Warp Length, working with cotton

Hi folks!  Newb here with a few questions.

First off, how do you guys wind on a longish warp by yourself?  I did a 3 yard warp by myself last night, but I had a lot of trouble getting it snug.  Part of that, I believe, is that I used cotton.  I've read in several places that getting cotton to maintain tension is difficult...   But regardless of material, any tips?  I work graveyard, as does DH, and since I'm part time, I spend a lot of time by myself, and can't call someone over to come help. 

Going back to the cotton issue, I'm using the P&C as my weft, with #10 crochet cotton as the warp. I wanted to play with weft faced/emphasis weaves.  Besides the tension issues mentioned above, I'm having trouble getting a firm beat.  There's a definate space between each pass.  Very minimal, but its bugging me.  I'm about 4 inches in to my towels, is this something that will pass as I get further in?  I have the (possibly strange) idea that since cotton shrinks in the first wash, this is OK.  I want towels, not washing boards.  ;-)

Thanks in advance for your help!



Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 02:58

Hi Stephanie,

Welcome to Weavolution! and to rigid heddlers. 

Ok, warping by yourself.  I often am in this position and there is a thread here on Weavolution with lots of suggestions for tension improvement and problems.  I usually use an S hook attached to a loop about halfway down the warp and attach a gallon milk jug filled with water onto the hook.  The water jug is weight to provide the tension while I wind on and insert paper or sticks between layers of the warp.  It works very well with my rigid heddle loom and even with cotton usually provides enough weight to get it beamed with lots of tension.  It I am beaming tencel or something lighter or finer, I empty out some of the water (onto the house plants mostly : )

Hope that helps.

Claudia, Weavolution co-founder

Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 03:38


I always warp by myself and seldom have troubles. I make a lot of trips to the front of the loom to pull firmly on small groups of threads all the way across, then go to the back to wind, then to the front to pull, etc. Inserting a heavy paper as you wind the warp will help too. All of these ideas are in beginning weaving books. Cotton should not be too hard to warp evenly, but I have never used crochet cotton before.

As for your weft, Peaches and Cream is it? I have not used that either, but yes, cottons shrink a lot and the best way to determine how your final output will be is to do a weave a small sample and wash and dry it how you plan to treat your finished product. One thing you'll learn early on is to sample, sample, sample. I usually put an extra yard of warp on my loom so that I can make several samples.

Welcome to the world of weaving!




Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 04:56


That's what I get for only looking in the rigid heddle forums for tips on warping.  I thought there would be a few more differences between warping the two!  I've got plenty of calipers around, and think there are some S hooks in the basement... somewhere.  ;-)

Thanks for your help and the welcome!



Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 04:56

hi Stephanie, I'm another lone warper, and at the moment am using a 20/2 cotton warp doubled, with knitting cotton weft. My weft is just a bit finer than your PnC, and much thicker than my warp, so I am doing a tapestry/weft faced weave. If I beat the shed after I have laid in the thread, I get the gaps you are experiencing. However, if I change shed then beat, the weft nestles into place, and stays there. Another thing to watch out for is that you are giving the weft enough slack to go over and under the warp. Your #10 crochet cotton is about twice the thickness of the warp I am using, so you must do this if you want a weft faced fabric. If you are trying to make a more balanced weave, you have a slight problem as your warp is so much finer than the PnC,  which is why you have the gaps. Are you laying in your weft straight across, or diagonal through the shed? If you lay the weft straight across, there is not enough to compensate for the take-up, leading to gaps. I lay wefts diagonally for everything except warp faced weaves. Once you have woven a few picks you adjust the angle so you have just enough to go around everything and give you a nice selvedge.

Your rigid heddle might also be the wrong size for what you are doing - you don't say what the epi is, but I would take a guess at about 10 or 12 epi? In which case the space between your warp threads may not be sufficient for the PnC. There are a lot of reasons why you could be having this problem.

As for tension ........................................ I like to use fishing weights  with holes in them, and paper clips that go through those holes at one end, and hook onto the unruly warp thread with the other end. You can do a bunch of threads or one at a time this way Other people use film canisters, if you can get them these days, or nuts and bolts, and similar little bits of hardware supplies. I have a folding loom and have no problem getting a good tension on my cotton warps. However its much easier to get a good tension with wool or a synthetic warp that has a bit of give to it.

Cotton can shrink at different rates, grrrrr! It can also stretch, and the crochet cotton and the PnC will behave in different ways, which is why a sample is very important. Also the crochet cotton is mercerised, knitting cotton usually isn't, which can make a difference to the finished cloth. Once you know what the yarns do, you can then exploit their characteristics to get the fabric you want.

