warp rep, but also includes many tips Rosalie has learned during her career that would be helpful for any kind of weaving.

Suddenly, those little bite marks in my kitchen rugs are starting to bother me. It might be time for some new ones. All I need is a little design and color inspiration.

Speaking of design inspiration, I’d like to invite you to participate in an upcoming web seminar I am teaching for Weaving Today. While it’s a follow up to one I presented earlier this month, you don't need to have taken the first seminar to take the second. I'll be presenting about how weavers can take their design process to the next level and how to turn inspiration into a finished project. It's called Spice Up Your Weaving II: Design Theory and Inspiration, and weavers of all levels are welcome to join the fun! It will air live on Jan. 28, 1 p.m. EST, although you can choose to watch it live or download the recorded version to watch later. Hope you can join me!


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