Warping a SAORI loom

Here’s my process pictures for my first time fully warping my SAORI loom with the “chair warp” from my last loom-related post. First, I remove the beater and flip it over, resting the legs of the beater on the harness of the loom. I undo the braids from my prepared warp, and use the warp cross to keep the warps in order, and then cut the colored yarn I used to keep the cross intact (visible in the picture below). There is a tool that is a series of posts and grooves to hold this as well. I don’t have it. I’m wondering how I – or it! – can hold all the warp if I were to warp its full 23″ width. This is 56 warps. The loom holds 300.

This is sleying the reed. I use the reed hook to push the warp through the dents.


I’ve tied bundles of warp threads together below the reed, and turned over and reinstalled the beater.

Now threading the heddles. I’m sitting at the back of the loom, holding a bunch of warp threads in my left hand, interlacing them between my fingers. I can’t keep it interlaced like this; it keeps sliding off my pinky, but I can keep it solidly between my first and middle finger. Inside my left hand is a bunch of heddles, from both the front and back harnesses. As I use up the warp in my left hand, I grab more warp and more heddles.

Here’s using the hook to grab the next warp to pull through the heddle. Standard warping is to alternate from the front and back harness (and one warp per dent in the reed), which is what I’m doing here. I can put more than one warp through the same dent and heddle. I can skip dents. I can do two front or two back heddles in a row. I wanted to try a plain warp first, so one warp per dent and heddle, and alternating front and back harnesses it is!


As I’m looking back at the instructions, I see I’m supposed to be tying bundles of warps together as I complete warping. Oh.

Pulling the warp through to the back of the loom, with the tying rod resting on top of the warp.

I have to use two hands for the rest of this (and a knee at one point), so no pictures. Here’s the frustration picture. I’ve tied the warp onto the tying rod (the diagonal dowel you can see at the upper left), and I’ve got to try to roll it onto the warp roller while holding onto the warp at the front of the beater. So I’m sitting cross legged on the floor to the left of the loom, my right hand is holding the warp at the front of the beater, I’m rolling the warp roller with my left hand, and pressing the warp control pedal with my left knee. Looking closely at the pictures in the book now, I see the warp control pedal is disengaged by the angle of the pedal – but it’s not written in the instructions to do so. I will have to try that next time. The warp roller fell off twice because I didn’t have the metal widgets correctly on it.

That’s done, now to attach the warp to the front clipping tying rod. I just have to put this strip of wood into the slot in the dowel, catching the warp.

Warped! Or at least I think so.

Weaving right along. Isn’t this yarn great/terrible? Microfiber chenille, from one of two Craiglist yarn lots I purchased for very little money. I keep thinking of caterpillars.

So, I try to advance the warp and it’s not working. I check the pedal and advance the warp, more than once. Also, why is the beater hitting what I’m weaving? It’s because I need the warp to go up and over the front beam. I correct this by removing the clipping tying rod and reinstalling it correctly. Now I’m making some sort of animal skin print with my caterpillar yarn!

Okay, off to finish this warp.

Chair warp

I received my loom and assembled it on a Thursday in January. I had a mid-morning appointment on Friday, and the rest of the day off. I didn’t want to begin weaving before I had to leave, so I decided to try to prepare a warp. I used some heavier cotton than was pre-warped on the loom, a cream color that I had thrifted. Generally speaking, unless you are weaving something very light, you want to warp with a darker color. My thinking was that I wanted something I didn’t care about to practice the process of warping, using one color and a short length. Meet the chair warp, and my Christmas tree that was up until mid-January. I didn’t even measure, I just put the chairs as far apart as I was able without moving furniture. I think this was about 7′.

Looking at the SAORI book, it shows the use of a warping board. I didn’t purchase one; my husband made one for me later. In a broad overview, a warping board is a frame of wood with pegs on the uprights, and you zigzag the warp across and down to the length desired. The SAORI warping board is a meter across, so it’s a way to measure the length of the warp too. At the beginning, before the first full zigzag, you pass over and under a couple of pegs. In the next pass, you start by going under, then over. This keeps the warps in the order you want to install them on the loom. Below is using the chair leg to create just one cross.

You tie the cross to keep the threads in order, and in a few other places to keep the bundle of warps together.

I cut the yarn on the wooden chair leg, and chained the warp to keep it neat.

When I got to the cross, I cut the warp loop on the metal chair, and then braided each half of the warp after the cross, tying the ends. This is one 1 4/10 ounce skein of cotton crepe “fashionable dress yarn” by Unger from Holland. (Holland! How old is this yarn? And 4/10 oz?) I think I counted 38 warps, so I get to practice threading 38×2 times. I think I’ll try for accuracy this time, to see if I can.

SAORI One complete

This is 16.5′ of SAORI sampler, 11″ wide. I had a lot of length to try different techniques with these four yarns – and there are many more things I can try.

Next up on the loom is a simple sample warp, with some fun/terrible yarn as the weft. It gives me the chance to warp the loom with a consistent yarn before trying fuzzy and irregular ones.

SAORI One progress

So, I’ve been beading and weaving lately. Here’s how I’m doing with the weaving part. I like this section.

