HNC – Autumn Block – Day 6

Warping Board

Today the business of weaving begins with winding a warp and dressing the loom. Having made a start the previous evening I find I’ve not been accurate in making a correct pathway across the warping board. Previously I’ve working on a board that’s been flat on a table. The one I’m using here stands upright on its own legs. Eventually I sort the sequence of crossing the warp threads over and under the pegs that surround the board. The essential requirement is to make ‘the portee cross’. This enables each warp ‘end’ to be threaded in sequence through the heddles and then through the reed. 

To the uninitiated you must get clear in your head that you start out with a length of yarn on a cone. Somehow this needs to become a discrete and separate collection of inidividual ‘ends’ strung perpendicularly from the front to the back of the loom. Just how does such a transformation take place?

The Portee Cross

The Portee Cross

On a warping board imagine a rectangle 1 metre square with pegs inserted around the outside frame. Your cone of yarn sits on the floor in a special device called a creel so that your yarn end can be through a guide hook. This makes for a smooth run from cone to warping board. You start warping by making a small loop at the yarn end, placing it over the far left hand peg. Then you guide the yarn OVER the next peg and UNDER the following. It’s this sequence that begins to make the portee cross. Now you follow a sequence of pegs across the board to give you the required length of yarn. When you get to the end peg you retrace your steps (pegs) only this time when the last three pegs are encountered the yarn goes OVER and UNDER in a reverse sequence . . . and hey presto the portee cross is established.

Because my warp plan contains some single warp lengths (a dash of white cotton) when so many ‘ends’ are warped of one colour a new colour has to be tied into the warp sequence. This is something I have ‘not’ tried before – having a continuous warp rather than batches or portees of yarn.

Warping takes me far longer than I anticipate. I make, incredibly, many mistakes. Finally I’m ready to transfer the warp to the loom. The warp has to be securely tied, particularly the cross which must not fall apart, and then a pair of cross-sticks (or portee sticks) are inserted either side of the cross. This makes it so much easier to handle the warp as it is manouvred on to the loom.

Raddle and Cross-sticks in Place

Raddle and Cross-sticks in Place

Before I can work with the warp on the loom I have to fix a raddle to the warp beam. This enables the warp to be separated into bunch of threads and then combed out and untangled. The raddle is fixed with two slip knots (could use a couple of G clamps) and then the warp is slipped on to a battern attached to the warp beam. Once the threads are separated into the gaps between the raddle the warp is then gradually wound on to the back beam (pieces of thick paper being inserted as the warp turns to keep the warp yarn from sticking to itself), being combed and untangled as it goes.


At this point the loom is turned around so that the front beam is ‘at the front’ – I could have moved around but there’s very little room to do this in the workshop! I now suspend the cross-sticks from the castle which places the all important cross in a good position behind the heddles for me to pick off each thread . . . and get ready to thread each through the heddles.

The Warp tied on to the back beam

The Warp tied on to the back beam

First I pull the warp through the heddle space and make two bunches of threads which are tied to the front beam. This is an eight-shaft loom so there are eight heddles, which will be threaded in a eight (at the back) to one (at the front)  sequence. Threading is done with a special hook and as I pull each thread through each heddle in turn the ‘end’ is pulled away from the bunch, and through the heddle itself. I manage to get about half the heddles threaded before, suddenly, it is time to go home. I hope to get this process finished and start to weave early on Tuesday morning.


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