You may have heard the terms “warp coil” and “spring” thrown around our website. Maybe you understand the references, but maybe you don’t. This post is a little primer on warp coils (or springs, they’re the same thing) including HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE and HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS. But first… WHAT IS A WARP COIL? A warp coil is a spring you put at the top (or bottom if you have a bottom spring kit) of your loom to organize you warp threads.

warp coil

warp coil

HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE

How do you know what warp coil to use for bead weaving:

Place the beads you plan on weaving on a needle and measure an inch. Then, count how many beads are in that inch. The number of beads minus one is the warp coil that will be used. For example, if you are using Delicas you would find 19 Delicas are in one inch, so you would use the 18 dent coil. There is some leeway in this, and depending on the beads you are using, it might not work out perfectly (numerically), just close. Using a smaller (lower number) coil is better than using a larger (higher number) coil.

How do I know what warp coil to use for tapestry?

This is something you have to experiment with as a tapestry weaver. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent. (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.) The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warps threads aren’t showing and you must consider the warp set (how far apart your warp threads are, or what warp coil you are using), how thick your weft is and how thick your warp is. One way to determine your weft size is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, then your weft is probably too thick and if your weft threads are much thinner than you know your weft is too thin. HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS BUY MORE SPRINGS Buy more springs: http://www.mirrixlooms.com/store/warpcoils.html

Ask Elena: Warp Coil Woes

You may have heard the terms “warp coil” and “spring” thrown around our website. Maybe you understand the references, but maybe you don’t. This post is a little primer on warp coils (or springs, they’re the same thing) including HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE and HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS.

WHAT IS A WARP COIL AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

A warp coil is a spring you put at the top (or bottom if you have a bottom spring kit) of your loom to organize you warp threads. When you put the spring on the loom and you measure an inch, the number of DENTS (spaces in the spring) should equal the numbers in the name of the spring. An 18 dent spring should have about 18 dents in an inch. Easy!

warp coil

warp coil

The warp coil spaces your warp threads correctly. If you’re using larger beads, you want your warp threads to be spaced further than if you were using smaller beads. The same goes for tapestry. If you’re using thicker yarn, you want your warp threads spaced out further than with a thinner yarn.

What springs come with the loom:  8, 12, 14 and 18 dents per inch.  As you can see, this pretty much covers all your needs except when using tiny beads such as 15/0s or when weaving a wide piece with size 11/0 delicas, which work better with a 16 dent coil.

For beads: Since the springs are even measurement and the beads per inch are sometimes an odd number and because you have to factor in the thickness of the thread in between the formula is not exact.  If you don’t have the correct spring, but one that is close, and you are doing a piece that is not very wide, you can use a larger spring and squish it together in the middle and put under tension. For a wider piece (three inches or larger) you really want the correct spring.

HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE

How do you know what warp coil to use for bead weaving:

Place the beads you plan on weaving on a needle and measure an inch. Then, count how many beads are in that inch. The number of beads minus one is the warp coil that will be used. For example, if you are using Delicas you would find 19 Delicas are in one inch, so you would use the 18 dent coil. There is some leeway in this, and depending on the beads you are using, it might not work out perfectly (numerically), just close. Using a smaller (lower number) coil is better than using a larger (higher number) coil.

How do I know what warp coil to use for tapestry?

This is something you have to experiment with as a tapestry weaver. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent. (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.)

The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warps threads aren’t showing and you must consider the warp set (how far apart your warp threads are, or what warp coil you are using), how thick your weft is and how thick your warp is. One way to determine your weft size is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, then your weft is probably too thick and if your weft threads are much thinner than you know your weft is too thin.

DO I ALWAYS NEED A SPRING?

The answer is: in some cases you do not want a spring.  For example, when weaving a bead soup bracelet with lots of different size beads, the beads will set the spacing.  Also, when weaving a thin piece, you can usually skip the spring if you don’t have the correct size.

HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS

Sometimes you don’t have the right warp coil on hand. Maybe you’re making our Tapestry/Bead Cuff and you need a 10 dent spring and don’t have one, or maybe you have an 8″ Lani Loom without the shedding device and you want to weave Delicas (that loom comes with only a 14 dent spring). You can always buy new springs on our website, but you can also modify springs to fit your needs. Here’s how: (Note: as we mentioned earlier, this is only recommended for pieces thinner than three inches)

-Warp your loom like you would normally. When thinking about width, take into consideration that you’re going to change the spacing slightly by stretching or smushing your warp coil.

