Make Your Own Raddle to Modify a Sectional Warp Beam

Ask Madelyn

Hi Madelyn!

I was recently given a loom. I learned to weave on a Harrisville Designs loom, which has a rod that you wind around the warp beam. My new loom, a Macomber, has a sectional warp beam, and I have no idea how to warp it. Can I warp this loom as I normally would, front to back, or do I need a different approach? How do I attach the warp to the warp beam? Also, do I need to worry about putting anything between the layers of warp to keep all the threads under the same tension?



Hi Nelson!

My first loom had a sectional beam, too. I warped it sectionally the first time I used it (winding 60 spools so I could have 30 ends per inch). After I warped, I had 60 spools with thread left on them. Those spools are still somewhere in my attic. I thought there had to be a better way.

I found the solution is to make your own raddle. That is, I nailed medium-size brass finishing nails (about 1-1/2 inches long each) onto a piece of wood about the same length and thickness of my back beam. The spaces in my sectional beam were two inches wide (which actually meant the space between the pegs was 1-3/4 inches). I placed the nails so spaces 1-3/4 inches wide alternated with spaces 1/4 inch wide. Then I placed the “raddle” on the back beam so that the 1/4 inch spaces were directly above the pegs.

Make Your Own Raddle
Make your own raddle with 1-3/4 inch spaces alternating with 1/4 inch spaces.

In planning my warp, I divided the number of threads evenly into as many 2-inch sections as came closest to the intended warp width. You wouldn’t want to have any section with fewer threads than the other sections (warp tension will be different if there are differences in the number of threads per section).

I am a front-to-back warper. So after I threaded, I tied each group of threads that would go in one section to the cord coming from that section. I then tied the “raddle” on the beam and placed the group of warp threads for each section in the 1-3/4 inch sections. If the warp was a yarn that wound into each section like a smooth ribbon, I didn’t worry about adding sticks between the layers. If the warp tended to bunch up in the sections (odd mixes of thickness or yarns that tended to twist), I’d place a warping stick between the layers, maybe one stick per turn. I rarely needed to do this.

I think the Macomber has wire hoops separating the sections. Weavers have told me that with those, they just wind on and let the threads fall into whichever section they are nearest. That might work well, but I think I’d like to control their placement a little more and so would still use the “raddle” (maybe making the 1/4 inch spaces a little smaller). My sections were separated by wooden pegs.


P.S. Handwoven’s November/December 2004 issue is your complete guide to warping. If you have any more questions, click here to get your digital copy!

Other items you may enjoy:


Ask Madelyn
Andrea Lotz

About Andrea Lotz

Andrea is a long-time knitter, but a new weaver. She's so excited to learn and grow as part of this community as her weaving skills expand. Come along on the journey with me!

2 thoughts on “Make Your Own Raddle to Modify a Sectional Warp Beam

  1. Madelyn, I really appreciated your advice on the sectional warping. I just found an old Gilmore with a sectional beam. Looking it over I hoped to beam on as I did on the standard beam but got sidetracked by friends saying that I must do sectional beaming with a spool rack and tension box. I warped front to back in the past but have been back to front for a while. So much depends on how hard it is to reach the heddles. Anyway, I recently beamed a warp front to back and it was a total mess. I ended up threading the very messy threads off the rear beam, through the reed onto the front beam. Straightened them out fine. I have now threaded the heddles front to back and will be beaming back onto the rear beam. It’s 8/2 cotton and no breaks….yet. I also set up a four dowel tensioning system and that worked great to get all the threads running evenly. The raddle on the back of the loom. For me that would be just above the back beam. One of the issues I always have is where to put the lease sticks. And do you leave them on when weaving?

    1. (Posted on behalf of Madelyn)

      Hi there!

      I’m not sure what made your first beaming process a mess. Usually, if you say “front to back,” you mean that the heddles were threaded first, but it doesn’t sound like yours were. You were simply beaming the warp? And then it was such a mess you sleyed the reed and wound it back onto the front beam? (What was the cause of the mess?)

      If that is the case, however, I would now wind the warp onto the back beam using a homemade raddle such as I described (in the Ask Madelyn column) rather than using the regular raddle. If the Gilmore has thin wire or metal separators, you might be fine just winding it on without any raddle. (If it has wooden pegs, the warp can get hung up on top of the pegs.)

      I don’t like the method of tensioning that you describe, since some warp threads usually get hung up going through all those crosses and some don’t, thereby changing their tension relative to each other. I just turn the beam one revolution and then tighten sections of the warp at the front of the loom after each turn. Since you have already threaded the shafts, you won’t need any lease sticks. If you were warping back to front and therefore beaming before threading, you would suspend the lease sticks between the shafts and the back beam. Always take them out after threading. They impede the shed if they are kept in place.