This is what happens when you wind the yarn too close to the end of the bobbin. It tangles in the shuttle.

I’ve moved the loom to a different room; carpet underneath instead of wood. I like this section too.

Green zigzag. Also, I have installed daylight LED lights above me. At night, I can take photos with really great color. Daylight will still wash out photos.

I saw a picture of a way to get multiple colors into a section, using just the bobbins. This was unenjoyable. I want weaving to be enjoyable. I ended up having to rewind two bobbins, and actually cut out a snarl in one of them.

I don’t think it actually looks that good either. I could do a neater job, and I initially thought to do this for several more rows, but I just wanted to be done. So I was.

Inlaying a second color above the weft to get blocks of a different color (at top of photo)? I LIKE this. This was fun. This is definitely a success.

There is still more of this warp. I have three more weaving projects planned already, and I was hoping to start the next one this month. It could happen, maybe? And I have a couple of active beading projects.

Chiaki O’Brien on Minnesota Original

Minnesota Original is a fantastic Minnesota Public Television show. It’s a weekly arts series “celebrating Minnesota’s creative community, across all disciplines and all cultures.” I believe last weekend was the original airing of episode #805, which features four artists. Two of the segments are right up my alley. One is Sally Power, a paper marbling artist demonstrating at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, something I tried at MCBA for the first time last month. The other artist I was delighted to watch was Chiaki O’Brien. I took my SAORI loom class from Chiaki, and also bought my loom from her. Watch her six minute segment, excerpted from the entire episode, and learn more about Chiaki and her work.

SAORI One samples and learning

I received my loom about a week ago and began weaving on it the next morning. There is an error in the warp from the factory. Since the idea of SAORI weaving is immersing in the process, with irregularity as “the beauty with lack of intention,” maybe this was on purpose? If that’s the case, why only one? Something to ponder as I weave.

Another color.

I bought four 1# cones of relatively fine cotton. The lime is all cotton, the grey and blues are recycled cotton, with at least 80% cotton. The warp is 6 meters (about 19.5 feet, but I’m going to lose perhaps 3-4′ because of the design of the loom), and I think I’m going to just play with these four colors for the length. I’m trying different versions of clasped warps, where I take the warp across, hook it around a second color, and return while pulling the second color partway, without pressing the pedal and changing the warp cross.

More clasped warps. Alternating the light blue and the grey looks almost like a self-striping yarn.

With the grey and the green stronger-colored stripes, I’m making multiple passes without changing the warp cross. I like it.

I’m into clasped warps.

I have no idea how much I’ve done, and how much I have to go. I’m just weaving. When I went to the SAORI workshop last summer, I wove quickly. Now, I’m working more deliberately, but I’m not planning ahead. That would be un-SAORI of me.

SAORI loom, some assembly required (but very little!)

I’ve been considering purchasing a SAORI loom since I took a free workshop at a local public library with Chiaki O’Brien of StudioFUN this past June. (A narrative of that is here.) Yes, I bead. Yes, I took up sewing again about two or three years ago. I also work outside the home. I had never woven on a floor loom before this workshop (an inkle loom as a teenager), but I kept revisiting how much I enjoyed this experience, so I took money I had saved for years, and bought the loom from Chiaki.

The loom comes directly from Japan. I took pictures while unboxing my SAORI loom almost exactly two days ago after a late dinner – but the post is today, because I wanted to start weaving immediately! Also, I worked today. The photos are most of the story…

Big box! I’m grateful it’s doubly boxed, as the outer box was soggy in the corner. The inner box is perfect. (Also, I’m still decorated for Christmas, say hi to my light switch Santa.)

Inside is the main loom frame, and the rest of the working parts are inside the box strapped to the loom’s leg.

The instructions for unboxing and assembly are very detailed, including how to open it.

Inner box. In addition to the rest of the loom, I ordered “the book,” and some additional bobbins.

The rest of the loom components, laid out as in the assembly guide, for easy reference.

First part to install, the bobbin winder.

Now, hang the warp set. That’s the rope pulley system just barely in view at the top center of the picture, holding the heddles. It’s really appealing that this comes warped. I bought a serger a little over a year ago, and it came threaded; the same result of almost immediate satisfaction.

Now set up the warp roller at the back of the loom.

The latch and gear system for this works really well. I’m holding the latch up with the heddle hook so you can see the mechanism.

This is the warp control pedal. I will be revisiting this later…

Now setting up the reed.

Tying the warp threads on the tying rod.

All tied!

Hook up the pedals.

Add the built-in shelf.

Look at the “check if everything is set up properly” pictures. I pass inspection with two of them, but I have improperly wound the cable on the warp control pedal. Fixed.

And here is the loom, ready to weave!

It’s late at night by the time I finished, and I started weaving the next morning; I had the day off. I’ll show some in-progress pictures soon. Here’s one of the reasons I wanted this particular loom:

This loom folds quite compactly – but it has a 23″ weaving width, and the ability for about a 15′ warp. I do have a creative workspace, a small former bedroom, but it doesn’t have floor space for a permanent resident loom. I can fold this and put it away in closet, and transport it if desired. It really is an elegant design, and I’m looking forward to future weaving exploration.