Upcycling a cotton warp

Upcycling a cotton warp

A few weeks ago our guild was offered the estate of one of our more noteworthy weavers.  She had stipulated that all her weaving supplies and equipment were to be sold and a scholarship be set up to help educate and promote weaving. We were deeply saddened by the loss of this talented woman, who was also a great resource for our guild.  Her generosity set a high bar for all of us.  I did participate in the fundraising efforts and purchased a cotton warp to encourage me to get back into weaving.

There was only a small problem with the warp; it no longer had a cross.  The cross in a warp helps prevent the threads from tangling.  This was going to be a huge challenge but one I wanted to tackle along with two other learning challenges.

Because I am self-taught there are huge gaps missing in my weaving knowledge.  Some are very basic techniques.  I desperately wanted to learn how to make a weavers knot.  This is a knot that almost everyone involved in fibre seems to know how to make.  Not me.  I wanted it to become muscle memory, so I wanted to make lots and lots of knots.  Then when the need arises it will be so easy for me to just – poof – make this non-slip permanent tiny little fastener.

Now comes part two of my learning challenge – reusing a threaded warp.  If a weaver is careful and doesn’t remove the remnants of threads from the loom, and if they are long enough, they can be used as a labour-saving tool when threading through the heddles.  The heddles are the little eyes on the loom.  Threading heddles is a bit like threading very big needles and I really don’t like doing it.

I had preserved the previous warp.  I knew it was narrower than the cotton warp I wanted to add, but I didn’t know how many threads were in the cotton warp.  There is only one way to find out, count them.  There are 225 threads by the way.

So I estimated I would need to add three inches of cotton on either side of the existing warp.







Then came the knots.  First I just did overhand knots, but I really didn’t like them.  They were thick and didn’t look like they would pass through the reed with ease.  Then I started working on the weavers’ knots.  Online demos are really interesting, but by the time I got back to the loom I’d forgotten how the loops worked and which way the thread wrapped around and it was all very frustrating.  Finally, after a bit of digging, I found a printable diagram and that worked like a charm. My biggest concern is that I may not have a true weavers knot.  This works, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

weaver’s knot
overhand knot











I had to thread the cotton through the heddles and Because the cotton along the sides was going to be a little shorter than the wool cotton combination in the middle I added a bit of an extender, sorry I didn’t get a picture of that.

And then it was time to start gently getting everything through the reed and the heddles. This was all done very slowly and carefully so that none of the threads would break.  The weaver’s knot worked like a charm.  The overhand knot was a bit thick and need some gentle nudging to make it through, but all in all, it worked.









Once the cotton was safely warped on the back beam it was a matter of untangling the threads and winding, untangling and winding.  At some point, I was very tempted to just chop it all off the loom and throw it out.  It was really getting to be a terrible mess, so discouraging.  Then I would look at the back of the loom and see how ordered it was.  Everything was coming together as it should, everything was aligned and going onto the beam the way it was supposed to, so I would take a break and come back to it a little later.

And then fairly quickly it was all done.  I was a little surprised and definitely delighted.


All this time I had no idea what I was going to do on this warp, not a clue.  Maybe make a table runner or some cushion covers.  I have some really nice linen to use, some great thick and thin cotton or wool.  Then last night it came to me. This lovely textured cotton warp with all its thick bits and thin threads, its ideal length of 4.5 yards (4 m) precise width of 18 in (45cm), it’s ability to take colour like a sponge will be perfect for the recycled kimono project!!  Can hardly wait to get started.




8 thoughts on “Upcycling a cotton warp

    1. Thank you, and fiddly only half describes this. But I dug into my nearly empty zen reserves and called up what was left, chanted ‘there are no mistakes only learning opportunities’ and kept going.

  1. Well done you! I look forward to reading about the Kimono project.
    In fact there are so many things you could do with a cotton warp. Before I finally gave up weaving, I wanted to have a go at painting a warp on the loom. I was largely self taught too and I enjoyed the planning, the working out, and the setting up of the loom ready to go. My problem was that weaving about 6 inches was as far as I could go before boredom set in, and I can’t stand being bored. The only time that didn’t happen was when I had ago at double cloth – talk about running before you can walk – but I did finish it.
    I do like reading about how real weavers do it all though, so I look forward to your next post.

    1. I understand completely about the boredom, that’s why Netflix was invented! A friend is doing a ‘self-taught’ exploration of double weave. She was explaining it to me and I was in awe. I understand the concept, but what she was doing, whoosh, ‘way over my head. Still, fiber is so interesting, even the tedious bits are challenging.

  2. Way to go Bernadette! You made it through the tedious part and now the fun stuff. I can hardly wait until the kimonos go into the weaving. So sorry to hear about your friend in the guild. My condolences to her family.

  3. What a lot of work. although I don’t hear you cursing form here so it couldn’t have been that bad. LOL I am sure the piece will be wonderful now the fiddly bit is done.

  4. Gosh, this certainly was a lot of work! Well done on pushing through. Looking forward to seeing that kimono project 🙂

    I’m so sorry you lost a friend. It’s never easy 🙁

  5. Your patience and perseverance have certainly paid off Bernadette. Looking forward to seeing your progress with your kimono weave.

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