-Take out your measuring tape and measure an inch. Count how many dents (spaces in the spring) are in that inch and then stretch or smush your spring to make that amount of dents in an inch equal how many dents you need. For example, if you have a 12-dent spring, you will want to stretch it so there are only 10 dents in an inch, not 12. Keep stretching or smushing your spring to make sure there are the correct amount of dents in an inch over the entire width of the piece.

-Then, while holding the spring at the amount of dents you want it (remember, just in the place where you have your weaving), tighten your tension. This should secure your spring at the correct dents per inch.

warp coils

Or…

What happens if I am all ready to weave a wide piece with 11/0 delicas and I don’t have the 16 dent spring and I want to weave it this very second?  You can sacrifice your 18 dent spring.  Do the math:  For a 16 inch loom, the spring spans 13 inches and a tad.  You would need to remove 2 times 13 dents from your 18 dent spring.  26 dents.  Count 26 dents and cut at about 24 so you can create a new loop.  Or just put the 18 dent spring on the loom and stretch it so that there are 16 dents per inch.  Cut a few coils  past that to allow for a new loop at the end.

WHERE TO BUY MORE SPRINGS

Buy more springs: http://www.mirrixlooms.com/store/warpcoils.html

WHAT THE HECK IS THAT BOTTOM SPRING KIT AND DO I NEED IT?

The answer is not that simple. But there is an answer, never-the-less.

First let me answer the question:  why don’t all the looms just come with a bottom spring attachment?  The reason it doesn’t is about half of Mirrix users do not want one or use one and it would get in their way.  For example, tapestry weavers who weave at the wider setts (the number of ends per inch) usually don’t use it.  However, we find that weavers who weave small format tapestry love the bottom spring kit because it helps get all those pesky threads all neatly lined up and in order.  For those folks we created the bottom spring kit with two 20 and 22 dent springs, one for the top and one for the bottom.  Usually these folks are warping with material that is about as thin as beading thread so you can see where organization on the bottom of the loom could be very helpful.  We have relied heavily on the opinion of Kathe Todd-Hooker who is the Queen of small format weaving and loves the bottom spring kit.  In fact, we made the 20/22 dent spring package to make her happy.

Now for the bead answer to this question.  If you are weaving thinner bracelets or necklaces it’s really easy to organize your warp threads at the bottom of the loom.  And since the first row of beads sets the bottom sett, once you’ve got that row in, a bottom spring has no use.  However, when weaving wider pieces and especially wider pieces using the shedding device where there are pairs of threads between beads that have to remain paired correctly, that bottoms spring kit certainly helps to keep those pairs paired correctly and the threads not crossing at the bottom.  So in the case of wider bead pieces (more than four inches) it will test your patience less if you do have the bottom spring kit.

We offer the bottom spring kit with all the springs that come with the loom as well as the one mentioned above with two 20/22 dent springs.  We al so offer the bottom spring kit with two 16 dent springs.  This is designed for those weaving wide beaded tapestries with Delica beads since the 16 dent spring for some reason works better than the 18 dent spring in this situation.

You can buy just the bottom spring kit (it’s a tray that holds the springs) and pick just the springs you want.  For example, even though the looms (except for the MiniMirrix and Lani without shedding device) come with size 8, 12, 14 and 18 dent springs, you might only be weaving size 11/0 seed beads which require the 14 dent spring.  There is no need to buy the whole set.  Just buy the bottom spring kit and that particular spring.  You can always buy others later.  But then there are those of you who might be weaving a whole range of beads or might do so and it is cheaper to buy the whole package.

In any case, before you jump in and buy a bottom spring kit, carefully think about what your weaving future might hold!

BEAD WEAVING WARP COIL CHEAT SHEET:

Delicas:

8/0- 9 per inch. Use the 8 dent spring

10/0- 14 per inch.  Use 12 dent spring

11/0- 19 per inch.  Use 18 dent spring except when doing very wide pieces, when you can use the 16 dent spring.

15/0- 25 per inch.  Use the 22 dent coil just in order to space the beads.  That is the largest coil we can make.

