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.
Here are all the places we plan to visit together. I am going again with my friend Cathy Cerny. She has done all the planning just like in many previous trips. I counted 9 hotels in 21 days so we’ll be moving right along. I hope I can do a post every day! – Click photos to enlarge –
Our first trip is a flight to Amami Island to the town of Oshima. (it is way south and off my map.) We want to see a particular type of ikat called orijimi. The resist is done on a loom forming a mat with the ikat warps or wefts to be woven in. Then the mat is unwoven to reveal the resisted places (dots) where the warps on the original weaving resisted the dye. The dye is also a special mud dye from the area. Oshima fabrics are expensive and have been imitated. We will look at the selvedges to see the tiny white dots to be sure we are getting the true orijimi technique. A friend and expert sent me this precious fragment so we would know what to look for.
I weight my selvedge threads separately almost always. I learned from Jim Ahrens that you could use stronger threads for the selvedges when you want to weave with fragile warp threads. I’ve shown the knot I use to hold the weights in many workshops and in two of my books, but it is wonderful to have a video so you can see the motions of my hands. You might still need the diagrams in the books, but I think this is a big help. The books are: Weaving for Beginners and Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth. Both have a whole chapter devoted just to selvedges.
Things to know before you throw a shuttle:
Important Information About How to throw the shuttle
Weft Diagonal (click to enlarge)
Beginning weavers learn about the diagonal of the weft but they think they should have the weft loose at the selvedges. In my book, Weaving for Beginners, I tell how to snug up the weft for good selvedges and no draw-in problems.
Throw the shuttle into the correct open shed. Take out the shuttle so the weft is in the shed on a diagonal as shown in Figure 245. Holding onto the shuttle, snug up the weft to the outside warp thread—the side where the shuttle entered the shed—just so it touches and barely moves that outside thread. Then, swing the beater and gently place the weft next to the previously woven weft. You do not want to actually beat it as the name implies. You are simply placing the weft against the one woven before it. Now, while the beater is toward you after placing the weft, change the shed. Then, swing the beater back toward the heddles and begin the process again. The steps
are: throw the shuttle, beat in the weft, and change the shed. I like the rhythm of saying: “Throw, beat, change the shed.” That’s 4 counts, with “the shed” as one
beat. (On the fourth beat you’re pushing the beater back toward the shafts.)
Sewing Thread Warp (click to enlarge)
Here is my new warp–sewing thread–for some art pieces. More ruffles, probably. You can see the 10 spools that I used on my warping reel with a heck block. Otherwise, for 10 spools you would definitely need to use a paddle (which is a good idea). See my book, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle). The warp is on its kitestick, ready to load the raddle.
Spools for Warp (click to enlarge)
I’m using sewing thread and hoping for sheer again. I increased the sett a bit from the yellow warp so I won’t have to beat so gently to get the wefts not to pack in too much.
I’m making separate selvedges out of white rayon and using a supplementary warp (egg plant color) for the punch. The technique for the supplementary warp I’ll use is split broche. The threads will not be in the heddles as they are threaded amongst the warp threads which on are 4 shafts. More on this when I get started. For now, you can see those threads on their own small kitestick.
I think I’ll put in some horse hair–I love the color of it.
Balanced and Warp faced plain weave (click to enlarge)
The principles of how warps and wefts bend are valuable to understanding a lot about weaving–especially why cloth draws in and causes selvedge threads to break.
The principles apply for so many aspects–for example, for weaving balanced or near balanced fabric, the warp tension must not be too tight. That would prevent the warps from bending. If the tension is too tight, the warps will be straight and that will force the wefts to do all the bending. Besides draw-in problems, the cloth will be more weft face with the wefts beaten down more than for a balanced look.
Weft faced plain weave
The warp tension should be just enough to get a shed for fabric that has a balanced look. So many students I see have the tension much too tight. Tight tension is only desirable for weft faced textiles. (Then you must bubble the weft or the draw-in will be too much.)
How Warps and Wefts Bend
Here’s how the bending works in different sett (epi) situations,
and how it affects your cloth’s draw-in.
Balanced plain weave is shown in Figure 518a.
“Balanced” means there are the same number of warps per inch (epi) as wefts per inch. You can see that both the warps and the wefts bend or curve. The diagonal of the wefts in the sheds
provides the slack needed to allow for the wefts to bend. The warps bend after the cloth is taken off the loom when there is no longer any tension on them. Remember, you allowed for this occurrence in planning the length of the warp by adding in an allowance for “take-up.” See page 290.
