The first step in any loom beading project is warping your loom. This tutorial walks through the process of warping a fixed frame loom when you do not need to worry about winding your beadwork.
Note: For longer designs, such as some bracelets, it's usually best to use the winding method of warping, which is slightly more complicated but allows you to wind your beadwork around one of the warp bars when it becomes too long for your loom frame.
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Select Your Warp Thread
For best results, choose a cord or warp thread that is sturdy and resistant to stretching. Materials that stretch will make it more difficult to control tension, and can cause your beadwork to curl.
If you're weaving seed beads, you can use FireLine, PowerPro, or a similar woven, no-stretch beading thread. You can also use a nylon thread like Nymo, but only if you pre-stretch it very well. Do this the same way you would when preparing thread for off-loom beadweaving, but take the time to stop and stretch the thread incrementally as you warp your loom.
For this tutorial, I'm using brown C-Lon Bead Cord (shown on the left), which does not need pre-stretching.
Tip: If you plan to finish off (finish the ends of your beadwork) by weaving-in your warp threads, you need to use a warp thread that is thin enough to weave through your beadwork. Cord, including C-Lon, is too thick to weave through most beadwork with a needle, and so you usually need to use an alternative method for finishing off when you use it.
Coming soon: Ways to finish off your loom beadwork.
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Position the Warp Bars
Before you begin attaching the warp threads, make sure that your warp bars are positioned correctly. (Recall that the warp bars are the dowels on either end of your loom frame.)
The warp anchors (usually one or more bolts or nails) should be facing outward, away from the loom and toward you (if you're sitting behind or in front of your loom). If they are not, loosen the wing nuts on their sides and use your fingers to rotate each bar into position. When you're finished, re-tighten each wing nut.
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Tie On the Warp Thread
Use a square knot to tie the end of your warp thread around one of the warp anchors. If your loom has a row of warp anchors (rather than just one on each end), consider how wide your beadwork will be. If it will be very wide, you'll want to tie on to the first or last anchor on the bar. If your beadwork will be narrow, you can tie on to an anchor closer to the center of the warp bar.
In the example, I'm tying on close to the center because my beadwork will be a relatively narrow bracelet band.
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Make the First Warp
Bring the thread up over the top of the loom, and position it within one of the warp dents. Try to select a dent that matches where the edge of your beadwork will be if it's centered over the warp anchor that you tied on to. (If your beadwork will be wide enough that you use more than one warp anchor, try to envision where the beadwork will begin if it's centered over those warp anchors as a group.)
Bring the cord or warp thread down onto the warp separator on the back end of the loom. Select a dent that is directly across from the dent you selected on the other side; keep your warp as straight as possible.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Make the Second Warp
Bring the thread or cord back over the top of the loom, and position it within another warp dent. If you're using a warp separator designed for the size of beads you plan to use, use the dent that is directly adjacent to the first dent that you used. If your beads are significantly larger than what your separator was designed for, you can skip one or more dents to accommodate the approximate width of your beads.
Tip: Many beginner bead looms, including the one shown in the example, are designed for use with size 11/0 round seed or cylinder beads.
When you return to the front end of the loom again, position the thread or cord within the matching warp dent there. (Please remember that you can click on the photos for larger views.)
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Continue Making Warps
Continue making warps by positioning the thread or cord within the warp dents, pulling it taut over the top of the loom, and using a warp anchor to reverse direction. Keep going until you have exactly one more warp than the number of beads you plan to stitch in each row (i.e., one more warp than the number of columns your beadwork will have).
If your beadwork will be very wide and your loom has more than one warp anchor on each end of the loom, you can begin using the next pair of anchors when your warps reach the half-way point between two anchors on the warp bar. In the example on the left, my beadwork will be narrow enough that I only need to use one anchor on each end of the loom.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Tie Off and Trim the Warp Thread (or Cord)
When your warps are complete, wrap the thread or cord all the way around the warp anchor, and then wrap it around itself to begin an overhand knot.
For best results, use a knotting awl or sewing needle to cinch up the knot without losing tension: insert the awl or needle tip into the loop created when you began the knot, and use your other hand to pull the thread or cord downward to tighten the knot. As you do this, gently move the awl (or needle) upward toward the anchor. When the knot is tight around the awl, pull the awl out, and then pull the thread or cord once more to finalized the knot.
Use sharp scissors to trim the thread or cord a few inches away from the knot.
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Adjust the Tension
Loosen the wing nuts on one of the warp bars, and slowly rotate it toward you and downward to tighten up the warp tension. When it feels tight, hold the warp bar in position and re-tighten the wing nuts.
In the example, my warps were already relatively tight, and I only needed to rotate the warp bar a small amount.
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Get Ready to Start Beading
The loom is now warped and ready for the beads and wefts.