Hope this helps answer some of your questions. I'm in Australia, so your graveyard shift is my afternoon! The Europeans will come online soon, so there is usually someone around to chat with and ask questions of.


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 05:05


That's exactly what I was doing, and I'm still getting some extra slack.  I can feel it if I grope the back beam. If I move the back rachet/pawl two clicks, I have to move it 3-4 on the front.   I use heavy paper for the time being, but my husband has some wood downstairs he's going to slice up into sticks for me. 

I planned on cutting off the first 'towel' and throwing it into the washer to check exactly that.  I just wanted to get some feedback from all you experienced folks to make sure I wasn't being totally crazy. 

Yeah, I know I picked materials that aren't commonly used.  I'm working out of my stash for awhile, since getting knocked down to PT has seriously reduced my play money. 


Thanks for the advice!


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 06:27


Such a wealth of ideas!  Where to start first... Yup, I'm using a 10 dent heddle.  I'm also laying in plenty of weft, to the point where it 'bubbles' up a little, if you get my drift.  I'm going at a pretty wide diagonal.  I'm not having gaps vertically, just horizontally.  They're maybe wide enough to get a  fingernail in, just enough to bug me.  I'm going to try your suggestion of changing sheds first as soon as I'm done typing this.  I'm also noticing just a bit of improvement as I go along; the first inch looks better than the fourth inch, which I just finished. 

You've just given me a reason to raid my husband's tackle box, I'm sure he'd thank you (OK, done with sarcasm!) if he were here.  ;-)  My first project was wool, which is probably why I'm frustrated.  My first knitting project was a garter stitch scarf, my second was a double knit skull pattern.  I'm known for reaching beyond my limits.  Teaches me a lot, but it means that there's lots of screaming and cursing along the way. 

I never thought about the two types shrinking differently, dammit!  I decided to go with the two, knowing that unmercerized tends to wear a little faster, in the hopes that the mercerized warp would help it hold its structure a little longer.  That, and the P&C was too big for my 10 dent.  Don't ask how I found that out.

You've been an immense help.  Thank God for the internet and the kindness of random stranger across the planet!

Thanks again!


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 07:58


Rather than getting your husband to cut wood to make separators, I use  mini venetian blind slats. They are plastic, and would not work so well with a thick warp but should be fine with what you are using. Wood takes up far more room than a slim plastic blind so you may not be able to wind as much warp on the beam.

From what you have said about laying in the weft, changing how you beat should go a long way to solve your problems. The PnC should give you a lovely thick and thirsty towel fabric. I'm making tapestry bags with my warp; - in very bright colours that aught to clash, but I think look fantastic together, so finishing is not such an issue.

You haven't said what brand (if any) of loom you are using. See if an Ashford rigid heddle will fit, if you are unsure of the make. Ashford has just brought out a 5 epi rigid heddle for the Knitters Loom, which is what I have, and its just the right size for PnC and other textured fashion yarns. So I should imagine that other loom makers will follow suit  shortly. If your husband is clever with his hands, he should be able to adapt any rigid heddle to fit your loom.

If you are still having problems beating your warp into place, use a sword - basically its a bit of wood with one narrow bevelled edge, much like the shaped moulding you get down at the hardware store, so that the profile is an elongated triangle. The shaped mouldings are made from hardwood, and a length of that will do the job once its sanded down. You can grasp it both ends, and beat firmly and swiftly, and it will help keep the fell line straight, particularly if there is a slight tension problem.

We all learn these things as we go along; experience is a great teacher, and there are loads of tricks and tips you find on Weavo that never make it into the weaving books! Happy weaving, and post photos if you can so we can follow your progress.


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 08:09

Stephanie, if you're at the very start of your warp, it's normal to have to advance the front beam by more rachet-clicks than the back beam!  The back beam, loaded with warp, will have a bigger circumference than the front beam (which at this point is almost empty).  When you're halfway through your weaving, they'll advance at about the same rate, then as the back beam empties, you'll notice a discrepancy again. :-)

The most important things are these:  is your warp wound evenly and snugly on the back beam? And, does your warp have fairly even tension all the way across from side to side?  ...If those are okay, you're fine!  As you get more weavings under your belt, you'll get a feel for how much, um, imprecision you can get away with.  Sometimes it's more than you might think.

Do you still have the ball band for your weft yarn?  It should tell you whether or not the yarn is mercerised (or pre-shrunk, or some other word to indicate that it won't shrink).  If it doesn't say anything, assume that it will shrink.  ...Your plan to throw the first towel in the washer is an excellent one!  Very nice things can happen to weavings in the wash.

