My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #7: Sett for Weaving Balanced, Warp, and Weft Faced Fabrics

It’s been five years since I published my new website including over 100 weaving tips and I’m counting down the top ten. Here is number 7. I’m amazed that it has had about around 5,000 views. The top one has about over 23,000 views to date!! Can you guess what the subject of that tip is?

This tip is mostly about making warp and weft faced fabric with a little bit on balanced weaves (for plaids). It refers to four other posts about sett.  Use these links for the information needed. This TIP refers to what is sett. Here is a TIP that makes weaving easier.This TIP refers to the Ashenhurst method of calculating sett. This TIP refers to adjusting the sett for specific purposes. NOTE: the percentages mentiond refer to the Maximum Sett using Ashenhurst.

In weft-faced fabrics, the warp is all but covered by the weft. To accomplish this, you have to space the warps far enough apart that the rows of weft will pack down and cover them. There is a method which can be used as a starting point for experimentation in finding this warp spacing. Use your ruler to wind both the warp and the weft threads together. Alternate the warp and weft threads. Keep them flat. Be careful not to twist or stretch them, but still, push them together until they just barely touch. Finally, count only the warp threads in your inch to get the approximate sett. See Figures A-C. You probably will use a thicker weft yarn than a warp yarn.

Sett for Weaving Weft Faced Cloth

Sett for Weaving Weft Faced Cloth



In warp-faced fabrics, there are so many more warp threads than weft threads that the weft is all but covered by the warp. Use Ashenhurst’s diameters or wrap the warp threads around your ruler. Then, increase or even double the number per inch you get. See figure below.

Sett for Weaving Warp Faced Cloth

Sett for Weaving Warp Faced Cloth



If you want a true plaid, then you’d want a precisely balanced sett, so that the warps and wefts are both showing equally. However, look at a machine woven plaid-the warps are denser than the wefts-for ease in weaving.


If a weave has weft emphasis, you can’t have the warp as dense as 80%. Examples are overshot and summer-and-winter fabrics. Use a plain weave sett here because plain weave is the basis for these two weaves. Then, as a starting point, take 60-70% of their maximum sett, depending on the purpose of your cloth.

More information in Weaving for Beginners and Book #1: Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle

About the Pockets

pocket for lock of hair (click to enlarge)

I received a comment asking if the pockets were double weave. Here’s my reply:
Yes, double weave. I did the pocket with pick up because I was using only 4 shafts and just wanted to experiment. I used an extremely fine weft for the front of the pocket and a slightly heavier one for the borders–that spaced the fine wefts apart so the name could be seen and the lock of hair.  I just made one big pocket so I could manipulate the objects a bit. Picking up the same warps all the time made it easy. Not beating in the fine wefts was tedious, but worth it.

Beautiful Scarf, Unusual Sett

Ellen Miller's Doube Weave Scarf (click to enlarge)

Ellen Miller showed me her gorgeous alpaca double weave scarf. She was disappointed that the sett wasn’t exactly balanced as typical double cloth is. This showed more in the white areas. My sense is that it is beautiful with the more open sett.

Beautiful White Block

You can still see the solid black and white areas. For her warp and weft (both the same) she used less than the 80% figure  (Ashenhurst calculations) and this is one time I think less that 80% turned out beautifully. (The sett is more open when less than the  80% figure is used.) One reason is that the threads were dense in the warp because of the double weave. That made friction in the reed that prevented the wefts from beating down too much as can happen when the sett is more open than the 80% figure.

The Blocks (click to enlarge)

Good Reasons to Use Ashenhurst’s 80% Figure

Soon you’ll be seeing a gorgeous double weave scarf by Ellen Miller that didn’t use the 80% figure. But because the warp was so dense (because it double weave), all the 80% advantages were there. Search my blog for more on Ashenhurst.

This is taken from my new book, Weaving for Beginners, on page 280. The information is also found in my Book #1, Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle. See the chapters devoted to sett (epi).
Make your weaving easier: Use the 80% number
(Ashenhurst’s percentage)

In industry, a balanced looking fabric is actually a bit more warp predominant than precisely balanced. It looks balanced at a glance, but upon inspection, you will see that there are more warps per inch than wefts per inch. We handweavers can use this principle, too. I almost always do when I want a generally balanced weave. The way to achieve this look is to take 80% of the maximum sett using the Ashenhurst calculation.
(More on the percentages on pages 280 (Beginner’s Book) and 93 (Book #1).
Why it’s so wonderful to weave with a slightly closer warp sett:
1. The edges of the cloth (selvedges) don’t draw in as much, so the selvedges
don’t break. The extra warps instead of 50-50 hold out the warp width.
2. You don’t have to make sure the weft is put in very loosely. The natural
diagonal the shuttle makes when you throw it through, from the last row of
weaving to the beater, is usually enough slack for the weft’s pathway. (If the
weft is put in without any diagonal, it will pull in the edges of your cloth.)
3. There is less trouble with warp breakage. Fragile warp threads can be used
because there are more of them to pull their weight on the job.
4. There are fewer wefts (picks) per inch so the weaving goes faster.
Now, don’t those reasons sound enticing?
In general, whenever I’m debating between two numbers for a sett, I’ll choose
the denser number for the above reasons. That means, if I were debating
between 6 and 8‑epi, I’d tend to choose the higher number of 8. If I’m weaving
an open shawl, however, I want it more open than the 80% number, for sure.
Of course, my sample will be the ultimate test. Read on for when not to use the
80% number.