Seed Beads:

15/0- 24 per inch.  Use 22 dent spring.

11/0- 14 to 15 per inch (size vary slightly depending on finish and manufacturer).  Use 14 dent spring.

8/0-12 per inch.  Use 10 or 12 dent spring depending on what size warp you are using.  For example, when using the bead cord, because it is thicker, you will use the 10 dent spring. But if just weaving straight beads using beading thread as warp, you would use the 12 dent spring.

6/0-8 per inch.  Use the 6 dent spring.

Inspiration

This post is inspired by a comment to the last post by “Andy.”  Andy and I met in college.  We shared a room (poor Andy!).  At that time I was a wannabe weaver.  Yes, I had woven a scarf and a few other random things on a rigid heddle loom by the time I hit freshman year.  I had also done some needlepoint.  But I was lacking good tools, good materials and, most of all, guidance.  It was a weird period in time in relationship to fiber art.  We were past the point where a mother routinely passed on all the skills she learned from her mother to her daughter.  They were no longer important.  I did not know one girl who learned how to form perfect letters with thread on a sampler.  Those things were seen in history museums under glass.  It’s what girls did in another time, another century even, sitting in front of a fireplace making lace for her sister’s wedding gown or making a sampler to learn how to correctly use a needle.  I suppose someone my age somewhere was learning how to knit or crochet but I didn’t know her and I don’t remember anyone wearing a sweater she had knit.  Although, I do remember that my mother knit three adorable red sweaters for each of her three little kids.  Each had our initials sewn onto it.  And yes, they were lovely.  And since I was the youngest I ended up wearing the other two sweaters as my brother and sister our grew them.  My initials went from CAC to WSC to PEC.  My grandmother knit a  beautiful afghan that lived on our couch for as long as I can remember.  We must all have memories of a hand knitted afghan covering the back of the couch.  Now my couch is decorated with my hand knitted afghan, but I don’t think it’s now a common sight.

My first encounter with fiber and creativity came from my aunt.  Her husband was an artist.  He created abstract art, which I loved.  I didn’t realize at the time why I was so attracted to abstract art.  But now it makes sense.  I am not a realist in any sense of the word.  I like dividing the world into shapes and colors.  It’s how I see it:  I break the world down into blobs of intersecting color. My aunt did needlepoint.  My uncle painted the canvas for her and she turned it into lovely pillows.  So many pillows filled with blobs of color.  I was in awe.

My parents returned from a trip to Paris with needlepoint kits for both my sister and me.  Each kit contained three little squares with printed pictures and yarn.  I filled in the first square and turned the other two squares upside down and “did my own thing.”  I am sure my own thing was pretty awful.  I don’t have these squares anymore.  At some point my aunt gave some of her needlepoint supplies to my sister since my sister was the acknowledged family artist.  All for good reason. She was (and is) amazing.  I have rarely in my life met anyone as good as she is at art.  Some of it was realistic, some of it was fantasy.  But the fact was:  she could draw anything and she drew all the time.  In that world the tools for drawing were readily available.  All you needed was paper and a pencil and pen.  But creating needle art or weaving was not so easy because the tools were not “just there.”  Anyway, my sister got the canvas and the yarn and she had absolutely no use for them.  I took them.  They were meant to by mine!  I made quite a few things from these materials which all became gifts for my mother.

When I was ten I received a rigid heddle loom for my birthday.  I had seen it at Macys.  Yes, Macys!  It must have been in the homeware’s department.  I wove a couple of scarves on the loom and backings for my needlepoint pillow creations.  And I knew I wanted to weave.  But I still didn’t have the materials I would need to find out what that really means.

When I arrived at college and met Andy, I knew I was a “weaver” but I also knew I was a fake because my experience was mostly contained within my imagination.  I went to Andy’s home during a vacation and met my first real large weaving loom.  Andy’s father had built it for her sister.  It was gorgeous.  I don’t think it was complete at that point and I know it had not yet been used.  There I was “the weaver” and I didn’t had the first idea of how one would use that enormous, complicated loom.  I was still a “weaver” in my head but the reality seemed far away.

