4. Winding the indigo warp yarns

 Organic cotton yarns dyed in indigo, on a warping frame. 

Organic cotton yarns dyed in indigo, on a warping frame. 

The reed we are using on our table loom is 22 inches across, and with 10/2 yarn we will need about 24 yarn per inch, 528 yarns in total for the warp, with a length of 4.5 yards. Now that the yarn was nicely wound into balls, we could start measuring out the 528 yarns for the warp. Typically, hand weavers will use a warping frame to do this, which is a rigid rectangular wooden structure with pegs to wind the yarns around, creating the heddle cross to keep each yarn separate. However, this tool is particularly tedious to use for such a large quantity of yarn, and even when mounted on the wall, requires a great deal of shoulder and back endurance. 

Fortunately, our weaving expert Lisa had a warping mill, which performs the same function as the warping frame except that it is a cylindrical shaped structure that rotates around a horizontal axis, thereby allowing the weaver to stand in one place and use the rotation of the frame to do the winding. 

We wound the guide yard around the pegs, measuring out 4.5 yards and before winding the yarn back in the opposite direction. Then we tied on the end of the indigo-dyed yarn that had been neatly wound into a ball into the upper peg, and holding the yarn in my right hand to keep the tension, began turning the barrel of the mill. 

Lisa advised us to wind all the warp at once, or at least, not leave any yarn on the mill to be continued the next day. It is important to keep the tension on the yarn consistent as you wind, to prevent length discrepancies. And to leave it on the mill for even a day makes it susceptible to loosening or even changes in your own mood, which might alter the tension. 

I stood there for 3 hours turning the mill and winding the warp, with the yarn cutting through my right finger as it slid across. At every 22 yarns, I would tie two counting strings on either side of the cross to keep track of how many yarns I had tied. After the three hours, I had a beautifully long skein of indigo yarns, each strand individually combed. Lisa tied some secure ties at every few inches of the warp to prevent it from coming apart or moving, and then slipped the whole loop off of the mill. She put one end over her wrist and pulled the rest of the loop through, forming a loose chain to keep the yarns manageable, and we put it to the side to be put on the loom the next day. 

 Tying off the yarns on warping frame.

Tying off the yarns on warping frame.