By the way, I love weaving from my stash!  It "forces" me to try interesting colour combinations and textures that I wouldn't necessarily seek out if I were buying all the yarns especially for a project.

Keep weaving, you're doing fine!


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:32


I'll look at the Ashfords when I'm next at a festival, I have no idea!  I use the Kromski Harp.  I bought one of their wheels, and fell in love with their work.   How long are the Knitter's looms?  I saved until I had enough for the 32in Harp.  Mike and I are very good at, well, jury rigging things to make 'em work.  I really like the ventian blind idea... I'll have to keep an eye out on the prices.  Budget... what a horrible four letter word!

The stick shuttles that came with the harp are actually beveled, so they can be used as swords.  I've noticed that does make a bit of a difference... ya know, after I worked down the yarn on one of 'em.  Now I'm just keeping one empty.  Its making a difference, its a little easier to beat down.  I'm still not getting it as tight as I'd originally thought, but now that I'm thinking more about shrinkage and the eventual take up, I'm not as concerned.  Experience is the best teacher.  I'm almost entirely self taught, never taken a class for knitting, crochet, spinning and now weaving.  Just picking the brains of you lovely people on the internet! I'm going to dig out the camera now that I've finished the first towel, so you guys can see.  But first I need to find the USB... *groan*

Thanks you again!


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:47


Well, gee... now that you mention it, I hadn't considered that about the beams being unequal.  Talk about embarassing!  Hang on real quick while I hide my face in shame....


OK, now that I'm back... It doesn't feel like its wound on snugly.  Then tension is mostly even from side to side (and please take that with a grain of salt... I'm OCD as hell and just a little bit of difference is noticable to me.  I've shown this to DH and he can't tell!)  I know there's a good learning curve... This is only my second project.  Didn't think I was being that ambitious, but well...  Live and learn!

The only problem with weaving from the stash is much of mine is either fiber, needing to be spun first, or worsted weight.  Luckily, Caroline above mentioned Ashford's making a 5 dent.  Need to save up $40!  LOL, I originally got into knitting cuz I thought it'd be a good, cheap hobby.  *snort*  Yeah right!  Luckily, I buy a lot of white/natural so I can dye to my little heart's content!

Thanks for consoling this newb!


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 13:00

Hi again Stephanie,

Kromski also makes an 8-dent heddle, and that might give enough spacing between warps for you to use your knitting yarns as warp.  (Wrap a strand of your "typical" knitting yarn around and around a ruler, with each wrap touching the wrap that came before, then count how many wraps there are in an inch.  Yarns in the 14-16 wpi range ought to work pretty well as warps in an 8-dent heddle.)

That said (as I imagine you're not eager to go spend more money right away!), all those knitting yarns can make super wefts!  Where there's a stash, there's a way.  ;-)

For the tension of yarn wound onto the back beam, you've already heard a couple of recommendations of the thing I do when winding warp onto the beam:  wind a couple of turns, then set the brake on the warp beam, go to the front of the loom, and gently and steadily pull on the warp.  If you're using the whole 32-inch width of your loom, divide the warp into two or three groups to make sure everything gets a similar pull.  What you're doing here is you're "snugging" the warp onto the beam, pulling out any slack that got in there while you were winding onto the beam.  You need to do this every couple of turns of the warp beam to be sure you've got it all.

The big jug of water mentioned earlier is a more automatic way to do this same thing.  The jug of water supplies a steady pull as you wind on.

On wider warps, I've been known to clamp my loom to a low table, lay the warp out as straight as I can across the floor, lay a board across the warps and pile some heavy books on top of the board, then wind on.  The warp drags the whole pile of board and books as I wind on.

It's whatever works, and whatever appeals to you.  Many paths can lead to the same good results -- and with each new warp, you'll start collecting your own favourites.


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 13:19

I have used #10 Crochet Cotton as both warp and weft in an 8S Table Loom for Overshot.  I was taking a class and the weaving teacher told me it wouldn't work.  Well, the table runner came out great and has held up to lots of washings.  I once asked another weaving teacher about Crochet Cotton and she said that she had never even heard of it!  Both incidents happened between 15 and 20 years ago and the teachers were very traditional in what they wove and the materials they used (10/2. 5/2, etc).  Now days weavers are more willing to 'reach out the the box' to try different materials.  A lot of RH weavers are using #3 Crochet Cotton in either a 10 or 12 dent heddle and some are using #10 Crochet cotton in their RH loom to weave fine using two heddles.

