March 2021 Ask Me Anything

Welcome to the March Ask Me Anything blog post where we're looking more closely at sectional beams and how to set them up!

I thought this would be a good way to share a little bit of what goes into running a solo weaving studio from the North East of Scotland. You can ask me anything from the world of textiles, from questions about colour and inspiration to the slightly less fun but just as important business side too! You can submit questions for next month's blog on the first of each month through my Instagram Stories or by posting in the comments below.

Wooden warp beam with grey yarn wrapped around it in inch wide sections
Seconal beam

What is your dream project to do?

One day I'd love to be able to create an oversized bespoke artwork that would be an installation in a public area like a museum or somewhere similar. Being able to push the limits of not only my own skills but also the perceptions of textiles would be an amazing project to try.

Who do you look up to? Artist/ Weavers

I don't think there's anyone specific who I look up to but really, anyone who's able to work and manage a successful creative business is pretty impressive to me! I always love to see other weavers and artists in general thriving in their chosen area and if they can make enough to live off, then even better.

Is there a time efficient way of getting yarn on multiple cones for winding on the beam?

If there is, I'm yet to find it!

I usually weave with very complex warps which have multiple colours so use the spool and spool rack method which is great for getting very long, complicated warps right but also takes a long time. It can be anything from 1-3 weeks of work just to get the warp onto the loom using this method so I'd usually only use it for long runs of cloth of 12 meters plus.

The piece I'm working on at the moment has a solid coloured warp which has been a lot faster. The yarn is only 10 epi so I've been able to use 5 cones with 5 balls of wool which I wound off at the start.

Does a sectional beam create as much tension as a plain beam? How?

I find that I'm able to create a better and more even tension on a sectional beam compared to a plain beam. I use a tension box on the back of the loom to create an even tension across the beam. I think it's something better explained with images and have a few examples of each stage below.

I have the warp yarn cones behind the loom with some as balls of wool if necessary and each end goes through the spool rack (I would have the warp ends wound onto spools and on the spool rack for more complicated warp)

The tension box is set up on a track which goes from one side of the loom to the other (we made one out of a piece of old bunk bed!) and sits in front of the section of beam I'm planning on filling next. It will be pushed along to be inline with the next section once this one is done.

Each warp end is threaded through a small reed at one end of the tension box, luckily this warp is 10 epi so it's one end to one gap.

The warp ends then go over and under the wooden pegs inside the tension box, this creates the tension needed. These can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of tension wanted and once they are in place for the first section, stay in the same position until the warp is complete.

Each end is then threaded through a tiny version of a polyester heddle. There are two gates which have these heddles on and a 1,1,1,1... pattern is followed with this threading until each end is through. These gates can be moved up or down and are used to create the cross in the warp. There is also another small reed at this end of the tension box for the ends to be threaded through. This one can be twisted so that the warp ends are the same

width as the gap on the sectional beam.

The last step before winding the warp section on is to attach the end to the beam. I have a doubled up piece of string tied onto each of the beam sections which is around a meter long which I use to get every inch out of the warp. Each bundle of warp ends is tied onto a string for the corresponding section then you're pretty much ready to start winding the beam!

I'm always quite careful to keep an eye on everything as it's winding on as the threads on the edges tend to catch on the beam spokes every so often and need a little nudge to stay in the right section.

To make sure each section of the warp ends up the same length I either count the number of rotations as I go (which is much more tricky than it sounds!) or wait for the spools to run out.

The last step is to tie in the cross which is made by moving the gates from a few stages ago, winding the warp on half a rotation then cutting the warp ends off. I usually just tie them to the beam spoke until I've finished winding all the sections on and I can swap the cross strings for cross sticks, ready for threading.

What happens if the beam is not sectional?

If the beam is not sectional I would normally wind the entire warp on all at once rather than in sections. This isn't a problem for shorter and narrower warps but for my loom, trying to wind a 60" warp on in one go is a bit of a nightmare. The threads at the edges tend to begin to sag and it's harder to keep the tension even. It also normally means you need a second person there to wind the beam whilst you tension the warp by holding it which isn't always an option for everyone especially at the moment!

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