The very first step is selecting the yarns. You need to pick out colors and textures. I just pile my yarn up and walk by for several days adding and subtracting until I get something I like. For the warp, you must choose some very strong and smooth yarn. Your reed is going to run back and forth over it and there will be tension applied to the yarn. Any yarn that can't hold up to the wear or tension is definitely out, and any yarn that is very bumpy is going to just kill you when you try to slide the reed up and down.
Now I will tell you a tip I discovered when starting a project. I actually used a 3-ply alpaca yarn -- this is a very delicate yarn -- and didn't put much tension on it. Instead of using the reed to open the shed and pack the yarn, I used a batten (a stick for opening the shed) . This cut down on wear and tear. It took longer to make sure I opened the shed correctly each time, but it was well worth it. Don't try something like this for your first time. Use something slick and sturdy.
Now, you would usually take your loom off the stand and clamp it on the table with the clamp set that comes with the loom. I'm lazy and showing you the easy way. If you have your loom on a stand, just place it against a table like I have it here. Put your reed in the top most cradle in the middle. Make sure the notched side (right bottom) is on the far side of where you are going to pull your warp threads. I'm going to pull my warp over to the far left and loop it on a chair ear. Don't forget about your brakes to keep your winder things from unwinding. As you see, the one on the right is in the correct position, while the one on the left is just hanging there. Also, turn your winding bars in so that those warp stick are toward the center as pictured below. Be sure to take note of the boot shaped latch and the notch under the reed there by the camels neck. You will need to know this for way later. This picture also reminds me that I have to make some wine. The equipment is just sitting there.
Okay. Now I am making a table runner for my sister, so I just happen to use my table and the measure for my warp. Remember, you are going to waste a foot of warp on each side. You can make things real complicated and get a warping board, but I just eye ball the length and add a foot on each end. It's not exact, but close enough for me. I have that chair ear (yes that thing sticking up from the chair is called an ear) centered right in the middle of my reed. Hope you can tell that in the picture below.
That brings me to picking the reed. You must pick one with slots and eyes big enough to accommodate the size of yarn you will be using. Mine is a really fat yarn, so this is a 5.0 reed. To measure, you can just stick the yarn in the eye and if it fits, it works. Easy right
Here's another picture of that chair. Hopefully you can tell that the ear is almost dead center of the reed at the bottom of the picture. If you don't have a chair like this, you can always use that peg that comes with the loom and clamp it to the end of the table. But why do all that when you have a chair?
Now we will start warping. Take your warp yarn and tie it with a square knot to the warp stick farthest from the table. As you can see in the picture, I just tossed the yarn ball on the floor. Just lock up your cats and small dogs, because you may find it harder to warp your loom with a dog or cat on the end of your yarn.
Take that same loop and pull it all the way across the table (or open floor, whatever) and loop it onto the chair ear. Keep light tension in the yarn. Don't let it lay on the table, but don't stretch it either.
You will find that the yarn will lie naturally the way it is supposed to wrap around the warp stick. Just study the picture below how the yarn is just picked up. Pull this next loop thru the very next slot.
Just make sure that each time the yarn is wrapping the warp stick and shown below.
Repeat this process over and over until you want to change to another color or have to start a new ball of yarn. It takes a lot of yarn to warp a loom. When you get to a place you want to change, just tie your old yarn off on the warp bar with a square knot and tie your new yarn on. That simple. See picture below. We are starting a new color.
Just keep going until you have your entire reed filled. Now this is a 20 inch reed which means that my project is going to be about that wide. If you want something thinner, just measure off on the reed and only warp that many slots. Your loom should look like this one below. More or Less.
This next picture is how your warp should look going across your loom to that chair over there. Notice that the tension is not loose but not tight either. Also, it goes straight to the center.
Take a scrap piece of yarn and tie your warp yarns together about 6 inches from your peg or chair ear.
This is where you are going to need a little help. Have someone hold the yarn with light tension as shown below. They will move forward as you wind the warp, but continue to hold light tension as you do so.