Making Good Selvedges– One, Two then Three “Throw, Beat THEN Change Your Feet”

This post was also inspired by Linda Doggett who said how important it is to her to beat on an open shed to make good selvedges. I enjoy the connections with other weavers. If you have an absolute favorite tip or process, let me know and perhaps it can go out into the weaving world in a blog post.

I’ve been pretty proud of my selvedges over time using the process Jim Ahrens taught that is the same that industry uses. If industry uses it, it must be pretty good, I thought. This is meant for most weave structures and yarns, but not for weft faced weaving. (eg. Tapestry or Collingwood’s rugs). Jim also said that often for right handers, the left selvedge is better. I think it is because that’s the one where the right hand is catching the shuttle. I never thought to ask him why. Mine are slightly better but both are good. The other thing he said was “the best selvedges come when you don’t pay attention to them.” (that is if you use this technique.) The photo is one of a series of color studies I wove with good line linen.

Step One: Throw the shuttle on the shuttle race or close to the reed. The shuttle race is a big help and the shed is larger, close to the reed. A diagonal should form naturally from the edge of the woven cloth to the shuttle race. The edge of the cloth is close enough so that the diagonal from it to the reed should be enough. This diagonal prevents the cloth from drawing in. (Remember that it’s important to advance the warp often, about every 2-3”.)

Snug up the weft against the outside warp thread, neither pulling that thread in, nor leaving a loop on the outside of it. I like to snug the weft up until it barely moves that outside thread—just grazes it. I don’t touch the selvedges but I press the weft thread onto the shuttle or bobbin and pull on the shuttle to snug the weft into place.

Step Two: Beat while the shed is still open. The illustration shows receiving the shuttle and a hand on the reed, ready to beat. This is crucial since this is where the warp is held out to its full width so that you are getting enough weft into the shed. This keeps the cloth from drawing in too much. (Expect a little bit of draw-in that is natural.)

Step Three: Change the shed as soon as you have beaten in the weft. The illustration shows the weft beaten in and the beater back near the heddles and the shuttle going into the new shed. This is especially important, too, because it is trapping the weft out at that widest point so the cloth cannot draw in. That’s it: “Throw, beat, change your feet”. With practice, it will become automatic but at first, I’ve seen students struggle to change the shed quickly after beating. Often, they want to change the shed after the beater is back at the heddles.

6 thoughts on “Making Good Selvedges– One, Two then Three “Throw, Beat THEN Change Your Feet””

  1. Good morning Peggy,
    Thank you so much for your really fantastic tips, it’s like having you here, virtually of course like everything else at the moment. I was told in the beginning that my right hand selvedge would be better than my left as I am right handed, but surprisingly my left is always better, so there we go. I shall also practice the rhyme.
    Thank you again I will look forward to the next email.
    Suzie in France

  2. Great reminder, Peggy! Just keep them coming! I want to also tell you that you have been a great teacher for me. I’m largely self-taught and your books have been so important for me! And I love your blog!

  3. I heard of this technique a few months ago and it has made an enormous improvement to my selvedges, and since I’m not fiddling with them I’m also weaving much faster and more consistently.
    Thank you for your extremely helpful posts.

  4. Hi Peggy
    I love your tips and your illustrations — thank you for all you do to help other weavers.
    I have a table loom with bungee cords on the beater
    So I cannot change shed while the beater is forward, it bounces back and i need both hands to pull levers and cannot hold onto the beater too.! 🙂
    How can I minimize the draw-in that I’m getting, other than using a temple?


    • First, you don’t want to use a temple–= too slow. Here’s a process I can envision. Throw as usual, beat with one hand on beater and hold it back while you change a lever with your free hand. Let beater go back and use both hands as needed to change the remaining levers. The entire shed doesn’t need to be changed with the beater at the fell, so changing just one lever will do that job of locking in the weft at the widest point. I think if you maybe slow down a tiny bit and practice you can develop a good rhythm. You might think up a rhyme. Weaving on a table loom is slow, so just relax and enjoy it as you go is my advice. I’ve never thought of your situation before so keep me posted if you have time.


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