Grace your table with a handwoven runner and placemats. These table decorations are easy to make on a rigid heddle loom, and their striking colors will brighten any special occasion. The secret ingredient: hand-painted pre-wound warp chains. I used two hand-painted colorways from Blazing Shuttles, along with 3/2 cotton in a complementary solid color. Narrow stripes of the solid color separate wider, randomly sized stripes of the hand-painted colors.
Rigid heddle weavers know and love the ease and speed of direct warping. Yet it’s worth the effort to master indirect warping, because pre-wound hand-dyed warps can add so much richness and color to your weaving. In this project, we’ll wind a chain of the solid color on a warping board. Then you’ll understand how to work with the hand-painted chains. Warping this project will take some patience, but the weaving will go quickly.
Weave structure: plain weave
Finished size: runner, 40″ x 12″ (excluding 2″ fringe on each end); placemats 20″ x 12″ (excluding 1″ fringe on each end)
- 3/2 mercerized cotton, colorway #7125 Adobe, 365 yards for weft and 131 yards for warp (color A)
- Blazing Shuttles Small Treasures Warp, 3/2 mercerized cotton (4.5 yds x 100 ends), colorway Brown (color B)
- Blazing Shuttles Small Treasures Warp, 3/2 mercerized cotton (4.5 yds x 100 ends), colorway Lipstick (color C)
Equipment: Schacht Flip or Cricket rigid heddle loom with at least 13″ weaving width and 12-dent reed; 4-1/2 yd warping board; three 2″ wide spacers and one 3″ wide spacer (such as cardboard strips); tapestry needle; warp cross holder (optional)
Number of warp ends: 161
Warp length: 4.5 yds (includes loom waste, take-up, and fringe)
Width in reed: 13″
- Plan the colors for your warp. You can follow the warp color order given here or make up your own pattern: for example, 3 ends color A, 20 ends color B, 2 ends color A, 10 ends color C, 2 ends color A, 16 ends color B. If you buy pre-wound warps for colors B and C, they will have a pre-determined number of warp ends—pay attention to this number if you plan your own color pattern. The instructions below assume that you’re using an A-B-A-C pattern, ending with A-B-A at the right selvedge.
- Using color A, measure a warp of 4.5 yards, with the number of ends required for your color pattern (29 in this case). If you’re unfamiliar with indirect warping, you’ll find detailed instructions below in “How to Make a Warp Chain,” “How to Warp with a Warp Chain,” and “Threading the Heddle for the Harvest Table Set. ”
- Thread the slots and holes following the warp color order, making sure to center the warp in the heddle. Begin with color A. Place 2 ends in the first slot (left selvedge) and the last hole (right selvedge)—these doubled selvedges will provide a cleaner, sturdier edge.
- Again following the warp color order, thread the heddle with color B.
- Thread the remaining slots and holes with color C.
- Beam the warp.
- Tie onto the front apron bar.
- Weave a header.
- Weave in plain weave for 1″, then hemstitch.
- Weave the 40″ runner and hemstitch at the end.
- Insert a 3″ spacer (allowing 2″ for runner fringe and 1″ for fringe of first placemat).
- Weave a 20″ placemat, hemstitching at the beginning and the end.
- Insert a 2″ spacer.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the three remaining placemats, as shown in the weaving diagram.
Remove the woven fabric from the loom. Remove the spacers and cut apart the runner and placemats. Wash in warm water. Iron flat.
How to Make a Warp Chain
You’ll need a warping board, scissors, a tape measure, scrap yarn for the guide string, and scrap yarn for ties in at least 2 colors. Choose colors that stand out from your warp yarn, so that you don’t accidentally cut the warp.
- Cut the guide string a few inches longer than your warp length. Tie one end around the left cross peg, as shown in Figure 1. Pass the guide string under the right cross peg, then outside the next closest peg.
- Work back and forth around remaining pegs on the board, adjusting which pegs to use until the end of the guide string comes out close to a peg. (Use more pegs for a longer warp or fewer pegs for a shorter one.) Tie the guide string around this peg—it’s now the starting peg for warp ends.
- Tie the warp yarn to the starting peg. Follow the guide string until you reach the cross pegs. Wind a figure 8 around these pegs, as in Figures 2 and 3. This figure 8 forms the cross to keep the warp ends in order. Follow the guide string back to the starting peg.
- Continue winding from the starting peg to the cross pegs and back again, as in Figure 3, until the total number of warp ends are measured. Every loop around the starting peg equals 2 warp ends. Cut the warp yarn and tie it around the starting peg.
- Secure the cross in 5 places with loose cross ties, as in Figure 4, using contrasting scrap yarn and overhand knots. Now tie choke ties in a second color of scrap yarn, placing them at about 18″ inch intervals down the length of the warp chain. Tie these choke ties with tight bow ties to keep the chain from tangling. After you’ve secured the chain with cross ties and choke ties, remove it from the warping board.