Peaches and Creme and Suger N' Cream worsted weight cottons are now commonly used in RH looms.  I have used it as both warp and weft.  In my Flip loom I can use it in both my 8 and 10 dent heddles and in my Beka loom the 8 dent heddle only.  The holes in the Flip heddles are larger than in the Beka ones.

So the materials you picked ARE being used especially with new weavers for the same reason you are.  We have them in our stash!  Recently I showed an inkle woven band I made using #10 Crochet Cotton to an inkle weaver who has been weaving for a long time.  She was amazed that one could use #10 Crochet Cotton to weave with and she liked the feel of the band.

I would like to throw a word of caution in here about using wooden slats or mini-blinds.  A couple of years ago I took a linen weaving class and the teacher told the class NOT to use wooden slats or mini-blinds.  She wanted the class to only use heavy paper because of the better tension and less chance of the warp breaking.  Only once did I try using wooden slats.  I cursed throughout the entire project because of the eneven tension I had.  Since than I have only used heavy paper and never again have I had tension problems.  When I teach RH weaving I recommend the heavy paper.

When winding on the warp, wind it on for no more than 6 inches.  Come to the front and tug HARD on the warp to straighten out the uneven warp threads.  Wind a few more inches, tug hard, etc.  And don't just hold all the warp in one hand to tug.  If the warp is wide the ends might still be off.  Gather small handfuls of warp threads and tug.

Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 14:45

Ruth, OMG you're my savior!  The book/board idea is superb! 

I use the same technique everyone is describing for warping the loom: grabbing small handfuls of the warp and tugging as I'm slowly winding on.  I'm just not happy with the results.  It feels like its loosening slightly after I tug it but before I wind it. 

I'm actually looking at the Ashford 5 dent... it looks like it might fit, but I'm gonna have to go and have a look at it. 

Once again, thanks for being a genius!


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 14:53


Yup, I warp exactly like you described, right down to grabbing small handfulls of the warp rather than the whole shebang.  That's why I came to you guys, knowing you all would have the GOOD stuff.  =)

Thanks for the heads up on using mini blinds.  If I can get them ultra cheap on sale, I'll give it a shot.  But, seeing that I can get paper bags for free at the grocery store... well.  It sells itself, doesn't it?!

Working out of the stash is both a blessing and a challenge, but I think that's what defines us.  If we wanted to do something easy, everyone would work in plain weave and garter stitch the rest of our lives.  I spin too slowly to have enough for a sizable project, but that day will come too.  Either that, or I need to figure out how to weave with roving!  ;-)  Yes, yes, weft, I know.  One project at a time!

Thanks for the advice.  Its wonderful to have such a resource!  I can't imagine trying to do any of my hobbies without the aid of the internet.


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 15:00

Yep!  We can use roving as weft.

Hmm, that sounds like a great WAL and stash busting too!

I am on a stash busting binge right now to reduce the amount of yarn, fabric and roving I have.

Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 15:03

Sounds like a loverly blanket!  Or shawl... or anything, really!

I haven't seen any good tutorials on it, have you?

Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 15:11

If I remember correctly The Ashford Book Of Rigid Heddle Weaving by Rowena Hart has a project in it to use roving to weave a rug.

Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 17:00

Oh, Susan, can we squeeze the beginnings of a "Stash busting" WAL before you leave for vacation?  I'm ready and my loom is almost empty.


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 17:29

Gee, a stash-busting weave-along sounds like a lot of fun! :-)

I've been in and out of my own space a LOT in the last couple of years for family reasons, so I'm in the process of rediscovering just exactly what's in my stash.  Just because I haven't been home doesn't mean I haven't been shopping (if you can't weave, you might as well shop, right??), and there's a lot of very interesting stuff tucked into boxes and buried in closets here.

So let me go finish those projects-in-progress so the looms are ready for action....


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 23:14

Hi Stephanie,

I have been out of town too, but getting caught up.  Something to consider when you plan and then later evaluate the beaming of your warp on your warp beam, is that the more revolutions you make on the beam, the harder it will be to keep even tension.  So, if your warp beam is not much thicker than your thumb, you should warp one project at a time, one scarf, not two.  If your warp beam is more like the thickness of  your wrist, you can put longer warps on.  So, I don't know how long your warp was, but keep in mind that you should not put on really long warps.  I have put an 8 yard warp on a rigid heddle loom, but it required some very thin wooden sticks and it was a very thin widely spaced cotton.  With more experience you can start putting on longer warps, but remember the loom's warp beam has practical  limitations. 


