A warping trapeze made tension issues a thing of the past!
Even tension when warping is one of the most important steps in getting your loom ready for a hassle-free weaving project. I realized after my first warp that I needed a warping trapeze.
On my very first cloth weaving project, after getting all the warp wound on, I found the warp tension inconsistent across the warp. I unwound all the warp and ended up tossing the warp over the banister and weighting it with water bottles.
That worked great but I was not going to have that option when I moved the loom from the living room on the main floor down to the lower level.
A Warping Trapeze to the Rescue!
After doing some searching online, I found people using something called a warping trapeze. It’s a device that basically performs the same function that my banister did on that first warp. It provides a method for adding weight continually while winding the warp onto the beam. Brilliant!
The types of warping trapeze that I found on Pinterest were good but I wanted my warping trapeze design to be… a little different. I don’t have actual building instructions but I will walk you through how we built mine and show you the extra design feature. It doubles as my warping frame!
Materials for the Warping Trapeze
The materials to build your own warping trapeze are flexible. We have a pretty high ceiling in the lower level of the house so I could go pretty high with the warping trapeze design. This is flexible enough that you could make it to fit your own home or studio. The picture is not a comprehensive collection of the materials used. See the list that follows for details. You can also download my warping trapeze materials list from my free resource library.
The list below contains Amazon Affiliate links.
- Four 2x4s for the legs of the warping trapeze. Length is based on the height you want. It needs to be shorter than your ceiling and you need to be able to reach the top.
- Two 2x4s for the bottom cross pieces. Length is based on the outside width of your loom plus a couple of inches for clearance.
- One 2×4 for the top piece to which the the saw horse clamps are attached. This is a few inches longer than the bottom cross pieces.
- 4 to 6 pipe hangars
- A pair of sawhorse brackets
- Two dowel rods the same length as the two cross pieces. I used 1″ coated wood dowel. The coating will keep your warp threads from snagging.
- Two end caps for the top movable dowel rod. They are sold as closet rod end caps and they have a set screw to hold them in place. There are probably other options you could use.
- Two 1″ Conduit Clamps
- Two vinyl-coated garage storage hooks (usually sold as bike hooks)
- (optional) Two (2) vinyl-coated garage U-hooks (usually sold as hooks for garden tools)
Additional Materials for the Warping Frame Upgrade
- One section of 1×3 wood that is the same length as the cross pieces
- Dowels for the warping pegs. I used 5/8″ dowel. Total length will depend on how many pegs you want.
- Two angle brackets. Don’t buy anything too heavy duty because you need to bend part of this.
Tools and Supplies
We had all our lumber cut at the store because we didn’t have the tools to cut our own lumber at the time.
- Saw (if you need to cut the lumber)
- Sand paper
- Screws — we managed with miscellaneous wood screws left over from other projects
Warping Frame Upgrade
- Glue (for the top bar of the warping frame)
- Drill and a bit for the size of the dowels
- Vise (to put a bend in the angle brackets)
Constructing the Warping Trapeze
Making the Legs
Lay out two legs of the warping trapeze and attach the cross piece with wood screws. You can see in the picture that it is just a little wider than my loom. We attached the cross piece so that the bottom of the cross piece is six (6) inches from the bottom of the legs.
Repeat for the next two legs.
Attach the sawhorse clamp to the tops of the first two warping trapeze legs and insert screws at the sides of the wood.
Turn this set of legs over and lay the other set of legs on top of it, with the cross pieces on the outside.
Slide the tops of the second set of legs into the saw horse clamps. Insert screws into the wood through the holes in the sides of the sawhorse clamp.
Attaching the Top Board
Screw the U-hooks into the top edge of the top board. On my warping trapeze, they are positioned directly over the legs. These U-hooks are optional. I use them to store the top rod when the trapeze is folded up and stored away. You may want to consider predrilling the holes for these.
The saw horse clamps typically have multiple screw holes on one side of the clamp. Attach the clamps to the top board through these holes. Don’t attach the other side of the clamps to the other side of the top board unless you do not want them to fold.
When the legs are folded, the clamp is open and, when the legs are open, the clamp bites into the wood.
Attach a coated dowel with the conduit clamps. It doesn’t matter which set of legs you attach to. Whichever you choose becomes the front of your warping trapeze. Make sure to leave a few inches between the bottom cross piece and this bottom rod. The gap on mine is about 5″ apart. You will need to be able to get your hand through it.
