Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Raddle Me This

I decided to put a fourteen-inch wide, ten-foot long warp onto Gil, my Rasmussen loom.  It will be a sampler of some basic twills, and used as a runner for the top of my piano.

The warp is some bumpy Portugese cotton from a massive cone, and one of two small coils of viscose/nylon/cotton yarn (thirteen dollars each, and inherited from Roxy).  I’ll use more of the cotton and the last ball of novelty yarn for the weft.  

Available open space in my house is in constant flux.  Since Gil is now situated in the spot I would have preferred to assemble my Bergman warping reel, I had to warp in the Kitchen.  It was a tight fit, and I was backed against the sink the entire time.  I’m getting used to the weighted swing of the reel: using it to my advantage, it makes warping very, very fast.  I used practically no effort, only having to slow the reel to wind on a cross, then let it fall back the other direction.  I wound on 196 (10-foot) ends in less than half an hour.  It will be even faster in the future, since it was a bit ackward having so little room in the kitchen.

I decided to warp back to front.  I enlisted the help of my DH to hold and tension the warp while I wound the warp onto the back beam.  Since I was working with both unskilled and grudging help, it was not a happy experience.  I would need to find a way to warp on my own to preserve our marital bliss.

It was only after the warp was wound on that I thought to measure the width of the warp on the back beam.  My supposedly fourteen-inch warp measured only an average of twelve inches.

A lightbulb came on.  Is this what a raddle is used for?

I immediately posted for help on Ravelry.  While it was created for the knitting community, there are enough weavers (and spinners) on it that I can usually get my questions (newbie ones) answered within an hour, if not minutes.  But I was too impatient to wait for an answer.  When the Weaving Works told me they didn’t have any raddles in stock, I hied myself away to the closest hardware store, and came home with a pound of cable tacks. 

I chose cable tacks because in one of Peggy Osterkamp’s books, she recommended using screws with eye-holes.  The holes are for inserting a dowel to keep the threads down.  I just couldn’t see myself twisting in close to 150 screws, so I went for the cable tacks.  I also didn’t want to use finishing nails because I was worried that having them sticking out might be dangerous to my very active son.

I kicked myself for resisting any notion of a raddle previously.  I have had severe wrist pain in the past, and I guess I was afraid I would be pounding nails for hours without end until my hand fell off.  In reality, the raddle took less than an hour to finish, taking even that long because I had to stop several times to rustle up other pieces of wood for my son to hammer and to persuade him his wood pieces were much, much better to pound than mine.

The raddle was made, and the warp was re-beamed within the hour following.  What a difference it made! I was able to beam on by myself!  My previous experiences with warping involved more praying than skill to get the warp on the loom; this was the first time that I actually felt in control of beaming on properly — in a scientific manner with reproducible results.

The only problem with my raddle is that I wanted to avoid using screws with eye-holes (suggested in Peggy Osterkamps’s book – so you can quickly run a dowel through them), so found some cable tacks to use instead.   Unfortunately, they are very thick – a little less than an eigth of an inch, and I’m worried it may throw off cloth measurements by almost a quarter inch, counting both sides; this may be more of a problem when warping with very fine threads.

Two of my books say the raddle is optional, and another two say it is a necessity.  I didn’t make the connection between the raddle being used for warping back to front, but I definitely knew I didn’t want to use Deborah Chandler’s hybrid method of sleying the reed to use as a raddle, then re-sleying it after threading the heddles.

I plan to make a raddle for my 45″ Bergman loom, but I’ll use finishing nails instead of cable tacks.  Being able to insert a dowel through the cable tacks wasn’t as handy as I thought it would be, and rubber bands work very well to keep the warp in place (although the cable tacks are long enough not to need the bands).  And a raddle with nails stored safely away couldn’t be worse than having spiked wool combs (truly lethal, yikes!) in the house.


The Ravelry community is awesome.  I would love to frequent the knitting forums more, if only I had more time.  As a newbie to spinning (still under a year!) and even more so to weaving, it’s been a wonderful source of help and inspiration.


2 October 2008 - Posted by | Weaving | , , , , ,


  1. I cannot imagine beaming on back to front without a raddle! You don’t need one for sectional warping but that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. Combs are definitely lethal instruments, but a little easier to hide away from curious hands.

    Comment by Peg in South Carolina | 2 October 2008 | Reply

  2. You are absolutely right about the raddle! I’ve been reading from so many different books concurrently that I got a bit muddled. But I’m completely able to differentiate between back to front and front to back warping now!

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 2 October 2008 | Reply

  3. This looks like a fun warp to weave. I like your clever cable tack raddle–better and much cheaper, I’ll bet, than anything you’d have found at The Weaving Works. Likewise, congrats on your treadles. I have been discovering that the biggest problem with a table loom is the way you need a table to put it on!

