I think many of us who have delved into the world of rigid heddles are very familiar with the direct warping method. Using a peg and measuring from your back beam to some chair or stool or odd object you can clamp that peg to, you walk back and forth and feed your thread in loops through the slots of your heddle. Then, you wind that bad boy up, clip the ends, distribute your threads to the holes as well as slots, tie on the front apron rod, work on your tension and call it a day. However, this is not always the most practical way to warp your rigid heddle. Don't get me wrong, it is a great method, but sometimes having a line of yarn strewn across your kitchen just isn't going to work. Or sometimes you have time to measure out warp threads but you don't have time for all the threading. Whatever the reason, you can use your warping board for your rigid heddle loom and pre-measure and prepare your warp threads. I have a tutorial on using a warping board, so if the concept is new for you, please take a look here.
In this tutorial, there are two colors that have been pre-measured and braided for this project.
The next step is to wrap these braids onto the front beam of your loom. This yarn is the warp for a cowl. It is a bulky yarn and the braids are not very long. If I tried to wrap the braid around the front beam, it just wouldn't stay. In cases such as these, it is okay to unbraid your warp thread and wrap them around your beam that way. If you have measured a very long warp or used a fine thread and your braids are long, it may keep things tidier to just leave them in the braids when you wrap on your front beam. VERY IMPORTANT: Your cross should be free from the braid with enough slack to reach your heddle in the neutral position, plus a few extra inches so when you thread your warp through the heddle, it will stay put and not try to fall out back toward the front of your loom and undo all of your hard work. I am warping two colors in this project, and both colors could be wrapped comfortably on the front beam without overlapping. If you find things are getting crowded or confusing, just wrap one braid at a time. Note that the cross is draped comfortably over the heddle.
Make sure you have all your supplies within reach. To warp your heddle you will need scissors and your heddle/reed hook to sley your reed.
Next, pick up the cross from a braid and thread your fingers through the loops where you have your choke ties. You will be undoing those ties, so you want to make sure your fingers will preserve the cross even after these ties are gone. I have taken a photograph to show how I place my fingers comfortably through the cross. You will want at a finger between the top to ties above the cross and a finger between the bottom two ties below the cross. If you are right-handed, as I am, I hold the cross in my left hand. I am not left-handed, but I would imagine things might be easier if the left-handed crowd holds their cross in their right hand. Really, you should do what is most comfortable for you. Whichever hand is left free from the cross is the one that will be threading the reed and manipulating the reed hook.
With your cross secure on your fingers, take your scissors in your free hand and cut the top loop (highlighted in the photograph my finger- please note that I am not preserving the cross here, merely showing which loop you should cut). Then, while still holding your cross secure, untie or cut your choke ties.
Notice that once the choke ties are gone, you can still see the alternating ups and downs of your cross. At this point, you are ready to start sleying your reed. Starting with the outermost warp thread on your finger, use your free hand to remove it from the group (without disturbing your other threads). I like to sley my reed from right to left, but I do not think it matters what side you choose to start on, as long as you have measured out where your project is centered in your reed. I am sleying my entire reed, so I could start on the edge. If your project is smaller than your full reed, you may want to mark the slot with a piece of tape where the edge of your project should be. That way, you will easily find it when you go to warp and will not have to count or measure, which is hard to do when you have a bunch of loose threads in your hand.
Taking the outermost thread on my cross, I use my hook and thread it through my read. Unlike the indirect method, you will need to thread slots and holes as you go, not just the slots. Passing your hook from the backside to the frontside (through a slot or a hole) of your reed, grab your thread and pull it through the reed. I like to hold my hook pointing down, I find it easier to grab my warp thread this way and pull it down and away on the backside of the reed. This is a personal preference, you should find what is comfortable for you.
Now, my pattern required that I warp my reed in a 2x2 pattern. So, after threading two teal threads, I needed to leave space for two white threads. You warp all of one color first and then go back and warp the second color. (This would apply to three or more colors, as well.) Really, you want to warp all the threads in your braid, because the cross is what is keeping your threads organized. If you put your threads down, it is very hard to maintain the cross. This also means you should plan ahead. Either allow yourself enough time to warp all the threads in a larger braid or make yourself smaller braid bundles...even if you do more than one braid in the same color. Having smaller braids will give you more opportunities to take breaks when your warping your loom without having to worry about tangling threads.
Leaving spaces can make your eyes cross, so make sure you check regularly that you have left the appropriate number of slots and holes. It is much easier to fix a mistake when it happens than to have the majority of your reed threaded only to find out you need to shift everything over a slot. As you can see in the pictures, two threads mean one slot and one hole. So between every teal pair, I needed to leave one slot and one hole for my white warp. I made sure to stop and check my work every few pairs.
Once I have warped all of my teal threads, it is time to warp the white threads. I repeat the same exact process, threading the white warp through the slots and holes I left for them. If you are using more than two colors, it may be useful to keep a diagram and mark with painters tape the slots and holes for your second color before you pick up the cross and begin sleying.
Once you have warped all your threads, looking at your loom from the backside, you will see your beautiful warp threads dangling through your reed. It is time to tie them onto your back apron rod. Make sure you grab bundles of yarn that are only about an inch. I know its a lot of tying, but it will give you more balanced tension. I like to use a square knot and a bow when tying on to the apron rods. I know my mom likes to use a surgical knot. Whatever you use, make sure it is secure under tension but adjustable if needed. (I would never recommend a double knot.)
I think this is the point where there are more stylistic differences when warping. I will share with you what I like to do, especially if I do not have a helper. Sitting in front of your loom, grab all of your warp threads in one hand. You use this hand to pull the threads for even tension. Make sure you have paper or sticks ready so you can wind them in as you pull your threads over the back beam. (If you are unfamiliar with this, putting paper in between the layers as you wind your warp helps maintain more even tension. It prevents your threads for sinking into previous layers or catching.) Then, slowly, begin winding. Use your free hand to move your crank as you hold the warp threads with even tension. The threads should pull out of your braid evenly and remain orderly. If you need to stop cranking and gently comb some threads, do so, but remember your reed will act as a comb, as well. Continue this process until you have wound nearly all of your warp to the back of your loom. You will want about 15 inches of warp thread on the front side of your reed so you can comfortably tie on to your front apron rod. You will notice that the ends of your warp are looped, you will have to cut these before you tie onto your front apron rod. I do not recommend cutting them before you are ready to tie on- they are a bit of a security check, your threads cannot pull through your reed when they are looped.
You're nearly finished! Tie on to your front rod starting in the middle and alternating from there to the left and right sides. You want to tie your warp with as even tension as you can manage. This means once you have everything tied on, you may have to go back and tighten your threads again. With this in mind, tie your square knot first and once the tension is even go back through and make your bows or surgical knots. Then, believe it or not, you're ready to weave. I was a dodo and completely forgot to take a picture of the finished warp- but here is the project that I started weaving. Proof it does work!