In weft-faced weaving, the warps are straight and the wefts do all the bending. See Figure 518b. Notice that the warps are farther apart than for balanced plain weave. Fewer ends per inch (epi) force the wefts to bend so much that there needs to be much more weft in the shed than for balanced weaves. To allow for the yarn to bend over and under the warp threads, more diagonal, or
even bubbling of the weft is needed. Read about bubbling on page 128.
In Figure 518c, the warps are very close together (more ends per inch), and they are bending, but the wefts are straight. This is warp-faced plain weave. Warps that close force the wefts to be straight. These warps take up much more than those in balanced weaving do, because they have to curve so much over and under the wefts. Less slack or weft diagonal is needed because the wefts are straight and do not bend.
Too Much Draw-in
A student came today with an exquisitely gorgeous fabric which frustrated her so much while weaving that she cut it off the loom and threw away the remainder of the warp! When I showed her this illustration from my new book, Weaving for Beginners, she could see that the selvedge threads were being abraded by the reed. The following is found on page 302 in the chapter on selvedges. Beautiful selvedges aren’t the end in itself, but the result of techniques that solve ugly selvedge problems and broken threads. I’ll be posting more on selvedges, I’ll bet.
A common selvedge problem: Too much draw-in In my teaching experience, the problem that showed up almost as soon as the weaving began was that the cloth narrowed in too much. If the problem wasn’t noticed and dealt with soon, the selvedge threads would begin to break by the abrasion of the reed. Look at the edges of the warp at the fell. Is the reed stretching out the warps way beyond the width of the cloth? If so, can you see why the reed is abrading and breaking the selvedges? Too much draw-in at the selvedges is shown in Figure 517.
If you have a big draw-in problem, you can use a temple or stretcher cords such as croc clips. See page 312. To understand more why the cloth draws in and how to control it so the selvedge threads don’t break, read the sidebar, “How warps and wefts bend,” on the next page.
Three common causes of this problem (in order of commonness)
1. The warp tension is too tight.
2. There is not enough slack in the weft. (No diagonal of the weft is put into
the shed.) See above.
3. The wefts are pulled too tightly at the selvedges.
Rules to follow to avoid too much draw-in
1. The warp tension should not be tight, certainly not tight like a violin string.
Basically, it just needs to be tight enough to get the sheds to open. It should
feel firm when you pat it to test the amount of tension, maybe even fairly
firm, but definitely not tight. If your selvedges are narrowing in, check the
warp tension first.
2. There must be enough slack in the weft that it can bend as it goes over and
under the warps. Figure 513 shows the diagonal needed to allow for this
slack. You will know you have too much diagonal when loops appear in the
weft in the cloth. If the warp only draws in a tiny amount, say ¼” or so on
each side, you have put in enough slack. Read about the diagonal, above.
3. Do not pull the weft tight as you put it into the shed. If you do, two things
will happen—first, you won’t get in the slack you need (see above) and
second, the selvedges will draw in too much.
Beginners sometimes try to solve this problem with another
problem—putting loops of wefts at the selvedges. This effort
does not do anything to widen the warp at the edges. It just
leaves unsightly loopy selvedges. The slack in the weft is
needed clear across the warp—not just at the edges. Read how the weft
should turn at the selvedges, above. Read more about good selvedges on
One more thing about temples and croc clips!
Devices that deal with too much draw-in
If everything about your cloth is just as you want it, but the draw-in is causing the selvedges to break. You can stretch out the warp near the reed so the reed can’t abrade the threads while weaving.
Temple (Click to enlarge)
A temple is a stretcher that holds the cloth out at the selvedges.
See Figure 529. It allows you to snug the wefts up to the selvedges without breaking the threads during weaving. It may be made of wood or metal. Any temple needs to be
strong. They are available in many widths for weaving wide rugs or narrow placemats.
Cord and clip stretchers
This stretcher is a variation of a temple that you can make yourself. See Figure 530. The clips are “Crocodile clips” (also called “croc clips”) and are available at hardware stores. They are made to clip tarps and are very inexpensive.
This information is from page 312 in my new book, “Weaving for Beginners” in the chapter on selvedges. For more information, see the tip: “Using a Temple or Stretcher“.
Neal Howard Warp (click to enlarge)
I’m weaving a lovely warp I bought as a kit at Convergence in Albuquerque last summer. It was made by Neal Howard. She dyed three warps and told how to thread them in the heddles to integrate them. Each one is different, so it is great fun to weave along and see the color changes–in one or all of the stripes.
Neal Warp Showing Separate Selvedges
I’m not following her idea–so I’ll report later if my idea for the cloth works out. Dyeing is Neal’s speciality– I bought one of her jackets at the previous Convergence. She offers yarns and woven pieces.