- Cut the non-cross end of the chain and tie the ends in an overhand knot. For extra security and to make the warp more manageable, you can “braid” the chain into a crochet chain, leaving the cross end free.
Wondering why a warp chain has so many ties? One word: SAFETY. The cross keeps all the ends stacked up like Lincoln logs, and cross ties keep that cross in place. Choke ties help the long chain stay organized as you beam the warp. If you lose the cross, or the chain gets tangled up in the middle, warping will be nearly impossible. Yet you’ll need to cut all those ties eventually. Find a balance between tying the ties tightly enough to secure the warp, and leaving enough space for the blade of your scissors—you don’t want to sever the warp when you cut the ties!
How to Warp with a Warp Chain
Here’s the general process: you’ll warp the loom from front to back, just like you do in direct warping. However, the warp chains have a cross at one end—the cross will sit in the front of the heddle, as shown in Figure 5. You’ll hold onto the cross in your non-dominant hand, as in Figure 6, or place it on a warp cross holder. You’ll hold the heddle hook in your dominant hand, reaching through a slot from the back of the heddle. You’ll pick up the end at the top of the cross and pull it through the slot. Then you’ll take the (new) top end from the cross and thread it the hole. You’ll work across the heddle in this way. It doesn’t matter if you work from left to right or right to left, as long as you’re consistent.
Threading the Heddle for the Harvest Table Set
For this project, we begin with warp color A.
- Set up your work area so you can easily reach both sides of the rigid heddle. If you’re using a warp cross holder, attach it to the front beam with rubber bands. Set the rigid heddle in neutral position. Grab all the tools you’ll need for warping and set them within arm’s reach. (Once you pick up the unsecured cross, you should not set it down again—and you’ll find it hard to tie new cross ties with just one hand! Always, always protect the cross.)
- Position the non-cross end of the chain at the front of the loom. Wrap the chain around the front beam so that the cross end can extend about 10″ behind the heddle. If you’re using a warp cross holder, make sure that tugging on the chain won’t cause the holder to fall off the loom.
- Hold the cross in your non-dominant hand so that each section is separated, as shown in Figure 6, or place the cross over the 4 pegs of the warp cross holder. Remove the 5 ties securing the cross, taking care not to cut the warp yarn. You’ll need about 18″ of warp free to thread the heddle; if there’s a choke tie in the way, slide it further back down the chain. Do not remove any choke ties.
- Working from the back side of the rigid heddle, place the top 2 ends on your heddle hook and thread them through the slot at the left selvedge (as viewed from the front of the loom) for the doubled selvedge. Tie the ends behind the heddle with an overhand knot.
- Following the warp color order, count slots and holes to the next stripe of color A. Thread 1 end through a slot and 1 end through a hole. Tie these ends behind the heddle, as in step 4. Work across the heddle, threading all but the last 2 ends of color A and making knots behind the heddle.
- For the right doubled selvedge, thread the last 2 ends of color A into the same hole. Make a knot behind the heddle.
Before you warp colors B and C, take a moment to examine the hand-dyed chains. Not all weavers make warp chains in the same way: they may have more or fewer ties, they may have a cross on both ends, or they may have a choke tie beyond the cross, as in Figure 7. Take your time here, and do not take out any ties or cut anything before you absolutely know you are at the right end of the chain. It’s important to look at the chain carefully before you do anything. Never cut the warp yarn unless you’re sure you’ve identified the cross!
Once you find the cross, you can thread the hand-painted chains. Start with color B: follow the warp color order to fill in slots and holes between the narrow stripes of color A. Alternate threading slots and holes for the specified number of ends, then tie 2 ends (or 3 if there’s and odd number) in an overhand knot behind the heddle. Finally, thread color C in the same way.
Now attach the knotted ends to the warp beam. Remove the outermost apron cord(s) from one end of the rear apron bar, leaving half of the bar free. Pass this free end through half the knotted warp ends, then back through the apron cord. Repeat at the other end of the apron bar with the remaining knotted ends. Make sure you didn’t miss any warp ends.
Beam the warp chains, placing dividers or heavy paper between each layer of warp. The 3 chains need to wind evenly onto the warp beam. Unchain just enough yarn to get started, maybe 12″, and remove choke ties only from this section. Hold the three warps together and keep some tension on the chains. If they start to tangle, hold the chains tight and shake them. Strum across the yarn from time to time—this will also straighten out the chains and prevent snarls. Take your time and don’t panic. Repeat until there’s about 12″ of warp in front of the heddle. Now tie on to the front apron bar. Follow the steps above for weaving and finishing the Harvest Table Set.
Set your table for a beautiful holiday meal!