Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Warp Packing

bamboo blind used as warp packing or separator - 5 more blinds in a tidy 'puddle' on the floor

From time to time a new-ish weaver will wonder if warp packing is really necessary and if so, what should be used?

The short answer is - it depends.

If you are only ever beaming very short warps and your loom's warp beam is fairly large, you may not need anything at all.

The problem comes when longer warps, especially of yarn with little elasticity, is being used for warp.  Add to that beaming with little tension and you are setting yourself up for a nasty experience.

As to what to use - that also depends.  It's pretty much personal preference.  Traditionally sticks were used. When I first started weaving the studio where I took my weaving class had both sticks and corrugated cardboard.  Both worked although the cardboard did get squished after a time.

I mostly used sticks until I started beaming sectionally.  The trick to using a sectional beam is to wind the warp on with a good amount of tension.  The rule of thumb is to use at least as much tension (preferably more) as will be applied during weaving.  (If you use warp flanges, that is like having one huge section and if you wind with sufficient tension you don't need any warp packing.)

The point of doing these things - warp packing (or separators) and beaming with tension is to build a nice solid warp, one where the upper layers cannot cut down into the lower layers when tension is applied to weave.

Eventually I got a small(er) loom and began pulling warps on again.  I needed something for warp packing. A friend gave me some very heavy vinyl wall paper which worked reasonably well.  The problem with long lengths of cardboard or wall paper is that they need to go on perfectly straight or they will begin to spiral as you wind the warp.  And as the warp is woven off, the length of either begins to buckle and pile up messily under the warp beam.

One day I was shopping in a store and spotted bamboo blinds.  Ah-ha!  I bought several, asked Doug to remove the hardware and started using them.

The advantage of the blinds over sticks is that you only need to stick the end into the warp and wind until the blind is all wound into the warp.  You don't need to stop every few inches to insert another stick.  Another advantage of the blinds over sticks or cardboard (or wall paper) is that they are self-unloading.  They simply drop down onto the floor in a fairly tidy 'puddle'.

My usual warp on the Leclerc is up to 11 meters.  The other advantage of the blinds is that they are approximately 2 yards long.  As each blind drops to the floor I know I've woven another 2 yards or so.  It's a nice way to keep track of my progress.

Currently reading The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron


Cathy Smither said...

I love the bamboo blinds. I'm too challenged by long rolls of paper -- they always, always go wonky on me. The blind are just adjustable enough that I can give them a little tweak to straighten them if necessary.

Unfortunately, my elderly cat decided to pee on them when they were lying in a heap on the floor. I've been looking for new ones, but haven't found any as nice as the ones I had before.

Suzy S said...

I think the bamboo goes on much more evenly than paper. Even heavy paper can tend to go wonky.

Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

Or: get a roll of buttonhole elastic and make your own "stick mats" (if you already have sticks, that is)

Laura Fry said...

A friend made a 'stick mat' using masking tape and her sticks. The buttonhole elastic sounds a lot faster, though. :)

terri said...

interesting--so the string holding the bamboo blinds together doesn't cause lumps/ unevenness when winding on the warp? (or do you manage to put the warp on either side of the strings?)

Laura Fry said...

The string does not appear to be an issue. I think what happens is that the warp simply rolls to one side or the other of any slight changes in elevation. I have used the blinds with 2/20 merc cotton and 2/20 silk with no apparent problems - and on up to thick wool. It might be a problem with something finer than that.

Laura said...

What a brilliant idea! I've got a sectional beam, but a second 'normal' beam and a blind would be much better than sticks or paper - thanks for sharing the tip!

judy said...

Hi Laura,
looking forward to your workshop in Nashville.

Joyce said...

The subject of warp separators is discussed TO DEATH in the weaving groups on Facebook. I keep sending people here because I'm a "believer" in the bamboo blinds too. They are the most awesome things ever!!!!!

BarbieCat said...

I'm new to weaving and just found this article, which is still timely and useful, since weavers still look for the perfect warp separators. It's the topic that just won't end.

Now, as to the problem of finding bamboo matchstick blinds. They aren't used or sold as often as they used to be. Home Depot doesn't carry them, I know. Sushi rolling mats are very similar and there are/were placemats, also not readily available any more. Of course, these mats are not as wide as blinds, but are good for scarves, towels and placemats up to 15 inches wide or so. Once apon a time there were also beach mats made out of the matchsticks.

I'm thinking I need to start haunting tag, garage or lawn sales and try to find roll up blinds or mats.

Laura Fry said...

I usually get mine from Jysk (a store similar to IKEA, but more 'bargain basement)

Thrift stores etc., are good places to look, too.