    I used a Glimåkra 1/4 inch raddle with my Bergman until I realized that because of the warp beam being higher than the back beam, my loom isn’t really suited to raddle warping. If I put the raddle on the back beam, the action of beaming the warp was always trying to pull the warp *up* against the raddle cap and and out of the raddle. If I put the raddle on (or in place of, in the slots for) the front beam–wrapping the warp around the back beam before taking it to the warp beam–I just found it really hard to manage threading and evening-out the continuous cord for the warp beam apron rod, getting the rod through the warp loops without dropping it, and maintaining tension as I beamed on. Headaches! I soldiered on that way because I was still convinced raddle warping was going to be easier and faster than pre-sleying.

    As you can see, I’ve since made my peace with pre-sleying. So much easier!

    But (in the immortal words of Levar Burton) don’t take my word for it… It’s good to figure out your own tricks. I only hate to think of your poor wrist and all that measuring and nailing, making a raddle for your Bergman that you may not want to use. Too bad we don’t live closer. I could loan you my retired raddle to try, and help you sort those pesky heddles!

    Comment by Trapunto | 3 October 2008 | Reply

  4. Trapunto, I have wound this warp onto Gil three times now, and will probably have to do a fourth time to get it right (sigh).

    I just figured out why Peggy Osterkamp’s special raddle (one which you can run a dowel through) helps — it keeps the threads in place, period. I figured this out when I was trying to beam on the second time with rubber bands in place. I pulled, and all my carefully counted and placed warps, everything, popped off. (Screams). Rubber bands couldn’t take any pressure if threads are pulled up.

    I just ran to check out my back and warp beams — Thank You for pointing out the height difference. But… you might yet be able to salvage your raddle — if you can get a wood strip to fit over it, with holes drilled through for the raddle nails to fit through. Fit that piece over your raddle like a cap and tape them together (perhaps putting a coin or something on both sides so it doesn’t clamp down directly on your threads. (Not trying to alter your peace with the pre-sleying…)

    So I’ll try making this same type of raddle for Beauty…

    We like Levar!

    If only you did live closer — I think it was a Weavecast episode where I heard that in older times, most weavers did not warp alone.

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 4 October 2008 | Reply

  5. ‘Scuse please, but what kind of wood piece did you use to form the base of your raddle? I’m thinking of making one myself and I’m wondering how thick/wide that piece needs to be.

    Comment by bibliotecaria | 18 November 2008 | Reply

  6. Bibliotecaria: my piece of wood came from what I could scrounge from my garage. I think it’s cherry, and the measurements are 1/2″ x 1-1/8″. It happens to measure 35″ long; the nails I put in cover only 25″ of it (that’s the widest weaving width my Rasmussen loom can handle). I couldn’t bring myself to cut off the extra wood (it’s so pretty), so it’a a tad unwieldy. I haven’t posted yet, but a second raddle is planned (for my 45″ loom), and I **do** intend to use the same tacks again, having found the special raddle very useful indeed.

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 19 November 2008 | Reply

  7. […] One: Clueless Weaver warps back to front, without a raddle (”Raddle Me This“).  When the warps of a 14″ cloth measures 12″on the back beam, weaver learns […]

    Pingback by This Madness Called Weaving « Spinninglizzy’s Weblog | 2 December 2008 | Reply

  8. Louet raddles are wonderful, though expensive. To keep the threads on, you just tie a cord over them. Jane Stafford (www.janestaffordtextiles.com) has made a GREAT DVD on warping on your own. Technically, it’s about Louet looms, but the information is applicable to any loom. (No, I have no affiliation with either Louet or Jane!)

    Comment by Susan Berlin | 3 January 2009 | Reply

  9. Hi! Just found your blog! I’ve been warping my table loom back to front for over a year now without a raddle and today was the first day I decided enough was enough! I have such problems with maintaining even tension across the warp and no wonder! Live and learn, eh? 🙂 Your blog’s great by the way, you’re firmly in my bookmarks now!
    All the best,

    Comment by Toby Tottle (@tobytottle) | 12 March 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Toby, thanks for stopping by! I’ve been using my cobbled-together raddle for some time, but am flirting with the idea of using a reed as a raddle for supposedly even better results. But, not completely convinced, as the raddle is sooooooo much more convenient!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 12 March 2013 | Reply

  10. PLEASE tell me where and how you attach a raddle to a Bergman loom! Because of the height of the back beam, I’ve been trying to puzzle that out for a long time.

    Comment by Susan Berlin | 6 March 2014 | Reply

    • Hi Susan, my raddle is longer than the width of my smaller Bergman, so I clamp each end of the raddle to each of the side “wings” holding the back beam. The same raddle is shorter than the width of my larger Bergman, so I clamp it directly to the back beam. If you scroll down to the middle of this post:
      you can see the raddle on the bigger Bermgan

      Hope this helps!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 6 March 2014 | Reply

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