Thursday, April 19, 2018


It seems there is nothing like a group of weavers discussing how to dress a loom to create controversy!

There are the front-to-back and then the back-to-front disciples.  Both are absolutely convinced - it seems - that their method is the best thing since sliced bread.

When I learned how to weave we were taught to use a raddle to spread the warp out to it's weaving width.  I did that for a while until I was shown how to use a reed to rough sley.  For a year or so I followed that process.  I got pretty good at using either a raddle or a reed.

Then I started beaming front-to-back and did that for a couple of years.  It worked ok with some limitations.


Until I changed what I was doing and it no longer worked.  Well, it did, but the 2/20 mercerized cotton I was then using for warps snarled and tangled and it took literally hours to beam a 10 or 12 yard long warp.

At that point I switched to sectional beaming and never looked back.  For literally decades.

Sectional beaming is great for a warp that is long/wide/has limited colour changes.  And that is how I usually approached my weaving designing while using sectional warping. 

But then I changed what I wanted to do and started winding warps with lots of color changes.  Not exactly efficient when beaming sectionally.  I was also making much shorter warps than what I did for the AVL. 

After trying and selling on several small looms I found a Leclerc Fanny, which turned out to be perfect for my needs.

Now rayon chenille is not one of those yarns I would willing beam front-to-back, and I didn't like having 8 ends in a 1/2" raddle, so I grabbed a reed and rough sleyed it - just like I had done all those years ago.  With just two ends in a dent, the rayon chenille behaved much better.  And the Pain In The Ass quotient went down considerably.

Rough sleying also worked 'better' with finer yarns, like 2/16 cotton, or Bambu 12 (about 2/16 cotton thickness).  Rough sleying also worked 'better' with 2/20 mercerized cotton.  And linen.

This is not to say I wouldn't ever beam front-to-back at some point.  Perhaps.  But there are many fabrics that I would avoid using front-to-back.

An incomplete list:

Any singles yarn, of any fibre.
Rayon chenille.
Any dense cloth - like the fine wool, set at something like 72 epi.
Any textured yarn such as a boucle.
Any grabby wool

Now I am quite sure that someone, somewhere, has successfully beamed a warp front-to-back using a yarn from the above list.

Great for them. 

For me, those yarns open up a world of PITA that I'm simply not willing to deal with.

I am known as an efficient weaver.  I have worked for decades to become efficient.  I am not interested in taking hours to beam a warp when my methods work for me and I can beam an 11 meter long cotton warp in about 10 minutes.

But for those who prefer front-to-back?  Do what you love.  I don't love that process much anymore, so I don't do it.

My advice to students is to pick an expert.  Learn everything they can teach you.  Learn enough to become your own expert.  Avoid PITA situations.  Because weaving should be pleasant, not a pain.  If you are happy and getting the results you want, you don't need to change a thing.  If you are not?  Then you might want to check out some different processes.  Or equipment.  Sometimes the equipment just isn't a good fit.  Because we are not all the same.  We are not the same height.  We are not the same in terms of manual dexterity.  We do not necessarily learn the same way.  Find what works - for you.

Live long - and prosper!  And weave the way you want.


Rhonda from Baddeck said...

I want to jump up and down and say yes yes yes!! Life is too short to argue about which way is better, because "it depends!" Now where have I heard that before? You seem to be talking directly to the person I mentioned earlier, who's having difficulty with a twisty cotton warp (grouped in 1" sections just like I did before I took your class). Thanks for summarizing!

Laura Fry said...

These topics go round on a regular basis. Glad to be of help. :)