By Mirrix CEO Claudia Chase (This post is adapted from a post from the post “Bead Looms” written in 2009)
I was just playing around here and at other bead sites looking at other bead looms. What I found: there is a standard model for many bead looms and most are made of wood of varying degrees of strength, beauty, value and a few are made of light metal like the ones most of us had when we were kids.
1) allow you to put on one plane of warp or have roller beams so that you can advance the warp
2) have the warp attached at either end to a single nail or more
3) provide a spring at either end through which the warp is spread out evenly.
It was suggested to me that this is a topic of interest to many bead weavers. I have to confess, I am writing this from the cockpit of a sailboat boat (husband’s midlife crisis was to fix up a salvage /wrecked sailboat . . .I think he had fantasies of us selling our house and sailing the world on it, or some such notion, forgetting that I can’t fit Mirrix on a boat despite the three little cabinets he reserved for that purpose. What a hoot! In any case, I am putting in my three days.) I only mention this tidbit of personal information because the only loom I have with me (and of course I have a loom with me!) has a tapestry on it which needs another four hours or so to finish and I have no bead supplies here so, in short, I can’t take pictures of finishing bead work because I don’t have any. I am hoping I can troll the Mirrix website, my photos on this computer and the internet to find some suitable pictures to accompany this piece.
I am the perfect person to talk about finishing bead work because I have spent years figuring out how not to, at least how not to in the usual sense. The method where you cut your piece off the loom and weave in ten thousand warp ends . . . well, for someone who hates to thread a needle because she just can’t seem to do it well or fast or without screaming a few choice words, the idea of threading and rethreading a needle in order to sew those ends back into the beads of a woven piece . . . I have to confess, I have never done it and I never will. I can’t imagine with a wide piece how it is even possible to find beads after a point in which to shove all that thread. I know, I know, there are plenty of people who do it, and the more power to them, but I am not one of them. It’s like when people see one of my tapestries or bead pieces and say: “Oh my gosh, you must have so much patience to do that!” Which is a little strange, if you think about it, because if it required “patience” to create art I am not sure I would create art. Patience sounds like work and creating art is anything but work (most of the time . . . except when sewing in a bunch of warp threads!). But I imagine there are people who find sewing in warp ends cathartic, just like I find spinning cathartic and that certainly is not for everyone. In conclusion: I am not going to address sewing in warp ends as an option because I am the last person to steer you correctly on that subject. Rather, I will present to you all the many ways I have found to NOT sew in warp threads.
I am going to start with the most relevant way. On Tuesday last Elena and I had the pleasure of teaching a webinar for Interweave Press. It took a lot of prep work, but the actual presenting was a lot of fun. Jennifer of Beading Daily fame was our mentor in this project and although it would have been beter to get to see her live and in person, it was still nice to hear her voice live! The webinar was about using the Mirrix No-Warp Ends Kit to weave a checkerboard cuff bracelet a kit we sell exclusively through Interweave Press.
There were 16 warp threads which would have meant 32 warps threads to sew in. We were left with only two. While I am at it, I am going to give you a link to that webinar.
How does this magic work? With the help of a could of thin bars, some S-hooks and not a whole lot of patience you warp the loom such that you put on exactly the length of warp you need. When you are done there is only the beginning and end of the warp thread to weave in. The rest exists as loops which kindly slide between the end beads. We’ve trimmed this piece with pico stitch (which I like doing). The clasp is a button because while we wove the piece we created a button hole.
Here is another example of a bracelet made with that kit: Mirrix No Warps to Weave in Bracelet kit.
Method one for not having to weave in warp ends: don’t create any!
Method two for not having to weave in warp ends: make the warp part of the design. I really love doing this. Use a thicker and pretty warp thread and allow it to show both around the beads and at the ends. This makes a funkier kind of piece, but I love them. We call them wrap bracelets because you can make them one, two, three, four or more wraps. (By the way, we just passed under one of those cool bridges that lifts in the air so our mast doesn’t get knocked off when we go under.)
Below is not that particular kit, but an example of a wrap bracelet using those very cool two hole beads (a bunch of different kinds) on a hand painted silk warp
And another one . . . this one using tile beads and duos (the ones on the edge) plus some porcelain beads and a pewter button.
Above piece still on the loom.
If those two options don’t appeal to you, there is always the tried and true third method which allows you to warp the Mirrix loom in the normal fashion, but eliminates the need to sew in warp ends by simply tying them off, sticking them behind the piece and sticking the piece on some kind of cuff. For example, a piece on a leather cuff.
Some other examples of beaded work attached to a brass cuff.
In conclusion, if you are like me and refuse to sew in a bunch of warp ends when you find yourself at the end of your piece, there are a bunch of creative ways to either eliminating warp ends completely or bury them underneath your piece and incorporate them in to the piece as a design element. I am sure that we will all discover more and interesting ways to avoid the warp end dilemma. If you have ideas of your own, please tell us about it in the comments section.
Tension. In bead weaving, it’s a good thing! In fact, it’s one of the most important aspects of weaving beads. One of the benefits of weaving beads on a loom is that the loom holds the tension for you and, with a Mirrix, you get perfect tension every time. This, of course, makes for a much better piece!
To adjust your tension on a Mirrix Loom, simply turn the wing-nuts on each side of the loom.
But how do you know what the correct tension for your piece is?
For the traditional method:
Your thread should be taut, but not too tight that you are stretching or break the warp threads. If tension is too loose you will miss beads. You shouldn’t feel any slack in the warp.
With the shedding device:
The same goes for weaving with the shedding device, but it’s easy to tell if your tension is too loose because you won’t be able to get a shed if you have loose threads.
There seem to be a lot of people out there who think weaving beads is difficult. The goal of this blog post is to show you that, really and truly, it isn’t.
At the bead show we just attended I demonstrated the basics of weaving beads to many people and they all seemed shocked at how easy it was. When I told people that bracelet I wore for most of the show took about an hour to make (from warping to finishing) it often came as a huge surprise.
It’s true, there are a lot of advanced bead weaving techniques that can be used on a Mirrix and a lot of stunning and complex projects that some of our customers do. BUT… there are also many, many easy projects that can be done too, and with gorgeous results. Weaving beads isn’t hard, we promise, and our goal at Mirrix Looms is to prove that to you with easy projects and lots of available instruction.
I know, I know, it seems scary. All those warp threads and springs and dents and warping bars… if you’ve never warped before it can be a little overwhelming. The truth is, though, it isn’t hard at all. Start with a thin piece and you’ll learn fast. Tie on to the warping bar, go over the top of the loom and into one space in the spring, around the front to the back and when you hit the warping bar again, go back in the direction you came from. Continue doing this until you’ve warped as wide as you want and then just tie off onto the warping bar. It really is easy and we have lots and instruction available including our great warping .pdfs!
We talk about all kinds of bead weaving methods: The no warp-ends kit, the shedding device, combining beads and fiber… But the fact is that weaving beads at the most basic level is as easy as stringing up your beads, placing them behind your warp threads and sewing back through the other way. So easy that the other day an eight year old did it after only being shown briefly how it’s done.
Finishing Warp Ends
Nobody wants to finish their warp ends which is why we’ve come up with lots of ways to avoid that.
Have questions? Feel free to email me anytime and I can answer any bead weaving (or tapestry) related questions you have!