Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Sprang Project: Boot, and Reboot?

First attempt to prepare the frame
Finally ready  (I thought!)
On the last Saturday evening of February, I finally dragged my homemade sprang frame from my closet and wound my yarn onto it. Afterward I took pictures; the best of the lot is attached.  (See the picture on the left.)

It is surprisingly tricky to set up a sprang frame. What you have to do is wind a continuous piece of thread or yarn around the two suspended bars, with enough consistent tension so that you end up with an even-numbered block of threads, all lying evenly side by side whether you look at the loom from the front or from the back, without any thread crossing over any other thread.   It took me about a half an hour to wind the thread on appropriately, even though I only have the yarn wrapped around about 90 times.  To make matters worse, by going with the inexpensive, versatile option of using PVC pipe for my frame and bars, I made the set-up process tougher, because the yarn tended to slip-slide on the bars as I wound the yarn around them.

I realized as I worked that there seems to be some kind of dirt on parts of the yarn which wasn't there when I first bought it, but I figured I wouldn't worry about that now.  With any luck, I said to myself, it will come out after I wash (carefully, of course, since the yarn is 100% wool)  my finished cap.

A day or two later, I took out the frame again, and realized that at least half of the threads were way too loose to try to work with; it needed to be rewound and retied to the frame.  After wrestling with the threads for another hour and a half later, I finally got them to lie properly with an adequate amount of tension. (See the picture on the right.)

Tonight, I started attempting to work my first piece of sprang.  I got through the first row--struggling, because (among other things) the section of threads is too wide for me to stick my hand through. Worse still, when I got to the end of the row I still  had four back threads left!  So I removed my stick, figuring I'd have to remove whatever twists I'd managed to apply and start over.

And as I was wrestling with the threads, the frame fell apart.  (So much for the theory that I didn't need to use glue on my PVC joints.  Or maybe not--maybe I just needed to twist and shove the PVC pieces comprising the frame together, harder.  It seems stable enough now.)

I decided not to try to untangle the mess of yarn I finally got free of the frame after cutting my stretcher bars off the frame.  I have plenty of fresh yarn, so I'll just set up my threads from scratch, using large (12-inch) chopsticks) as the suspended stretcher bars.  (At least that solves the dirt problem!)  The chopsticks are a more appropriate thickness for end loops for the cap I'm trying to make anyway, and the yarn is more likely to stay where I put it on the wood.

On the other hand, using thinner sticks makes it harder to find the shed, and harder to tell whether the strings are lying properly, side by side.  Particularly since my frame is big enough that I can't place it, say, between two chair backs and expect it to stay still while I work on winding yarn, with tension, evenly between the two chopsticks.

If anyone has advice on how to actually get the thread woven around the two suspended bars/sticks/stretchers (whatever you want to call them), I would appreciate it!  I can't start making the cap I'm trying to make without setting up the frame all over again.

EDIT:  (3/3/2016)  Corrected the language in this post as requested in Katrin's comment (see below), to remove references to "weaving" and "warping" because sprang, unlike most other forms of textile manufacture, does not use warp and weft or a process that is at all like weaving.  


  1. I don't warp on the frame directly, but on two (large enough)bar clamps, then transferring the warp to the frame. I'm also warping with an extra clamp between the two, going over-under-over with one warp and under-over-under with the next one. This basically works the first crossing while warping, and you don't have to make sure the threads don't cross over at top or bottom; carrying that first shed up and down will get them into order again.

    And a final comment: Please do not say "weaving" when referring to working sprang - there is no weft carried, it's basically a braiding technique. "Working sprang" or "spranging" or "crossing" or "braiding" would all be better descriptions.

    1. The clamp idea is a good one, though I don't own suitable clamps. If I get any, I'll try it; thank you.

      You are right that my description of sprang as "weaving", etc. is misleading; I'll correct the post.

  2. Actually, "warping" is also not the a good term - dressing the frame, or setting up the frame would be better, as warp typically refers to weaving. Unfortunately, I can't edit the published comment...

  3. I set up the sprang loom a little differently. Tie the string to the top (adjustable) bar. Bring the ball of string down and pass it around the lower (adjustable) bar from back to front. Pass the string up to the right and around the top bar from back to front. You now have one compete loop and two roughly parallel threads Bring the string down to the right and around the lower bar from back to front. Bring the string up to the right and around the upper bar from back to front. There are now 4 roughly parallel threads. Repeat always passing the string back to front around the bar ... Tie the string to a bar to finish setup. You now have a loom full of threads that have one twist in them. The side view is a figure-eight. The threads are already locked into a parallel order which makes the first row of twist easier to do. Sliding the crossing of the figure-eight up and down with your fingers a few times before beginning to work rows can even out irregular tension without tangling. The first shed stick goes above the crossed threads. I use bamboo skewers as shed sticks and leave them in for several rows before removing the oldest pair. This makes reversing the work easier if I make a mistake. Work the first row, insert an upper and lower shed stick, work the second ow, insert an upper and lower shed stick, ... When confident you started correctly, remove the oldest shed sticks. Do carefully finish the middle before removing the last shed stick. Technically this creates a fabric with one more row of twist in the lower half than the upper half. I find making the setup and first row easier worth the slight asymmetry. Good luck! Regards, Beth Schreiber

  4. Hi, Beth! Thanks for visiting, and for your advice. I guess I'm going to be experimenting with set-up for a little while longer.

  5. Wow! It's great to see it underway, though I'm sorry it's given you so much trouble. It's obviously harder than it looks in the YouTube videos.

    1. Thanks. Actually, the project is not exactly "underway" yet, since I still need to wind the yarn on all over again.

      So far, the difficulty is arising, not from the working process, but from the set up. I'm learning a lot from the process (as well as from the comments I've been receiving), so I don't regret that part.

      I hope to have a new progress post soon, but first I have another question which I'll probably ask in my next post.

  6. A bit late to the party, but a little thing that helps me a lot is a pair of loops to stabilize the floating bars while winding. Made from something with no stretch like cotton, one loop or a mini warp of a few on each end of the bars to keep them roughly in place and parallel, I wind between those and remove them once there is enough of the real yarn.

    That way of winding around a safety line twice always struck me as needlessly complicated. If you're not doing the figure eight like Beth described, why not treat the floating sticks as if they were a solid board, nothing crosses between them. You have to sprang the one row you'd get for free by warping around the safety line, but the process seems so much more straightforward to me, ease of spotting mistakes is important here. Small test things I make on a clipboard, widing the threads around the actual board and afterwards transfering them to chopsticks that get tied to it to allow for takeup adjustments. Same method really. Take this paragraph with a grain of salt, I'm only a beginner myself, there might be a reason to secure something that isn't there yet that I don't know about.

    Chair or table legs could serve as substitutes for proper warping pegs/clamps if you find a combination that provides the length you need, for trying the transfer version cheaply.

    1. Every bit of information I can get counts--and since I spent so much of March sick, I'm behind on this project anyway. :-(

      From what I'm reading sprang workers seem to be evenly split between using a safety line, or not. I may try it just because I'm having a hard time finding my shed. Thanks for the comments.