Making up a warp was originally done by the weaver. On a vertical loom, the warps were wound around the top bar and held under tension by baked clay loom weights. On a horizontal loom, the warp stored on the beam at the back is gradually unrolled as the cloth is woven and wound onto the front roller.

Peg warping

Before 1750, warping was done using pegs on a wall. The thread was looped alternately over and under the pegs to accommodate a measured length. Where the yarn crossed between the pegs, called ‘the lace’, a thread was tied to hold all the warp threads together. The warp could be lifted off and made into a loose chain (using chain stitch) to be carried home by the weaver. The warp is often called the chain and the weft, the abb.

By 1800, warp yarn was measured on a vertical warping bar before being wound onto the warp beam. This bar was a large rotating framework with a measured dimension. A large drum called a warping mill replaced the bar, from which the threads could be wound onto the warp beam. The warp yarn was sometimes treated with size, for strength and then dried before use.

Warping with a vertical warping bar

The warper not only had to get his lengths correct but he also had to arrange the threads, called ends, in the right order when patterned cloth was being woven. Warping became a specialised job as warps got longer and more complicated on power looms. On a big loom, a warp may consist of between five and ten thousand threads (ends) divided into sections of two hundred ends.

Leonard Bates using a warping bar