Ask Elena: Warp Coil Woes

You may have heard the terms “warp coil” and “spring” thrown around our website. Maybe you understand the references, but maybe you don’t. This post is a little primer on warp coils (or springs, they’re the same thing) including HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE and HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS.


A warp coil is a spring you put at the top (or bottom if you have a bottom spring kit) of your loom to organize you warp threads. When you put the spring on the loom and you measure an inch, the number of DENTS (spaces in the spring) should equal the numbers in the name of the spring. An 18 dent spring should have about 18 dents in an inch. Easy!

warp coil

warp coil

The warp coil spaces your warp threads correctly. If you’re using larger beads, you want your warp threads to be spaced further than if you were using smaller beads. The same goes for tapestry. If you’re using thicker yarn, you want your warp threads spaced out further than with a thinner yarn.

What springs come with the loom:  8, 12, 14 and 18 dents per inch.  As you can see, this pretty much covers all your needs except when using tiny beads such as 15/0s or when weaving a wide piece with size 11/0 delicas, which work better with a 16 dent coil.

For beads: Since the springs are even measurement and the beads per inch are sometimes an odd number and because you have to factor in the thickness of the thread in between the formula is not exact.  If you don’t have the correct spring, but one that is close, and you are doing a piece that is not very wide, you can use a larger spring and squish it together in the middle and put under tension. For a wider piece (three inches or larger) you really want the correct spring.


How do you know what warp coil to use for bead weaving:

Place the beads you plan on weaving on a needle and measure an inch. Then, count how many beads are in that inch. The number of beads minus one is the warp coil that will be used. For example, if you are using Delicas you would find 19 Delicas are in one inch, so you would use the 18 dent coil. There is some leeway in this, and depending on the beads you are using, it might not work out perfectly (numerically), just close. Using a smaller (lower number) coil is better than using a larger (higher number) coil.

How do I know what warp coil to use for tapestry?

This is something you have to experiment with as a tapestry weaver. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent. (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.)

The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warps threads aren’t showing and you must consider the warp set (how far apart your warp threads are, or what warp coil you are using), how thick your weft is and how thick your warp is. One way to determine your weft size is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, then your weft is probably too thick and if your weft threads are much thinner than you know your weft is too thin.


The answer is: in some cases you do not want a spring.  For example, when weaving a bead soup bracelet with lots of different size beads, the beads will set the spacing.  Also, when weaving a thin piece, you can usually skip the spring if you don’t have the correct size.


Sometimes you don’t have the right warp coil on hand. Maybe you’re making our Tapestry/Bead Cuff and you need a 10 dent spring and don’t have one, or maybe you have an 8″ Lani Loom without the shedding device and you want to weave Delicas (that loom comes with only a 14 dent spring). You can always buy new springs on our website, but you can also modify springs to fit your needs. Here’s how: (Note: as we mentioned earlier, this is only recommended for pieces thinner than three inches)

-Warp your loom like you would normally. When thinking about width, take into consideration that you’re going to change the spacing slightly by stretching or smushing your warp coil.

-Take out your measuring tape and measure an inch. Count how many dents (spaces in the spring) are in that inch and then stretch or smush your spring to make that amount of dents in an inch equal how many dents you need. For example, if you have a 12-dent spring, you will want to stretch it so there are only 10 dents in an inch, not 12. Keep stretching or smushing your spring to make sure there are the correct amount of dents in an inch over the entire width of the piece.

-Then, while holding the spring at the amount of dents you want it (remember, just in the place where you have your weaving), tighten your tension. This should secure your spring at the correct dents per inch.

warp coils


What happens if I am all ready to weave a wide piece with 11/0 delicas and I don’t have the 16 dent spring and I want to weave it this very second?  You can sacrifice your 18 dent spring.  Do the math:  For a 16 inch loom, the spring spans 13 inches and a tad.  You would need to remove 2 times 13 dents from your 18 dent spring.  26 dents.  Count 26 dents and cut at about 24 so you can create a new loop.  Or just put the 18 dent spring on the loom and stretch it so that there are 16 dents per inch.  Cut a few coils  past that to allow for a new loop at the end.


Buy more springs:


The answer is not that simple. But there is an answer, never-the-less.

First let me answer the question:  why don’t all the looms just come with a bottom spring attachment?  The reason it doesn’t is about half of Mirrix users do not want one or use one and it would get in their way.  For example, tapestry weavers who weave at the wider setts (the number of ends per inch) usually don’t use it.  However, we find that weavers who weave small format tapestry love the bottom spring kit because it helps get all those pesky threads all neatly lined up and in order.  For those folks we created the bottom spring kit with two 20 and 22 dent springs, one for the top and one for the bottom.  Usually these folks are warping with material that is about as thin as beading thread so you can see where organization on the bottom of the loom could be very helpful.  We have relied heavily on the opinion of Kathe Todd-Hooker who is the Queen of small format weaving and loves the bottom spring kit.  In fact, we made the 20/22 dent spring package to make her happy.

Now for the bead answer to this question.  If you are weaving thinner bracelets or necklaces it’s really easy to organize your warp threads at the bottom of the loom.  And since the first row of beads sets the bottom sett, once you’ve got that row in, a bottom spring has no use.  However, when weaving wider pieces and especially wider pieces using the shedding device where there are pairs of threads between beads that have to remain paired correctly, that bottoms spring kit certainly helps to keep those pairs paired correctly and the threads not crossing at the bottom.  So in the case of wider bead pieces (more than four inches) it will test your patience less if you do have the bottom spring kit.

We offer the bottom spring kit with all the springs that come with the loom as well as the one mentioned above with two 20/22 dent springs.  We al so offer the bottom spring kit with two 16 dent springs.  This is designed for those weaving wide beaded tapestries with Delica beads since the 16 dent spring for some reason works better than the 18 dent spring in this situation.

You can buy just the bottom spring kit (it’s a tray that holds the springs) and pick just the springs you want.  For example, even though the looms (except for the MiniMirrix and Lani without shedding device) come with size 8, 12, 14 and 18 dent springs, you might only be weaving size 11/0 seed beads which require the 14 dent spring.  There is no need to buy the whole set.  Just buy the bottom spring kit and that particular spring.  You can always buy others later.  But then there are those of you who might be weaving a whole range of beads or might do so and it is cheaper to buy the whole package.

In any case, before you jump in and buy a bottom spring kit, carefully think about what your weaving future might hold!



8/0- 9 per inch. Use the 8 dent spring

10/0- 14 per inch.  Use 12 dent spring

11/0- 19 per inch.  Use 18 dent spring except when doing very wide pieces, when you can use the 16 dent spring.

15/0- 25 per inch.  Use the 22 dent coil just in order to space the beads.  That is the largest coil we can make.

Seed Beads:

15/0- 24 per inch.  Use 22 dent spring.

11/0- 14 to 15 per inch (size vary slightly depending on finish and manufacturer).  Use 14 dent spring.

8/0-12 per inch.  Use 10 or 12 dent spring depending on what size warp you are using.  For example, when using the bead cord, because it is thicker, you will use the 10 dent spring. But if just weaving straight beads using beading thread as warp, you would use the 12 dent spring.

6/0-8 per inch.  Use the 6 dent spring.