One of the things I wanted for my warping trapeze was the ability to adjust where my top bar was positioned. I wanted this because it meant I didn’t have to retie the weights as often. The position of these is not important except for one set. The bottom hangars are positioned so, when the rod is in that set of hangars, the top of the rod is at the same height as the top of the front beam of my loom.
We did not use the hardware that came with the hangars. We used wood screws. Attach the hangars to the same set of legs as the bottom rod — the front side of the warping trapeze.
Use the garage storage hooks (the ones used as bike hooks) to create a top position for the top rod. Screw these into front face of the top board at an angle. You may want to consider predrilling the holes for these.
Attach the end caps to the top rod, and you have a warping trapeze!
Upgrade the Warping Trapeze to Include a Warping Frame
After using my new warping trapeze only once, I came up with the idea to add another cross piece and pegs to the back side of the warping trapeze and use it as my warping frame.
Make the Pegs
Make all your pegs by cutting the dowel into lengths that will work best for you. Mine are cut to 7″ lengths so that they stick out about 6″ from the wood when set into the 2x4s – the legs of the warping trapeze. Sand all the pegs and round off the cut edge on one end of each peg.
Make the Board for the Cross Pegs
The 1×3 is used for the three pegs that will help form the cross in your warp. Drill three holes into – but not through – the 1×3. You will need to use a drill bit that will allow you to insert the size dowels you chose for the pegs. Glue pegs into these three holes. Through the back side of the board, run a screw into the ends of the pegs to hold them securely in place.
Put each of the two the angle brackets into a vise and bend one end 90 degrees so that it forms a notch into which the board with the cross pegs will sit. You will want the board to be a snug fit into this bracket.
Alternately, you can screw this board to the warping trapeze. I store mine without that board so it sits closer to the wall. Attach an angle bracket to each leg of the back side of the warping trapeze. Set it at a comfortable height for you. Mine is just above eye level.
Holes for the Warping Pegs
Drill holes into but not through the legs of the warping trapeze. Space them five to six inches to allow your hand to move between the pegs as you are measuring warp. My previous warping frame had the pegs spaced 5″ and I kept knocking my knuckles on the pegs. We spaced these pegs 6″ (center to center) and I no longer have that problem. The more holes you drill, the longer warp you can measure. I do not glue my pegs into these holes. I only put pegs into the holes when I’m measuring warp.
The warping frame upgrade to your warping trapeze is complete.
How to Use the Warping Trapeze
After the warp is tied to your loom, you need a way to apply firm and even tension across the warp as you wind it onto the warp beam. Take the warp as it comes off the front beam, under the bottom rod, then over the top rod so the warp hangs freely between the legs of the trapeze. Add weights to the warp. I’m showing two pictures of this from two different angles (on two different projects).
I use S-hooks and 4-ounce fishing weights to add the weight to my warp. Either create a slip knot or insert through the warp chain. I have also used 1/2-liter water bottles attached to the warp via a slip knot in the warp.
With all the warp on the trapeze and weighted, go through the warp to check for threads that need more tension. If your warp threads are too twisted, you will end up with uneven tension. I comb my warp threads after they are on the trapeze. I start with my fingers to help get them separated. After that I use a comb. I have a blunt round-toothed comb that I use. I carefully comb from the front beam of the loom to the bottom rod on the trapeze and from the bottom rod up to the top rod. If I find some threads that are loose, I either retie the weights or add a supplemental weight to the stray threads that need it. An example of a supplemental weight would be a paper clip holding a washer looped onto the loose warp thread(s).
Start Winding the Warp
Begin winding the warp. When the weights are close to the top rod, move the weights down closer to the ends of the warp. I usually comb my warp again to check for any other warp threads that are not under the same tension. Continue winding. Repeat the winding and retying this until the weights are at the end of the warp.
When you reach the end of the warp, drop the top rod to the first set of hangars. This may require two people if you have a lot of weight on your warp. Continue winding until the weights are near the top rod again and drop the rod down to the next hangars. Repeat until the rod is on the lowest set of hangars.
When the weights are back up to the rod, I start scooting the warping trapeze closer to the loom. When I can not scoot any closer, I remove the warp from under the bottom rod so the warp is coming off the loom and horizontally over the top rod that is set into the lowest hangars.
Take the Warp off the Trapeze
When there are no more adjustments in the trapeze, I drop the warp off the trapeze and the weights hang off the front beam of the loom. I continue winding until the weights are close to the front beam of the loom and I begin tying on to the front apron bar.