A few years later my brother found a loom in California where he was living.  It was a small four harness table loom.  He sent it to me.  Without any knowledge of how to set up such a loom, I set it up.  Somehow I got it to work.  I remember taking my food money to explore Ottawa (I was attending my last semester of university there) and find yarn so I could use that loom.  I lived in a dark, cold apartment and the only color I saw that winter was in the yarn I was weaving.

It wasn’t until I had my first child (Elena) that I set off to explore weaving.  I discovered immediately that I was not a weaver of cloth, that my large floor loom would not be like Andy’s sister’s.  I found out I was a tapestry weaver.  That seed had been planted when I was 19 and had seen  the Unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters in New York City.  I was in awe.  I stuffed those images in my brain and thought I would never really understand how such things were made.  And then I learned on my own for the most part how tapestry is made.

I wove my first tapestries (for two years) on a rigid heddle loom before I bought my first second hand tapestry floor loom.  My creative life exploded with the purchase of that loom.  Soon after I was teaching myself how to dye yarn so I could get exactly the colors I wanted.  That was followed with learning how to spin.  I could not be stopped!

I am now surrounded with materials and tools to feed my need to create art from fiber.  And these days, things have changed so much for the fiber arts.  First of all, we’ve got that word “art” following the word fiber.  It’s been given weight that it did not have.  It’s no longer a thing women do to pass their time.  I guess I was born at exactly the wrong time.

Access to the right materials and tools is essential to create fiber art.  I can now get whatever I want, whatever I need to create what is in my head.  I am surrounded by inspiring materials.  I feel very fortunate to have arrived at this place.  And I realize that when I told Andy I was a weaver, I really was a weaver, but mostly in my head.  Now I am a weaver among other things and I have allowed myself to put that in the center of my life.  It is a focal point.  It’s kind of a relief because I could just as easily have passed it while heading somewhere else in my life.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the pull toward it was so great I would never have passed it. But how lucky for me that it is both my hobby and my work and I can indulge it every day.

I have made it my lifelong goal to give this gift to others as I continue to explore all the aspects of all the fiber arts on my own.

I forgot to mention that when Andy and I were room mates in college I used to demand she pick up her guitar and play and sing for me.  Poor mundane Andy, the gifted musician!

Creativity and making things

I haven’t written a post in a long time.  Forgive me.  I was dwelling on old things and the day to day of running Mirrix and life.  But during that time I have also been making new things.  Something I am always doing to a point.  Sometimes I am recreating old things, maybe changing them slightly or using different materials.  Sometimes I am weaving.  But sometimes I am using a variety of other techniques to quench my unquenchable need to create.  Something.  Always.  I carry a big bag wherever I go filled with “my  toys.”  And yes, sometimes there is a mini-mirrix in my bag.

I tend to overdo everything I do.  I can’t just make one of something.  I have to keep making that thing until I’ve played out every scenario.  Each time is different. Each time brings a slight change or increases my understanding of the medium and/or the materials (which includes necessarily color).

I have been making crochet hand-painted silk bags (some including beads) since a month before Christmas.  They were something I could make while doing other things and the colors of the hand-painted silk kept me endlessly intrigued and engaged.  It is hard for me to weave while doing anything else more demanding than listening to the radio.  But I can  crochet and read a book at the same time.  I can crochet and watch a movie.  I don’t have one of those cool set ups with a big screen and a comfy couch with a perfect table in front on which to place a loom.  My entertainment center sits on my desk in the  form of a Mac computer.  Sometimes I can really kick back in my  big desk chair and throw my feet on the desk until something starts to go numb.  So weaving (although I have managed it) is not such a simple, elegant thing for me when watching a movie.  Plus, I have to think when I weave whereas making a crochet bag out of silk I have already painted is pretty mindless. I also knit and, most recently, I began teaching myself embroidery.

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Yesterday, I painted kilos of silk. And it inspired me.  The silk now hangs on a dryer in the bathroom because it is too cold to hang it outside in the wind.  I keep sneaking into the bathroom to look at it.  I absorb the colors and then walk away.  Color is endlessly fascinating.

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Today I started making a basket from the silk.  I am trying to figure out how to incorporate branches or some other material for strength although the basket does seem like it might stand on its own.  I used a thread of hand-painted silk and a gold thread.

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Now to wind all those kilos of silk onto bobbins!  It’s mindless, but I kind of like it.  It has its place!