Pros and Cons of weaving with a dummy warp.

When I began weaving in 2016, the weavings I worked on were group projects in which each participant took on a role in creation and setup of a large warp. Together the group planned the project, allotted tasks, and scheduled time for weaving their own individual section. I am a true believer in the process of learning a skill, observing a skill, and implementing that skill.

A few months and projects down the road, I took part in a group with a different set up. This time, rather than create one warp we would each create our own and tie onto the ends of the first warp. It was through this method that I learned about a dummy warp. A dummy warp is a warp created as a place holder or demo threading on loom.  Every good loom set up has waste calculated into the yardage. This waste is mainly found in the working areas of the loom, namely the space to tie on at the front beam and the space from the front of the heddles through the back beam or end reach of the apron.    

Transfer between one warp and the next using the tie-on method.

Using a dummy warp has its pros and cons. Each weaver has to balance these as they plan the target projects for their looms. A dummy warp can be set up for a short span of time or long term repeatable objectives. Modifications can be made to make one set up look so very different while keeping the base work intact. 

As I mostly work with high end, self spun, or hand dyed yarn one of the biggest benefits to me is how much project quality yarn I save. On a single weave project, one scarf or blanket, this can be as much as 20% of the warp yarn. Another benefit is the time allotted for loom set up. Once the dummy is on the loom small changes can be made, such as rethreading the raddle in order to resize the project, while maintaining the project pattern. This saves a great deal of time and keeps the continuity of the project while offering the ability to switch out the size and or color palate. From my own experience, tying on is ideal when working with heavier weight yarns such as sport or bulky knitting weights. The process goes quickly and the knots are fairly easy to keep even and aligned. 

One drawback of a dummy warp is maintenance. While weavers should always be attentive  to the tension of the warp threads a dummy warp can go wonky between uses or shift during the roll on process. There is also the need to actually tie on to each and every individual thread. On warps with thousands of threads or hundreds at 30/2 weight this might not be a very time worthy choice of set up. Keeping all the knots in line and using a similarly balanced width to tie each knot are also important executions in using this style of warping. 

The direction in which a weaver warps becomes a comfortable routine. A dummy warp is always placed on the loom from front to back and with the lease sticks in front of the heddles. If this is not your weaving style, perhaps give this way a try to see if it’s a fit for you.

If you have any questions about the terms used in this blog, you can see my blog glossary or message me directly


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