Selvedges on Separate Shafts when you Can’t a Use Float Selvedge


Recently I got a comment about what to do about selvedges when using a fly shuttle and you can’t use a floating selvedge. I hadn’t thought of that circumstance before so decided a post was a good idea. I went down another rabbit hole very happily. This post discusses putting the selvedge threads on separate shafts. First is the 2-shaft version. Then follows a 4 -shaft version called a tape selvedge. I learned both from my mentor, Jim Ahrens and they are in my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth

During Covid, I posted every other day! I don’t know how I did it. And in September 2020 I did several about selvedges. Two posts discussed weighting selvedge threads separately . You can see them HERE.

Part One

Part Two

When I searched for selvedges, there were lots of posts. Use the Search button and you can find quite a lot about selvedges. From winding the shuttles and throwing the shuttle and lots more.

Selvedges on 2 shafts:

Selvedge threads carried on their own two shafts, will always weave plain weave at the selvedge. They will be caught when the shed changes for the pattern or main weave structure. They should be weighted separately of course, because they will take up differently from the ends in the main cloth. Plain weave takes up the most of all weaves, which might make it weave too far ahead of the main weave. If that happens, and you have two more shafts, switch to a tape selvedge on 4 shafts. I think I would try finer selvedge threads before going to 4 shafts. With 4 shafts, the selvedges would weave in basket weave which doesn’t build up so fast—but it takes 4 shafts.

Which shafts?

I usually put the selvedges on the back wo shafts. However, if the warps are sticky, putting them on the front two shafts will force them to open better when making the sheds. For very long warps, and for the best balance, put the selvedges on the middle shafts: they won’t get lifted as high as on the back ones, so they won’t get so much wear and tear.

Thread the body of the warp according to your plan, but on each edge put four or so threads onto two shafts. If the body uses 4 shafts, then alternate the threads of each selvedge on shafts 5 and 6. The threading for each selvedge is: 5,6,5,6 or 6,5,6,5, depending on which edge you are threading, and which shafts the threads in the main part start and end on. If your main warp is to be a weave on 5 shafts, then the selvedges would be on 6 and 7. If the main warp uses 8 shafts, then the selvedges go on shafts 9 and 10, etc.

Remember, since they will be weaving plain weave, they will take up differently from the main warp so, of course they must be weighted separately.

The Tie-up

Tie up the treadles so every other shed lifts shaft 5 and the alternate sheds lift shaft 6.

It’s the tie-up that makes he selvedge and the main weave integrated, so be sure that the selvedge shafts alternate with each treadle in your sequence. See the illustration.

It’s desirable to have the main structure of the cloth weave with an even number of treadles. Then, both the main body and the selvedges will take an even number of sheds. An odd number of shafts in the body, such as a 5-shaft weave, would need 10 treadles to tie up to achieve the 5 sheds for the body and the 2 sheds for the selvedges. In other words, you would have to go through the weave sequence twice to complete a cycle, because the plain weave structure requires two sheds.

Or you can use two feet at once: one for the selvedge treadles and the other for the cloth structure.

Selvedges on 4 shafts: Tape selvedges

A tape selvedge is also called basket weave or 2/2 hopsak weave. One reason to use it is when the weave structure doesn’t make a neat selvedge. The warps and wefts will intersect less (or more) often than they do in the body’s weave structure, so you can get clean sheds at the selvedges. It makes a very neat selvedge, which can look as if it were commercially made. It is nice for rugs as well as for fabric.

This technique requires four shafts—two on each edge of the cloth. Four or six ends per selvedge work just fine.

The selvedge ends that are raised change only on one edge with each weft. At the other edge, the selvedge ends are raised or lowered as they were in the previous shed. See the illustration where the two sheds on the right are 1 and 2, and the two on the left are 3 and 4.

Note that the side that changes is the side where the shuttle enters the shed. (The X’s indicate the warp ends lifted over the weft.)

This illustration shows 4 selvedge threads at each edge. It shows how the tape is a true 2/2 weave with two warps threaded on one shaft, alternated with 2 threaded on the other shaft. The principle remains the same: to catch the weft, enter the shuttle on the side that has just changed.

You may have to adjust the density in the reed and the weight on the selvedge threads to get them to match the tension of the main warp. Of course, they will be weighted separately from the main warp. The take-up of the selvedge threads is usually less with a tape selvedge because it has fewer intersections of warps and wefts. The wefts should weave straight across the body, and at the selvedges, neither lag nor weave ahead. By the way, don’t make the tape super dense or use sticky, hairy, or loopy yarn.

This edge works perfectly with 8-shaft satins. The tape selvedge threads will intersect more often than the satin weave itself. The warps are usually very densely sleyed for satin and there aren’t enough intersections in the weave to interlace at the edge to make a good-looking selvedge. A tape selvedge with half the intersections of a plain weave selvedge works better than a two-shaft selvedge because the plain weave has too many intersections which causes it to build up faster than the satin. The tape’s sequence used twice equals one sequence of the satin. (Remember to add four shafts to the eight needed for the satin.)

A tape selvedge can prevent the edges of warp and weft faced weaves from curling when they are taken off the loom.

It would not be easy to use a tape selvedge for overshot patterns. Just think of the nightmare of keeping track of the four sheds of the selvedge along with the treadling for four overshot blocks. Of course, a computer driven loom could do it easily.