Can I just start this post with saying that you guys ask the best questions! Please feel free to drop me an email or comment below if you have something on your mind about weaving. I may not know the answer, but I love to research and test things out. I believe there are no bad questions, so even if it’s something you think everyone knows but you, just ask.
Alright, so I recently received a really good question about what threads should be used for warping a lap loom. Since I already discussed yarn weight for your weft here, it also makes sense to talk about your warp threads. My answer to this question would be, you really can use almost anything, but what you use will affect how you weave and how your weave looks.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I favor using a cotton yarn for my warp. And I actually use a cotton carpet warp yarn by Maysville, which I find to be really strong and it comes in different colors if you’re interested in trying a colored warp.
So why the cotton carpet warp? Well, it is spun super tightly, so it is thin and very strong. It has very little stretch to it, so I can warp up my loom pretty tightly, which helps me have an even tension in my weaves. Because of how tightly spun it is, it has very little friction with my weft threads which also makes weaving easier. If I want to move a shape that I’m weaving up or down my warp it is really easy. Also the strength of the carpet warp allows me to make a crazy amount of loops that will continue to hold their form even after being cut off the loom.
Ok enough about this carpet warp, do other cotton threads make a good warp? My answer is yes, and the reason being that even a more normal spun cotton thread has strength to it and little stretch. This picture shows an example of two normal spun cotton (as opposed to a more loosely spun bulky cotton). In the picture above, I have the thread resting on the left side and on the right side I’m giving it a good pull. If you look, both sides of the thread are about the same size in width. So what does this mean? Well it demonstrates that if you were to warp up your loom, the odds are the thread will have a certain amount of pull on it (the right side). Later when you cut the weave from the loom, the threads will go back to their resting state (the left side). So this shows that with a cotton thread your weave should stay in the same shape as when it was on the loom (that is assuming what you’re doing with your weft doesn’t affect the shape once cut from the loom). My favorite brand of cotton yarn is Lily Sugar’n Cream, which is what I used in my normal spun cotton warp example.
In these pictures above, I made two small samplers, one using my favorite cotton carpet warp and the other using a worsted weight cotton yarn. As you can see the carpet warp is much thinner then the worsted weight and also has a smoother surface, which allows for less friction between the warp and the weft threads. With that being said, having them side by side you can see they both weave up similarly. The worsted weight will have more visual impact as it will show more between the wefts, which might be the look you’re after.
So now you might be thinking, can I warp with wool or other animal fibers? My answer is yes of course! And as always I encourage everyone to experiment with their weaving, so if you want to warp with something other than cotton, do it! Just keep in mind that some fibers such as wool have a lot of stretch, or bounce to them. In this picture above, I did the same resting and pulling example to two different wool threads and if you compare the widths of both sides, you can see there is a lot of stretch. So what does this mean? Well if you were to warp up your loom with wool and pull it tight, you’re probably going to get some shrinkage once your weave is off the loom. It may also get wavy depending on what you did with your weft. I haven’t warped with wool before, but what I would suggest if you wanted to warp with wool or another stretchy yarn, is to warp your loom loosely with this thread. Obviously you don’t want it so loose that it’s a spaghetti mess, but don’t pull it too tight across the loom. By not pulling it too tightly, the yarn won’t be stretched much beyond it’s resting form.
A great example of someone who pulls off a tricky warp thread is the textile artist Elodie Mra. One of my favorites of hers is a weave she did all in what I believe is mohair, which you can see here. How crazy awesome is that to have your warp be mohair??!!
I would love to hear what you have used for warp threads. Do you also like to use cotton? Or have you tried warping with wool or something different?
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