Beginner Weaving Lessons

What should I use for my warp when weaving?

Warp threads | The Weaving LoomCan 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.

Warp threads | The Weaving 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.

Warp threads | The Weaving LoomIn 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.

Warp threads | The Weaving Loom

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?

Happy Weaving!

Kate

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Mara
    August 6, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Kate!

    I’m so glad I found your blog, I’m a beginner weaver and have so many questions! The one I wanted to ask you today is how to prevent my warp from showing in my weaving. I use a crocheting thread because it was the thinnest sturdy fiber I could find, but it often still shows prominently between my weft! I’m concerned my pegs on my loom are too close together and this is causing it, or perhaps the yarn I use for my weft is too thin (I usually use a 4)? Any advice or suggestions greatly appreciated!

    • Reply
      Kate
      August 6, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Mara! Crochet yarn is a great yarn to use for the warp. I’m curious, how thick is the weft thread you’re using? I usually use a worsted or DK weighted yarn for the weft and if I beat my rows down enough the warp doesn’t show too much. Using thick threads will show your warp more since it has more area to pass over. Would it be possible for you to email a picture of what you’re talking about (kate@theweavingloom.com), so I can get a better idea of what issue you’re facing?

      • Reply
        Mara
        August 7, 2015 at 1:54 am

        Hi Kate!

        Thank you for your prompt response! My weft yarn has a number 4 on the package, which I believe would make it a worsted (unless I’m interpreting that number wrong- totally possible). I have some acrylic yarn and some cotton, not sure if that makes a difference. I would be happy to email you a picture ASAP, it’s very kind of you to be so helpful.

        Thanks again!

  • Reply
    luke
    October 1, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Hi Kate.

    Great website, just one typo at the top I thought I’d mention, resource is spelled resourse. I got to your site when I was doing some research with my partner, she has just started weaving and really enjoys it. Websites like yours are a valuable resource for beginners and I love how you do your testing on different yarns and threads.
    Bye for now.

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 1, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Luke,

      Welcome! I’m glad you and your partner like my site and thank you for pointing out the typo, I can’t believe I missed it.

  • Reply
    Shelly
    February 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    My finished projects always end up being too tight, and too thick. When I attempt to stretch them to get a looser/longer piece, they end up uneven…what do I do?

    • Reply
      Kate
      February 17, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Hi Shelly, I’m trying to picture what you’re describing. When you say too tight and thick, are you referring to the weft threads being packed down on the warp? Also when you talk about stretching it to fix the issue, do you mean you’re spacing the weft threads while still on the loom? It might help if you could email me a picture of the issue at Kate@theweavingloom.com

  • Reply
    Shankar
    March 27, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Please tell me…i know cotton. But i want to know how warp and weft cotton yarn are made?? and how could be count fixed ?? Please advise me.

    • Reply
      Kate
      March 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Shankar, the cotton I use as my warp string is spun tighter then the cotton I use for my weft thread. I find that the tighter spun cotton works best as a warp because it won’t shrink much when I take my weave off the loom.

  • Reply
    Polly Weinmann
    June 18, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Can I use ordinary acrylic yarn to weave with. I have always used wool for my warp and weft ysrns. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Kate
      June 19, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      Yes you can certainly use acrylic yarn and even others things outside of yarn like fabric strips 🙂

      • Reply
        Polly Weinmann
        June 21, 2016 at 2:14 pm

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I am so excited to know that I can use yarns I have on hand. I will be making placemats for holiday gifts. Again thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Annette Daykin
    October 2, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Hi Kate.I’m a spinner but don’t use my handspun very often for the scarves I weave . I have a little Ashford samplit loom and just love it .I weave most of my scarves using premium acrylic ..the results are fab ,a lightweight pretty scarf . Regards from Aberdeenshire .

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 2, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks for sharing! I haven’t used a premium acrylic, so I was curious if they were really nice or not. It’s good to hear that you like using them, maybe I’ll get some to see what I think about them.

  • Reply
    Keisha
    October 4, 2016 at 9:21 am

    This is perfect, thanks. I’ve been searching for a good thin cotton warp (as opposed to the twine-type). I’d been using a different brand in sportweight cotton, but it comes in cream, and I’m looking for ecru / natural. Plus, the price point of the Maysville is much better. Can’t wait to try it.

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 4, 2016 at 9:31 am

      That’s great! I really love using the Maysville as my warp, it is very strong. I hope you like it too 🙂

  • Reply
    Marta
    October 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Kate,

    Do you have any thoughts on 50/50 polyester/cotton carpet warp? Would there be any downsides to using this versus 100% cotton?

    Thank you!!

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 16, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Have you held the 50/50 in your hand? I would just explore how much stretch it has. I assumed polyester/cotton won’t be too stretchy. You can use something with stretch, just be mindful of not pulling it too tight when warping your loom otherwise you would get shrinkage.

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