Fine Threads Part Two
Molly McLaughlin, Artist, and Expert Weaver:  with additional comments from Lillian Whipple

I can’t thank Molly McLaughlin enough for all the information she generously shared.  She’s been weaving for over 30 years and has developed her own unique weave structures to weave beautiful, intricate, and exciting art pieces. This post is about her work and the fine silk threads she uses.
Master Weaver, Lillian Whipple has been weaving for over 50 years and has all the qualifications as Molly but her comments supported Molly’s so much I chose to include them as comments. Molly is on Instagram: @mollymclaughlinsfiberart. Lillian is on Facebook and it’s a good idea to Google her.

This picture is of Molly’s Oxaback loom. This is what she mainly uses because countermarch looms make very clean sheds easily. You can see it in her crowded studio by looking through her Nilus loom in this phot

Reed and Sett
Molly uses a 40 dent reed for different circumstances and doubles up the threads in a dent as required. Double cloth is sett at 360 epi. Single layer cloth is 120 epi. For linen she has used 100 epi but would like it more dense. These setts are for twill based ground cloths. She gets the reeds from the Woolgatherers ( They are specially made by a reed maker in Germany.

Silk and Other Threads
120/2 at 120 epi uses 3 ends per dent. There are 30,000 yards per pound
240/2 at 200 epi uses 5 ends per dent
260/2 at 200 epi also at 5 ends per dent.
40 gauge copper she setts at 80 epi
Molly also uses a nylon thread sett at 60 epi (for tabby based ground cloths)

Notice that all of the silk threads are 2-ply and they should be of good quality, smooth and not at all fuzzy. Lillian Whipple says, “The thread must be beam-able. If I can’t beam it, I throw it out.”

I wondered how Molly could get a hook into such a fine reed. Her first answer was she cut one out of a plastic clam shell box—with the warning to put some color on one end or “you’ll never find it when it falls to the floor!” Ashford makes a thin one that will work if you put it through the middle of the dents where the wires are more flexible. Lillian Whipple told me that she uses her threading hook, which is thinner, to sley her fine reeds. 

Beaming is done with 1-inch sections on a warping wheel on a plain beam with a 1-inch raddle.  Look behind the heddles where you can get a glimpse of the raddle. Molly stressed that beaming is critical. Lillian uses a warping drum.

Both Molly and Lillian use Texsolv heddles. Molly had no trouble with metal ones up to 120 epi on 8 shafts. She went to Texsolv because they use less space and are much lighter to lift.

“Over time I have worked to reduce the necessary number of shafts. Currently, I prefer to use 4 shafts for a single weave and 10 shafts for double weave. However, I space the shafts on the loom so that there is a space between each shaft, so 4 shafts take up the same amount of space as 8 shafts. This separation of shafts makes it much easier to avoid mistakes in the threading and to fix broken threads. I used to try and spread the warps over as many shafts as possible to reduce friction and heddle density, but I found that less shafts with more space between them made life much easier.”

“Along the lines of keeping things simple, I only weave double cloth if the shifting of layers will make it easier to actualize the cartoon that I have created, generally with a 3D component. Otherwise, I stick to single weave…here is an example of a design that called for double weave.”

“At the moment, everything that I am producing is being created with the intent of going to some large shows this fall and winter, so nothing is currently available for sale. But, I am including a photo of the piece that is currently on the Nilus, because it is pretty.” Molly McLaughlin.

12 thoughts on “Fine Threads Part Two<br>Molly McLaughlin, Artist, and Expert Weaver:  with additional comments from Lillian Whipple”

  1. I get my custom reeds from Gowdey reed in Rhode Island
    I don’t know how fine they can go, they made me a 30 dent reed. Jim is a lovely person and I encourage people to support his small business for reeds made in RI. They sell heddles as well.
    The website is old-fashioned and not very helpful, but call or email and you will get wonderful service (I am not affiliated with them, just a very happy customer)

  2. What is the highest a dented reed can go? Molly has a 40, Tal has a 30… I remember from previous post, it was said too many dents become too fragile. Where is that balance? Or does it depend on the application?

    • The man in industry said 75 dents per inch was possible to make but unworkable so I don’t think you want to even go there. I’m preparing a follow up post from Junco Sato Pollack who mentions these bamboo reeds used as double denting. The reeds used are 45 coarse, 55 medium, 65 fine which become 90 epi, 110 epi, 130 epi, and so on. But those are bamboo reeds and I think American weavers are interested in metal reeds. So I don’t think I’d go higher than 40 dents as per Molly’s true life experience. Of course the size of the thread make a difference just like the size of any weaving thread makes a difference in the sett. I use the Ashenhurst Rule for calculating the sett first (see the next post or previous posts, or my books). After thinking about what the sett might be, then I go to the reed: what will work with the sett? Then I’d not use a reed finer than what Molly uses at 40 dents per inch. Molly uses her 40 dent reed for a variety of setts. Does this answer your balance question? Note that Ashenhurst does take into consideration the weave structure. Is that what you mean by the application?

      • Yes, it does! I will go hunting for more information. Thank you for the information.

        I also really look forward to learning about bamboo reeds!!! That will be exciting and I would LOVE to try one and learn more about them. Thank you.

        Samantha (P.S. I am loving the warping book!)

      • Sorry to be late to the party. I have a commercial 45 dent reed acquired from the sell off of the American Textile History museum’s holdings. It was on a signboard of reed samples as a display for sales. It works well. So it is possible to go at least a little finer in steel.

        • A friend asked that of an industry weaver who said not to go so fine–I can’t remember if the reason was it bent the hooks or what. He suggested using a repeat’s worth in a dent. Lillian Whipple was the friend and she wove very fine textile and won prises for her Small Expressions many times. Google her and she might have more to say.

  3. Gracias por la recomendación.
    Yo también prefiero evitar que los hilos rocen más de lo necesario. Así que cuando tejo en tafetán y altas densidades, utilizo sólo el marco 1 y el 3

    No entiendo muy bien para qué usas el recipiente plástico

    Saludos desde Colombia


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