Sett Basics and Ashenhurst

Balanced and Warp Faced Cloth

Ashenhurt and other sett charts tell you the setts for balanced weaves–where both the warp and the weft show equally. Weavers often don’t want both to show equally, they may want the warp to predominate in some cases, or the weft. Then you adjust the sett from the charts accordingly–more warps per inch (epi) for a warp predominate fabric or fewer epi for a weft predominate cloth. Read more in my new book, Weaving for Beginners, in the chapter on sett. These photos are found on page 277.

Weft Faced Plain Weave Cloth

What’s On My Loom

Undegummed silk for weft 9click to enlarge)

I’m still experimenting with sheer this time with a warp of sewing thread instead of the fine silk.

The weft is the lovely gold silk that took me a month to spool off from the skein. It is stiff because it is undegummed. That helps keep the beat open and there are variations in the thickness of the thread which make the cloth look nice.

I was very nervous about the sett–wasn’t sure if it was too open, but wanted the cloth to be sheer for sure. It probably is too open, but of course, I made do. What I had to do was beat gently (which I hate to do) and beat on a closed shed (also don’t like to do). So, it’s going slowly but I’ve got the cloth I’m after. (The next risk: will I be able to make  out of it what I have in mind?)

I have reed marks which are just fine–in fact they are a gift. The threads in the reed groups move around randomly which gives a bit of color variation. Nice, so it doesn’t look like commercial cloth. So, the next time, I think I’ll stick to this sett and just go slowly so I can get the color variations.  (I made the warp with  10 different spools of thread–so 10 different shades in the warp. Instead of a paddle, I have a wonderful heck block on my reel that I inherited from Jim Ahrens. This allows me to get a thread-by-thread cross.)

Make a Two-Stick Heading

Two-stick Heading, part One

Use this when you want to make a sample on a warp before weaving the entire project.

The two-stick heading (from Weaving for Beginners, beginning on page 134.)
This is a very useful heading. I have used it countless times. One reason is to eliminate the knots on the apron rod so that the cloth rolls up without lumps on the cloth beam. Another reason is so that you can cut off some of the cloth before the whole warp has been completely woven.
You need a pair of sticks that fit on your cloth beam and won’t interfere with
the ratchet.

Two-stick Heading, part Two

They can be lease sticks, dowels, or metal rods. I prefer thin and lightweight
sticks rather than thick ones because they take up less warp and aren’t so bulky.

Read the step-by-step directions beginning on page 134 in Weaving for Beginners.

A Sampler vs Samples

One reader suggested I talk a bit about sampling. How much to make, wasting “good” yarn, when and why, etc. etc.You can save yourself a lot of heart ache if you make a sample before weaving something and find out that it shrinks too much, or “doesn’t turn out.” You might make a sampler or weave samples. Read below how the two are different.

Beginning Sampler (click to enlarge)

A sampler is generally a warp designed to sample a variety of weaves and ideas. I’m making one in the studio right now. I feel like it’s a big gamble because I don’t know how it will turn out. But because it’s “only a sample”, there is no pressure to make it wonderful (although I hope it will be) and I can be free to try anything. I am not sure about the sett for what I’m visualizing so I need to weave with the sett I decided on and see if it works for me. I am worried that my sett is too open–but I know I can try different techniques (eg.fatter wefts, or beat lighter) if I don’t like the initial look. I can re-sley the reed if necessary. My warp is only 4″ wide so I’m not wasting much yarn–and 3 yards long. I planned the length to try to get a good piece or two after my sampling.
The sampler I have all my beginning weavers make  is shown in the illustration and is found beginning on page 93 in Weaving for Beginners.

Sampling: I had a student this week who wanted to make a baby blanket. Since it is a fairly wide project I suggested that she make the warp a little longer and weave a sample at the beginning and cut it off and wash it and be sure it suits her. If it shrinks too much or doesn’t look right. She can then make changes before weaving the entire project without wasting all the yarn and time. Use the two-stick heading from my new book, Weaving for Beginners, to reconnect the warp without wasting yarn to tie the threads back onto the front apron rod. You cannot make a narrow sample and expect the information to directly translate to a wide warp. Since there will be more friction in the reed, the wefts in a wide warp won’t pack down in the same way as for a narrow warp. I suggest allowing 6-8 inches, minimum for the sample. I really like to add an extra yard for sampling. That allows plenty to sample at the beginning and usually there is warp left for me to try out more ideas at the end. (This is when I am the most creative.)

Think about Ashenhurst’s Rule

I use Ashenhurst’s rule to take the mystery out of sett (warp or weft-wise). Check this out in my Book #1, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle” and also in my new book, “Weaving for Beginners“. In both books I’ve devoted a chapter to determining the ends per inch (epi) or sett. Book #1 has more details. In upcoming posts I hope to explain it and say why it’s so very, very useful. If you can read the book(s), you’ll be ahead of the game.  I’m swamped with getting my room in my studio emptied–more about sett next week or so.