I just finished weaving a number of baby blankets that are warped at 45 inches wide. They are light and soft with a warp of Superfine Merino 2/18 and a weft of Jaggerspun Zephyr 2/18 Wool-Silk. Threading and sleying 900 warp ends took quite some time, so when I decided I’d like to do more blankets, I definitely wanted to tie a new warp onto the existing one.
On a prior project, I had tied on a new warp from the front and pulled the knots through the reed and heddles to wind the new warp onto the backbeam. I was nervous about doing this on this project as it’s long warp, I decided to wind the warp onto the back beam using a raddle prior to tying onto the old warp behind the heddles. Peggy Ostermeyer explains this method in her book, Warping your Loom and Tying on New Warps (which you can buy and download from this link). She includes a number of diagrams and helpful information for tying on new warps.
Here’s a summary of what I did to add a new warp for more baby blankets.
After weaving the last blanket on the first warp, I left space for fringe and then wove a header in waste yarn to preserve the tension. Using plain weave, I wove an inch or so of waste yarn. Next I woven in two 4-foot by 1 inch pieces of aluminum in alternating plain weave sheds (the aluminum strips were inexpensive and purchased at a hardware store). This was followed by another inch of plain weave in waste yarn.
I needed a second set of lease sticks to use behind the heddles. I purchased some 4-foot thin molding strips at the hardware store and drilled holes into the ends to make a “good enough” set of lease sticks. It’s ok if these lease sticks aren’t completely smooth as there will be no warp ends moving over these lease sticks; they are simply used in alternating plain weave sheds behind the heddles keeping warp ends from the old warp in perfect order for tying on the new warp.
Hint: When you need to keep a shed open on a Macomber loom, you can place a sturdy stick (such as a piece of a 1-inch dowel) on one end of the castle under the bronze pieces that raise when treadles are depressed. This way the shed can be held open without needing to keep a foot on the treadle so you can walk to the back of the loom and place a lease stick through the open shed behind the heddles. After placing the first lease stick, repeat the process with the other plain weave shed and the second lease stick. If you don’t have a way to keep the plain weave sheds open, you need a helper!
Either suspend your lease sticks from the castle, or use a cord from the castle to the back beam to suspend the lease sticks (such as the method recommended by Jane Stafford in a Louet DVD) such that they are approximately at heddle eye level.
This picture shows the lease sticks at the back of the loom. The old warp is being cut a few inches from the lease sticks.
Once this is done, you can remove your woven blankets by cutting at the front of the loom behind the woven header.
At this point you are ready to wind your new warp on to the backbeam. The picture at the bottom shows the setup as I was getting the new warp ready to spread through the raddle.
Normally when I wind my warp onto the backbeam, the free ends of the warp chains are coming from the front of the loom and I tighten and pull from the front. It’s obviously not possible to pull through the middle of the loom. You may find you can place the warp chains over the top of the castle. For this width on my Macomber, this was not possible due to the bronze pieces at each end. Instead I pulled from the back, with the warp coming from the “wrong way” around the back beam. This worked very well!
I used my usual method of placing the backbeam apron rod through the ends of the warp near the cross. The raddle is tied with strip of cloth to the backbeam, and the apron rod with the warp chains is gently lifted over the top of the raddle. I just let the extra warp chains go through raddle openings and spread them as I come to them, working from one side to the other. Using a short piece of paper, I slide the currently used warp chain over the raddle sections as I drop off the warp ends into each section.
Once the warp is spread, I lace the apron rod to the rod through the warp ends.
The warp is now ready to wind on. I stand at the back of the loom to alternately tighten and wind the warp, placing stick separators as I wind.
Once the warp is wound, I have to move the lease sticks under and back over the backbeam such that the warp is coming straight up from warp beam and over the back beam towards the front of the loom.
Suspend the lease sticks with the new warp a few inches behind the lease sticks with the old warp.
Now you have the two sets of lease sticks both suspended parallel to each other; one holds the old warp, the other the new warp.
Starting at one end, tie each warp end. I took care to think about which end was coming over one stick and under another to be sure I didn’t skip a thread. Peggy Osterkamp recommends a square knot, but I found with the wool warp that a simple overhand knot held nicely and was quick to tie.