Posted on Fri, 06/25/2010 - 01:09


My back beam is a little smaller than my wrist; I seem to remember that the Harp can handle up to an five yard warp.  I'm having trouble finding this info... Maybe I'm thinking of the warping board.  I guess I need to do some more research into continuous warps, huh?  =)  The warp this time was 100 inches, just a shade under 3 yds. 

Thanks for the advice!  Always something new to learn!



Posted on Fri, 06/25/2010 - 01:12


I just told my husband I needed another book and another heddle.  He groaned and rolled his eyes, lol.  I don't think he's as happy about me finding this site as I am.  Enablers, that's what you all are!

(No, he's not pissed... He's just worried about being buried in an eventual avalanche of wool!)

I'd be up for my very first WAL.  Guess I need to get cracking on those towels!  1 down, 3 to go!


Posted on Thu, 11/25/2010 - 14:54

I found this thread while browsing weavalution.

And I have lots of peaches and cream and sugar and cream kitchen cottons. And a collection of crochet cottons.

So I was wondering how your towels turned out?

Posted on Tue, 12/14/2010 - 02:26

And remember that the rigid heddles for the Ashford 32 fit the Kromski 32 perfectly - and are cheaper.  Ashford has a 7.5, while Kromski is 8 dent.  Not a big difference, but it might help.  I made a set of placemats using the 7.5 dpi rh using Sugar'n'Cream on my Harp 32.  They ended up being firm, but not boardlike, just as I wanted. 

eta:  I think I attached this to the wrong response - sorry.


Posted on Thu, 12/23/2010 - 13:15

I was having the most horrible time with my tension using paper and wooden slats...but I gotta tell ya, once I started using my little mini blind slats my weaving tension has improved a million times.  I am not a new weaver and I learned on stiff brown paper.  I MUCH prefer the mini blinds.  Neater, stores easier when not in use, easily replaced, concave so my warp beam doesn't get so huge, and my warp is in PERFECT tension!  I think what really matters is what works best for YOU as an individual.  Can't wait to see some of your pieces.  Weave on Ms. Stephanie.  You will find your comfort zone, it just takes enough hrs sitting at the loom.

Posted on Thu, 12/23/2010 - 13:19

5 yrds??? thats 25 ft and I don't think the Rigid heddles are even meant to hold that much yarn.  I was always most comfortable and got my best results with about 12 ft on my Harp.  When ever I got bold enough to use longer warps my ratchet would pop and I would have all of that yarn unrolling on the other end, ruining my project.  Start small would be my suggestion, 25 foot of a hundred or more threads is ALOT to control, especially if you are a beginner.  Just my 2 cents worth.  Hope it helps.

Posted on Fri, 01/07/2011 - 23:23

Ahh, the joys of working in a grocery store during the holidays... 

@Patternwhisperer:  They turned out alright.  All four are slightly different, experiementing with how to lay the weft in.  Some of them are rather flimsy, and some are kinda board like.  I'm sure another couple of washings will help with that.  I did teach myself an important lesson in leaving plenty of extra warp (#10 crochet cotton) between towels... I thought 1 inch between towels would be adequate, and stupidly went ahead and cut them apart before washing.  Luckily, while the warp did shrink quite a bit (1/2" became 1/8-1/4", and was much more noticable on the hem allowances (1/2" on either end) ), it unraveled only a little bit of one corner, and will be easily hidden by eventual hemming.   So, my advice would be, be generous with your crochet cotton, and WASH YOUR SAMPLES FIRST, before you continue with weaving.  I should have, just like I should knit gauge samples.  ;-)

@Trish:  The ashford 5d fits perfectly, so for anyone else with a kromski... *winkwinknudgenudge*

@Marsha:  So far, cut apart grocery bags are working for me.  I haven't seen the blinds at a price that doesn't make me wince, especially when compared to free.  And a yard is 3 feet, so while my memory is still suspect, 15 ft doesn't sound as crazy as 25!

Posted on Sat, 01/08/2011 - 02:11

Used mini-blinds can sometimes be found at the Goodwill or Salvation Army for a good price.  

Did you post the finished project in your profile?  We would all love to see pictures if you have some.  


PS I am almost done with 4 napkins in black and white.  I did post an initial picture HERE.  

Posted on Fri, 12/31/2021 - 17:56

iwarping is my weakness on my Cricket always loose with tons of fishing weights.

Do you separate the mini blind slats or leave them connected?

i just read that Laura Fry uses bamboo blinds that are not taken apart- that looked good- anyone used this